After lusting over a 19th-century architectural gem in New Jersey for years, designer Michael Maher finally became its proud owner. Now he's bringing up his two teen sons in the historic home he lovingly preserved — complete with a plant-filled solarium where they host evening dance parties.
Maher owns architect Calvert Vaux's 1856 drawings for the house, with its eclectic pairing of Gothic Revival dormers and a Second Empire mansard roof.
When Maher hosts a crowd for Sunday dinner — "I have a big family, and everyone's welcome" — he swaps out his dozen Theodore Alexander mahogany dining chairs for 18 bamboo ballroom chairs that he stores in the basement. Walls in Benjamin Moore's Bainbridge Blue provide a striking backdrop for a salon-style "hang" of rare 18th- and 19th-century Robert John Thornton botanical prints. Beyond the David Iatesta chandelier, a 10-foot archway leads to the living room and solarium — and their vibrant contrasts of light and color. Curtains in a Robert Allen fabric frame French doors that offer ready access to the back porch.
Walls painted in Charlotte's Locks by Farrow & Ball envelop the parlor-turned–living room in warmth and drama, while a Stark sisal rug tones down the formality of the antiques; the archway retains its original sliding pocket doors.
Paintings collected on Maher's travels hang next to the original parlor mantel.
An antique settee, 1940s French caned chairs with seats in a Larsen leather and a multitasking porcelain ceiling fixture make the breakfast room a cozy hangout and homework station. Maher cut through a pantry wall to link this nook to the rest of the house.
In the solarium, black mullions graphically frame a panorama of the gardens. Maher enlarged a rug motif for the pattern on his painted pine floor. The cushions of the rattan sofa and chairs are covered in a Lee Jofa stripe, and the ceiling fan is by Hunter Douglas.
Maher's zest for mixing pattern and color enlivens a dormer lined with Farrow & Ball wallpaper. The grid of a Holland & Sherry plaid sets off the curves of upholstered headboards, as well as the varied rhythms of the Serena & Lily bedding and Lee Jofa embroidered neck roll pillows. Striking a lighter note, the patterned Dash & Albert rug harmonizes with both stripes and florals.
In the stylishly utilitarian potting shed, Maher installed a Rohl faucet over an old zinc butler's-pantry sink set atop iron sawhorses. An early-20th-century Tramp Art mirror adorns a wall painted in a decorative finish.
The 12-foot porch ceiling aligns with indoor cornices, Maher notes, "so it's a true extension of the interior, with comfortable seating and a place to eat." Fans and citronella candles repel insects from the unscreened space.
Classical urns and a Chinese Chippendale chair infuse Maher's easygoing landscape with history.
Maher with sons Griffin, left, and Lucas on the porch. Read more about his inspiration for this house here.
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This story originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of CQ.