Historic Urban Remodel Gets Modern Charm

Jersey City, NJ— Historical renovations often have a back story that drives the designer’s artistic vision toward preservation. Not so in the case of this turn-of-the-century former carriage house, whose origins include the boarding of horses on the structure’s second floor. The homeowners made plain to the designers their wishes for the former stable to be brought into the 21st century.

“The clients wanted to create a modern, open space to fit their growing family,” says Alyssa Belmonte, IIDA, senior interior designer at Hoboken, NJ-based Peter Johnston Architect, PC.

Belmonte, along with Peter Johnston, owner of the firm and design principal in charge, collaborated on a complete gut-renovation of the entire space.

“Due to the location of the project, in the historically preserved neighborhood of Paulus Hook in Jersey City, we could not change the front façade, except to restore it,” remarks Belmonte. “Other than that, we stripped the building down to the bare bones and added an 11' extension to the rear of the home.”

The design team was charged with creating a new flow to the home, while adding additional light and fitting rooms for a variety of uses, including a study, garage, laundry, fitness room and a number of baths.

Illuminating the Kitchen

The carriage house is situated in a row of houses that sit flush against one another, creating a quirk in window placement that the designers needed to address.

“The greatest challenge we face in brownstone and carriage house designs is how to bring natural light into the center of the home, since there are only windows on the front and rear façades,” notes Belmonte.

The designers accomplished expanded illumination by using a light well as a central organizing element. A large skylight over the open stairway floods the interior rooms with light and creates an open, loft-like feeling. The enhanced natural lighting creates texture and color possibilities for areas of the home adjacent to the light well.

“Due to the large wall of glass and light well bringing light to the kitchen/living space, we were able to use an ebony-stained walnut for the cabinetry without the space feeling dark and cramped,” says the designer. The dark wood contrasts with integrated stainless steel hardware to create, according to Belmonte, an overall “fine piece of furniture” look for the cabinetry.
Lapacha wood was used on the floor; the Brazilian wood was selected for its nuanced dark caramel tone with flourishes of green and orange within its grain.

“Even these subtle touches of color, echoing the color of the leaves and the sun, bring the exterior in,” says Belmonte. “We ran the lapacha wood through the dining area to keep the line of sight flowing straight out to the backyard from the front door, but switched to a dark gray matte tile for the kitchen – which is easier to clean and will not dent like wood. It also separates the kitchen nicely and creates a more formal, defined dining area.”

The team created the 350-sq.-ft. kitchen/dining area at the rear of the first floor to take advantage of the 25'-width of the building, the size of which Belmonte describes as unusual for a brownstone. A Nana glass door and window system make up the rear wall on this level. It opens completely, creating an indoor-outdoor eating and living area that fulfills the homeowners’ request for versatile spaces suitable for entertaining.

Expanded storage and efficiency of usable space was also a request of the homeowners.

“There is a place for everything in this kitchen. A large appliance garage runs the entire length of the peninsula and keeps everything out of site when not in use,” says Belmonte.

The suite of appliances in the kitchen includes a Bosch dishwasher, a cooktop from Thermador under a Miele hood, an oven, warming drawer and microwave from Wolf, and side-by-side refrigerator and refrigerator drawers from Sub-Zero, among others.

Bathing Beauties

The Johnston/Belmonte design team tackled two baths and a powder room in the remodeled carriage house. In the 78-sq.-ft. children’s bath, a wealth of vibrant color and smooth textures define the breezy style.

“We found this great textured tile that came in a beautiful aqua color and the rest of the bathroom fell into place. It captured the color of water so nicely that we decided not to bring in any other colors to compete with it,” says Belmonte. The rest of the bathroom was subsequently kept white, the designers choosing large-format rectangular tiles from Lea Progetta to continue the overall modern, streamlined look.

“The countertop is 3Form Chroma, which is a renewable surface that can be refinished easily by the owner with fine sandpaper if it scratches. This increases its lifetime dramatically, especially in a bathroom used by children,” notes the designer. “We also lowered the countertop so the kids could more easily reach things, but installed surface-mounted sinks so the room would grow with them.”

Fixtures in the kids’ bath include faucetry and tub by Hansgrohe, a TOTO toilet and sinks by DaVinci, among others.

A high-end ‘hotel look’ was requested for the 66-sq.-ft. master bath, so the design team selected a creamy limestone contrasted with a custom walnut vanity. Space constraints did not allow for the creation of a separate water closet, so the light color was crucial to add depth to the room.

Elements rounding out the room’s design include a wall-hung Duravit toilet/Geberit tank combination, a sink from Duravit, lavatory faucet from Dornbracht and a medicine cabinet from Keuco with integrated lighting.

“The industrial showerhead from Boffi pours water onto a floor of smooth stones that massage your feet as you shower,” Belmonte adds. “The showerhead is my favorite element in the bath; it’s the one funky element in the space that keeps the overall look from being too serious.”

She describes the powder room as a work of art. “We always like to use extra special finishes in our powder rooms. These tiny spaces are an opportunity to splurge because [you can use fewer] finishes and less tile. Since it is a less private bathroom, it is used more often than most people realize,” she says.

The carriage house powder room includes a carved granite sink with exposed plumbing, a distinctive faucet and metallic paint to give the room a soft glow and personality to spare.

“The metallic paint plays off the hints of metal in the floor tile and the stainless pennyrounds,” comments Belmonte. “A wall-hung toilet with a concealed tank maintains the modern feel, while the dual-flush keeps it environ-mentally friendly.”

For more about this project, click here.