Home & Garden

In Loveladies, a Chatham Family’s Sweet Summer Retreat

The Soos family’s Loveladies summer home takes full advantage of its southern waterfront exposure. There’s space for everyone, including a separate master suite wing to the upper left; directly below is an expansive deck including a bar area. Photo by Laura Moss

Carol and Eric Soos had been looking for property on Long Beach Island for years when they discovered the oddly shaped, overgrown lot on the bay side of Loveladies that they would soon call their own. “It was all bushes and weeds,” says Carol. “We couldn’t even see the lagoon.”

Other than the weeds, it was an empty property. The previous owner had torn the house down post-Sandy. That gave the Sooses a blank slate to design their own home. The result is breathtaking.

Eric had grown up summering on LBI. After he and Carol married, they continued the tradition of spending summers there, always staying at Eric’s mother’s home in Barnegat Light. (Eric, who works in finance, comes down to LBI on weekends.) Along came twins Brandon and Nathan, now 12, and Megan, 10. And, while the Sooses continued to pack up their Chatham house and migrate to LBI each summer, the couple knew it was time to find their own place.

But Eric and Carol wanted more than a place for their family; they wanted a place that would accommodate plenty of guests. Eric’s mom provided the inspiration. “She was always so welcoming with having us to her home,” says Carol. “I was taken care of for so many years. It was my turn.”

The living room blends seamlessly into the dining room and kitchen beyond. All materials were chosen for low maintenance, including the slipcovered sectional and the engineered hardwood floors. The kitchen window looks out over the lagoon, a frequent swimming spot for all three kids. Photo by Laura Moss

The couple grabbed the lot in Loveladies—along with its challenges. “It’s long and thin and really pointy,” says Carol. She and Eric had long admired the work of Harvey Cedars architect Jay Madden, so they reached out. Over lunch, the Soos traced out what they wanted it to look like and then gave it to Madden, says Carol of that first meeting. “The end result is pretty similar.”

Madden embraced the challenge of the odd-shaped lot. “The weirder the better,” he says. “By being more restrictive, there’s only so many ways it’s going to work. You’ve got to pay attention to what [the property] is telling you to do.” With an understanding of local zoning and building codes—there are six towns on LBI, each with its own set of rules—Madden and his team went to work.

The couple’s wish list included an open plan on the main floor and distinctly separate sleeping quarters upstairs. Everyone, family and visitors alike, would have a private space. Outside, they wanted a swimming pool and deck, with plenty of outdoor entertaining space overlooking the lagoon. An expansive family room would link the interior and exterior living spaces.  

A circular staircase leads to the second floor where Megan, bottom left, has her own room. Brandon and Nathan, right, share the third-floor bunkroom, outfitted with sleeping space for four. Photo by Laura Moss

As Madden and associate Alan Nachman continued to refine the plans and navigate building codes (including a not-yet finalized flood-zone map), the Sooses connected with interior designer Donna Grimes from nearby Ship Bottom. “Carol said she wanted it beachy and casual, and we took it from there,” says Grimes. The collaboration resulted in a light and airy space that feels seamless. “There’s a continuation of where you’ve already been, room to room,” says Grimes. And, she points out, there are unobstructed water views from virtually every room. 

With three kids, countless guests and one slobbering, 130-pound dog, Pebbles, the family’s Newfoundland puppy, the Sooses wanted low maintenance. “They didn’t want to worry about someone coming inside wet,” says Grimes. They selected engineered hardwood oak floors that stand up to Pebbles’ claws. Furniture is slipcovered; window treatments are woven wood shades. “There’s not a lot of fabric,” says Grimes. “The house has an earthy, natural feel.”

Photo by Laura Moss

Upstairs, everyone has their own space. The western side is the master suite, which includes bedroom, bathroom, home office and balcony, complete with a day bed and outdoor shower. Other bedrooms, including Megan’s, are on the eastern side of the house. A kids’ playroom is equipped with a pull-out sofa. The third floor is the boys’ room, with bunk beds for them and an extra set for friends. 

