Woodland Zen Retreat

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Bernardsville Mountain is an exclusive, hilltop enclave featuring homes and estates in various architectural vernaculars. Set high amid the Somerset Hills, in what is often referred to as the “wealth belt” of New Jersey, Tudors and Georgians, French Chateaux and stately Colonials are all represented magnificently. Numerous evocative castle-like structures can be easily observed from the main road, the occupants living in grandness and elegance behind wrought-iron gates. Higher up the mountain, off a cul-de-sac, behind gates of its own, and down a winding drive lies the estate. What appears among the lush density of the nearly 15 acres on two lots, is a single-level structure: an alliance of Mid-Western Prairie and Eastern Zen.

A Japanese garden courtyard welcomes visitors at the front of the house, where a large parking courtyard separates hard and soft scapes. Follow the driveway around back to a three-bay garage and back entrance. One is bathed in natural light upon entering the house into the capacious mudroom, complete with potting area with sink, modern half-bath, and the “dog kitchen” (as the current owners use it), as well as small stacked washer and dryer.

Down a few steps at ground level is a full walkout apartment – presently used as the housekeeper’s quarters – with en suite bedroom, walk-in closet, generous open living space, a kitchenette with granite counters and a second, full bathroom. The mechanicals room is also located on this level.

The main kitchen is expansive, modern and caterer– friendly. Composed of warm, whitewashed woods, the cabinetry is offset by walls of buttery taupes and yellows completing the neutral Zen–like palette. A warm fieldstone fireplace flanked by built-ins and a wet bar, along with tall wine storage, finish off the family room/TV viewing area. For the culinary inclined, a 48-inch Thermador Pro range with griddle, a double oven, and 60 inch wide sideby- side refrigerator/freezer, will surely challenge “Top Chef” aspirations with this professional and well-appointed kitchen. The massive island is the central and abundant workspace. Radiant heated stone floors mean one can come in barefoot in winter for a quick and cozy midnight snack, located somewhere within the copious stacked cabinetry.

A table easily accommodates 10; the immense island seats four rather comfortably, and the sitting/TV viewing area includes a large sectional and coffee table. All of this looks outward to the open-air Japanese courtyard, a serene space with its Japanese maple specimen and trickling fountain. The effect is felt even from within, and sets a restful quality in the main living area that is the family’s ground zero.

The hallway, itself a backdrop for art and sculpture, contains multiple coat closets, a powder room, and a wet bar neatly concealed behind a sliding door. The dining room is large but intimate. The present homeowner has a round table capable of seating 10, situated beneath a pyramidal ceiling with a small, starlike light beaming overhead. A hidden, built-in china hutch handily stores wares without cluttering the room, and the large floor-to ceiling windows on two sides give ample views of the pool and lush landscape, striated with meandering brick pathways leading this way and that.

The spacious formal living room has a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, and two large black lacquer and glass china display cases on the interior wall. There is ample light, both natural and artificial. The sunroom is a sunken room looking onto the pool with the ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows and egress on two sides. The Master Suite, along with two full bedrooms, replete with kitchenette and two newly refinished full baths, finish off the wing.

The master suite contains two separate baths/dressing rooms. The bedroom itself is light and bright. The larger bathroom offers abundant storage for a considerable wardrobe in addition to a small office overlooking the inner courtyard.

This estate is truly an escape from the hustle and bustle of the rat race.

Architect Al Bol notes that the three-building complex was developed over 12 years using the same architecture and design details, “…so that elevations and rooflines and details match as if constructed simultaneously.” With the grounds’ pools, tennis court, guest quarters and huge kitchen/family gathering area, this home will be the special retreat for those looking to have it all, yet get away from it all.

The lagoon-style pool on the opposite side of the house is beautifully set amid leafy greenery, with natural materials surrounding it and the poolhouse, integrating the structures organically into the landscape.

Behind the poolhouse is a full-sized, lighted tennis court. According to architect Al Bol of Bol Architecture, “The poolhouse, built in 1986, was strategically located between the pool and tennis court so as to comfortably service both activities.”

The spa house Architecturally similar to the main house, it features a 60-foot-long lap pool, exercise area, a full bath with generous steam room and separate shower, wet bar and floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides.




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