A HOME FIT FOR ROYALTY RISES IN ENGLEWOOD
BY DAVID PORTER
New Jersey may be the fifth smallest state in the Union, but its residents tend to think big. Forever in the shadow of nearby Manhattan, what the state lacks in size it makes up for in grandeur. It is America’s most densely populated state (more than 1,200 people per square mile) and gave the world what some call the greatest vocalist (others would say the greatest entertainer, period) of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra. The state may be small, but it’s hardly small scale.
Tucked between Tenafly to the west and Englewood Cliffs to the east, verdant Englewood is home to some of the state’s most beautiful homes, one of them an eight bedroom, nine bath, two half bath palace on three wooded acres at 120 South Woodland Street in the exclusive East Hill neighborhood. Go big or stay home? No reason to choose, because here you can do both.
True, you won’t find Les Salles des Croisades, the Latona Fountain, or Les Trianons at 120 South Woodland, but when you enter the grounds of this gated estate, you might just understand what Louis XIV was trying to accomplish with the entrance to his palace: astonishing visitors with seemingly unimaginable grandeur. Like Versailles, this Englewood residence, its building and grounds completed just 20 years ago, is a work of art. Also like Versailles, it feels like an island of privilege tucked away from the rest of the world.
“The house was actually inspired by a photograph of a French chateau in a Pierre Deux book,” said Joshua Baris of N.J. Lux Real Estate, “right down to the black slate roof, the red brick around the windows, and the limestone exterior. The terrace and grand outdoor staircase at the back of the house were inspired by a converted historic mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts, and by some of the exquisite mansions in Newport, Rhode Island.”
The house’s two story foyer, complete with a double staircase and a brick archway, leads to an array of grand formal rooms, fireplaces, and stunning antique lighting fixtures at what seems like every turn. In all of the rooms and hallways, sunlight slants through enormous windows, the sky framed beyond them.
“Grand as it is, with towering ceilings and generous volumes, it’s still dense, with cozy spaces where people can enjoy each other’s company,” said Baris. “Each of the rooms is warm and inviting.”
This masterpiece was crafted with the highest quality materials. Take, as an example, the mitered herringbone oak floors, which have a rich history as a traditional floor pattern in Europe. These can be installed in several configurations, with or without a border, and a popular variation of the herringbone, called Chevron or French herringbone, is prominent in many prestigious European chateaus. With such finely executed flooring, pieces must be perfectly milled at the precisely correct widths or the pattern will be impossible to maintain.
This brand of painstaking attention to detail is also apparent in hardware found throughout the house; all of the cabinet handles, doorknobs, and drawer pulls were handmade at P.E. Guerin, the oldest decorative hardware firm in the United States, and the only remaining metal foundry in New York City. The company, founded in 1857 by Frenchman Pierre Emmanuel Guerin, has been at its current location, on Jane Street in Greenwich Village, since 1892.
If you’re a serious cook, the commercial grade kitchen, with its reclaimed limestone floor and timber ceiling, is enough to make you go weak in the knees. Appliances include Viking and Sub Zero designs preferred brands of such culinary luminaries as Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, and Giada de Laurentis. There’s also a massive island in the center of the room for prep and informal entertaining one large enough to make a professional caterer envious along with a small eating area with a table (seating for six) and views of the grounds through a triple set of you guessed it French doors.
According to Baris, the kitchen is one of a kind. “It was custom designed based on the legendary La Cornue oven,” he said. “Every hinge has been custom cast in brass, as have the stainless borders of the black cabinets, which incorporate pieces of woven teak, and the uppers, which incorporate ribbed glass, so the cabinets ‘float.’ We were one of the first to use Calacatta marble for the surface of the center island, which is customary in luxury European kitchens.”
Beyond is a formal dining room with comfortable seating for 16.
The house’s extensive lower level is a self contained entertainment complex, with a billiard room, a professional grade gym with cardiovascular equipment and weights, an indoor pool and sunroom, a sauna, a media room with a wet bar, and a wine cellar with a 2,000 bottle capacity.
A sun drenched conservatory with a glass dome and French doors all around leads to a terrace overlooking the magnificent grounds, which include a 25 foot by 50 foot pool, two cabanas, and a basketball court.
As in Versailles’s grounds, there’s a tennis court, too. According to the memoirs of Charles Perrault, Louis XIV’s physician, he recommended “jeu de paume” (literally “palm game,” another way of referring to grass court tennis) to the king as a hygienic exercise. This court has lights, though, a luxury beyond even the king’s reach. There’s also a putting green, which is the perfect place to practice before heading out to one of the area’s stellar golf courses.
The backyard is big enough for impromptu soccer and football games or for simply lounging, tracing the shapes of clouds or counting stars. The grounds have weeping willows, pear trees, and Japanese maples tall, elegant trees that give the sprawling property extra privacy and an enhanced feeling of breadth and depth. The grounds are a deciduous masterwork for fall leaf peeping from the terrace. In winter, watch nearby woods fill up with snow.
Horace Walpole, an 18th century British author and art historian, once wrote, “When a Frenchman reads of the Garden of Eden, I do not doubt but he concludes it was something approaching that of Versailles.” Likewise, a resident of Englewood’s East Hill, when she reads of the fabled Garden, will no doubt conclude that it was something approaching that of 120 South Woodland.
The property was listed at $8,888,888 when this issue went to press.
120 South Woodland Street, Englewood
Joshua Baris / Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage/Global Luxury Division
375 Park Avenue, Suite 21, Fort Lee / 201.461.5000 / NJLux.com