As for the exterior, the south-facing lots sit in the sun much of the day, so ample covered space was key. Outdoor areas include a dining deck, a bar area facing over the lagoon, and the screened, outdoor family room with fireplace and television. “It can get a little buggy on the lagoon, but we just light the fire and drop the screens, and it’s fine,” says Carol. “We’re out there all the time.” 

The once-overgrown lot is now the perfect summer retreat. “We come down as soon as school is over and we stay through Labor Day,” says Carol. “There’s always a lot of family around. It’s so fun. And that’s a huge compliment to Eric’s parents.”

RESOURCES: Architect: Jay Madden, Jay Madden Architect, Harvey Cedars, 609-494-0909. Interior Design: Donna Grimes, Serenity Design, Ship Bottom, 609-494-5162. Builder: Skip Tool, Tool Construction Company, Beach Haven. 609-492-2006.

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Step Back in Time at Bernardsville’s Cross Estate Gardens

The two-level historic walled garden, designed in the 1930s by noted landscape architect Clarence Fowler with homeowner Julia Cross’s input, is filled with perennials planted in symmetrical parterre garden beds, connected by brick paths. Photo by Laura Moss

Visiting cross estate gardens is like stepping back to a more formal time of grand country estates. Yet despite its prim-and-proper vibe, Cross Estate is open to the public, dogs are welcome, and visitors are encouraged to meander and enjoy the gardens—which are indeed formal.

The noted civil engineer John Bensel built the original estate, Queen Anne Farm, in 1905 as a summer cottage for his family. The stately 23-room mansion, on 300 rolling acres in Bernardsville, overlooks the headwaters of the Passaic River. Also on the sprawling property: a carriage house, a smaller gatehouse, and a majestic, five-story stone tower that once fed well water into the mansion. 

Several years after Bensel’s death in 1922, his widow, Ella, sold the estate to W. Redmond Cross, a New York investment banker who renamed the property Hardscrabble House. Cross’s wife, Julia Newbold Cross, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, worked tirelessly to restore the mansion and the grounds. With renowned landscape architect Clarence Fowler, she designed a formal, English-style garden with an unusual assortment of plants and flowers. “Julia was the real mastermind behind the gardens,” says Joan Ryder, president of the New Jersey Historical Garden Foundation, the volunteer group that maintains and raises funds for the park.

Historic Cross Estate Gardens features a walled garden with several hundred different sun-loving perennials, a stone-columned pergola and, in the background, magnificent 18-foot-tall native rhododendrons. Photos by Laura Moss

Redmond and Julia raised their five children on the estate and employed a large staff to maintain the gardens. “They didn’t have a lot of inside help, but a lot of outside help,” explains Ryder. 

After both were gone—Redmond died in 1940 and Julia in 1972—their grown children sold 162 acres of the property to the Morristown National Historical Park, including the primary buildings. The acquisition was key to providing protection for the adjacent 18th-century New Jersey Brigade Revolutionary War encampment area and became a preservation corridor for Jockey Hollow, the centerpiece of the Morristown National Historical Park. Several hiking trails connect Cross Estate to Jockey Hollow, Lewis Morris Park and the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

Unfortunately, only limited federal funds were allocated for maintenance, and none for the gardens. In time, the estate fell into disrepair. Enter Chester resident Jean Pope, who in 1977 began a volunteer brigade to bring the gardens back to life. 

“Back in 1977, there was no deer fencing. Everything had been left untended,” says Ryder. “But the bones of the garden were there. Jean Pope, along with her friends, started weeding to show off the existing structures.”

Spring flowers include Siberian iris Caesar’s Brother and clematis Henryi. Photo by Laura Moss

Pope and her volunteers discovered and refurbished several distinct garden areas: a two-tiered, walled, sunken garden; an expansive allée of mountain laurels; a lawn garden with native primroses, rhododendrons and other perennials; and the most popular attraction, a spectacular, 200-foot-long, wisteria-covered pergola.

