Renovating a Norman Jaffe Home

Since founding Mojo Stumer Associates nearly four decades ago, principals Thomas Mojo and Mark Stumer have developed an aesthetic of warm modernism, a theory subscribing to architecture’s core function as comfort and livability. Their signature style eschews the notion that modern design is inherently cold and clinical by softening hard edges through the use of texture, fabrics and curves. For the architectural innovators, it was thus the thrill of a lifetime to renovate the interiors of a Norman Jaffe home, even if that meant finding a balance between two contrasting aesthetics.

Jaffe’s iconic work was prominent during the 1970s, the early years of Long Island’s modern architecture. His original and specialized style resulted in some of the most well-recognized homes in the region and laid the groundwork for the modern movement prevalent in today’s residential housing.

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“It was challenging to maintain Jaffe’s overall aesthetic while still implementing our modern design philosophy,” Stumer explained. “Our team handled this renovation with sensitivity.” Preserving the original framework was essential. The design duo had to balance contemporary updates within the historic framework and strong architecture to uphold the residence’s integrity. Proud angles, hefty beams and a stone fireplace—all signatures of a Jaffe home—were kept in place and used as a jumping-off point.

The goals for this Laurel Hollow home were primarily functional: a larger kitchen, modern master bath, more functional staircase and an overall updated vernacular. “We kept most of the architecture of the interior shell intact and added a new aesthetic to selective spots with additional contrasting material,” Stumer said. “We basically did interiors, not architecture. The architecture was already in place and a work of art.”

The renovation began by opening the interiors of the kitchen and modernizing it by adding sliding glass panels to separate it from the dining room. The space was refitted with a contemporary, light-lacquered wall that countered the darkness of the existing wood while adding diversity in texture. Stainless steel accents, which complemented the pre-existing natural wood and gray paneling, further served to bring the design into the 21st century. The lacquered and natural woods and stainless steel are motifs that carry throughout the home. The accents are rooted in a neutral color palette, the two dynamics blend rather than contrasting—much like the melding of the two design philosophies.

Norman Jaffe home

Sliding glass panels separate the kitchen from the dining room.

In the living room, light pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows, illuminating the strong lines in the dropped ceiling. Furniture was sympathetic to the design. Multiple seating areas were included in the glass-enclosed living space to accommodate both intimate conversations and large gatherings, while a handful of colorful statues and bespoke treasures added a subtle pop without being overpowering. The neutral-hued sofa and area rug softens Jaffe’s existing use of stone around the fireplace. Luxurious, touchable fabrics also serve that counterbalance and convey warmth. “We used light fabrics to pop off the dark wood—if it was all dark, it would have just been absorbed into the floor,” Stumer said. The natural-meets-neutral palette affirmed the design goal. “We maintained its character and design by respecting the general spaces and working within them.”

One departure was replacing the staircase in the living room. Jaffe’s initial design was too simple for the reimagined concept. The design team started from scratch—rebuilding an intricate staircase with mahogany detailing that stood out in an otherwise lost corner of the living area and helped soften the visualscape. “Some of the Jaffe aesthetics were very hard-edged. The stair has more detail to help it add to the aesthetic.”

Adding a state-of-the-art bathroom was a must-have for the homeowners. The trick was to do so without impeding Jaffe’s design. The solution: conceal it behind a large wooden door that blended in with the wall. “The bathroom is an environment unto itself where we could explore our aesthetic. We reconfigured that entire space…By utilizing fresh, clean lines we were able to maintain a modern style.” GLASSOS countertops, bright white Thassos marble flooring and mother of pearl accent tiles around the mirror and behind the tub polished the updated bath with Mojo Stumer’s personal modernist stamp.