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Haven by the Lake

by Mary Ellen Polson on October 9, 2013

in Furniture & Interior Style

Most of the chairs are antiques, but the Asian-influenced Prairie-style sofa is a contemporary design.  All photos by Steve Gross and Susan Daley.

Most of the chairs are antiques, but the Asian-influenced Prairie-style sofa is a contemporary design. All photos by Steve Gross and Susan Daley.

Despite its reputation for industry and sprawl, New Jersey harbors leafy enclaves where Arts & Crafts houses appear to have sprouted out of the glacial moraine. One of these is Mountain Lakes, developed in the 1910s by Herbert J. Hapgood, an entrepreneur of spurious reputation who based many of his plans on Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman aesthetic.

Hapgood went bankrupt and fled the country in 1923, but the community he founded continues to thrive as a sought-after location for suburbanites who want a secure, convenient place to raise children. For one of those families, going home again was an easy choice. When with her husband, Jonathan, Leslie Holasek moved back to the town where she grew up, she already knew which style of Hapgood she wanted: a three-story house with a large center-hall entry the size of many living rooms. “When I think of the front hall, I think of the girls doing cartwheels,” she says of daughters Josephine and Phoebe.

Despite being nearly a century old, the Foursquare has an open floor plan on the main level—one of the reasons Hapgoods are still sought after today. “There are not a lot of secrets in this house. You can hear people talk from room to room.”

The generous scale of rooms is evident in this view from the living room through the entry hall and into the dining room.

The generous scale of rooms is evident in this view from the living room through the entry hall and into the dining room.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Leslie began collecting Arts & Crafts furniture early. “Years ago, we had an Arts & Crafts house in Pennsylvania,” she says. “Even then, I said to Jonathan, ‘I want the kind of furniture that would be in a Mountain Lakes house,’ ” Leslie recalls. “That was the 1980s.”

By the time they bought their home in 1996—the first showing was during a blizzard—the couple already had quite a collection of Mission pieces. But first there was wallpaper and woodwork to strip, and missing details to replace.

Its bluestone floor keeping the outdoor vibe, the sunroom took the place of a little-used terrace.

Its bluestone floor keeping the outdoor vibe, the sunroom took the place of a little-used terrace.

Leslie had gone to high school with a builder who, at the time, was in charge of demolishing a nearby Hapgood loaded with original chestnut paneling and beams (all of it subsequently painted, of course.) Knowing she was working on a Hapgood house, he called her up and asked her how much of the woodwork she might want to salvage. “I said, ‘I want everything. Thank you for calling.’ And that’s where we got all the chestnut for the study.”

It’s hard to imagine the Holaseks’ cozy study was ever a badly enclosed porch. The couple took it down to the foundation and rebuilt it using salvaged chestnut paneling and a long bench from the tear-down. Other freebies incorporated into the house included the beams in the dining room, plus a few assorted extras that ended up in the sunroom. The woodwork came free except for the labor of removal, and Jonathan alone did all the stripping.

Another Hapgood House
Suzanne and Rick Solch own a Hapgood house, too, but despite its early build date, theirs didn’t look especially Arts & Crafts when the couple moved in nearly 20 years ago. There were down-lights in the living room ceiling, the fireplace had been painted, and the staircase handrail had mysteriously disappeared.

The dining room is papered in 'Tulip Garden' (aestheticinteriors.com).

The dining room is papered in 'Tulip Garden' (aestheticinteriors.com).

The Solches found the missing rail in the attic over the garage. Since then, they’ve worked steadily to get the house back to its original condition and then some. Some extraordinary pieces of stained glass fell into their laps. A friend who was redecorating gave Suzanne the panels with images of pre-Raphaelite beauties—identities unknown—and a heraldic shield that now grace the dining room’s windows. Other found treasures include an ornate Austrian buffet with ebony and ivory inlay and a slag-glass chandelier. “We have a rule that we don’t pick up anything unless we have a place for it,” she says. “I think a room has to organically evolve, you know, over time.” The same could be said for the lovely enclave of Mountain Lakes.

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