“A lot of what you’re seeing today on the outside is the imagination of Julia Newbold Cross,” says Jude Pfister, chief of cultural resources for the Morristown National Historical Park. “She was an expert—that’s not too strong of a word.”

The mansion also remains, but in an altered state. After Redmond’s death, Julia hired architect Frederic King to downsize the home to reduce expenses. King removed the entire east wing and several terraces. “I enjoy trying to envision what that house originally looked like,” says Pfister. “This is one of the few intact estates from that time period that is open to the public.” 

Thankfully, the water tower remains intact and still supplies water. “The view from there, overlooking Somerset Hills, is gorgeous,” says Ryder.

A dedicated group of about 30 volunteers still maintains the gardens. “We start in late March or very early April,” says Ryder. “Not everyone is a skilled gardener,” she says. “We do it out of love.”

The group meets every Wednesday from 9 am-noon, with a mid-morning break to enjoy baked goods and chitchat, says Ryder. “We’re all very good friends.”

About 2,000 visitors come year-round to enjoy the flora. A self-guided tour allows guests to explore at their own pace, wandering through historic trees, including rare silver maples and dawn redwoods. There’s something new to see every month, says Ryder. “It’s a riot of color at the end of May.”

Cross Estate Gardens is a project of the New Jersey Historical Garden Foundation in cooperation with the National Park Service. It is open from 8 am–dusk year-round. Admission and parking are free. Tours are available 10-11:30 am Wednesdays from mid-April through October. Call 201-240-5898 for reservations or visit crossestategardens.org.

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A Showstopping Kitchen Renovation in Mendham

Photo by Laura Moss

Kevin Shannon convinced his wife, Courtney, that a non-descript modified colonial on an expansive lot in Mendham would one day be her dream house. “‘Trust me,’ he said,” recalls Courtney now, of the home she was reluctant to purchase back in 2010. “But he told me I could make it exactly how I wanted it.” It took eight years, but she finally has her dream: a showstopper of a kitchen, one that is both timeless and timely. It’s the hub of activity for this busy family of six and the space they retreat to every evening to reconnect. “Dinner time is sacred,” Courtney says. “Whether it’s at 4:30 or 8:30, we all sit down together.”

Working with a team of design experts, Courtney created a luxurious, open space that reflects many of today’s most popular kitchen-design trends. “Everything is perfect,” says Courtney.


Statement pieces can make all the difference, explains the Shannons’ kitchen designer, Joanne Murphy of Cabri Inc. in Summit. Take the massive light fixtures. Courtney knew she wanted lantern-style lighting and, against the wishes of her husband and the builder, ordered them extra large. “When they arrived, no one wanted to put them up,” she jokes. “I insisted. Now, they’re the one thing everyone comments on.” Other potential statement makers include farmhouse sinks, decorative backsplashes and cabinet hardware. “The right hardware can be like jewelry,” says Murphy.

Photo by Laura Moss


Homeowners want ease of use and functionality, says Murphy, whether it’s for daily family living or a full-blown party. Popular modern must-haves include multiple work areas with expansive prep space, two sinks, a beverage refrigerator—within easy reach for youngsters—and a separate bar area with generous storage space. The Shannons also have a separate ice machine, handy for entertaining. “We love to have all our kids’ friends over,” says Courtney. Plus, she adds, Kevin is one of 10 sibilings, and all but one lives close by. “We’re often entertaining a houseful.”

Photo by Laura Moss


Smart appliances have been on the renovation radar for some time, but smart doesn’t just mean the latest technology. It means—well, smart. “I really do cook,” says Courtney. “I was very particular about the appliances.” For instance, she chose a French-door oven manufactured by Viking. “The oven doors were a huge selling point for me,” Courtney says. “I’m short, and I don’t want to be reaching over a hot oven door.” Another smart appliance: the six-burner range with knobs set on the side, not in front. “I didn’t want anyone bumping into them,” Courtney says. Murphy sees this trend regularly. “Homeowners want smart comfort features that are user-friendly,” she says. “They want dials and knobs, not electronics.”

