Travel is often a great influencer of one’s aesthetic journey. It has certainly been the case for Steven and Candice Stark. Steven is president and heir to the carpet, fabric, furniture and wall-covering empire, Stark, and he often travels to Europe in search of new products and innovative ideas for the company founded by his father in 1938. France has long been a refuge for the couple, who possess a deep appreciation for art, antiques and history. So, when it came time to begin building their primary residence in Alpine, N.J. in 2000, they naturally turned to a place of enduring inspiration: the French countryside. Upon seeing the square corner plot on two pastoral acres stretching across Bergen County, they knew almost immediately that they wanted to fashion a French country estate on the sprawling and beautiful piece of land.
“It gave us access on two sides with the ability to build a shaped house,” recalls Steven, who also grew up in a house filled with French art, antiques and furnishings. They turned to award winning and renowned architect Boris Baranovich to design their dream home. Known for his attention to historic detail, Baranovich envisioned a 20,000 square-foot French chateau-style manor that balanced any sort of formality with relaxed comforts. Despite having a reverence for tradition — Stark was the first importer of luxury handmade carpets in America, and had outfitted the White House with carpeting, fabrics and rugs for every presidential administration since 1961 — the Starks wanted their home to reflect “understated elegance.” They got to work designing their 25-room residence, each zoned separately for climate control. What followed was the creation of a magnificent nine bedroom, 10-bath home with an elevator connecting all levels. The estate is currently being offered for $17,488,000 and represented by Michele Kolsky-Assatly of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fort Lee, N.J.
“The flow from one room to another makes the experience very special as there never seems to be a bottleneck,” says Steven. “There is two or three ways to go in and out of almost every room. Due to the shape of the house, the outdoors is always an embracing feeling.”
Relying on Trisha Reger for interiors (who later designed their Manhattan pied-à-terre), they paid special attention to creating spaces for entertaining. The living room with a limestone fireplace, family room with knotty pine panels, and a dining room that can seat 30 people, complete with an 18th century French limestone mantle imported from France are all places where the Starks can host guests or enjoy more intimate family moments.
A kitchen — expertly designed with a custom center island, beam ceiling, state-of-the-art appliances, breakfast room and butler’s pantry — also allows for easy flow and meal prep, whether it’s a personal chef or the owners of the house cooking for their guests.
Indoor amenities include a basketball court, a 14-seat movie theater, game room, fitness center, and an indoor 50-foot mosaic swimming pool with Jacuzzi and water flume.
Designed by David Barrett, the pool room features hand painted walls and ceiling murals reminiscent of an English garden, French doors and a large skylight — and is a preferred retreat for Steven who likes to swim year-round and paint during snow storms.
Baranovich placed most bedrooms on the second floor for optimum privacy, including the grand master suite with separate his and hers dressing rooms, a sitting room and his and hers bathrooms with radiant heat. A private guest bedroom is located on the main level with a full bath. In addition, there is a one bedroom apartment with a full-bath located in a separate wing with private entrance.
Signature Stark touches grace the residence at every turn, from the custom entry foyer featuring a Chinoiserie mural to the hand-painted murals in the library and hand-painted Chinese wall panels in the living room. They were keenly focused on architectural details and finishes, as evidenced by the hand-carved cherry woodworking in the bar and library, for example. Candice is particularly fond of the library due to its comfort, warmth and beautiful wood work. Other thoughtful elements may be unseen by the naked eye, but nonetheless offer comfort: a Crestron automated “smart home” system, plus radiant floors in the kitchen and mudroom.
Beyond the home itself, the manicured grounds — designed by renowned landscape architect Ed Hollander — have a magical quality to them. A tennis court, a 50-foot pool with Jacuzzi and waterfall, and a climate-controlled cabana with shower and water closet allow for refined outdoor entertaining during the warmer spring and summer months. The gardens have offered the Starks plenty of opportunity to host large-scale events.
From Kolsky-Assatly’s view, the Stark estate is not only “classic and timeless,” but offers a prized location “on the most sought-after street in Alpine. “It offers the utmost in luxury, style and modern technology,” she adds. For the Starks, and perhaps for the future owner, the estate transports them to one of their favorite places on earth, where history, the art of savoir faire and the greatest cultural traditions live on in perpetuity.