Interior Designer Valerie Grant shares with us her own New Jersey home with fabulous views of the Big Apple.
STORY BY Pam Gerch
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Peter Rymwid
DESIGNER Valerie Grant Interiors
Although this home is in Summit, NJ, you need walk no farther than the backyard to see exceptional views of the Manhattan skyline. Just 27 miles from the city, this one-of-a-kind mountaintop property gives the homeowners the panoramic view they
so desired, and they loved it the moment they saw it. The 14,000-square-foot home is elegant and glamorous but also livable, and that’s just the way homeowner and interior designer Valerie Grant planned it. “My goal was to create a sophisticated living space that combined different styles and mixed antiques with modern furnishings and contemporary fine art—but at the same time wouldn’t feel stuffy, with certain rooms off-limits,” says Valerie. “We built it when our children were quite young, so the house had to be a place where everyone felt comfortable.”
Attention to Details and Surfaces
Valerie accomplished her goals by giving the home a strong sense of balance, where rooms sing with vibration between solid
elements and the surrounding space. Customized details are one of her trademarks, which she exemplifies here by using unique finishes, layering textures and creating contrasts with wallpaper, furnishings and floor coverings. “I focus
on all the surfaces, not just the walls,” says Valerie. “I pay attention to the details on the floor and ceilings of
every room, because I feel these surfaces are often overlooked, and when you pay attention to them, the room takes on a more complex and elevated look.” The architect for the project was John James, AIA, and the builder was Alto
Layering Design Elements
The entrance foyer is the starting point and a preview of the rest of the house. It has a white limestone tile inlaid with a wood border, and the white walls are contrasted with charcoal metallic Venetian plaster adding a layer of texture, depth and interest to the space. In the living room, she used a high-gloss paint on both the ceiling and the walls, with a tiered detail on the ceiling, and a custom-designed chandelier with mica strips in a champagne hue. A textured wallcovering is on the back wall of the bookshelves, and ivory-colored sofas surround a glass coffee table, bordered by two antique accent chairs. The silk curtains in the living room add another layer, with an embroidered tape on the lead edge. It’s all finished off with a piece of contemporary art by Adele Seltzer over the fireplace, and an abstract modern art piece by renowned artist Retna over a console table. “I think the contemporary art is sometimes a surprise to people, but design is about reflecting the homeowners’ style, and it really appeals to our family,” says Valerie.
In the dining room, Valerie mixed a 19th-century Danish neoclassic dining table with several modern elements, including gray woolen sateen fabric by Donghia on the chairs, a contemporary Lucite bench, and a high-gloss ceiling accented by charcoal-gray metallic Venetian plaster on the walls. The butler’s pantry between the dining room and kitchen has a few more surprises in store, with slate-gray cabinetry, contemporary wallpaper by Sanderson, and an antique mirrored backsplash. It creates a mood of old Hollywood glamour with modern touches on almost every surface. The powder room right off the dining area is also a contrast in style and texture, with taupe Venetian plaster on the walls and hand-stenciled wallpaper in the vanity alcove. The metallic gold bathroom mirror has a beveled edge, and the bathroom vanity is bordered in a metal edge with rivet detailing.
Fashion and Design
All this attention to detail came naturally for Valerie, who had a 15-year career in the fashion industry, working for such renowned brands as Prada, Ralph Lauren, Coach, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. “Putting styles, patterns and textures together and adding accent pieces and accessories was what I did my entire career,” she says. It was only
after she had left the fashion industry and designed a home in East Hampton, Long Island, that people who came to visit began asking her for help with their own homes. That launched her career in interior design in 2005, when she founded Valerie Grant Interiors.
Family Spaces with Style
The study is used as a room to relax or read a book, and because she didn’t want it to be a typical dark wood room, she applied grasscloth wallcovering into the custom wood trim details to soften and lighten the overall look of the room. Layering a cowhide rug over a larger chevron-pattern rug gives the room even more depth. Two sofas, one in an unexpected navy wool by Maharam, surround a brown leather ottoman. All the elements in this room work together to create a nontraditional, relaxed take on what is historically a very traditional living space.
The main foyer extends into a vestibule with a wallcovering that uses a gradation of color to create a dramatic entry into the family room. The dark wood trim seen in the study extends to the family room, with coffered ceilings and custom built-ins in a combination of stained walnut and a painted finish. The room has multiple seating areas with touches of pale blue and burnt orange. “I lightened the walls and ceiling in the family room so the wood detail would stand out,” says Valerie. The family room opens up to an outside patio for entertaining on warm nights.