Photo by Laura Moss


Creating a seamless connection with the outdoors continues to be an important trend. Ample windows, providing natural light, achieve that goal. Designer Annie Williams, who, with her design partner, Cathy Killam, worked with the Shannons on their overall home renovation, notes that “the natural light from the many windows surrounding the space achieves the goal of bringing the outside in.” More importantly, adds Courtney, “this is where we sit every single night.”

Photo by Laura Moss


There’s a wealth of trendy options when it comes to high-end countertop materials. According to the 2019 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, countertops are the number one feature to upgrade as a part of a kitchen renovation; a whopping 93 percent of renovating homeowners upgrade their countertops. Engineered quartz has become the most popular solid-surface countertop material, edging out granite and other natural stone, the report notes. Quartz is durable, resilient, and generally less costly than marble and slate, explains Murphy. Adding a textured finish to the surface makes it spot-on trendy; the Shannons’ center island countertop has a leathered finish that helps hide stains, scuffs and blemishes. “I just knew I wanted a massive island,” says Courtney. “It’s the focal point of the space. It’s where everyone gathers.”

Photo by Laura Moss


Homeowners want clutter-free counters and smart storage solutions, according to a Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. In the Shannons’ kitchen, pull-out spice racks flank the range; utensil drawers are outfitted with dividers. Clutter-free can also translate to clean lines. For instance, Courtney selected appliances from several manufacturers, resulting in mismatched stainless coloring. The solution: paneling them to resemble built-in cabinetry. Another clean-line tweak: the microwave drawer is flush inset to look built in.

RESOURCES: Kitchen Designer: Joanne Murphy, Cabri Inc., Summit. 908-277-1161. Interior Designers: Annie Williams and Cathy Killam, Chestnut Ridge Interiors, Mendham. 925-337-5644. Builder: Ted Berzak, Vision Construction, Edison. 973-543-7102. Flowers and Plants: Petal Street Flower Co., Point Pleasant. 732-295-0600.

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Six Luxury Properties on Jersey’s Left Bank

One Park’s ?indoor/outdoor pool, one of the building’s many luxury amenities.
Courtesy of New World Group

From Jersey City to Fort Lee, New Jersey’s Gold Coast is sprouting luxury properties. Here is a sampling of some of the newest buildings.

The Quinn
Jersey City

The 16-story, 153-unit rental building in the Paulus Hook section includes a rooftop deck with pool and barbecue stations, a children’s playroom and more. The building offers studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, starting at $2,490. Easy access to the Grove Street PATH, ferry terminal and light rail.

90 Columbus
Jersey City

This stately, 51-story building has 539 rental units starting at $2,850. Located next to the Grove Street PATH station and adjacent to Jersey City’s vibrant shopping, restaurants and nightlife, 90 Columbus is the final phase of the Columbus Collection, a mixed-use residential development with a hotel, retail space and parking garage.

The Duchess
North Bergen

A deluxe rental property with 320 units, the Duchess offers a mix of studio and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, starting at $2,555. Luxury amenities include a heated pool, hot tub, yoga deck, outdoor grilling stations and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The building provides shuttle service to the NYC Ferry Terminal. 


The 11-story, 184-unit condo building is steps away from the light rail and the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal. Parking is included with each unit. Residents, paying from $675,000-$4 million, started moving in last fall.

One Park
Cliffside Park

Perched high above the Hudson in this one-square-mile borough, One Park has 204 luxury condos occupying 14 floors, all with private outdoor space. Units are selling from $515,000 for a one-bedroom unit to $2.7 million for a duplex penthouse. The building boasts 25,000 square feet of amenities, including indoor and outdoor common areas. 

The Modern
Fort Lee

The first of two planned 47-story towers, each with 450 luxury units, opened in November 2012. Construction on the second tower began last June. Rentals start at $2,080. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer striking views. Resort-style amenities include a golf simulator and indoor/outdoor movie theater. 

