As Their Family Grew, the Suburbs Beckoned

For Peter and Christy Tiboris, like so many others, the pandemic provided the push they needed to do something they’d long contemplated: leave Manhattan for the suburbs.

Since marrying in 2013, the couple has bounced around various New York City rentals, taking on more space each time they have a child. By 2020, they had a three-bedroom apartment in TriBeCa and three children: Dessa, now 7, Ernie, 5, and Susana, 4. But even with three bedrooms, their home felt ready to burst at the seams as the couple contemplated having more children.

“And there was no way we were going to move to a four-bedroom,” said Ms. Tiboris, 41, a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission (where she uses her maiden name, Ely). “We were stuck.”

Although they hadn’t figured out their next move, the pandemic accelerated their decision-making. As Covid surged through the city, the family relocated to their weekend house in Manasquan, NJ

“We packed up our stuff, thinking we would just work from down there for a couple of weeks,” said Mr. Tiboris, 43, a wealth management adviser. “That ended up being a few months.”

As September approached, they decided to stay put, enroll their children in school in Manasquan and begin looking for a new primary home closer to Manhattan. In November, they discovered a three-story, 5,900-square-foot Colonial Revival house in Montclair built in 1925, with an asking price of $1.3 million.

“We went, and there were 20 people in line to see the house,” Mr. Tiboris said. After losing out on a previous home, they were determined not to miss this one. They also wanted to move quickly because they hoped to close, renovate and move into the new house by September 2021, in time to enroll their children in a new school system.

Competing against other buyers, they struck a deal to buy the home for $1.7 million and closed in February 2021. During the period between signing the contract and closing, they assembled a design team and began working on renovation plans.

To handle the architecture, they chose Rosen Kelly Conway Architecture and Design, a firm based in Summit, NJ, after being impressed with the architects’ nuanced approach to updating traditional and historic homes. For the interiors, they hired McGrath II, a New York firm whose work Ms. Tiboris had long admired. And by the time they got the keys, they had a builder, Brinton Brosius, ready to start work.

Although it was a large house, the ground floor was cut up into small rooms, including a tight galley kitchen, so the biggest changes involved reconfiguring that level.

“It was a really cool house to start with,” said Tom Conway, a partner at Rosen Kelly Conway. “It had a lot going for it, but it was a really bad use of space, which is typical of those vintage houses, including an undersized kitchen shoved in the back corner.”

His firm knocked down walls, removed an unused fireplace and added new supporting beams to create more generous spaces, including a large kitchen with a connected family room on one side of the house. On the other side, the architects rearranged space to create a new living room, dining room, sunroom and an office for Mr. Tiboris with a connected den. In the foyer, where there was no closet, they sectioned off an area just inside the front door with a new arched opening and added built-in cabinetry to hold coats and shoes. Upstairs, they moved more walls to create a spacious primary suite and six additional bedrooms.

All the while, Suzanne and Lauren McGrath, the mother-daughter partners of McGrath II, were working on designing interiors that felt natural for a nearly 100-year-old house while adding the conveniences the Tiborises needed, with just enough color and pattern to make things interesting.

“We love historic houses — that’s our sweet spot,” Suzanne McGrath said. “The first time I walked in, I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to bring this back.’ But we worked on details that would not only bring it back, but also be pretty and feel fresh for a young family.”

That approach is immediately apparent in the foyer, where a reproduction wallpaper from Brunschwig & Fils sets the stage with a graphic pattern rendered in understated colors like aqua blue and burnt orange — a visually arresting touch.

“That was the launching pad for the color story of the house,” Lauren McGrath said. “A lot of textiles throughout the house reference the colors in that wallpaper.”

In the new dining room, they went beyond wallpaper and added custom wood trellis panels to the walls, giving it the feeling of a garden pavilion. In the sunroom, they continued the indoor-outdoor vibe with rattan armchairs from Palecek and a sea-grass rug.

In the den between the sunroom and Mr. Tiboris’s office, they painted the walls in Farrow & Ball’s blue-gray Pigeon to create a space where parents can cozy up by the fire after the children go to sleep.

Of course, several renovations proceed exactly as planned. Despite the couple’s aim to move in by September 2021, the $400,000 project took an additional two months. Determined to get their two oldest children started on the right foot in a Montclair school, Mr. Tiboris negotiated a long-term stay at the George, a hotel in the township. In order to meet residency requirements, the family lived there until they could move into their new house.

Living in a hotel with children was far from ideal, but the wait to get a house they loved in the location they wanted was worth it. “We’re really lucky to live here,” Mr. Tiboris said. “There are, like, 18 kids under 10 within a two-block radius.”

And recently, the couple added another child to the mix: They welcomed Selene this past December.

Managing a busy household can be challenging for two working parents, but the couple has discovered that help is always close at hand. “There’s a never-ending list of playmates everywhere,” Ms. Tiboris said. “It’s a super-fun neighborhood, and all the kids are wild together.”

As Mr. Tiboris puts it, “It’s like parenting by committee.”

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