Living | A Design That Showcases History

Written by: Christine Broomhead

Photography by: Robert Socha

When designing a Hoboken brownstone, people often want to bring the chic modern fashion of today into a beautiful structure of the past. Ellen and Bill, owners of a brownstone on 10th and Bloomfield, wanted instead to showcase the history of their home with a design that paid homage to its roots.

The home is three stories: three beds, two baths and roughly 2600 square feet. Ellen and Bill had been living in a loft style apartment at Maxwell Place and wanted somewhere with more space and a yard for their two dogs. They were drawn to this brownstone because of its original features. It’s floors, the grand staircase, the molding, paneling, ceilings, and medallions were all installed when the home was built in 1893.

While the brownstone came with a lot to love (they didn’t have to touch the kitchen), they wanted to put their own touches on it, so they hired interior designer Jenny Madden. Their chief concern was to employ a design that highlighted all the exquisite, old details already present. They used antique chandeliers from the previous owners to match the time period. They painted the wide trim and molding a crisp white so that it stood out against the grey toned walls. And they chose traditional furniture in custom sizes to fit the width of the rooms. Together these choices create a harmonious elegant space, one that is both contemporary and antique at the same time.

Ellen’s other concern was durability. With the dogs, she wanted to be sure the rugs and furniture wouldn’t easily show wear and tear. Jenny’s trick for this is using outdoor fabrics inside. They’re a little stiffer but make cleaning easy, be it spilled wine, chocolate, or dog fur, all things Ellen has had to contend with.

Ellen’s favorite room is the library room. With floor to ceiling bookshelves, leather wingback chairs, and lots of natural light, the room is a comfortable but formal place to relax with a good book. “I feel like a grown up in there,” says Ellen. “It’s tasteful and sophisticated but livable.” When it came to designing this space, Jenny Madden suggested a few things that ended up making a big difference. She painted the built-in benches the same color as the walls, which helps your eye travel back through the room and out the window. She also designed shelves for wine glasses that offer just a hint of industrial flair, a vibe that goes with with the antique victorian light fixture.

All in all, this brownstone is a beautiful vestige of historic Hoboken. It preserves the elegance of the turn of the century, but with astute design choices, it also fits comfortably in today’s world.

Check out these tips from Jenny Madden and a few of our other favorite designers on how to maximize your space