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The Ever-Expanding Appeal of Left-Bank Living

The model apartment at the brand new Avora, a sparkling new high-rise in Weehawken, offers sweeping Manhattan views. It is part of the Port Imperial master-plan development of residential living space, retail shops, public parks and transportation hubs, packed into two miles along the Hudson River.
Courtesy of Travis Mark

For many years, the Gold Coast, New Jersey’s Hudson River waterfront, has been a haven for young professionals seeking easy access to Manhattan. Lately, as building has boomed and amenities have blossomed, the Gold Coast—aka the Left Bank—has become an all-ages destination, attracting everyone from growing families to downsizers.

“We have experienced a huge transition,” says Jacqueline Urgo, president of the Marketing Directors, a New York-based residential marketing and sales advisory firm working with several Gold Coast properties. She says a number of factors have contributed to the Gold Coast’s widening appeal. Historically, says Urgo, “there were strong fundamentals in place, but the infrastructure wasn’t there. There weren’t supermarkets and restaurants….Now there are playgrounds and schools and music scenes.”

New amenities—restaurants, boutiques, gourmet markets—have developed as luxury buildings have elbowed their way onto the waterfront in places like Jersey City, Weehawken, Cliffside Park, Edgewater and Fort Lee. The primary attractions remain the proximity to Manhattan coupled with transportation options, from ferry service to the PATH and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. “Plus the views of Manhattan are amazing,” adds Urgo.

“This is a modern, urban lifestyle, without the Manhattan prices,” says Urgo, “and the amenities are comparable, either side of the river.” Manhattan purchase prices, she notes, are $2,500-$3,000 per square foot; Jersey’s are $1,100-$1,400.

The O’Learys—Linda, Richard and daughter Joan—rent a 13th-floor, two-bedroom apartment at the Quinn. The sleek, minimalist decor lets the city views be the star of the space.
Photo by Laura Moss

Consider Avora, a soaring glass tower in Weehawken. “Avora attracts everyone,” says Jill Preschel, vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S. subsidiary of global builder Landsea Green, which developed Avora. “They want to be near the city life, but come home and have more serenity.” The 11-story, 184-unit condo is approximately 40 percent sold, six months after entering the market. Aesthetically striking, Avora is walking distance to the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal and the light rail. Each unit includes a parking spot. 

Gold Coast newcomers are pleased to see that fellow buyers and renters come from all walks of life. “It’s a nice mix of people here,” says Linda O’Leary. Last September, O’Leary and her husband, Richard, rented a two-bedroom apartment in the Quinn, a 16-story, 153-unit building in Jersey City. “It’s families, empty-nesters, young professionals. There’s not one type of person.” O’Leary, a Weehawken native, and Richard made the move from Lake Placid, New York, to be closer to family. They share the apartment with their eldest daughter, Joan, who has embarked on a new career in Manhattan. The Quinn is located in Jersey City’s charming Paulus Hook section. “It’s incredibly comfortable and feels very safe,” says O’Leary.

The Gold Coast’s newest buildings leave little to covet. Typical features include hardwood flooring; floor-to-ceiling windows; energy-efficient, stainless-steel appliances; quartz countertops; modern cabinetry; recessed LED lighting; walk-in closets; travertine tile; and extra-large showers with rain showerheads.

Most new Gold Coast buildings have luxurious amenities and amazing Manhattan views. The outdoor pool at the Avora is especially appealing.
Courtesy of Don Pearse Photographers Inc.

Then there are the common spaces, featuring pools, cabanas, grilling stations and home theaters. Many buildings feature gyms with yoga rooms, saunas and steam rooms; 24-hour concierge service; Amazon lockers for deliveries; children’s playrooms; and public gathering spaces. There are parking garages and free shuttles to the ferry terminals. 

Larry Salinas, who moved in October with his wife, Rosalind, to One Park in Cliffside Park, appreciates the level of service at the 14-floor condo building. “There’s a website to write a ticket for maintenance,” he says, “and the service people will be here in an hour.” 

