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Tucked In The Woods
05/01/2011 - By A.J. Perna
Photography by AK Photo / Al Kruper
The Defonte Family Find a Sanctuary in Morganville
Around the turn of the millennium, Staten Island residents and Brooklyn natives Marguerite and Nick Defonte began searching around Monmouth County for the perfect refuge. They were looking to leave behind the congested, close quarters of their Staten Island neighborhood and find a more private, secluded area, but one which would still have access to the type of neighborhood amenities that they had been accustomed to all of their lives. After a short while, the Defontes were invited by a realtor to view an unfinished home nestled into a hillside in the Morganville section of Marlboro. The property was touted as a large private reserve, completely surrounded by “old growth.” And if that alone wasn’t enough to entice the Defontes, the fact that the home was nothing more than a 5,000 square-foot shell of a structure sealed the deal. It appealed to Marguerite’s passion for design - and carpentry!
The Defonte’s soon-to-be home stood unfinished by the builder thanks to a sudden move by its original owners. Immediately, Marguerite took on the task of planning, designing, and helping to build the rest of the house. She started with an unconventional floor plan on the first floor – incorporating angled walls into most rooms to give these areas a more interesting feel, rather than the same old four-wall box. The upstairs was split in half, creating two equal wings – one side for Marguerite and Nick and the other side for their two sons. But, Marguerite’s talents really flowered in the design and construction of some of the home’s most impressive built-in fixtures. She alone laid out the plans for much of these elements and then worked side-by-side with a carpenter to complete them, with her pink power tools, in hand.
The finished result of this labor of love is a five bedroom masterpiece, skinned half way up in full brick and the rest of the way in stucco and cedar siding. The Defontes took full advantage of the privacy afforded by their lush surroundings and planned for many enormous windows throughout the home. Without much need for heavy, dark window coverings or shades, the home is constantly flooded with natural light. Marguerite explains that even though there are neighbors behind and on either side of her home there is no concern for privacy. She and her family always feel as if their dream home stands all alone in the middle of a forest. A far cry from their old life on the Island.
A free-standing, open staircase, flanked by gold lions, rises above golden onyx-tiled floors in the grand foyer. At its summit, the second floor is split into two separate wings.
The focal point of the first floor is a Mediterranean-inspired, soaring, two-story breakfast area. The massive oak cabinet is one of the many pieces designed and built by Marguerite. A custom, etched and stained glass window tops the French doors leading out to back deck.
Terracotta tiles with cobalt blue accents echo the feel of Tuscany in the Defonte’s gourmet kitchen, featuring a custom, blue Viking® oven, a six burner gas cook top with griddle and Sub-Zero® refrigerator. The two-tiered, tiled island is angled to mirror the back wall and create an octagonal workspace.
Harlequin figures and masks are a recurring theme in the great room. This large space, with 12 foot ceilings and simple hardwood floors, is separated into two distinct areas. Here, a baby grand piano sits alongside the marble, wood-burning fireplace in the family area, and Marguerite’s custom built bar is the perfect place for a cocktail while enjoying a game in the billiards area.
The dining room features two hand-painted, signed Habersham® pieces. The dining table seats 10 comfortably and is painted to seem as if it is covered with a detailed tablecloth or tapestry. Ancient Ming Dynasty bowls and dishes that had been salvaged from a shipwreck now reside on the buffet hutch with a painted surface that perfectly mimics an intricately tiled top.
Directly off of the master bedroom with deep tray ceilings and custom double armoires, is a luxurious master bath with a walk-in steam shower and raised, Jacuzzi® tub. A gorgeous view of the forest-like setting can be enjoyed through the window whilst having a relaxing soak.
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