A Husband and wife build/design team work with a unique lot size to create an island masterpiece
by JENNIFER VIKSE • Photos By Amessé Photography
Barbara and Jerry Smith have been working together since 2000. The builder and designer team decided to join forces when Barbara left her career on Wall Street to focus on the couple’s children. As Jerry’s construction business grew, Barbara became enveloped in it. Together, they create custom homes and renovations for Staten Islanders—Jerry doing the building, while Barbara, a self-taught designer and real estate broker, comes to the table with inspiration and ideas. “My husband leads J. Smith Construction and we combine all our talents to build custom homes,” she explained. It has turned out to be a winning combination. Together, they have won several Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Building Awards. For Barbara, creativity is found almost anywhere. But for a build the couple did in 2011, she looked to a fondness for European design.
Upon finding an ideal property on the South Shore (no easy feat as there aren’t many large lots left on the island), she decided to custom build a French manor. The idea, she explained, was a natural for the unique property. “I’m a big fan of European architecture. I use whatever inspires me at the moment,” she said.
Nestled between Wolfes Pond Park and the Ocean, the lot cried out for a majestic build. The couple worked with architect James V. Morri on the project. “We just really liked the location, being near the water then was fabulous. And he [Morri] was really responsible for this palace. This was a great, great spot… overlooking the ocean the pond. I just felt like building a castle on the water.”
After Hurricane Sandy, when many have reconsidered living in close proximity to the water, Barbara said that this home didn’t get a drop from the storm, even while some around it were either damaged or completely demolished. The grounds, however, were washed out.
“I designed it with a family in mind,” she added about the 8,000-square-foot home, complete with stone detailing, hardwood, and wrought iron gracing both the interior and exterior of the house. The lot was very narrow, yet deep, so it offered its fair share of design trials.
“We did meet a lot of challenges because it was a narrow lot. That played into the design. Most homes of this size are broadside; instead, this was deep,” explained Barbara, who worked closely with Morri on the ideal design for the property.
The result is a five-bedroom, six-bathroom home with all of the luxuries one would expect from a custom build. It has a gym, gourmet kitchen, swimming pool, theatre, and custom finishes too numerous to list. The project took two years to complete. The home welcomes visitors with a beautiful, rustic stone wall behind a custom iron front door. Arched stoneways beyond the entry foyer are warm and inviting.
“The first thing that you see is this beautiful stone wall with two gorgeous crystal sconces,” Barbara said. “I like how we mixed the crystal, so elegant, with something rough. It plays well with the stone and the beams. The entry is a grand, two-story foyer.” The home also features a unique, stunning stair tower. “In the tower is a gorgeous crystal chandelier, with wood beams at the very top. It’s quite different…clectic,” she explained, adding that the staircase features a custom, handmade iron railing. “The tower with the stairs is really special; you get a nice view of the ocean.” Natural light from a window in the tower also illuminates the wooden staircase.
The house boasts stone walls and stone arches throughout. Its primary living space is the large, bright kitchen and family room. “It has an enormous gourmet kitchen and butler’s pantry. And an open-concept great room off the kitchen, with a full service bar and fireplace,” Barbara explained. The kitchen, finished in elegant cream, has an oversized island with seating and numerous windows. The cabinetry is classic French Country, with a hint of sophistication. Off to the side is a table for enjoying family meals. The alcove also features a stone wall, made modern by the placement of a flat screen television.
The great room, two steps down from the kitchen, has three sets of French doors out to the veranda. (“I love this veranda, it’s so pretty,” Barbara shared.) The room has a comfortable couch for the family to enjoy a night by the fireplace, at the center of the room’s focal point, a signature stone wall.
The dining room, as with the tower, boasts crystal chandeliers. The traditional room’s fixtures are Schoenbeck and light up the space brilliantly, accented as it is with gold leaf. Walls are crimson and beige, and the room features a dining table for ten.
The guest bath is fit for a French manor. Accent fixtures are gold with marble tiled flooring. The vanity is French with a single cabinet door. The sink, a unique bowl, features mosaic on its exterior. A gold leaf mirror completes the look. Each bedroom has an en suite. “The family who lives there, a young family with two small children, can grow into it,” Barbara said. The daughter’s bedroom features sharp black and fuchsia walls, accented with white moldings. A pink and white chevron area rug sits atop the hardwood floor, which runs throughout the second floor. A crystal chandelier with droplets hangs from the ceiling over the bed.
The master suite is finished in neutral blues and beiges. Recessed lighting illuminates the room from two ceiling levels, and a crystal chandelier and sconce finish the look. The master bath is finished in marble and tile (also in neutrals), with a burnt orange accent wall over the spa tub (with columns on either side). A walk-in shower completes the room, with an arched glass doorway, fitting the look of the Old World French style. The basement is more contemporary, with cool blue walls and a celadon accent beam. Sports memorabilia deck the walls, while an overstuffed couch faces a TV on the wall. A sizeable billiard table is the focal point of the space with a high table and armchairs at the side.
Finishing touches go well beyond the stone walls of the house. Outside, a covered stone veranda with patio furniture and cast iron light fixtures overlooks the swimming pool, with a stone barbecue, finished in pavers. Beautifully landscaped gardens accent the home in the front, complete with an iron gate that, when closed, creates a European style courtyard for the children to play in.
J. Smith Construction
79 Waterbury Ave. / 718.317.7348 / jsmithconstruction.com