Muriel Leyner moved into a spacious one-bedroom at the Duchess, in North Bergen, a year ago. Leyner, an interior designer, says, “All of the materials are design decisions I would have made. It immediately felt like home.”
Photo by Laura Moss

Muriel Leyner wanted to be close to her daughter in Weehawken and her son in Hoboken, so the Gold Coast was a natural place to look. Her priorities: a pleasing aesthetic, top-notch amenities and a helpful building staff. She found all that at the Duchess, a deluxe rental building in North Bergen. “Everything seemed to come together to make it a comfortable, warm, homelike place from the moment I looked at it.” Leyner rented a spacious one-bedroom with “an enormous master bath” and moved in last February.

Of course, the Gold Coast has a few drawbacks, especially the traffic along River Road. “It can be brutal,” Salinas says. 

The fix? Walk. “We really don’t get in the car very often,” says O’Leary. “We can walk everywhere.” 

“This area is convenient to virtually anything that I need to do,” adds Leyner. “Then I walk into my apartment, and it’s home with a capital H.”  

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Total Transformation: Designer Turns Garage into a Dining Room

Photo by Laura Moss

Jules Duffy loved to entertain, but her family’s 2,000-plus-square-foot Chatham home didn’t even have a proper dining room. Desperate for more space, she hatched a plan to transform her little-used one-car garage into a light-filled dining room. “It was too small to fit a car,” she says, “so it was pretty useless.” Inspired by her vision of a French garden room, Duffy used a bit of ingenuity and a lot of floral-inspired art and accessories to create an ideal spot to host an intimate gathering. It’s a bright space the whole family—husband Lawrence and sons Peter and Max, along with a large extended family—can enjoy year-round. 

“I’m a color lover,” Jules Duffy says. She created the subtle, pinkish wall color by taking a sample of the pale sand of her beloved Harbor Island, Bahamas, to a paint store. “I call it Harbor Island Pink,” she says. “I needed a feminine touch with three men in the house.” Tall windows stacked on the wall that was once the garage door allow for maximum natural light. Artwork, collected over the years, also adds color. The piece above the bar cart was painted by Duffy’s grandmother. “I love incorporating meaningful pieces into every room.” 

Duffy took inspiration from the warmth of French gardens, as captured in Impressionist paintings (think Monet). “I wanted to create a summer feel year-round in a relaxed, earthy, and inviting space,” she says. Houseplants are relatively easy to maintain, she emphasizes, and add a lot of bang for the buck. “Plants are a pretty inexpensive way to decorate,” she says. Duffy incorporated plants with different leaf shapes and a range of scale, texture and color. An assortment of pedestals serves as stands. 

Oak dining chairs from the late 1800s flank the modern clamshell table. Duffy found the table at Made Goods, a to-the-trade furnishings and accessories showroom. The oval shape is a space saver. The chairs are hand-me-downs from Duffy’s mother, who painted them bright green nearly 40 years ago. “They were in our home growing up,” she says. “They’ve traveled to every house I’ve lived in.” Duffy, left, relaxes on a bench she designed to optimize seating in the narrow room. “The modern table married with the old chairs creates a very unique look,” she says. “I’m all about being eclectic.” 

Duffy wanted to steer away from the expected, starting with the floors. Rather than wood or tile, she selected white-washed brick and laid it in a herringbone pattern. She put radiant heat underneath so the room stays cozy during winter. Wall brackets spray-painted in high-gloss raspberry add an extra pop of color. The show-stopping chandelier from Made Goods was fashioned from tiny cocoa beans. “It definitely adds drama,” says Duffy. 

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Vibrant Hues & Repurposed Furniture Fill This Hawthorne Home

Designer Virginia Toledo’s living room is an eclectic mix of colors and patterns. Most of the furnishings are re-purposed vintage finds.
Courtesy of Jacob Snavely

Designer Virginia Toledo has a thing for bold color. You can see it in the vibrant hues that fill her Hawthorne home. She also enjoys a challenge—like decorating her 3,000-square-foot home with repurposed and reimagined furnishings.

