Townhouse Triumph

Construction was just under way when designer Meryl Stern was called upon to work some magic. The homeowners, a retired married couple, were downsizing from an expansive manse in alpine to a luxury townhouse development in Tenafly. Their new 3,500-square-foot home would be about half the size of the old residence, but they wanted it no less chic.
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Photography by Peter Rymwid

Construction was just under way when designer Meryl Stern was called upon to work some magic. The homeowners, a retired married couple, were downsizing from an expansive manse in alpine to a luxury townhouse development in Tenafly. Their new 3,500-square-foot home would be about half the size of the old residence, but they wanted it no less chic.

“The homeowners are collectors of modern art who love color and aren’t afraid of taking risks,” says stern, owner of Meryl stern interiors in Haworth. “our goal was to create a beautiful backdrop for their art. But because they have a large family and enjoy entertaining, the house also had to be conducive to hosting parties and dinners.” another challenge: finding room for key furniture from the couple’s old home as well as several new custom pieces.

Luckily, Stern’s early involvement in the project allowed her the freedom to make structural changes to the home, which features three floors and an elevator. “I was able to move walls, switch around rooms and make other adjustments so that the home could function as we wanted it to,” she explains.

Take, for instance, the stunning custom bar area—in a location originally intended for the dining room. “Because the kitchen is right next to this area, the spot just made sense for a bar,” she says.

The bar area showcases art from the homeowners’ collection. it also becomes a work of art in its own right, with a striking Mondrian-style wall constructed with pieces of mirror and backlit custom sandblasted glass. “the couple really went out on a limb by allowing me to create this because they weren’t exactly sure what it was going to look like,” says Stern. “But they trusted my judgment.”

That Mondrian design is mimicked on the walnut-on-maple bar counter, featuring a multicolored onyx top, while walnut cabinets provide color contrast. and there’s a surprise: a “hidden” television on the wall that functions as a mirror when turned off. Other special features include an icemaker, a wine refrigerator and pull-out cutting boards.

In the kitchen, the objective was “to create a little bit of excitement” while working with the choices offered by the townhouse development, says stern. For the cabinetry, Stern opted for contrasting tones: while some cabinets are painted a soft green, others feature simple stained maple. an off-white glazed ceramic tile backsplash lends a touch of neutrality, while a natural stained maple island with a granite top provides ample space for prepping for lively soirées.

The couple can relax with guests in the Art Deco- inspired living room, studded with many of their beloved sculptures. The room’s focal point—a green marble fireplace with a walnut beveled-edge surround—envelops a flat-screen television, which guests can enjoy from comfy seats taken from the Alpine home.

On the left wall, a custom credenza featuring hand-laid porcupine needles and a black granite top offers both style and practicality. “Because the homeowners were moving from such a big house, the credenza provides storage for china and serving ware they couldn’t fit elsewhere,” says Stern. “It’s also a display table for a marble jaguar from their collection.”

The couple chose to keep their master bedroom monochromatic, with rich creams and golds. “The idea was to make the space very serene, peaceful and luxurious,” Stern says.

While the fully upholstered bed and other furniture came from the former residence, the room’s new elements include plush silk-and-linen carpeting, silk window panels from Roger Arlington and a large wall-to-wall custom maple built-in unit in the dressing area. And Stern opted to remove a wall between “his” and “hers” closets to create “one huge walk-in closet.” 

Simplicity also reigns in the downstairs powder room, which features pale green Venetian plaster walls and a glass vanity. A wooden bowl sink adds a touch of warmth, while sheer window treatments embroidered with curved shapes mimic the “movement” of the onyx floor, says Stern.

Now fully settled into their new abode, the home- owners couldn’t be happier. Says Stern: “They’re doing a lot of entertaining, both big and small, and the house works perfectly for their lifestyle.”

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