Embracing a home’s vintage character doesn’t come without some challenges. Allison Handler can confirm that notion first-hand after leading the renovation of a Ridgewood, New Jersey rambler that had remained in its original condition for more than 60 years. “We had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side of the walls,” she said, reminiscing on the start of the five-month project.
The good news? Despite its lack of updates, the home’s bones were beautifully intact—minus some floors that required leveling. In the end, the project was everything Allison’s clients had hoped for: a modern home made for family living with design cues drawn from its historical context. Linda Pordon photographed the reveal, and we’re taking you inside.
Project: Mountain Ave. Mid-Century
Location: Ridgewood, NJ
Architecture Style: 1954 Rambler
Scope of Work: Kitchen, Living Room, Powder Room, Mudroom, and Primary Suite Renovation
Project Timeline: 5 Months
Tell us more about this project, and the scope of work involved.
This gorgeous mid-century modern home had not been updated since the 1950s, but the bones were AMAZING. The homeowners (a cool young family relocating from NYC) have a more modern aesthetic but felt strongly about keeping the mid-century vibes intact. I couldn’t have agreed more.
We paid homage to that amazing design era with some tile play, including modern mother-of-pearl terrazzo floors in the powder room, square zellige in the kitchen, and large format 24×24 tiles in the primary bath along with a gorgeous textured square tile accent wall behind the vanity.
How did the home’s historic mid-century context inform your design decisions?
I was very inspired by the bones of this home from the start. I wanted to achieve the modern aesthetic the clients desired while ensuring that mid-century context was respected.
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Any pain points? And how did you problem-solve?
The major pain point of this project was the fact that this was an OLD house, as many tend to be in this area of the country. We had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side of the walls. In addition, not all the floors and ceilings were level, which threw a wrench into things when planning for cabinetry. In addition to doing some self-leveling to the floors, we had to custom-source several oversized cabinetry items to over-compensate for areas where we may have come short.
We’d love to have you talk us through the main features of the home.
When designing kitchens and bathrooms, I like to start with cabinetry first, so my first stop was my amazing cabinetry partner Imperial Cabinetry. He is the self-proclaimed “king of modern,” and it was only fitting to bring him into this project. We settled on a 3-tone kitchen in light walnut, white lacquer, and a matte black fridge tower/pantry area. We went super sleek with the finishes and door profiles, opting for all slab-style doors and drawers. We carried the same style into the primary bathroom with the same light walnut finish in an ultra-modern slab door style.
Tile is my absolute favorite part of the process and is where things truly come to life. I knew we wanted to add texture to balance out the super sleek cabinetry and pay homage to the mid-century modern vibes of the house. I wanted to go dark and moody for the powder room and used an 8×8 gray mother-of-pearl terrazzo tile floor balanced with a large matte black picket tile. From there, we sporadically hand-placed brass accent pieces between tiles to make them pop.
For the kitchen tile, I wanted to mix it up and do something unexpected. We opted for slab backsplash against the range wall and white square zellige on the window wall with the sink. I always, always take tile above the window and to the ceiling whenever possible, and this project was no exception.
We really went for tile in the primary bathroom. The shower is the first thing you see when you walk into the space, so I knew it had to be spectacular. From there, we chose an amazing large-format 3D tile in white to draw attention. We used a 1×1 dolomite square mosaic for the shower floor, keeping the square tile theme. The piece-de-resistance is the textured accent wall behind the vanity that beautifully contrasts the sleek lines of the vanity.
FIXTURES + FINISHES:
The final part of this project was sourcing all plumbing and lighting fixtures. In the kitchen, we went with a super modern and subdued linear chandelier from Ferguson. In the primary bathroom, we installed two ceiling-mounted pendant lights above the vanity. And for the bathroom plumbing, we opted for Kohler’s super sleek Purist collection in a brass finish.
My clients were AMAZING throughout the entire process and trusted my vision from the start. Completing this project was definitely bittersweet, but luckily they are right here in Ridgewood, so we can pop over to visit!
Design: Allison Handler Design, Photography: Linda Pordon, Tile: Moreland Tile Co. + Stratta the tile boutique, Construction: KDH Builders, Cabinetry: Imperial Cabinetry, Lighting Fixtures: Ferguson, Plumbing: Kohler Purist Collection
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