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mansion in may 2017 designer showhouse and gardens alnwick halll the abbey

Mansion in May 2017

by Mary Jasch

Mansion In May, Designer Showhouse and Gardens, is a “beyond incredible” “5-Star” fundraiser for a lofty purpose – a new Center for Nursing Innovation and Research at Morristown Medical Center.

Presented by the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center and created, literally, by thousands of volunteers, this spectacular event showcases New Jersey’s wealth of interior and landscape designers.

This year’s Mansion, Alnwick Hall – The Abbey, stands bold and castle-like on Madison Avenue, between Morristown and Madison, NJ. Once upon a time, in 1904, this stretch of Madison Ave., where Edward and Rosalie Behr Meany built their 20,000 square-foot home, was known as “Millionaires’ Row,” a four-mile collection of the richest people on earth including the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. It was also called “the street of the 100 millionaires” and “the finest four miles in the world.”

Come see this unforgettable 18th Mansion in May now through May 31, 2017.

Modeled after Alnwick Hall in England, its 20,000 square feet of 40 rooms and passageways are elaborately designed by interior designers and 17 garden areas are created by landscape design firms and artists.

The gardens are glorious with a “can do” approach and the interior is exquisitely over the top.

Take Susan Cohan, Susan Cohan Gardens, who never disappoints! She is a master of bold style, often using large plants and accoutrements in small spaces. Here, Susan chose a small, isolated courtyard to wield her magic. “I wanted to see if I could make a contemporary garden set within the confines of a particularly traditional home. I wanted to show what people could make their own.”

The unusual honey-colored brick walls determined the color pallet of the raised bed plantings and combined with the desire for contemporary design resulted in a pretty garden with striking sculptures by John McDevitt, custom seating with fire pit, and a 9x12-foot commissioned acrylic painting on canvas hung on the building. Susan employed two Japanese gardening techniques: Niwaki, a style of pruning, and Shou Sugi Ban, burning the lumber for the raised beds.

Maria Carwithen, owner of J&M Home & Garden with her two brothers, designed a restful spot for the Mansion’s volunteers in a tunnel-like descent to a basement level door. “We wanted to show repurposing things.” Her wall art is comprised of recycled trees, painted palettes and old driftwood, succulents and recycled beads from Africa. Clean-lined evergreens, benches and faux grass complete the tranquil open-air spot.

Victor Aprea of FiftyFive Design VB Potted Garden, Bernardsville, designs for color, texture and balance. “I respect the history of the house and what might have been in place and respect the architecture. Each garden pot is a piece of art.” He is here to show what you can do with beautiful plantings in pots and containers.

Tim Foerster, Foerster Landscape, created a living wall with a waterfall gently spilling over grasses, sedum, ferns and candytuft. Around the walled-in garden space, planters contain a “can do” kitchen garden in footed troughs and huge, magical lupines.

Detail is queen here – in the gardens, in mansion decor, in earth-moving, tree removal, restructuring and renovating the mansion and grounds, in publicity, printing thick journals as gifts to visitors, informational signs for every designer, everything elegantly done and constantly monitored with, indeed, no stone left unturned.

The 700-plus ladies of the Women’s Association are compassionate, energetic and dedicated volunteers who successfully fundraise with ideals of social/medical causes, inspiration, luxury, and excellent marketing opportunities for their volunteer designers, interior and landscape, who make Mansion in May possible.

So far, they have raised over $10 million with the past 17 Mansions in May since its inception in 1974, all to benefit worthwhile causes at Morristown Medical Center.

The excitement continues indoors.

On entering The Abbey, one must look up at the ceilings – all different, all exquisite. The Grand Foyer, designed by Kate Marchesini and Andrea Pinto, Ethan Allen Design Center, has the original jewel-like ceiling and an electronic bar – a grand mix of the traditional and contemporary, which seems to be a running theme indoors and out.

The Living Room, designed by Mark Polo, The Urban Dweller, is glorious in the continuity of original ceiling artwork brought down onto the walls. “The concept was to pay homage to the spirit of the house and bringing in the floral feeling original to the house.” Polo used the ombre effect to give the room a natural glow.

Get ready for “The Blues” in the Gilded Blues Gathering Room designed by four ladies of CWI.Design. Golden globes dangle from the original two-tone blue ceiling, marbleized wallpaper and daring accoutrements. It is anything but traditional, though the grand piano does pay homage to an era of music when the house was in its heyday and Mrs. Meany held many musical events.

In the Twilight Garden room, artist Kathryn Sandelli, Studio K, painted a triptych mural of windows that opens upon an exotic garden. Live tropical palm trees and a painted ceiling with gingko leaves and lotus expand the feeling within the garden-themed space.

Walls, ceilings and chandeliers are not to be outdone by furnishings and other art. When one walks into A Royal Retreat, the sculpted and hand-blown chandelier commands immediate attention. Created by an artist in Portugal, its custom, organic form was meant to mimic a heavy waterfall. But to this admirer, the “Niagara Chandelier” is dripping heavy diamond icicles from a twining hand-cast bronze ring with a rose-gold finish meant to mimic twigs. Jessica Reilly of Jessica Reilly Interior Design designed the room.

If ever there was an order from DIG IT! it is now. Go! It is AWESOME!

Mansion in May:
Open Memorial Day!
** All photos by Mary Jasch except as noted.

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published May 25, 2017

Photos to enlarge

Planters by Fifty Five Garden Design Consultancy

Lupines, from Foerster Landscape

Volunteer Lounge by J & M Home and Garden

Landscape design co-chair Corinne Nallet, Jean O'Toole and Kathy Hobbs, Publicity, in the Garden by M. Erbs Fine Gardens

Please DO walk on the grass! Bosenberg & Company design

Susan Cohan Gardens, Photo courtesy Susan Cohan

Painted walls, Mark Polo, The Urban Dweller

Chandeliers in the Gilded Blues Gathering Room, CWI.Design

Niagara Chandelier in A Royal Retreat, Jessica Reilly Interior Design

Partial triptych mural in the Twilight Garden room, Studio K, photo courtesy of Kathryn Sandelli

My dream chair, Sam Ciardi, Samuel Robert Signature Spaces

The Michael Thomas Collection, Michael Chutco

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