Old-World Charm

Elegance and tradition abound in this newly built Rumson home on the Navesink River.



The crystal chandelier was found in an antiques shop in Rumson. Upholstered panels in a red tone-on-tone striped fabric add visual interest to dining room walls. The table was custom-made by Samuelson Furniture in Paterson and features a gilded rope around the edges, a nautical nod to the homeowners’ love of boating.

Walking into this stately home feels as though you are entering an English manor house, not a newer home on the Navesink River in Rumson. But, in fact, you are in Monmouth County, and this home was built in 2000, on the foundation of the previous 1980s contemporary that once stood in its place. The owner bought the original house as a bachelor, and once he got married, the old house didn’t suit the newlyweds. However, because the site was so spectacular, facing both the river and the ocean beyond, they decided to demolish all but the foundation, dining room and spiral staircase and build a new house that was larger and more comfortable.

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The double stairway of the two-story entry foyer provides a backdrop for an antique reproduction crys-tal chandelier. The room’s decor was inspired by the gold and red in the rug.

To decorate the seven-bedroom home, the homeowners chose Una O’Neill, who runs her eponymous Glen Rock-based interior design company. “They wanted something very traditional,” she says. “They love classic things. They wanted the house to be good looking 20 to 30 years from when they put everything in. It’s a timeless design, not the very pared down look that so many houses being done now have.”

The home is decorated with hand-woven rugs, antiques, luxe fabrics and art—lots of art. “The homeowners had such a vast collection that we bought next to nothing,” says O’Neill. The homeowner’s father was a collector, so they inherited many pieces, and the homeowners collect as well. Walls are filled with paintings and tapestries, and statues and busts can be found throughout the home, enhancing the traditional look of the house.

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The backyard features a covered porch, a built-in barbecue, several seating areas and an irregular-shaped pool.

Red, gold and green color the furnishings, often picking up colors from the Oriental rugs that can be found throughout the home. Decorative moldings and faux finishes were also used liberally, especially on ceilings, like the one in the dining room, which is part of the original home and lower than the ceilings in the rest of the house. “It has darker antiquing along the outside and goes to a lighter tone as it comes toward the center to give the illusion of height,” says O’Neill. “It also glimmers with a shimmery finish.”

The home took two years to decorate, in large part because the homeowner enjoyed shopping with the decorator for furnishings, often visiting antique stores in New York City and Bergen County, where O’Neill is based, and closer to home in Red Bank, Long Branch and Rumson.

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Two different but coordinating hand-woven rugs invite guests down the hall to the back of the house where a water view beckons.

Both designer and homeowners wanted something interesting to behold in every corner of the house. Take, for example, the coffee table in the foyer. It’s a solid brass sculpture of musical instruments that the homeowner turned into a table by adding a glass top. “The basic design is quieter, but we added a lot of whimsy,” says O’Neill.

It may have taken a while, but the project was a labor of love for everyone involved, and the homeowners couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out. “It’s classic and beautiful, which is exactly what they wanted,” says O’Neill. “She was able to put her touches on it, and we were able to use their extensive art collection, so it all came together perfectly.”

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The homeowners’ daughter’s room features built-ins for a computer and a TV, two double canopy beds and a 5-foot-round ottoman. “When she has sleepovers, guests can sleep on that too,” says designer Una O’Neill.

The homeowners were so happy with O’Neill that they asked her to design their 15,000-square-foot, ocean-front Palm Beach estate. That home features the same traditional design of their New Jersey abode—just the way they like it. 

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An antique bed in the guest room off of the kitchen is warm and welcoming in shades of green and cream. The green mirror and the chest of drawers next to the bed are antiques.

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