When the hunt for a classic vintage home for a young family of six led to a stately 1913 Colonial Revival-meets-Mediterranean Revival residence, it was time for a historic Summit, New Jersey mansion to receive a modern update. Tasked with turning the grand house into a home that could accommodate four active children, architect Tom Conway, interior designer Marisa Lafiosca, and kitchen designer Heidi Piron set about finding solutions that would preserve and honor the structure’s roots while adding the comfort and function needed in a contemporary family home.
French doors in the living room open to the original sunroom.
The architectural details and formal features throughout the house that appealed to the couple’s traditional taste provided inspiration for the team transforming it. Conway, who currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Summit Historic Preservation Commission, kept the dining room, foyer, library, and living room relatively in the same configuration, and used the original organization as a starting point for his plans. By reinforcing the existing layout and axes, the new first-floor spaces—a family room, powder room, butler’s pantry, mudroom, private office, and eat-in kitchen—don’t feel as though they’ve been added on. The original formal rooms inform the new informal rooms, giving the entire house a sense of elegant cohesion.
Top: The views along the original axes of the house from left to right and front to back. Above: The new sunroom, which features a brick herringbone floor.
“I love the idea of the house as an artifact.”
Also adding to the sense of fluidity is the sophisticated palette of neutrals, yellows, and blues used throughout. To highlight the house’s beautiful millwork, the rooms—walls, trims, doors—were all painted in the same color in a satin finish. “It really gave it a ‘wow’ factor,” Lafiosca says. For the furnishings, she selected pieces with an updated traditional style, and added contemporary art and pops of color through beautiful textiles and carpets. The formal living room features multiple seating areas perfect for hosting, as well as French doors that open to a new sunroom for additional entertaining space.
Clockwise from top, left: The custom zinc range hood, cabinetry designed to emulate the soft curve of the exterior windows, the walnut wood island.
Since the existing rooms were large, the scale of the new rooms was generous—which gave Piron plenty of room to create a kitchen that would suit the needs of a family of six. To achieve the owners’ vision of a timeless, traditional white kitchen that evoked the grandeur of the historic home, Piron’s cabinetry design included doors with refined profiles and bold proportions and a second tier of upper cabinets. She also worked closely with the builder to ensure that the kitchen would have soft curve design elements inspired by the architecture of the exterior windows. Varying backsplashes—stone for the sink, walnut beadboard on the refrigerator wall, and white tile in a herringbone pattern on the range wall—add interest while blending harmoniously with the existing materials.
The beams on the ceiling of the new family room are a nod to the coffered ceiling in the original living room.
An extension of the kitchen, the family room was designed to serve as the main hub of the home. Seating for the entire family was required, which Lafiosca provided via a large sectional sofa in a family-friendly fabric. In keeping with the palette of the house, blues and yellows were used as accents, with stripes, dots, and a graphic yellow-and-cream carpet giving the space a fresh and inviting vibe.
Left: The upstairs hallway and the new staircase to the third floor, which was finished to include additional bedrooms, a bathroom, and storage. The bright blue graphic runner Lafiosca selected keeps the beautiful traditional space grounded in the present. Right: A guest room.
Upstairs, Conway created a hallway to guide occupants to spacious new bedrooms and bathrooms where previously a few small servants’ bedrooms had existed. A stairway to the third floor was added, which improved function and created what Conway refers to as a visual “crescendo” by marrying the grand stairway to downstairs with the new one leading to the third floor. In keeping with the theme of respectful preservation, a detail of the original stair railing is echoed—but not reproduced—in the new, a subtle distinction between what existed and what was added. “I love the idea of the house as an artifact,” Conway says. “The way we approach architecture as a company is embracing design heritage with a modern vision.”
The exterior of the new family room.
The renovation continued below ground as well. Recreational space was added to the large basement level, which was reorganized to include a great room with a bar, a billiard room, a gym, a wine cellar, a full bathroom, and an indoor soccer room perfect for New Jersey winters. Outside, the upper courtyard and terraces offer space to entertain, and much care was taken to ensure that the details of the new exterior—the roofing, the stucco, the brick detailing—were respectful of the old. Perhaps someday 100 years from now, the owners will take the same approach.
Credits: Architecture: Tom Conway, Rosen Kelly Conway Architecture & Design. Interior design: Marisa Lafiosca, ML Interior Designs. Kitchen design: Heidi Piron, Heidi Piron Design & Cabinetry. Photography: Christian Garibaldi.