Mansion In May: Interior Design for Charity

Mansion in May is a charity whose proceeds go to support the Morristown Medical Center. Held every two years, Mansion in May gains access to an estate, most recently in 2014 the historic Blairsden estate, where they invite designers to compete to design the estate’s rooms. Designers create a full proposal for a room, which a committee reviews and votes on. Once designers are chosen, they transform their room based on the proposal at their own expense. The charity raises money by selling tickets for people to view the home and the renovations that took place. At Blairsden, a record 33,000 people attended Mansion in May, raising $2 million for the expansion of the Joan and Edward Foley Pediatric ICU as well as a new Autism Center. We were able to speak to two interior designers that participated in Mansion in May to learn more about their business and their designs.

The Designer: British Home Emporium

British Home Emporium is a full service interior design firm as well as a merchant of custom furniture and home accessories operating out of a two level, 7,000 square-foot showroom that is a restored livery stable. While they showcase a wealth of unique, original pieces, British Home Emporium puts an emphasis on interior design. “Our taste and our aesthetic is relatively broad and we’ve run the gamut from casual traditional that’s quite elegant to rustic to very modern and we do both very colorful rooms and very neutral rooms,” explained Nina Karamallis, owner and principal interior designer. “There is a refinement to our aesthetic, but there is also a casual accessibility to it.” British Home Emporium has participated in Mansion in May for a number of years, showcasing their creative vision and talents as interior designers.
take 5 - side view
The Room:Take 5
Behind the design of British Home Emporium’s room is a story. Who is inhabiting this space? This particular room is inhabited by, as Karamallis explained, a “worldly man, who travelled extensively and there were artifacts from all over the world that he had brought back with him.” Not only that, the room’s name, Take 5, is a reference to this person’s love of jazz, as showcased by the records and other jazz paraphernalia hanging on the wall by the desk. This demonstrates how every detail counts because each detail is an aspect of someone’s story, because these are the things people choose to surround themselves with. Of course, architecture also has a role to play. “Given that it was in this gothic sort of mansion, we didn’t want to do that same thing that would be most expected in a room like that, which would be as a man cave, just kind of hunt, country look,” said Karamallis of the overall design scheme. “So instead of that, we wanted it to have a little bit of a warm contemporary feel and a little bit of a more exotic feel so we brought in elements that referenced his travels around the world, some more modern furniture, interesting color combinations.”

British Home Emporium
91 Main Street, Madison, NJ 07940

The Designer: Greenbaum Interiors

Greenbaum Interiors is an interior design agency which specializes in custom-styled furniture and upholstery. The firm was founded in Morristown, NJ in 1952 by the Greenbaum family, who spent years traveling throughout Asia and Europe in an effort to find the most unique materials. Today the firm continues to source fabrics from all over the world, and now operates from showrooms in Ridgewood, Morristown, and a 14,000 square-foot historic gallery in Paterson. Although minimalistic modern styles are all the rage in the design world, Greenbaum remains dedicated to their classic aesthetic by simply updating the timeless details of a space’s architecture and furniture. “We like to mix elements, specifically with columns and other details that will stand the test of time whether it’s modern or traditional,” said Susan Greenbaum, the firm’s owner and president. “Just by changing the finish, changing the fabric, you change the look of a piece.” Greenbaum has been involved with a diverse amount of fundraising campaigns, which includes a 25 year affiliation with Mansion in May.

The Room: Blairsden Lounge
In order to reinvent what once was a very traditional dining room, Greenbaum lead designers Charles Dobbs and Steven Fioravanti separated the space into different zones. “We imagined a large cocktail area, something that was not as formal as the original house,” Greenbaum explained. “While the room is still formal, it’s broken down into different sections so that there are more intimate seating areas.” However, the true essence of the updated entertainment lounge lies not only in the layout, but in Greenbaum’s ability to introduce today’s elements into the room’s furniture and structure. For instance, the staff restored several classic chairs by coating them in cream lacquer and then using a bright fabric for a fresh, updated look. Processes such as this and the use of vibrant colors were instrumental in the room’s overall design. While Greenbaum added a painted finish to several parts of the room’s original construction, they remained faithful to the historical architecture of the estate. “It’s a classic room and you don’t want to take out all of the fantastic original details,” Greenbaum said. The firm sourced much of the contemporary artwork and furniture (some which date back to the 1800’s) from countries including Italy, France, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Greenbaum Interiors
101 Washington Street, Paterson, NJ 07505