All of us have someone whose style we admire. For Jennifer Jerabek, that person was designer Rajni Alex. Jennifer and Alex had children in the same preschool and each time the stay-at-home mom visited the designer’s home, she was impressed. “Her space was so fresh and new,” says Jennifer. “It always presented so well.”
So when Jennifer and her husband Seth considered purchasing a 1926 Tudor in Pelham, New York, they turned to Alex for input on whether they could transform the slightly dark and dated architectural gem into something that would work for their family. “It looked like a haunted house from the outside,” recalls Jennifer of her first impression. But once inside, she found herself surprisingly drawn to the home. “I immediately thought, “Gosh, this might be the one for us!’” Echoes Alex, “They fell in love with the potential.”
While the property needed substantial updating to meet the couple’s wish list, the designer knew that with some choice adjustments to the layout, it could ultimately achieve their vision of a sophisticated yet family-friendly respite, all while paying respects to the historic details that first captivated them. “With every project that I take on, first, I try to see what’s irreplaceable and what’s worth keeping,” says Alex. And with this particular project, that process started at the threshold: “The front door is a classic Tudor style with beautiful, heavy hardware, so we didn’t want to touch that,” she says. “Then, when you open the door, you’re greeted by this fabulous stained-glass, double-story window. It’s a feast for the eyes.”
To celebrate the character feature, Alex lovingly restored broken shards of glass, otherwise ornamenting the entryway minimally to let it sing. The sun shining through the pastel panes of the window instantly sets the serene tone of the home.
Working with general contractors Arthur C. Lange and Nick Koutoulas, with Kimberly Tutera Martelli as the architect of record, Alex opened up the floor plan to create a flow and sense of airiness that would complement the interior design scheme. “Jen wanted a feeling of elegance,” explains Alex. “She wanted the wall colors to be calm–nothing that screams out at you.” From there, the designer laced the neutral base palette with blues and golds to steer the style in a more glamorous direction.
Since the first floor offers straight sight lines from room to room, a seamless transition between spaces was key. “I wanted to be sure every room worked musically with one another,” says Alex. Where color palette strikes a unifying chord, furnishing choices were essential to subtle distinctions between rooms. For example, blue and gold play an important role in both the dining and living areas, but the dining room, with its classic mahogany table and pale blue grass cloth walls, feels slightly more traditional than the living room, which features a sculptural black-and-gold, glass-topped coffee table and a moody, large-scale painting by Caroline Lizarraga.
But for Jennifer, the most important room was undoubtedly the kitchen. “This was going to be the kitchen of her dreams,” says Alex. “It was her pride and joy.” The designer, Koutoulas and Lange worked closely with Jennifer, devising a plan that included marble-clad walls and taupe-gray cabinetry, along with a pantry, wine center and, perhaps most importantly, breakfast nook–“something I’ve wanted since I was a kid,” remarks Jennifer. “We completely changed the footprint on one side of the house,” continues Alex. “The kitchen was really customized to meet their needs.” In its convivial location–nestled between the family room and the outdoor deck area–the room serves as the perfect gathering place as people flow from the indoors to out.
Another top priority was the master bedroom, which needed to serve as a sanctuary for Seth. A busy orthopedic surgeon, he had requested for the room to emanate pure relaxation. “They wanted the clean and tranquil environment of a hotel,” says Alex. And so, soft neutrals and blues were introduced once again to set a serene mood. “It’s an escape where he feels like he has left all of his troubles behind,” observes Alex of the finished result. That sentiment, of course, rings true of the entire project. “I’m proud of this house,” says Jennifer. “I’m proud of the fact that we took it from something that was dated and kind of cold to very warm and welcoming.”