Haven: A collaborative vision to combine 1890 and now

The first floor powder room off the kitchen in Tony Carreras' and Jim Gligor's Haddonfield home. ( RON TARVER / Staff Photographer )
The first floor powder room off the kitchen in Tony Carreras' and Jim Gligor's Haddonfield home. ( RON TARVER / Staff Photographer )
Posted: June 16, 2014

When Tony Carreras and Jim Gligor met 11 years ago in a well-known gay bar in Washington, each suspected that life as he knew it would change.

"We were pretty serious from the start," Gligor said.

But soon after that start, Gligor, a Woodbury native, left Washington for Philadelphia to continue his career in human resources. A two-year-long weekend romance ensued.

In 2005, Carreras, now 58, an ophthalmologist who reviewed clinical trials for the Food and Drug Administration, took advantage of early retirement. He joined Gligor, and the two house-hunted in New Jersey.

"Tony didn't want the city," said Gligor, 49, who manages a law firm in Haddonfield.

Strolling through that tony town one day on the advice of Gligor's older brother, they came upon an open house. They liked the place, made a bid, and in two days the seller said it was theirs.

Today, the 1,600-square-foot dwelling, built in 1890, has a small open porch the couple put on, as well as well-placed windows and the benefits of Carreras' construction talents.

With Gligor's design input, he revamped the kitchen, opened up the stairwell to allow rays from the sunroom - two rooms away - to stream in, and remodeled the existing 52-by-36-inch corner powder room for more space and style.

Carreras finds renovations fascinating. "I like to work with my hands," he said. "I did intracorneal implantations in the eyes [as a physician]. I don't have fear."

"And he sews," Gligor added. To wit: the tawny-colored master headboard, which has eight covered squares with a burlap look that Carreras stitched.

Could be that all surgeons sew, but how many create headboards covered with fabric?

Carreras said he learned about table saws and miter boxes from his late father, a professional contractor. In Washington, he practiced his building skills on a brownstone, gutting and refinishing its third floor.

In Haddonfield, the space the two men have created has many visual layers. Walls are linen-colored, but the wood floors all are adorned with glorious colored rugs. Artwork, often signed, covers the walls, and myriad sculptures fill corners or sit on furniture.

In some rooms, antiques mix with finds from stores such as Home Goods. Many of the belongings are Carreras' - Gligor said it was a challenge to get rid of what they couldn't accommodate.

The living room sofa, done in a retro, rust-colored tweed, sits near what could be a sailmaker's bench (Gligor isn't sure). The couple bought the walnut-topped bench in an antiques shop. The couch was a floor model.

The look is intentionally non-1890, Gligor said, save the porch, which needed local approval because the couple live in a section of town deemed historic. "We wouldn't be into it if the furniture was from the 1890s. We had to have a combination."

As they do in the master bedroom, which, besides that handmade headboard, features an antique maple bureau with burl inlay that sits at the foot of the bed. Atop the bedside tables are turquoise vases, found on clearance, that the couple converted into lamps.

"Tony has done a lot of design-on-the-dime stuff," Gligor said.

When he first walked into the kitchen, Carreras said, he knew he had a project.

"It was not well thought out," he said: The refrigerator stuck out into the narrow room; cabinets and a useless soffit were stretched atop a window, minimizing sunlight, and beneath the sink, cabinets stretched to the wall to the left.

Carreras removed the cabinets above the window and the cabinets to the left of the sink, moving the refrigerator into that now-empty space. Where the refrigerator had been, he built a floor-to-ceiling pantry using the existing cabinets. Then he built an island with the other cabinets, using bead board to cover the back. The end result: more space, more light, and better flow.

And that tiny bathroom? Carreras built a plywood box to cover the pipes, then painted a harlequin design in gold and muted green on it. The four walls are covered with nine mirrors of different sizes, with gilded frames.

"You have different views," he said.

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