The Gathering Place
“Our kitchen is the gathering spot in our home,” says Valerie. “Everyone hangs out here, so I wanted to provide enough workspace and seating to make it highly functional for everyone’s needs.” There are two islands: one is eight feet long and
serves as the food preparation area, and the other is a nine-foot-long gray-stained oak island that seats four. There are multiple workspaces with plenty of counter space around the sink area for meal planning and preparation. At the heart of the kitchen is a black Lacanche range with polished nickel accents, made in France. Not to be outdone by the range, a statement RangeCraft hood in brushed stainless with polished stainless accents hangs over the range. “I started with the range and hood and built the kitchen around them because they are the most dramatic pieces,” she says. “I love white kitchens, and although the hood dominates the space, it doesn’t overwhelm but complements the white cabinetry and polished Calacatta marble countertops and backsplash.”
Sanctuary and Rooms to Grow
The master bedroom suite features a separate sitting room with a fireplace topped by a custom-designed antique mirrored cabinet that conceals the television. Blending masculine with feminine, the master bedroom is designed in soft ivory with mink gray accents and incorporates silks, faux fur and leather. A chaise lounge sits on one side of the bed, which is covered in textured silk-blend fabric by Baker, and the drapery in is a silk fabric by Chase Erwin. The contrast between the light and dark touches and layers of detail gives the room the ambiance of an upscale retreat. The master bedroom closets, divided into his and hers, feature built-in cabinetry and mirrored closet doors. Valerie’s closet also has a built-in dresser with a decorative accent mirror placed over a built-in mirror and a brass-and-glass ceiling light fixture by Visual Comfort, with matching sconces by Hudson Valley Lighting.
The children’s bedrooms were designed to evolve as the youngsters got older. In her daughter’s bedroom, Valerie used what she calls “good bones” to allow the room to change as the young lady ’s tastes change. The ikat-patterned area rug and drapery and wallpaper on the headboard wall were selected to be staples in the room, while some of the accent pieces could be replaced over time to match her daughter’s preferences. Custom built-in bookcases and nightstands anchor the space, and the soft aqua she used on the walls is neutral enough to not overwhelm the feminine theme.
Valerie’s son is a sports enthusiast, so she wanted to reflect that interest while keeping the room more mature. The inspiration for the room was rugby strips that provide a masculine feel, but keeping it functional meant a neutral palette with custom-designed graphite and khaki window treatments with nailhead bordered cornices, custom built-in cabinetry and desk, and window seats. She enhanced the sports theme by painting the cabinetry and trim a dark gray and adding touches of red accessories.
A Creative Space
Function over form is about as far as many people get when designing their own home office. Being the homeowner and the designer, however, Valerie wanted her office to reflect not only her personal style but to be a space that inspired her creatively. She works at a large shagreen-covered desk with a glass top, while another workspace features two built-in cabinets that surround a second desk. On one wall is a wallcovering by Romo, which gives the room a neutral backdrop with a little interest and pattern. The artwork on that wall, by contemporary
artist Faile, and artwork on the surroundings walls, by Dane, add visual impact to the overall room. The area rug in an abstract pattern covers the hardwood oak floor.
Rock and Roll Fun
In the basement, the individuality of the family is displayed in rock and roll memorabilia, albums and artwork. To counter the stained oak ceiling and dark painted paneling, the walls were painted an off-white. A leather sofa and love seat by Hancock & Moore and a custom-designed ottoman provide a relaxing seating area in the space. A pool table and large-screen TV complete
the large living area, where the family gathers on many occasions. Artwork by Faile on one end of the hallway is a reminder that the space is a place to have fun.
The Views are the Story
When you step outside Valerie’s home, you are immediately captivated by the tremendous views. In the distance is Manhattan and what appears to be an endless horizon, with rich green foliage in the warm months. There are multiple areas for entertaining, including a sitting area with a fireplace and an outdoor kitchen with counter seating. Down the steps, toward the end of
the property, is a pool and a hot tub. “We fell in love with this property as soon as we saw it,” says Valerie. “To me, the property, the views, the privacy and the endless sky
are what make this home so special.”
Valerie Grant Interiors
14 Friar Tuck Circle
Summit, NJ 07901
John James Architect
John James, AIA
11 Inwood Place
Maplewood, NJ 07040
P.O. Box 1239
Summit, NJ 07902