Russell Township a Gallic Gem
Photos By Thom Sivo
Today, her affinity for birds, objets d’art and the French countryside features prominently in the recently renovated Russell Township home she shares with husband Brian, a consultant for start-up ventures, and their four children, ages 4-14.
When the Kosars bought the sprawling home in 1999, its style was American country. Built in 1933 and originally owned by Baseball Hall of Famer and journalist Gordon Cobbledick, the home’s design didn’t make sense for a young active family. Most notably, the front door opened to the formal dining room. Further, the kitchen wasn’t functional and although the home had a sun porch, it lacked a great room.
“I didn’t think the house was flowing very well,” Nicole says. “It was cut up. There was a bathroom right where you entered into the kitchen.”
Beginning in April 2006, a major renovation—including the addition of a two-story great room with a balcony—transformed the home into a family-friendly, Country French masterpiece. Paskevich and Associates oversaw the architectural changes and Linda Sullivan Interiors guided the design choices.
“We moved the front door from the dining room to what was the sitting room and is now an entryway,” Nicole says of the project’s starting point.
Indeed, visitors are charmed upon stepping foot into the warm red foyer that is more reminiscent of a cozy study than of an entryway.
“It’s kind of cozy and quirky,” acknowledges designer Sullivan. “You’re walking into a space with a fireplace and an expansive view to their pretty new (great) room.”
An existing fireplace, refinished with Delft tile featuring whimsical birds, holds court below framed black-and-white animal prints. Wormy chestnut built-in shelves overflow with the French pottery Nicole adores and volumes of books from the couple’s impressive collection.
“We both read a lot of history,” Nicole says.
Great wood is hard to find
Directly beyond the foyer lies the new great room. An arched ceiling with wormy chestnut trusses and two gilded, wrought-iron beams coax the eyes upward. But the rest of the space is equally inviting. Wormy chestnut figures prominently in the room’s built-ins, mantle and wainscoting.
“It was hard to find enough wormy chestnut to match in the great room,” Nicole admits. “It held up the project for quite a while.”
A custom-made Indian rug—woven in shades of mahogany, beige, black and teal—anchor two couches, a black and gold coffee table and two upholstered wingback chairs. An oversize, distressed gold mirror hangs over a large herringbone brick fireplace with stone surround. Stemware and spirits are stored in an antiqued wood armoire featuring iron, crisscross mullions over glass doors.
Several feet of space were added to the hall off the newly created great room to accommodate the relocated guest bathroom. Beige toile paper, printed with gold hot air balloons, boats and other patterns—adorn the hall. Oak floors found throughout the home continue into the powder room, which features yellow Venetian plaster walls and a copper sink resting in a freestanding wood base. A verre eglomise mirror purchased from Arhaus Furniture adds brown, gray and gold accents to the palette.
“We wanted to make it really dramatic because it’s a big space,” Nicole says.
Dining in style
Original to the house, the ample dining room provides a luxurious area for enjoying Nicole’s cooking. Creamy yellow walls, built-in shelves flanking a fireplace, and a window seat covered with gold jacquard place guests at ease. Plates from the Spode Woodland collection—sepia-toned with floral borders surrounding animals and birds—are a nod to Nicole’s early years on a farm. A stately dining table with upholstered chairs accommodates 10 people. It was purchased in High Point, North Carolina, along with a complementary buffet.
Above the table hangs a wrought-iron chandelier with lights fashioned to look like candles. Art, featuring birds, accessorizes and personalizes the space.
Music to their ears
The formal living room and adjacent piano nook are two steps down from the dining area. In predominantly blue, white and beige tones, the areas are decidedly influenced by the French countryside.
Authentic French toile wallpaper provides an inviting backdrop for the piano room. A wrought-iron chandelier decorated with “singing birds” illuminates the room.
A stone fireplace with a wrought-iron screen and oak mantle faux-finished to look darker provides warmth and charm to the living room.
