April 26, 2017 / Property Spotlight

Six Homes with Exceptional Architectural Details

From marble floors and coffered ceilings to artisanal glass and hand-painted murals, six homes with magnificent decorative features


The poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe likened architecture to frozen music. Goethe would have appreciated the six homes showcased here. Each is in its own way an exemplar of that musicality: Grand or intimate in pattern and scale, they exhibit exquisite craftsmanship, where every stone and tile, every pane or pattern, every inch of woodwork is selected, shaped and placed by hand. These are artisanal homes, masterfully crafted with the finest materials and finishes, combined in exuberant, elegant symphonic detail. Listen to the music: revel in the details.

Mahwah, New Jersey

Darlington’s grand appointments include a tea room (seen here), wine cellar and tasting room, cigar room, billiard room with bar, poker room, theater, luxury spa with lap pool, steam room and sauna, tennis court, and an outdoor pool with cabana.The Jacobean-style mansion was painstakingly restored over a seven-year period by an international team of artisans, artists, and designers. In the dining room, an exquisite coffered ceiling, a monumental limestone fireplace, and beautiful mullioned windows are examples of Darlington’s Gilded Age splendor.Darlington’s resplendent period details are on display throughout; of particular note is the library, with a ceiling painted by muralist James Wall Finn, and the great hall, which features a 30-foot-high ceiling and a rare, 1906 Aeolian Player Pipe Organ. Built in 1907 for George Crocker, son of railroad magnate Charles Crocker, Darlington was an exercise in precision, quality, historic architectural and artisanal practices, and a belief that a grand home should both impress and endure.

Darlington, with its 50,000 square feet of living space on 12 magnificent acres framed by the Ramapo Mountains, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally the dream of railroad scion George Crocker, it is one of the purest examples of Jacobean-inspired architecture in the United States. 

A seven-year restoration, undertaken a century after the historic estate was originally constructed, employed hundreds of artisans from around the world. Ilija Pavlovic, the visionary behind the project and CEO of exclusive Affiliate Special Properties Real Estate Services, who spearheaded this massive project, noted “On any given day during the renovation, 150 to 200 artisans from around the world would be at work on the project—woodcarvers from Italy, painters from Greece, with Poland, Yugoslavia, the U.S. and other countries represented as well. The language barriers were such that the workers often couldn’t understand each other but they worked flawlessly together. Their common language was the love of their work and their love for the project. It was intoxicating to stand in the room and watch. The results speak for themselves.”

Paget Parish, Bermuda

A rare Chinese stone fireplace in the shape of a five-armed dragon forms the centerpiece of the pergola, which faces the infinity pool and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.The main residence and glorious 14-acre grounds are complemented by a host of unique dwellings; a little pavilion known as Obispo overlooks the pink sands and turquoise waters of Grape Bay.Chelston, a 14-acre beachfront compound overlooking Grape Bay, is one of the most significant estates in the world. The private family compound is just minutes from Hamilton and includes a 10,000-square-foot main house, four cottages, a beach pavilion, pool and poolhouse, and a croquet lawn.

A three-year renovation by a world-class team of international architects, builders, and craftsmen has restored this grandly proportioned 14-acre beachfront compound on Bermuda’s Grape Bay. Built in 1941 as the private estate of inventor C.P. Dubbs, Chelston later served as the official Bermuda residence for the United States Consul General. There are many fine custom details throughout the property. The dining room features hand-painted wallpaper, a yew-wood front door with an artisan glass frame, and a poolside pergola with a rare Chinese stone fireplace. In addition to the 10,000-square-foot main house, the estate boasts four guest/staff cottages, a beach pavilion, and a pool house. An Olympic-sized zero-edge pool, a croquet lawn, and the pink sands of Grape Bay Beach are among the recreational options.

Shining Hand Ranch
Ashland, Oregon

The entrance to this unique 700-acre estate is marked by arched front doors framed by beautiful copper tree sculptures. Their branches extend out to intertwine and support the covered entryway. Other doors throughout the home pay homage to the native cultures, plants, and animals indigenous to the region.The foyer is one of a kind. The granite floor is reminiscent of the sandy shore at the edge of a river. Above, the ceiling is tiled in blue stone to resemble the sky.

