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Dutch Colonial Home Rooted in History

Elegant architectural elements by Gil Schafer imbue a new dutch colonial with a venerable old soul

Written by Debra Steilen
  • Eric Piasecki

    A love of old houses has been ingrained in Gil Schafer since childhood, when he lived in a 19th-century farmhouse and vacationed at his grandmother’s Colonial Revival home in Georgia. So it’s no surprise that Schafer’s designs are always grounded in history. 

    “We try to find that balance between a sense of connectivity and the ability to maintain the character and soul of an old house,” says Schafer, founder of G.P. Schafer Architecture & Design in New York City, a firm renowned for translating traditional architecture into comfortable spaces for modern life.  

    And that’s exactly how Schafer approached the design for this house in Middletown, New Jersey—where early Dutch colonists built homes that resembled the ones they left behind in Europe. But it wasn’t just historical precedent that drove Schafer’s design. His clients wanted a Dutch Colonial house that was scaled to suit their new status as empty nesters. They also wanted the house to have a subtle presence on its deep, narrow lot with a view of the Navesink River.

    Nestling the house into the landscape masks its size.

    Photography: Eric Piasecki

    Architect: Gil Schafer, G.P. Schafer Architect, 19 Union Square West, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003; 212/965-1355, gpschafer.com.
    Interior designer: Libby Cameron, Libby Cameron, LLC, 33 Nutmeg Dr., Greenwich, CT 06831; 914/833-1414, libbycameron.com.
    Landscape architect: Miranda Brooks Landscape Design, 173 Wyckoff St., Brooklyn, NY 11217; 212/228-3623, mirandabrooks.com

    Wallpaper: discontinued.
    Trim paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146 Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Hanging light (antique): Ann-Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Area rug (reproduction Sultanabad, custom color, wool); carpet on stairs (“#80 Zimbabwe Baguette,” broadloom sisal): Beauvais Carpets, beauvaiscarpets.com.
    Front door (custom): Reilly Windows & Doors, reillywd.com.
    Bench by door (antique); console table (antique); mirror (antique): O’Sullivan Antiques NYC, osullivanantiques.com.
    Bench cushion (“Holland Flamest”/Larkspu #2004005.5): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
    Lamps on console (antique); basket under console; bench holding plants: owner’s collection.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Portico

    Working with a landscape plan devised by landscape architect Miranda Brooks, Schafer designed a house with a compact front facade—nestled into a tree- and boxwood-lined setting. The broad rear facade boasts two wings that project forward, a dramatic Dutch gambrel roof, and a series of connected porches that run the length of the house. Painted wood-shingle siding gives the home the appearance of a house added to over time.

    Why does that matter? Because many old houses—at least in the East—started life in the late 18th century. “If they’re still around, they probably were added to by each generation,” Schafer says. “We follow that idea when designing a new house. It breaks down the scale of the house and adds a sense of history.”

  • Eric Piasecki

    Entry Door

    Surprisingly, first-time visitors to the 7,500-square-foot house might not even know the Navesink River is nearby. They drive up the crunchy gravel driveway, park their cars in the motor court, and enter the seemingly landlocked home through a refined entry portico and wide Dutch door. 

    Double-hung sidelights frame a wide Dutch door. 

    Door (custom): Reilly Windows & Doors, reillywd.com.
    Interior door paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146,  Satin Impervo finish); exterior door paint (“Black Forest Green” #HC-187): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com. Door rimlock: D.C. Mitchell, LLC, dcmitchell.org.
    Door knob (“Kennicott Knob”): Katonah Architectural Hardware, katonahhardware.com.

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    Window Seat

    From here visitors look down the grand stair hall and through French doors to discover the riverbank is only 80 feet away.  

    Muntined windows offer river views. 

    Wallpaper: discontinued.
    Trim paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146, Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Wall sconce (“Alisa” #1041): Ironware International, ironwareinternational.com.
    Bench cushion (“Tynemouth Ticking”/Blue #0354B): Robert Kime Ltd., robertkime.com.
    Pillow: owner’s collection.
    Door and windows (custom): Reilly Windows & Doors, reillywd.com.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Grand Stair Hall 

    That front hall is more than a threshold to the view, though. “It also tells the story of the home,” Schafer says. “You see the staircase with its curved landing. You see detailed millwork. You immediately understand the character of the house.”

    Painted turned colonette balusters and a railing topped with dark mahogany highlight the curved landing. 

    Wallpaper: discontinued.
    Trim paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146 Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Hanging light (antique): Ann-Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Area rug (reproduction Sultanabad, custom color, wool); carpet on stairs (“#80 Zimbabwe Baguette,” broadloom sisal): Beauvais Carpets, beauvaiscarpets.com.
    Front door (custom): Reilly Windows & Doors, reillywd.com.
    Bench by door (antique); console table (antique); mirror (antique): O’Sullivan Antiques NYC, osullivanantiques.com.
    Bench cushion (“Holland Flamest”/Larkspu #2004005.5): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
    Lamps on console (antique); basket under console; bench holding plants: owner’s collection.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Library

    Character is big with Schafer, who believes in “getting the bones right.” For this house, it meant looking at architecture and millwork from the first quarter of the 19th century.

    This paneled space doubles as the living room. 

