Natural beauty: Princeton House 02 respects its environment without mimicking it
A woody location is often matched by a woody house, timber-clad and blending in modestly amongst the trees. However, New York-based architects Levenbetts have shaken the status quo with their latest New Jersey family home. Princeton House 02 stands out proudly, clad in a shimmering, white corrugated metal that shows off the beautiful colours and landscape of this former white pine tree farm, by contrasting them.
Situated on a plot teeming with 100ft tall trees, the house is a celebration of nature. As the architects David Leven and Stella Betts explain, ’nature, greenery and the changing colours of the seasons and light are activated agents in the architecture of this house. They are not just the outside environment to be viewed, but existential forces in conversation with the architecture.’
Princeton 02 ’activates’ its environment by wrapping itself around a central, landscaped courtyard, an important design element with the kitchen, dining room, living room, library area and staircase spiralling around and looking outwards onto the space. A more private main bedroom is tucked away behind the library, which transforms a long corridor into a useable space with floor to ceiling bookshelves, a must for the owner who is a children’s book author.
Another key design element in Princeton 02 is its windows. Levenbetts have taken this oft-overlooked but essential component and used it as ornamentation both internally and externally. In order to offer the owners the best views of their surroundings, windows are placed at different levels throughout, with low and high openings that follow the eye-line of the residents. The kitchen cupboards are playfully interrupted by a large, low window, providing unexpected views onto the overgrown, grassy stretch beyond.
Externally, the irregular openings offer an interesting pattern and turn the house into a legible structure where larger windows indicate public entertaining spaces and smaller windows subtly hint at private spaces. The varying sizes of the windows and the central courtyard combine to produce layers of openings that offer abstract perspectives of the surrounding landscape, filling the house with views that look like abstract paintings.
As well as being visually appealing, this layering and meticulous window placement allows the house to be sustainable, with cross ventilation cooling the interiors and numerous openings reducing the need for electric lighting. Internally, a light grey and white palette mirrors the exterior, allowing the greenery outside to shine inside as the main injection of colour. Princeton 02 is an exercise in finding the perfect balance between respecting the surrounding environment without shrinking beneath it.
Photography: Naho Kubota