After turning $5,000 in seed cash right into a billion-dollar empire, shopping for a Gilded Age property named Stronghold appeared the precise transfer for style mogul Marc Eckō. The wunderkind, a former graffiti artist and pharmacy college dropout, bought the Bernardsville, New Jersey, fortress in 2005.
The 20,000-square-foot stone manse and tower appeared as formidable as the corporate its new proprietor based in 1993: the streetwear model Eckō Unltd. The property, inbuilt 1886 for a member of the Astor household and as soon as owned by John F. Dryden, a founding father of the Prudential Insurance coverage Co., now was within the fingers of a 33-year-old steeped in hip-hop, graffiti, and skateboard tradition.
And since the 22-room dwelling had been utterly gutted, Eckō eyed it like a painter itching to fill a canvas. “I used to be immediately seduced,” Eckō says of his preliminary stroll by way of the cavernous shell strung with development lights. “And in concern and shock―this is able to be a unique form of problem.”
He and his spouse, Allison Rojas, raised three kids within the dwelling they took about seven years to revive and at the moment are promoting it for $13.75 million.
The villa is confronted with regionally mined rough-faced stone and is lined with columns set with Corinthian and Ionic capitals. The property has seven fireplaces, Tiffany glass, spectacular carved wooden particulars, entrance and rear terraces, and a three-bedroom carriage home with a separate entrance on a devoted 10-acre lot. There’s additionally a gymnasium with a full-size basketball court docket, a pool, and a cedar-sided pool home.
Eckō balanced disparate parts when rejuvenating the seven-bedroom dwelling constructed for New York banker James Coleman Drayton and his spouse, the previous Charlotte Augusta Astor (their 1879 marriage created a spectacular splash outdone solely by their scandalous cut up that almost resulted in a duel). Eckō wished to retain what he calls the villa’s “grandiose attraction” whereas including dashes of “minimalist modernity.”
He additionally wished to marry his personal daring imaginative and prescient with that of the house’s famed architect, George Browne Submit (1837-1913), whose novel New York Metropolis buildings―they reached 20 tales―have been precursors to fashionable skyscrapers. Submit’s standout designs included the New York Inventory Trade, the New York Occasions constructing, and the Wisconsin State Capitol.
As a way to perceive the property’s strengths and potential, Eckō spent the primary yr of possession “listening” to the house as employees stripped away its rotted inside. He vowed to revive particulars such because the beautiful millwork and never flip the baronial dwelling into “a showroom at a furnishings retailer” he says. Up to date artworks needed to seem as if that they had lengthy existed in the home.
Taking a cue from Submit’s fondness for verticality, Eckō tore out a staircase that greeted friends when getting into the house’s placing double door confronted with a brass grill outlining 48 panels with quatrefoil designs. He punched a gap within the ceiling to create a rotunda, its dome painted with a whimsical mural created by artists Chris and David Faust.
The aesthetic alternative, one which evokes surprise, additionally was sensible. “Now I may name upstairs to the youngsters,” Eckō says. “In any other case, how would they hear me?”
“All of it felt somewhat claustrophobic,” provides Eckō of the house’s authentic entry. “Virtually half of the gallery entry was eaten up architecturally by these stairs.” He repositioned the staircase close by, re-creating its scores of barley twist spindles. He hung a crystal globe chandelier within the stairwell―paying homage to the Occasions Sq. New Yr’s Eve Ball––that provides a vivid drop of modernity to the darkish staircase railing.
Architect Alan Wanzenberg and designer Oliver N. Carter together with quite a few artisans helped Eckō steer the renovation.
About 90% of the house is graced with authentic quarter-sawn oak, prized for its stability and vibrant grain. The intensive carved millwork, ornate gilding, and chic stenciled beams have been in decay and, with nice effort, restored. The wainscoting, additionally restored, and the parquet and herringbone flooring are authentic.
The parlor’s floor-to-ceiling carved limestone fire was rehabilitated, first scrubbed of scribbling by college students attending Miss Gill’s Faculty, which bought the property in 1940 and bought it in 1995 lengthy after the college had moved and merged to change into Gill St. Bernard’s.
Stronghold’s major bed room suite now includes a black and white palette impressed by previous Hollywood and the stylish savoir-faire of turn-of-the-century New York. Eckō designed customized carved parts corresponding to a marble fire mantle that mimics a trendy swag of cloth. Different supplies embrace Calacatta gold marble tiles and traditional black marble.
The first bathtub consists of cut-glass thrives, customized vanities with framed mirrors edged in beaded molding, twin showers with a steam sauna, and a freestanding bathtub carved from a single block of marble. The result’s as if the house’s authentic design had been restored. The house has eight full baths and 5 half baths.
The house’s five-story tower introduced a puzzle of “little odd-shaped rooms,” Eckō says. He once more drew inspiration from the house’s genius architect and his unprecedented vertical creations. He graced the tower with a brand new sense of elevation by putting in stairs with solid metal spindles paired with sheet-cut metal painted for an industrial look.
Eckō envisioned the steps as a “thrill journey on the turn-of-the-century World’s Honest” that leads climbers to find the wonders above. The tower’s third ground was reworked right into a speakeasy-style lounge and bar with pressed tin ceilings and ornate trims. A deep, oil-based crimson covers surfaces. The crimson marble counter has an ogee edge and has been the positioning of quite a few card video games with pals.
The tower’s prime ground has been reimagined as a meditation room with views of the Somerset Hills and glimpses of Manhattan past. The house’s elevator serves all 5 flooring.
The tower is nicely defended. Growling lion heads encircle the outside above 11 units of French doorways with Juliet balconies. Farther up, just under the roof’s balustrade, extra ferocious beasts survey the 32-acre grounds studded with oak and evergreen bushes.
The eating room has two restored quarter-sawn oak doorways and three-quarter wainscoting, together with a historic fire mantle. Eckō and his spouse used a palette of purple, eggplant, violet, and lavender for the ceiling and moldings―“a colour we discover deeply interesting,” says Eckō, a New Jersey native. The higher partitions are lined with grass fabric in pale yellow and muted violet horizontal stripes.
The customized chef’s kitchen has white “wormy-maple” cupboards that add a comfy, pleasant look. Marble counters, a granite kitchen island, a industrial vary hood, a spacious butler’s pantry, and Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Miele home equipment full the house. Adjoining is an ethereal, vivid breakfast room and a two-story household room with uncovered masonry.
The portico, added by Dryden within the early twentieth century, is wreathed by stone pillars with foliate capitals. Now used as a solarium, the house’s bronze doorways, marble fountain, and marble mosaic tile flooring have been rehabbed.
Many of the dwelling’s lighting are fashionable, many sourced from Europe. Some authentic fixtures have been restored or replicated within the first-floor gallery, the parlor space, and a few hallways.
Eckō amped up the trendy conveniences by putting in HVAC and good dwelling infrastructure, in addition to heated flooring in key rooms. He additionally created safety and wired and wi-fi networks.
Eckō says he’ll lengthy treasure what introduced the house to life: the barbecues, birthday events, New Yr’s Eve bashes, and Thanksgiving feasts, together with evenings gathered round what he calls the “ring of fireplace,” an outside fireplace pit on the crest of a hill.
“The house simply wished to be cherished,” he says. “There’s a lot magnificence right here―it’s really been a blessing.”
Jill Turpin and Michele Hill of Turpin Realtors holds the itemizing for Stronghold, 450 Claremont Street, Bernardsville Boro, N.J.
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