Show Stoppers: Indoor and Outdoor Spaces Shine at Glynallyn

Our favorite spaces from Glynallyn, this year’s Mansion in May Showhouse, seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor comfort.

From Stately Mansion to High-Style Showhouse
It’s been almost 100 years since George Marshall Allen, a New York printing and publishing entrepreneur, realized his vision of a country estate inspired by the medieval castles he’d seen in Europe. He built his 66-room English Tudor manse in Morristown’s “Millionaire’s Row” section, along Madison Avenue. The home—known as Glynallyn Castle—was completed in 1917; this spring, it took on a new life as the Mansion in May Showhouse, the signature fundraiser of the Women’s Association of Morristown Medical Center.

For the event, Glynallyn’s 32,000-square-foot interior and its lush exterior were transformed by many of the area’s top designers and landscapers. Their work likely would have pleased the original architect, Charles I. Berg (designer of the American Museum of Natural History in New York), who created Glynallyn with spacious rooms for entertaining, plenty of guest suites and large servants’ quarters—just as Allen pictured it. Berg incorporated classic medieval details, including hundreds of stained-glass windows, stone arches, gargoyles, brick walls and some 19 fireplaces.

After Allen and his wife died, the mansion was purchased in 1952 by the General Drafting Company as its headquarters. In 1996, it was sold again and became a private family residence. Community Bank of Bergen County foreclosed on the house in late 2011 and partnered with Mansion in May to open the estate as this year’s showhouse.

At deadline, Glynallyn—its faux-Scottish name comes from the glen on which it stands, coupled with a romantic spelling of the Allen family name—remained on the market. On July 3, the Wall Street Journal featured it as its House of the Day. The bank’s asking price: $5.7 million.

When the Showhouse closed on June 1, many of the furnishings were sold to the public by the designers. “It’s amazing how much stuff can be removed and returned,” says Mansion in May public relations co-chair Prudence Pigott. To make Glynallyn more attractive to prospective buyers, Community Bank paid to have the main kitchen and several bathrooms remain in their exquisitely upgraded state.

Seth Pearsoll
Terrace: Back to Nature, Landscape & Construction, Oldwick; Accessories: Back to Nature, Home & Garden; Basking Ridge, 908-350-7506

An Outdoor Room for an Eco-Aware Gatsby
Landscape designer Seth Pearsoll, creative director of Back to Nature in Basking Ridge, says he was inspired by Glynallyn’s Tudor architecture to create a space “where Jay Gatsby would throw parties.” To accomplish this, he “divided the space into vignettes.”

“There’s an entertaining area on the patio and a low-key reflection area under the loggia,” he says.

Ultimately, he adds, “I tried to bring together this English romantic world with a contemporary, sustainable, regenerative world.” Pearsoll repurposed a single slab of the original bluestone patio to create an outdoor tabletop; where the stone had lain, he planted a spindly Crape Myrtle tree. The table’s base came from a decrepit water feature that Pearsoll saved from total ruin. Recycled mason jars became lanterns hanging from the tree. Around the open terrace he planted edibles—basil, sage, red lettuce and more. “As you walk through, it goes from silver to chartreuse,” he says. The living wall columns—set at ideal cocktail-table height—are lushly planted with perennials and annuals that are spot-watered from a hidden pond pump.

The columns are topped with bluestone distressed to resemble the original patio. Underneath the covered loggia, Pearsoll created a private potting station, offering views from the Gothic windows across to the ravine. “I wanted to give the element of a lost world,” Pearsoll says. “I picture an eccentric potter here.” All artisan-crafted accessories are from the Back to Nature home store.

Katja van der Loo
Papyrus Home Design, Boonton,, 973-541-1220.
Decorative painting: Judith Luke, Chatham, 973-723-6666,
Custom potting table: J&M Lifestyles, Randolph,  973-668-5057,
Marble table: Rockaway Marble & Granite, Rockaway, 973-627-8222, 
Chairs: Panton from Hive Modern, 866-663-4483,

The Chapel Goes Green
Designer Katja van der Loo says she sought to embrace the onetime chapel’s “absolutely stunning” dark woodwork while updating the mood. “I thought I’d add light and modern elements to the space.” Inspired by the room’s entrancing view of the expansive rear terrace and gardens and the unspoiled nature beyond, van der Loo created “a peaceful greenery” where, she says, she could envision occupants “going out to the garden, cutting flowers and arranging them at the potting table, or having a cup of tea and getting inspired by nature.” Where some of the leaded-glass panels of the original windows were cracked, van der Loo had decorative painter Judith Luke paint the cracks to resemble leaves and branches. van der Loo, who hails from the Netherlands but lives and works in Boonton, lightened the beautiful tile floor, also original to the house, by adding a cowhide rug. The custom-made concrete potting table with built-in sink, fashioned by J&M Lifestyles to resemble a log, has what is called a live wooden edge. The modern chairs are molded from plastic resin, ideal for a potting room because they can simply be hosed off. “The result is a very alive, organic space,” says the designer. “This is a tranquil, peaceful place.”

In the Spirit of Wanderlust
This festive outdoor space on the second-floor terrace is ideal for hanging out alone or entertaining a crowd. “I wanted to create a space that is young and contemporary; a space that plays against type for this grand old house,” says landscape designer Susan Cohan. Vibrant colors make the space hip and fresh; sustainable materials are an added contemporary touch. The table and chairs are made from recycled elm, the rug from recycled soda bottles. The Haitian wall art is a recycled oil drum.

“It doesn’t hit you over the head saying, ‘I’m green, I’m sustainable,’” Cohan says. “A space can look really pretty and really new and really fresh and still be sustainable.” Pretty as they are, the abundant designer fabrics are all weatherproof. “Everyone is surprised by the amount of fabric I used, but it’s all for outdoors,” Cohan affirms. “Even the cushion is foam. It can all stay out.”

Showhouse visitors were charmed by the terrace’s vertical plantings. The perennials are fed by drip irrigation, so the wall stays green all year. Inspired by the original owners’ love of travel (which resonates with her own personal wanderlust), Cohan included key items from Bali, Mexico, China, India—almost all of which she found right here in New Jersey. “We have the most amazing design resources in this state,” she says.

Susan Cohan, APLD
Susan Cohan Gardens, Chatham,,
Landscaping: A. Scheppe Landscape Contractors, Summit, 908-273-2435,
Furniture: Michaelian & Kohlberg, Summit, 908-522-1004,
Plantings: The Farm at Green Village, Green Village, 973-377-8703, Vertical green wall, Ecowalls, Bordentown, 908-268-2281;

By the Numbers
This year’s Mansion in May—the 16th—broke all sorts of records, including attendance: 27,000 people toured the showhouse in 31 days; 1,200 volunteers kept everything running smoothly.
The group raised more than $1.25 million for the repurposing and construction of a new Inpatient Hospice and Palliative Care Center at Morristown Medical Center.

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