“We added crown moulding and wainscoting,” Nicole says of the room’s architecture. “We arched in the doors with a keystone on top.”
The room’s furnishings include a blue couch, blue and white checked chair with matching ottoman, and complementary printed chair. Nature prints hang above a marble-topped wood buffet.
A touch of Monet
The kitchen is undoubtedly the piece de resistance of the home’s makeover. Here is where Nicole’s love for France, feathered friends and fine cuisine (she’s a vegetarian) converge.
“We completely gutted it,” Nicole says.
A striking French range finished in Ritz Blue features three gas burners, two electric burners and a Plaque. It is the same model used at Le Cordon Bleu. Forming the backsplash are blue and white floral tiles that replicate those in artist Claude Monet’s kitchen.
“The oven is certainly what drove that whole design,” designer Sullivan says. “I just love the fact that she didn’t think I was crazy to do the tiles.”
A newly installed island, smaller than the one it replaces, is painted black to provide a contrast to the rest of the kitchen’s cream-colored distressed poplar cabinetry.
“We thought it would be dramatic,” Nicole says.
Atop the island is a large resin rooster, one of several aviary treasures Nicole has incorporated into the design.
Marble countertops and artist Tim Haas’ painted dark diamonds on the wood floor add visual interest, while a black slate farm sink with iron faucet lends additional country charm.
“The pantry is supposed to look like a piece of furniture,” Nicole says of the pinewood storage space accented with chicken wire and blue and white floral fabric.
A total of three ovens (some gas, some electric), built-in espresso maker, two dishwasher drawers and two hidden refrigerators make the space a modern cook’s dream.
In the kitchen’s informal dining area—a domed space accented by bay windows overlooking the backyard pool—waxed pine chairs with rush seats surround a cream-colored, distressed table with subtle green accents on the trim and pedestal. An iron light fixture fashioned to resemble a rooster illuminates the space.
Down east guest house
A guest house, used as an office by the previous owner, straddles the main home and the swimming pool. The redesign captures the feel of a lodge.
“My husband loves Maine and he wanted it to be a cross between Maine and Adirondack-style,” Nicole says.
Slate floors in gray, green and beige play nicely against pine-paneled walls, built-in shelves with iron door pulls that resemble twig, a birch bark bar with brown granite top and a stainless steel sink. Birch reindeer add a touch of whimsy.
Perfect for a party, the comfortable seating area features a root table, barnstone fireplace with herringbone interior, light fixture fashioned from deer antlers, hand-hewed ceiling beams and a bison head mounted above a door that leads to a back porch. The porch also highlights hewed cedar beams and a slate floor.
“We find it to be rustic,” Nicole says. Still, the couple appreciates modern conveniences; a flat-screen TV hangs above the fireplace.
Rounding out the guesthouse redo are a bathroom, changing room and outdoor shower so family and friends can rinse off before or after swimming.
The Kosars are thrilled with the project’s outcome. Their designer regards it as a design success because it isn’t just a showplace.“It’s a family home,” she says. “I love that they live in it and they wanted it to be practical as well as beautiful. What was fun was that they were up for carrying the theme throughout the whole place and didn’t cut any corners.”
ResourcesArchitect: Paskevich & Associates
Homebuilder: J & B Construction
Kitchen designer: Linda Sullivan Interiors/Purdy Design Studio
Interior designer: Linda Sullivan Interiors
Contractor: J & B Construction
Cabinetry: Benchmark Cabinets
Flooring: Wood, faux painted by Tim Haas
Countertops: Calacutta Gold Marble from Thomas Brick
Backsplash: Thomas Brick
Sinks: Black Slate from Edelman Plumbing
Cooktop: Le Cornue
Refrigerator: Sub Zero
Wallcovering/paint: Stucco by Ed Jurrus/paint by Andy Clyde Painting
Lighting: Clover Electric
Front and back doors: Aspen River
Window treatments and soft goods: Leslie Hamilton—LDH Designs