Working on a tight budget is a distinct departure from the high-end, high-style projects Toledo and her design partner, Jessica Geller, specialize in. But that’s exactly what she intended when taking on her personal project.

Toledo’s family perches on the violet velvet banquette in their sunroom. Courtesy of Jacob Snavely

Five years ago, Toledo and her husband, Jhovanny Hernandez, along with their daughter, Sienna, now 10, and Wolfgang, the family Weimaraner, moved to New Jersey from Queens. Like many urban couples, they were “working crazy days, commuting on the subway,” Toledo says. “I just felt there was a better way to do it.”

Toledo knew exactly what she wanted. “I was looking for an old home,” she says. “I didn’t want a modern home, and I didn’t want a ranch.” Her top priority: a front porch. “That was first and foremost. I didn’t even ask for a garage, just a porch.” 

After scouring Westchester County and Connecticut, Toledo and Hernandez found what they were looking for in this Passaic County borough. The home, a 1920s American Foursquare, has a backyard, and there’s a public park directly across the street. And, of course, a wide and welcoming front porch—a typical feature in a Foursquare. The style, popular in the first half of the 20th century, typically means a boxy home with similarly sized rooms in the corners, archways between the common rooms and centralized halls. 

Inside, the home was anything but perfect. Owned by several generations of the same family since the 1940s, it had most recently been a rental and was in disarray. “The house hadn’t been updated or modernized,” says Toledo. “It had the original bathrooms and kitchen.” But Toledo had a vision, although it took time to bring it to life. “I chipped away at it room by room.” 

Since they were moving from a tight apartment, the couple was starting practically from scratch, as far as furnishings were concerned. Fully aware of the cost to replicate the style and quality she was accustomed to delivering to her high-end clients, Toledo challenged herself to transform the home without spending a fortune. Lucky thing, Toledo loves the hunt. “Consignment shopping is like therapy for me,” she says. “Let me loose in a vintage shop, and I’m good.” Toledo scoured local vintage shops and resale outlets and spent every spare moment poring over websites like Craigslist and ebay, hoping for finds. Many of the pieces she acquired needed refinishing or reupholstering; others were used as is. 

Toledo created a colorful backdrop for all her newly acquired furnishings. Mixing patterns, colors, and plenty of paint and wallpaper, she went to town, inspired, she says, by her Latin roots, but also “a fondness for Southern hospitality.” The new look was achieved through creative decorating, not rebuilding. Even the kitchen, which got a major facelift, was revamped without any carpentry. Original cabinets were preserved, and a few doors were removed to showcase Toledo’s collection of vintage dinnerware, cake platters and serving pieces. Toledo personally sanded and painted the cabinetry. She even laid the new flooring.

Toledo’s favorite pieces include a dining table rescued from an abandoned house; a 1980s sidebar discarded by downsizing empty-nesters;  Sienna’s vintage secretary desk, handed down by a couple in Connecticut via eBay; and a super-long, custom made velvet banquette—in vivid purple—that fills one wall of the sunroom. Virtually every piece in the master bedroom, including the dresser, armoire and vintage nightstands, is secondhand. 

And that expansive front porch? It’s everything Toledo hoped it would be. “All springtime, it’s where I have my morning coffee,” she says. “Sienna does her homework there, and we read our books. There’s a real connection to our neighbors.”

Five years, and many parties and family gatherings later, the home is just what Toledo set out to make it. “This is a home full of love and color,” she says. “It’s such a cheerful place.”

Daughter Sienna’s bedside desk is vintage. The upholstered headboard and curtains add a playful vibe. Courtesy of Jacob Snavely

Master bedroom walls are apricot. Most furnishings are second-hand pieces that Toledo revamped herself. Courtesy of Jacob Snavely

The entryway has a large-scale paisley wallpaper pattern in vivid green. Courtesy of Jacob Snavely

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