On a tree-lined site in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey, a home reposes with its surroundings, where the lush walled landscape seems to merge with carefully crafted, light-filled interiors providing ample and inviting spaces for entertaining intimately or on a grand scale. This house is an homage to one of the masters of 20th-century architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed in harmony with the physical surroundings, creating a natural flow between indoors and outdoors. Form combined with function, utility with beauty, comfort with elegance and intimacy.
THE PRAIRIE OF PRINCETON This 10,800-square-foot structure that stands at 64 Cleveland Lane was designed by William F. Shellman, late professor of modern architecture at Princeton University and by architect William H. Short, chosen by Wright to implement and oversee the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City; one of Wright's all time masterpieces (which unfortunately he did not live to see completed).
In keeping with the Wright tradition of using a natural palette, the home was built using earth-toned brick with organic-hued wood and copper arts and crafts accents, interior walls highlighted with wood finishes, elegant wood floors and fireplaces in the formal reception rooms, and suffusing the interior with natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows.
THE EXPANSION Originally commissioned in the early 1960s, the home was purchased by its second and current resident, Rysia de Ravel d'Esclapon, in 1993. Her appreciation of the art of living is exemplified by the sensitive and tasteful expansion which added features so in demand today. Her innovative additions create spaces for luxurious 21st-century living, while preserving the unique architectural lines of the house. These include a professionally equipped Italian cherry kitchen by Piero Lissoni for Boffi, which opens into a new casual family room set between two new gardens featuring brick detail, warm cherry walls and wet bar allowing gatherings from intimate family to great public functions for groups large and small, as well as a Philip Johnson-inspired glass-enclosed dining room centered between two garden areas, easily able to accommodate 30-40 for sit down dinner but also comfortable for intimate dinners of 6-8, and a grand mahogany detailed master suite with two fire places, fully equipped Boffi night kitchen, large walk-in Poliform closet with Traum safe, and featuring a spa commode room with Toto Neorest toilet and sculptural Antonio Lupi bathtub sitting in front of a (large 5'x10') multi-jetted shower and a sleek fireplace.
Complementing the interior are the gardens, originally designed by the late noted landscape architect Robert Zion, whose iconic works include restoring the Statue of Liberty Park for the bicentennial and inventing the ‘vest pocket' park, exemplified by the world famous Paley Park near MOMA in Midtown Manhattan (a must-visit for students of landscape architecture from around the world). Separate spaces on either side of the house again provide space for both intimate and large gatherings and include a cascading water fountain as an accent. Her careful cultivation and expansion of the property have preserved the unique lines and formal areas of the home, which provide a showcase for an important collection of modern art, sculpture, and artistic light fixtures, some designed by Wright himself.
WRIGHTIAN MOTIFS Privacy, even in a suburban locale, is always of value. Here, on the perfectly landscaped three-quarter acre grounds, walled gardens surround the house, which in effect turns its shoulder to the street. There are three entry points, the main entrance with a parking area, a driveway and three-car garage at the rear, and an attached apartment with a private entrance. The front elevation, set well back from the adjacent road, is screened by trees and discreetly sheltered by brick walls inspired by Wright's Robie House. Draped with vegetation and featuring a modern sculpture, the wall ties the interior views to the landscaping and preserves the sense of intimacy.
Behind these sylvan redoubts, the house reveals itself gradually. Behind the glass entry door, the soaring entry alcove gives way to a long gallery where a portion of the owner's collections are elegantly showcased. Floor-to-ceiling windows and doors flood the gallery and formal living areas with natural light and seamlessly blend with the outdoor gardens and terraces. As is typical with Wright, the dining room is often the emotional heart of the home. Here, housed in its own wing, it takes the form of a Philip Johnson-inspired glass house centered between two garden entertaining areas and projecting into the verdurous front garden. Just off the vast Boffi-designed gourmet kitchen, complete with service area and bar, a family room awaits, with access to the tranquil garden oasis conceived by Zion.
THE PRIVATE QUARTERS A staircase ascends to the upper floor, which houses two spacious en suite bedrooms and two luxurious master suites, one anchoring each end of the house. The newly-created rear master wing was designed as a private owner's retreat. The hallway gives way to a relaxing seating area, a night kitchen, and office. The private area includes a huge custom-designed walk-in closet and dressing room, a bedroom with woodburning (gas starter) fireplace, a private terrace, and a spectacular spa bathroom with stained glass windows (original Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows), raised glass fireplace, walk-in multi-jetted shower, Toto NeoRest WC, Pierro Lissoni for Boffi vanities, two oversized Keuco mirror cabinets and a contemporary bathtub by Antonio Lupi Design.
THE AMENITIES Following the design elements of the main house, a separate entrance opens to an additional 1,400-square-foot, one-bedroom guest apartment with all of the same high-end finishes, including Pierro Lissoni for Boffi-designed gourmet kitchen, cathedral ceilings, and clerestory windows. The lower level of the main house, with a 700-bottle wine cellar and tasting room, includes one bedroom an exercise room, and a beautiful guest bathroom. There is wheelchair and elevator access throughout and an extensive interior security system, Mobotix-secured entry portals, as well as a guard house.
THE LOCATION Situated on one of Princeton's finest streets, the property is a short walk from Princeton University, a world center for mathematical research and advanced education. Other draws to this historic, cultural enclave are the illustrious Institute for Advanced Study, the Princeton Public Library, the McCarter Theater, and some of the top schools in the United States. All of this in the Western Section neighborhood, where two U.S. Presidents have resided as well as captains of industry, prominent writers and diplomats, and leading public intellectuals.
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