A Custom Contemporary Tour in Short Hills, NJ

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The husband and wife who own this custom home took seven sweet years to handpick every detail, from the towering fireplaces to the crafted stone arches. Then they lovingly added California touches throughout to let in fresh air and pure light. You can step inside and breathe away your stress.

The feel is almost serene upscale spa, with quietly sliding shōji doors and natural elements from the finest woods to river rocks. Between his West Coast roots and her discerning eye as a top apparel designer, everything in the house comes together like a sun-dappled dream.



The towering wood-burning hearths in the living room and family room are classic Rumford fireplaces, named for Count Rumford, who designed the cleaner-burning style in the 1790s. The couple and their children spent a lot of time in those two adjoining rooms, with floor-to-ceiling mahogany-framed windows and screened French doors.

An artisan built a giant wood spool at the outside entrance and spent over six months crafting two stone archways around it and building both fireplaces. And nature prevails down to the smallest detail, with burnished E.R. Butler & Co. polished “pebble” door pulls, olive nut hinges (named for their shape) and ebony handles. The roof is shingled in hand-cut cedar shakes, and even the steam shower is tiled in flat natural stones.

But the sunlight is the charm. “The house is flooded with light at all times of the year, which makes it a very happy place,” the homeowner says.


The California dreamer passionately searched for the finest woods. “I like wood. I like natural materials. That’s what the house is really about,” he says.

Throughout, from kitchen to master bedroom, and living room to coat closets, timeless mahogany was fitted for doors, panels and framing. The apparel designer – versed in satin weaves and sumptuous textures – lovingly runs her hand over a closet door, remarking that it feels “almost silky.”

Beyond the kitchen, a beautiful, warmly burnished golden walnut staircase with latticed banister leads to the second floor. Blondes really do have more fun!


ZO2K7022The spacious kitchen has two sets of French doors that open onto the patio and full-length double-paned windows. It’s outfitted with polished black granite countertops, a six-burner Viking Professional stove with two ovens, cookbook shelves, mahogany faced freezer drawers and expansive pantry space. It’s the perfect place to gather and nourish a family. The homeowners also cherish the expansive basement playroom, a favorite place for their children and their friends right through their teenage years.

The private deck off the master bedroom is generously sized for sun-bathing, napping, star-gazing – or telling bedtime stories under the moonlight.


In spring, it’s the white (crocus, daffodil and narcissus) design that may catch your eye. You’ll walk the path to the teak back garden gate and head to the back patio, where lounging and grilling are on the agenda.

“We wanted something more private, not just a front lawn,” says the homeowner. “You have no sense of what’s behind our front garden – it’s like the big reveal. And we gardened every inch of the property over the course of fifteen years.”

“The bamboo outside the living room rustles in the wind and you get a beautiful sound,” she adds. The lush green landscaping is an alternative to a more predictable front lawn. The gardens boast a magnolia tree with intoxicating showy white flowers, a bed of peonies in bold colors like salmon and coral, healthy pink country roses, Japanese maples and grasses and clematis.

All around the exterior, etched Arroyo Mission-style lanterns light the night, another California greeting.


The hers walk-in closet, with mahogany shoe cubbies, shelving and curved vanity with mirror.

Paperbark birches lining the garden path and lady slipper orchids, a rare and delicate garden-fairy find.

Kitchen outlets hidden under the cabinets rather than installed on the backsplash, for a clean countertop line.

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