Centuries-old Princeton, New Jersey, may evoke images of Collegiate Gothic towers and landmark mansions. But just as a visit to Princeton’s namesake university uncovers an ever-growing collection of modern architecture, a closer look at the town’s residences reveals that locals are not at all stuck in the past. The Aspire House: Princeton show house, which is open through this coming weekend, makes a case for contemporary style in an Ivy League setting.

The show house is a project of Aspire Design + Home, which recently made news for taking over administration of Galerie. It is the eighth installation that the Cornwall, New York–based publication has produced since entering the show-house market in 2018. “Princeton was a great show house town for a long time,” says the magazine’s publisher, Steven Mandel. “We didn’t understand why there wasn’t one there for so long.” Sponsors include Benjamin Moore, Cosentino, Kallista, Kohler, and LG.

Whereas several previous show houses in the Aspire portfolio have been overseen by a design chair, the company refrained from guiding participants’ hands in Princeton. Even so, the house itself offered plenty of direction. Located only several minutes’ walk from downtown Princeton, it is one of two homes that local builder Woodbrook Homes had conjured from a teardown. “Asking designers to produce a show house within an open floor plan challenges them to stretch beyond their comfort zone,” Mandel says to AD PRO of the sprawling layout, which typifies newly constructed residences irrespective of size.

Assigned to the entry and its adjoining stairwell, JAB Design Group employed smoky grays and natural tones to blend seamlessly with Woodbrook’s wood panels and blackened steel handrail. Yet the scheme also centers on a black-and-white chevron that runs the full height of the stairwell, and it is punctuated by several jewel-toned furnishings. The pairing of monochromatic and graphic surface treatments inspired adjacent responses: Local studio Global Home Interior Design extended the neutral palette into the adjoining office, eschewing accent colors for muted ikat and Greek-key patterns. At the base of the stairwell, meanwhile, Town & Country Kitchen and Bath countered the chevron with a matte-black waterfall island, and New York’s Chelsea Art Group peppered the lower level with eye-catching works by Willem de Kooning and others.

Just as a mudroom offers an alternative way to enter a house, the Aspire House: Princeton mudroom’s design by Lux Pad Interiors illustrates a different way to complement the clean-lined and sparingly detailed architecture. The Brooklyn-based studio clad this informal arrival in scenic wallpaper, a motif that reappears upstairs in the main bedroom by Princeton’s Judy King Interiors. East Asian geometries recur in both rooms, as well. The installations embody a residential design philosophy of home as escape.

There are diversions from the parallel dialogues. Pirela Atelier’s drawing room is a multilayered composition of 20th- and 21st-century furnishings and art, most of which hems pairings of black and warm white. The dining room, by Samuel Robert Signature Spaces, features a bold perimeter of palm-frond wallpaper and antique wooden panels, against which the furnishings—a custom dining table ringed by midcentury Italian chairs, illuminated by suspended vessels, and served by a green-lacquered credenza—demand attention.

“By all accounts [reception to the show house] has been overwhelming,” Mandel says to AD PRO. “Our guests are loving it and we couldn’t be happier to bring a little peace and beauty in this difficult time.” The event brings a good cause to the forefront, too. A portion of ticket sales will be dedicated to supporting the education and careers of up-and-coming designers from underrepresented communities.

A guest room by Alirio Pirela Atelier. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Another view of the guest room.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Dining room by Sam Ciardi Signature Spaces. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Living room and breakfast nook by Anna Maria Mannarino of Mannarino Designs.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Kitchen by Town and Country Kitchen and Bath.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Front living room by Amy Manor.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Gallery area by Donald Christiansen Chelsea Art Group.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Main and upstairs foyer by JAB Design Group.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Main office by Global Home Joe Giamarese and Vivian Hung.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Primary bedroom by Judy King Interiors. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Primary bathroom by Judy King Interiors. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Child’s bedroom by Diane Durocher. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Guest room by Gail David Designs.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Office by Vicki Gindi and Tram-Ahn Poprik with Red Bank Design Center. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Lower level living room by Town and Country Kitchen and Bath.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Lower level bar by Town and Country Kitchen and Bath.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Mud room by Tamu Green Lux Pad Interiors. 

Photo: Mike Van Tassell



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