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Home for the Holidays

A Designer Prepares Her New Dream Home for a Season of Gathering with Loved Ones

For Elizabeth Ruffalo, the holidays are all about being with family and friends. And this season, she’ll be celebrating in an extra-special place: her new home.


Ruffalo, the founder of the interior design firm Pheasant Lane Designs, and her husband, Matthew, head of investment solutions at a large private bank, worked with a builder and architect to create a house that lives for entertaining.


Sited on over 10 acres in Far Hills on what used to be a Christmas tree farm, the two-story 5,300-square-foot house in an English Country–style design with contemporary accents, and the 1,200-square-foot detached guest cottage are all set to welcome the couple’s brothers, sisters, parents and all the children in the extended family on Christmas Eve, a guest list that tops 20.


“Whether it’s a big holiday or a regular day, interior design represents family to me,” Ruffalo says, adding that her office is in the house.


The first floor of the stucco and stone house is the consummate host. The extra-wide hallway, which Ruffalo calls the spine of the house, is the artery for a series of rooms, including a powder room, a lounge with glass doors that provide views of the landscape, a mudroom, a kitchen, a family room and a wine area with a wet bar.


“The layout is flexible so we can be creative with the spaces,” she says. “Everything was designed with intention. The house looks grand, but the rooms are not grand; they are inviting. The materials make the space more elevated.”


In every project, Ruffalo, who has degrees in civil engineering and interior design, focuses on the quality of construction and the fixtures and finishes.


She designed the custom built-ins and bath vanities and specified and hand-selected all the finishes and interior architectural details for her house, including the tile and plumbing and the lighting and rustic ceiling beams, to create a warm, inviting space. 


The basement, part of which is now a playroom for the couple’s 5-year-old son, Leonardo, will become a second entertaining space, complete with a guest bedroom.


“We want people to stay over,” Ruffalo says, adding that some of their relatives live quite a distance away. “And we want everyone to have their own space. The guest house is detached but it’s connected to the main house with a stone arcade.” Every detail in the home has been considered, from the roof to the family room hearth. 

“We’re looking forward to spending Christmas morning by the fireplace with Leonardo,” Ruffalo says. The family, who moved into the house at the end of September, is counting the days until Christmas.  

Learn more at PheasantLaneDesigns.com.

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