    Wall paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146 Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Drapery and valance fabric (“Plumettes Bleu Celeste” #4172-13 by Le Manach); sofa fabric (“Contrefond Canevas Ivoire” #4373): Pierre Frey, pierrefrey.com.
    Piano: Steinway & Sons, steinway.com.
    Area rug (reproduction Sultanabad, custom color, wool): Beauvais Carpets, beauvaiscarpets.com.
    Sofa (custom “Carr” sofa): De Angelis Ltd., deangelisltd.com.
    Pillow on sofa (“Donatella”/Indigo and Cream #155/05): Claremont Furnishing Fabrics Co., claremontfurnishing.com.
    Fringe trim on sofa (“Aquitaine Fine Bullion Fringe”/Bleu #984-56575-15): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
    Lamp on side table (antique): Sutter Antiques, sutterantiques.com.
    Armchair fabric (“La Seyne Check” #BR-89318-228): Brunschwig & Fils, brunschwig.com.
    Lounge chairs opposite sofa (custom “Paley” chairs ): De Angelis Ltd., deangelisltd.com.
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Poppies”/Indigo #R1375.1): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
    Coffee table; side table; armchair by sofa; pillow on armchair; pillow on lounge chair; tole tray table between lounge chairs: owner’s collection.  

  • Eric Piasecki

    Dining Room

    “Federal-period moldings are more delicate, more refined,” Schafer says. “We tuned our proportions and details to that language. If you get it right historically, the decoration can stray a bit and integrity isn’t lost.”

    Wainscoting, moldings, and a Federal-period mantel wear vibrant teal paint that plays off English hand-blocked wallpaper. 

  • Eric Piasecki

    Kitchen

    As for the “new” part of this house, every inch of it was designed for how the homeowners want to live, Schafer says. Rooms are small enough to make the couple feel cozy. Four bedrooms, five full baths, and two powder rooms accommodate family as well as guests. A modern cook’s kitchen connects gracefully with the spaces around it.

    Painted ceiling beams, recessed-panel cabinetry with wrought-iron hinges and painted knobs, and a furniture-style island give the thoroughly modern cook’s kitchen a period feel. 

    Wall and cabinet paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146 Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Flooring: oak, custom finish.
    Cabinetry (custom design by Gil Schafer): fabricated by Thomas Bump Fine Custom Cabinetry, 978/630-0272.
    Cabinetry hardware: Historic Housefitters, historichousefitters.com.
    Countertop: Calacatta Gold.
    Sinks: Blanco, blanco-germany.com.
    Faucets (#1030-RFC Deck Mounted Kitchen Mixer & Handspray): Barber Wilsons & Co. Ltd., barwil.co.uk.
    Lights over island (“Holophane”); potrack: Ann-Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Range (48-inch Dual Fuel Range-6 Burners and Infrared Charbroiler#DF486C): Wolf, subzero-wolf.com.
    Range hood: custom.
    Counter stools: owner’s collection.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Butler’s Pantry

    Bright blue-painted cabinetry with gold hardware contrasts yet complements the kitchen cabinetry. 

    Cabinetry (custom design by Gil Schafer): fabricated by Thomas Bump Fine Custom Cabinetry, 978/630-0272.
    Cabinetry paint (“Chicago Blues” #804): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Cabinetry hardware: Merit, meritmetal.com.
    Countertop: mahogany, custom finish.
    Wallpaper (“Wattle”/Blue #0317): Robert Kime Ltd., robertkime.com.
    Ceiling paint (3/4 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/4 “Linen White” #OC-146): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Hanging lights (“Schoolhouse Globe” ): Ann Morris Inc., ann-morris.com.
    Flooring: oak, custom finish.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Staircase

    Custom-carved stringer brackets embellish stair risers. 

    Stair detail (custom design by Gil Schafer): G.P. Schafer Architect, gpschafer.com

  • Eric Piasecki

    Guest Bedroom

    The house includes a gym on the second floor, a golf simulator in the basement, and a geothermal heating system. “They can control everything in the house through an iPhone,” says Schafer, who also emphasizes that the architecture doesn’t stand alone.

    Upper-level rooms nest under a gambrel roof. 

    Wallcovering, chair, and ottoman fabric (“Bowood”/Green, Grey #1020-01, by Colefax and Fowler): Cowtan & Tout, cowtan.com.
    Area rug (“Club Tweed”/Spring Green, American-made braided rug, custom color): Beauvais Carpets, beauvaiscarpets.com.
    Bedskirt and duvet (“Exchequer Cotton Check”/Jade #BR-89725.464): Brunschwig & Fils, brunschwig.com.
    Chair and ottoman; side table; framed artwork; secretary: owner’s collection.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Guest Bath

    An eyebrow dormer funnels in light. 

    Wallpaper (“Celtic Square” #2311W-4): Carleton V Ltd., carletonvltd.com.
    Wall and trim paint (1/2 “Super White” #OC-152, 1/2 “Linen White” #OC-146 Satin Impervo finish): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Towel bar (“Yale Club Metal Towel Bar” #UA2006-M36): Urban Archaeology, urbanarchaeology.com.
    Towels: Schweitzer Linen, schweitzerlinen.com.
    Framed artwork above towel bar; bench (antique): owner’s collection.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Rear Facade 

    “The house really knits well into Miranda’s gently terraced landscape,” Schafer says. “And Libby Cameron [the interior decorator] chose decor that reinforces traditional architecture while holding its own. Collectively, we made something magic.” 

    The living room, dining room, and breakfast nook open to porches along the riverfront facade, creating a powerful connection with the water. Schafer’s strategy of tucking rooms under the gambrel roof reduced the scale of the house.

  • Eric Piasecki

    All in the Details

    On the rear side of the house, scrolled console brackets flank the central dormer.

  • Eric Piasecki

    Architect Portrait

    In addition to his architectural prowess, Gil Schafer is also author of his second book, A Place to Call Home: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New American House (Rizzoli). 

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