Monique and Frank Anguiano, a young professional couple, had fallen in love with a neighborhood in Jersey City, NJ and dreamt of one day living there. When they were tipped off that an owner was interested in selling, they knew they had to make a move. Before the property was even listed, they boldly knocked on the front door to make a deal. Eventually, the keys were theirs! And even though it was a total gut-job, they were thrilled. In an effort to save up for construction costs, they rented out 2 of the 3 units, choosing to live in the unit that was in the worst shape of all. “Our highest priority when designing the layout of our home was to ensure it was exciting to walk into every day. We didn’t know anything about design styles but we knew it had to be functional and practical enough to accommodate our future little children.”

The couple had a pretty spectacular team bring their dream home to life. Builder WDesigne, architect Jensen C. Vasil, with Jenny Madden Design taking on the interiors. Jenny’s team began with the interior architecture, wanting to re-establish a foundation that referenced the home’s historic nature. The designer explains, “I was thrilled they were able to keep their original staircase newel, but all other mouldings and built-ins were created from scratch. We had to start with the bathrooms, kitchen, and lighting design in order to keep pace with construction, so furniture took a back seat at the start.” 

With the exception of personal photos and a few accessories from their travels, the Anguianos were totally starting fresh and Jenny had a big task ahead of her for the decor. “Monique was focused on maintaining the home’s historic nature, while Frank was keen on contemporary style, coming from a high-rise condo,” Jenny says of the design. “That dichotomy created a challenge, but we struck the right tone with a transitional style that includes clean lines, like in the track arm sectional, and traditionally designed built-ins and mouldings.” 

In the living area, bookshelves with a column detail hide awkward structural members and ductwork — a clever and stylish solution. In this space is also a beautiful custom sofa. Though it was a bit of a splurge, the length fits the space perfectly and the performance Sunbrella fabric will stand the test of time. “It was just the right piece for a couple that likes to entertain, and now has a baby on the way,” Jenny says. Conversely, the coffee table and side table are a bit more budget-friendly, yet still add quite a bit of texture and detail to the room. 

The kitchen was one of the top priorities, as the Anguianos are talented chefs and hosts. “I should know — I’ve been a dinner guest, and I’m still salivating over that ceviche,” Jenny laughs. “Monique was interested in a blue accent in the kitchen from the beginning, and we ran with that.” Here, Jenny took a big design risk with the lighting. “I hesitated on the pendants being overwhelming,” she recalls. “But, they were perfect for the high ceilings, and I’m so glad I followed my gut and left them in.” 

This space flows into the dining room, which also shows off another surprising element. “In many brownstone projects, we sheetrock the fireplace chimney breast (the part of the wall that bumps out), and we install a marble mantle for a sophisticated and formal element. Here we chose to leave the brick exposed, and I’m so glad we did.  It gives the space fabulous texture, and adds a more casual touch to a space they use every day.”

As for Monique and Frank, they couldn’t be happier. “The entire process took over 2 years with hiccups along the way but we are glad we embarked on this journey and invested in our future,” the couple reflects. “At times it seemed construction would never end or we would be forced to make concessions on our expected design which is on par with the horror stories we’ve heard from other fellow ‘full gutters’. We are very fortunate to have supportive friends and family but more importantly professionals that went above and beyond to help us achieve our dream. We are especially thankful for Jenny’s dedication, expertise, and patience.”