To New Heights: A Jersey City Heights Home Transformation

by Staff

By Brooke Law

Home renovation is often painted as a dream or vilified as a total nightmare. First are the fairy tales: beautiful Pinterest pages of luxury spaces, gorgeous home design #inspo on Instagram, and fuss-free renovations packaged into tearjerker episodes of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Next are the horror stories: general contractors who walk off jobs without completing them, architects who go rogue and design according to their own preference, projects that stretch on for years.

“We created our company to provide a different kind of home renovation experience,” says Tamara Templeman, co-founder and creative director of Houseplay Renovations. The name she and her partner Niall chose stemmed from the vision: ”The reason we loved our work was because we were able to give our clients a chance to play with their space and personalize it. We offer service from concept to completion to handle all the hard parts so you can enjoy the process as much as possible.”

***Don’t miss Tammy’s Virtual Coaching Call on Wednesday, April 15th at 8 p.m.!***

Stuart Culpepper and Karin Williams purchased a fixer-upper in Jersey City Heights and approached Houseplay to help them transform it. “From the beginning, Karin and Stuart knew that they wanted to be able to hand off this project to a team of professionals,” says Tammy. “They didn’t want to coordinate subcontractors and go to 10 different stores to choose backsplash tile and countertops.”

From the beginning, Houseplay does things differently than other home renovation companies. For Stuart and Karin, they designed the entire house all at once. “Designing all at once, instead of in phases, allowed us to budget accurately over the full scope of the project,” Tammy explains. Then, the Houseplay team split construction into two phases to allow the family to live in the house throughout the renovation.

Tammy and lead designer Veronika Bamfield started with layout, as Stuart and Karin wanted to reconfigure every floor to better suit their needs. Previously, the house was set up with a duplex apartment on the garden and first levels, with the top floor as a rental unit. The family decided to reverse that configuration, setting up an apartment on the garden level and a duplex on the first and second floors.

For design inspiration, Tammy and Veronika turned to the couple’s midcentury modern teak furniture that Stuart’s parents had collected back in the 1950s. “Midcentury modern is definitely making a comeback right now,” Tammy says. Stuart and Karin also wanted to showcase their collection of original artwork by local Jersey City artists, so the team planned to keep the walls open and the space quiet as a backdrop for the couple’s favorite pieces.

When it was time to choose fixtures and finishes, Veronika pulled together a curated selection of options. “We work with our clients to choose all the materials upfront,” says Tammy. “It can feel like a lot of decisions to make all at once, but it allows the construction process to go so much more smoothly in the long run.”

Custom touches and finishes throughout the house made the space itself feel like a work of art, from the custom cement tile in the kitchen to the vintage Danish mirror in the powder room. As the design process unfolded, opportunities cropped up to create unexpected choices that lend originality to the space.

For example, Stuart and Karin requested a professional oven for the kitchen. Veronika found one at a steep discount that would keep the kitchen on-budget. The only caveat? It was orange. Stuart and Karin were game, so the team connected the orange oven to a backsplash with orange accents. The space came together with other pops of color, including a yellow front door.

“The artistry of Houseplay’s expert crew is remarkable,” says Karin. “Tammy and Niall helped us reimagine the entire space.” In addition to fun, stylish design choices, the Houseplay team also ensured that the home was highly functional, adding elements like a large walk-in dressing room in the master bedroom and a walk-in pantry in the kitchen to maximize the space. The garden-level apartment is set up as a spacious studio, with a maroon accent wall delineating the bedroom from the kitchen/living area. Houseplay also created a better connection from the kitchen to the backyard, which was landscaped by local Jersey City business A Small Green Space.

What about all those renovation horror stories? “Every renovation has hiccups,” Tammy acknowledges. “In every project, we commit to our clients that we will be there to carry them through any rough patches. We do that through open communication and creative problem-solving.” Karin and Stuart are happy with their experience. “We were able to live in the house throughout the entire renovation with minimal disruption,” says Karin. Stuart agrees: “The house is worth it. We’re happy to be home.”

So what’s next for Houseplay? “Our goal for 2020 is to work on 10 full-scale home remodels in Jersey City, Hoboken and Montclair,” says Tammy. The Houseplay team has deep expertise in renovating historic brownstones—they have a close working relationship with the Historic Preservation Commission and specialize in transforming fixer-uppers into beautiful, functional homes. And because it can feel daunting to purchase a brownstone with plans to renovate, Houseplay created their Homebuyer Support Sessions to help homebuyers make an empowered decision prior to putting in an offer or closing on a new home.

In other exciting news, Houseplay is poised to open their first-ever brick-and-mortar home base in Montclair. It includes a design studio and office space, and Tammy and her team are excited about all the opportunities that will open up.

Whatever projects they take on in 2020, one thing’s for sure: Houseplay Renovations is committed to creating homes their clients will love living in for years to come.


Tammy Templeman is the co-founder and creative director of Houseplay Renovations, a design/build firm currently serving Jersey City, Hoboken and Montclair, NJ. Get in touch with Houseplay at or follow them on Instagram at @houseplayrenovations. Don’t miss Tammy’s Virtual Coaching Call on Wednesday, April 15th at 8 p.m.!

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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