From the August/September 2019 Issue  

Property Potential in Princeton

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Builder C. Raymond Davis & Sons Inc.  |  Location Princeton, NJ  |  Kitchen & Living Room Photos Tom Grimes Photography  |  All Other Photos Don Pearse Photographers Inc.

The exterior of the home has a traditional style in keeping with the other homes in the neighborhood. Photo by Don Pearse.

In Princeton, NJ, a home is configured to take maximum advantage of a sloping site

This Princeton, New Jersey, home, designed by architect Catherine M. Knight, contains expansive spaces, modern décor and an assortment of amenities, including a home theater, a wine cellar and an elevator. The interiors are airy and ideal for all the activities a young family enjoys. But the outdoor areas were just as important to the homeowners as the indoors. The large property features both wooded areas and large swaths of lawn; it also includes a fairly steep slope. That’s where Knight, a member of the American Institute of Architects and owner of Knight Architects LLC in Princeton, New Jersey saw an opportunity — a way to create more of a connection with the outdoors, which was just what her clients wanted.


The glass doors at ground level open to an entertainment area and a guest suite. Photo by Don Pearce.

Design New Jersey: What is the architectural style of the home?

Catherine Knight: It could be considered contemporary or transitional colonial. The area is a mix of suburban styles from the 1960s through recent vintage. The owner was interested in an open interior with a modern flow, but we went with a traditional exterior to blend with the neighborhood.

  • The dropped ceiling in the foyer adds interest to the two-story space. “It allows indirect light to wash the ceiling, and it’s a stunning location to suspend the light fixture,” Knight says. Photo by Don Pearse.


  • “The two-story foyer with the dramatic, open mono stringer stair with timber treads welcomes everyone into this home,” Knight says. “The glass stair rail adds a sense of transparency to the space.” Photo by Don Pearse.


DNJ: What did the homeowners want from their new residence?

Knight: The family is from Canada; they planned to spend a lot of time outdoors. We created diverse outdoor spaces that included a lower-level entertainment area and a generous screened porch with bluestone terrace at the main living level. The owners also wanted to enhance the beauty of the sloping, private, wooded property with an interior design that is clean, functional and open.

The open floor plan allows for sight lines across the home’s main level. Photo by Tom Grimes.

DNJ: How did you maximize the flow from indoors to outdoors?

Knight: Taking advantage of the sloping site, we were able to open the home to grade on the first level at the front of the house and at the basement level at the back of the house. The kitchen, which serves as a gathering space for friends and family, provides convenient access to the large bluestone terrace and screened porch. The family dining area and great room open onto the bluestone terrace as well, with lots of light from the southern exposure. The oversized screen porch was carefully designed to act as a family hub with seating and dining areas, a large grill, two kegerators, a linear fire bar, a recessed television and infrared heaters allowing for multi-season use. The guest suite also has access to a private lower level terrace at grade.


The large rear patio features spaces for cooking, dining and relaxing along with a fire feature. Recessed screens drop from the sides of the overhang and can be controlled by a remote. Photo by Don Pearse.

DNJ: What are the eco-friendly elements of this house?

Knight: The family is environmentally conscious. The home features radiant heat and an 18kw solar panel system that is capable of generating 21,500kw per year. The solar panels are located on the west- and south-facing house and porch roofs. They are cutting edge, acting as roof shingles to provide a sleek appearance. The wall shingles are NuCedar [a PVC product that reduces heat absorption, keeping interiors cool]. The white oak character-grade floors are finished with a no-VOC European oil finish in a custom color.


Tray ceilings in the basement entertainment area create a visual break in the long space. Photo by Tom Grimes.

In addition, the original home on the property was “deconstructed” and the building materials were repurposed. A company called Details from Baltimore took the house apart piece by piece for reuse. The firm provides job training for people in need and reduces the amount of material sent to landfills at the same time.


The attic, located over the three-car garage, features a study/playroom. According to Knight, “The children fell in love with the attic. This space was turned into a children’s paradise.” Photo by Tom Grimes.

DNJ: What were some of the challenges of this project? How did you deal with them?

Knight: The sloping site was a challenge. The original home was not in the same place as the new one; it sat almost sideways in relation to the street and was built on the high portion of the lot. We placed the new house parallel to the street and built across the slope, allowing the lower level access to grade. We also made use of the grade by placing a swimming pool changing room and bathroom under the terrace. We were able to make the slope of the site an asset with the numerous French doors on two levels.

The kitchen, which Knight calls “Modern Alfresco,” is “designed for serious cooks with two dishwashers, two sinks, a six-burner range with a griddle, a butler’s pantry and a food pantry.” Photo by Tom Grimes.

DNJ: What do the owners like best about the home?

Knight: They enjoy hosting large events that involve cooking and entertaining. The house has wonderful gathering spaces as well as smaller, more intimate areas.