Inspired by nature and built to reflect the beauty of the land, Shining Hand Ranch in Ashland, Oregon, is itself a work of art. Completed in 2016, the estate comprises an 8,880-square-foot residence and 700 acres of private land. Architectural flourishes include grand Brazilian mahogany front doors framed by copper tree sculptures, and a unique foyer with tree-themed sculptures and a ceiling tiled in blue stone to evoke the open sky. This intricate design of the floors resembles a river of wood eddying around walls and river-rock planters. The dining room walls and ceilings are filled with preserved manzanita trees that seem to grow from the walls. The home is also eco-friendly: The floors are heated and cooled geothermally, and the indoor pool is solar heated.

The Dommerich Mansion
New York, New York

The 44-foot-wide Beaux-Arts limestone mansion is elegant to the core. The architect’s design is a synthesis of classical themes which create a refined yet comfortable residence. Many of the original details remain, including 14 marble fireplaces, coffered ceilings, embellished wood paneling, decorative millwork, and a staircase crowned with a stained-glass dome. In 1917, architect Henry C. Pelton created The Dommerich Mansion, a Beaux-Arts palace on 69th street, between Madison and Park Avenues, formerly known as Bankers Colony, the Billionaire’s Row of its day.

A Beaux Arts jewel on the Gold Coast of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the Dommerich Mansion offers dazzling interior light, both front and rear, and a classic limestone façade. Configured as seven levels plus a lower level with 15-foot ceilings, this house offers 21,070 square feet above grade and 5,040 square feet below grade with over 3,350 square feet of outdoor space in a second floor terrace, a terrace off the solarium, and a roof deck with views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park. There are two original elevators, serving all levels, and a third between the first floor and lower level. The home boasts 14 marble fireplaces, spectacular coffered ceilings, and a breathtaking original curved staircase which ascends to a glorious stained glass dome—an unmatched architectural detail.

The Harold Brown Villa
Newport, Rhode Island

The Harold Brown Villa has an elegant exterior crafted from stone, with a formal interior executed in classical French Empire style. The sumptuous finishes include marble floors and Ionic columns and intricate wood paneling and millwork.Monumental mahogany doors with antique bronze door knockers in the shape of a lion’s head open to the mansion’s palatial living areas, measuring 13,962 square feet, with 11 bedrooms, eight full and three half bathrooms.The longtime residence of political hostess Eileen G. Slocum, this Gilded Age estate on Newport’s illustrious Bellevue Avenue was designed by Dudley Newton in 1880 with alterations by Ogden Codman. The 4.85-acre parklike grounds were designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers architectural firm.

The longtime residence of Eileen G. Slocum, noted political hostess, this historic Gilded Age “cottage” on Newport’s legendary Bellevue Avenue is sited on 4.85 acres and accessed by a long, gated drive. The exterior is stone, with a formal interior executed in the classical French Empire style. Encompassing nearly 14,000 square feet with 11 bedrooms, the palatial living and entertaining areas are imbued with marble floors, columns and fireplaces, decorative walls and ceilings, and rich mahogany finishes. The first floor features a reception hall and great room, an enclosed conservatory, two libraries, a sitting room, and a formal dining room. The second floor is accessed via the curved staircase or the elevator, and hosts the master suite and guest bedrooms. Designed by noted landscape architects Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot, the estate’s parklike grounds are replete with specimen beech trees and flowering plants.  

Hacienda San Bernardo
Yucatan, Mexico

This mural with animal and bird motifs is just one of the estate’s many artistic features.Hacienda San Bernardo, a palatial estate on the Yucatan Peninsula, is rooted in Mexican history. The tropical grounds reveal a treasure trove of sculptures, statuary, and water features.Hacienda San Bernardo, a palatial estate on the Yucatan Peninsula, is rooted in Mexican history. The tropical grounds reveal a treasure trove of sculptures, statuary, and water features.

This 19th-century estate near Merida combines the comforts and luxury of the modern era with the charm and elegance of the golden age of the Yucatan Peninsula. Lavishly remodeled by the world-renowned Mexican architect Marco Aldaco, the residence is characterized by an impeccably decorative interior, with historic architectural elements, such as murals and sculptures, and finishes carved from tropical woods and limestone. The elegant main house offers eight sumptuous en suite bedrooms and regal reception rooms, while a second dwelling offers two apartments. The hacienda lends itself to contemplation and repose, ensconced amid idyllic tropical gardens graced with statuary, bronze sculptures, reflecting pools, and waterfalls.

Discover more architectural treasures from around the world


  • Property Galleries

Lucy Carsen
Christie's International Real Estate