Upbeat Colors and Rehabbed Rescues Take This 1920s New Jersey Foursquare from Basic to Bold
Virginia Toledo may have grown up in Brooklyn and lived most of her life nearby, but when it came to creating a look for her current home in New Jersey, her inspiration came from farther away. She wanted a happy summer feeling—the kind she associates with sitting on a porch in South Carolina.
An equally strong influence came from farther south—Puerto Rico, where the vibrancy of her heritage links her idea of home with color. "I remember my grandmother weeding in her garden with her red headscarf and her bata [machete]," says Virginia, who continues to draw inspiration from the coral houses and brilliant red flamboyant trees she saw as a kid during summers on the island. "As I got older, it struck me how happy people were with the very limited things they had," she says. "I don't think they would have felt that way if they lived in white boxes."
To set a convivial tone, Virginia painted the front door of her 1920s American foursquare chartreuse. "I wanted to create a space that didn't feel pretentious," she says.
An exuberant watercolor textile—Midsummer Day by Christian Fischbacher—became the blueprint for the crayon box of hues throughout the 2,800 square-foot home Virginia shares with her husband and daughter.
"When you're doing something this varied, you need something that pulls it all together," says Virginia, who worked closely with Jessica Geller, her business partner at their design firm, Toledo Geller. The solution: varying intensities of blue as a neutral in each room to create calm. Cobalt upholstery accented with white ribbon trim turns the sofa into a statement piece.
A high-gloss bright yellow ceiling—Yellow Finch 2024-40 by Benjamin Moore—enlivens the delicate paisley pattern in the foyer. "If that ceiling were any larger, I wouldn't have been able to pull it off," Virginia says.
Virginia—with husband Jhovanny Hernandez, daughter Sienna, and pups Wolfgang and Tate, plans to share her eclectic mix of flea market and consignment shop finds. "The joy is that there are so man things that my daughter says she wants to take with her when she has her own house," she says.
An inky blue grounds the kitchen and unites black and white appliances. To give the 1950s-era kitchen a budget facelift, Virginia painted the cabinets with Stiffkey Blue 281 by Farrow & Ball and installed marble-look laminate countertops as well as vinyl plank flooring laid in a herringbone pattern.
A coffee and plantain farm her parents own in Puerto Rico inspired the island flavor of Virginia's breakfast nook. Despite her love of traditional furnishings, Virginia favors the lines of modern lighting. "It helps keep things from feeling too dated," she says.
A judicious use of pattern keeps the atmosphere cheerful, not manic, as does a collection of rehabilitated traditional furnishings—most with clean, simple lines. Virginia adores flea markets and consignment shops for their eco-friendliness and economy. "I don't like anything that's too new," she says. "For me, it really is about the thrill of the chase. I love that everything has a story and that we're creating family heirlooms and new chapters."
Virginia's favorite spot is the sunroom. The Sunday mornings she spends there reading may be quiet, but the bold color of the banquette is downright effusive. "It's framed by the doorway; I knew I had to go big."
A purple tufted-velvet banquette finds its counterpoint in the sunroom's easygoing chambray wallpaper, and lemon yellow leather cushions on the dining room chairs mellow beneath vibrant blue millwork on the coffered ceiling. "You want your eyes to be like Ping-Pong balls, bouncing from room to room," Virginia says. "There's this continuous rhythm."
"I start every project with a furniture plan," she says, "so I know where I need to make statements and where the colors can whisper."
A bedroom makes a good palette cleanser. "You can relax your eyes here," Virginia says. She sought serenity with a creamy palette in her bedroom but included spots of the yellow introduced downstairs. In keeping with the restful mood, the bedcover is a pale shade of the main accent color.
The dresser is a secondhand piece. "The panel detail is so cool," Virginia says. "I gave it new knobs and paint, and it's perfect."
Determined to turn a utilitarian subterranean space into a place of joy, Virginia covered the laundry room walls with a romantic floral pattern that feels fresh yet appropriate for the 1920s home.