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$13.9M French country mansion

PETER MONSEES / THE RECORD By CAROL FLETCHER

What do you get in a home for $13.9 million these days? Try a basketball court, elevator, 14-seat movie theater, six-car garage, courtyard parking area and a Saddle River address.
The new 26-room, 18,000-square-foot custom home is the most expensive to date for developer Michael Cantor, president of Pinnacle Custom in Chatham, and one of the most expensive speculation homes in New Jersey, according to the company.

A sloped mansard slate roof, floor-to-ceiling arched windows, stucco exterior and stone turret hint of France's majestic country mansions. But on the 4.2-acre lot, the three-story, L-shaped mansion is surprisingly inconspicuous.

"We wanted casual elegance -- rustic French -- and inviting enough for everyday living," Cantor said. Cosmetic details, such as painting and finishing of hardwood floors, still had to be completed when Pinnacle held a late January event to promote the conclusion of the 19-month project.

This scaled-down version of the pre-income tax, Newport, R.I., mansions may not have the frescoes painted on towering ceilings common to those homes. But similar architectural details are there in 12-foot domed and coffered ceilings (square sections separated by deep molding), arched doorways and raised, elaborately carved molded panels on the walls.

The first floor of the home is part-showcase, part family living space. Cantor said he and Westwood architect Bob Zampolin designed the house for the large-scale entertaining common among high-end home buyers. An example was to let the two-story foyer flow into the great room ahead, and keep the beautiful wrought-iron staircase out of the way, in the windowed turret.

"People who live in a house like this are going to entertain very formally and informally," Cantor said, so he designed a large, brightly lit living room for his anticipated buyer, who will likely be a successful private business owner, Wall Street executive, celebrity or sports figure. "They're going to need that living room. The formality of it becomes important."
With that scenario in mind, the standards on amenities are raised, such as a powder room in nearly all marble. A focal point of the home is the large, mahogany-paneled wet bar between the billiards room and the great room, which provides easy access to guests.

The first floor also includes a library, extra bedroom and full bath, formal butler's pantry, laundry room, back entrance and a custom kitchen with radiant-heated Turkish stone tile floors. Accented by a memorable, wooden archway separating work areas, the vast kitchen reflects the size and grandeur of the grand Gilded Age kitchens, without their sterility. A turreted breakfast area overlooks the outdoor pool and full-sized cabana, and steps descend into a cozy family room.
Downstairs activities could include wine-tasting in a room adjoining the wine cellar, sitting back in one of the 14 overstuffed easy chair in the movie theater, exercising in the fitness center, basking in the sauna or playing basketball in the half-size indoor court.

On the second level, the vast, 906-square-foot master bedroom and sitting area has a balcony and fireplace. The space includes a lounge separating his and her bathroom suites and walk-in closets. In total, the home has eight bedrooms and eight full bathrooms, including a guest apartment with its own stairway to the garage below.

Climate and security functions for the gated property and home can be controlled via computer, either through keypads or laptop, or by remote access for homeowners who travel a lot, a technological amenity that people have become familiar with and now demand, Cantor said.

For those who can afford a $14 million home, it's just a shifting of existing assets, said Charles Gildea with Marron and Gildea Realtors in Ho-Ho-Kus and the home's listing agent. "They take it out of savings and put it into real estate," he said at the press conference, nodding toward the young couples he identified as Wall Street executives, walking through the home in sweat pants, kids in tow.

E-mail: fletcher@northjersey.com