Jan 29, 2010

Princeton Design Guild's Contemporary Craftsman

Here is one of Princeton Design Guild's latest projects which is really a contemporary craftsman. It was started in October of 2008 and will be heading towards completion in the next two months. As the interior comes together I will be sharing with you a stunning fireplace made out of bluestone, granite, and brownstone all from Pennsylvania.  Kevin decided on windows here in the back of the house,  which is the southern exposure that act as windows and sliding doors. Windows are from Canada by a company known as Loewen. Patio is unique and laid in Indian sandstone. There are many types of wood in this project from white ash with a vertical grain, white oak, douglas fir also with a vertical grain, curly ash, and avodire wood.  Imagine pictures of all of this. I really appreciate the stately copper gutters done by Ed Moyer of Princeton. I am sure you will too.
The house graces an avenue in Princeton that is lined with homes from the twenties. It is a real Arts and Crafts neighborhood so this is a welcome addition to what is already there. The home sits on part of the original foundation that was shabby and was in need of a total redo. The exterior paint color reminds me of a Roycroft arts and craft period palette. Really a perfect fit for the neighborhood. The front of the house is still coming together so we will wait until it is done to show it off. Within the three levels of the house, the first floor feels open yet very gracious. The second floor will be an entire master suite and the third floor has a guest room and party loft.  It is will be worth the wait.

Jan 27, 2010

Water Conservation through a Weathered Watering Can

Here is a simple thing we all have on our properties even if we just have only a deck! A watering can left out,  saves on your water bill and is a good conservation step. I happen to leave out a watering can in the back yard for the perennials and one on the sun deck that is meant to tend to my window boxes.  Why not capture a bit of water runoff?
Here are some important things to remember.  Water only once a week and water deeply.   Plant your natives or ask your garden designer to do this for you.  They are easier to take care of and are happy living where they are suppose to! Best to not water at night.  Fungus loves the night. Try to detox yourself from desiring the large lawn that is a chemical lawn.  I got rid of half the lawn that was on this carriage home's property.  And the lawn was tiny to boot.  I can literally cut the grass with a reel mower as in a push mower on this property! Instead I am looking to filling the beds with perennials that will mostly take care of themselves.  They really do take care of themselves.  I don't have to cut them every week. And anyone frugal will be happy to know they grow and grow!  I can't wait to share with you the garden this spring.

Jan 26, 2010

Princeton Artisan Designs and "Upcycles"

Check out Jonathan Shor's  Quoin granite seat that is "upcylced" from a building in Philadelphia. He recycled a steel  I-beam and assembled a beautiful piece of teak as the back of the seat. This is definitely not a piece of art one would forget seeing in an outdoor landscape.

Jan 25, 2010

Touring a Light Filled Basement with Princeton Design Guild

I loved checking out this Princeton built home by Princeton Design Guild.  Whether or not your design element is modern,  how fabulous to think about  a basement in a whole new way and with a lot of light shining through! Imagine the light in your bedroom or office with a garden that will give you a unique feeling,  really down below ground level. Cork flooring,  though hard to see here is sustainable and warm to the feet.  Blue stone caps on the patio walls and a peak at a  swiss pine which is low growing.

Jan 22, 2010

A Day with Kevin Wilkes of Princeton Design Guild

I got to spend the day with Kevin Wilkes, founder of Princeton Design Guild, a complete design, build and install firm based in Princeton, NJ. They engage craftsmen and artisans at each step of their process. Thought it would be fun to brighten our day with some orange after seeing this floor to ceiling chimney tiled in glass. This reminds me of Rosa Mexicana, a great restaurant space in NYC by Lincoln Center. The color just makes one want to celebrate at the boldness to do it. Right? I love the windows that let the light stream on it. This Princeton home sits proudly in an established neighborhood. Solar panels are hidden on the roof and add the sustainability factor that we are all thinking about these days.

Jan 21, 2010

Sculptural Bench by Local Princeton Artisan

I just love this Viggiano bench matched with the bamboo by Jonathan Shor.  This is a single piece of granite and has been salvaged from a Perth Amboy bridge.   Jonathan did a similar piece for one of my clients.  Something as simple as pairing sculpture with landscaping really is a perfect marriage.

Jan 18, 2010

Encouraging Slow Food at the Harriet Bryan House Community Garden, Princeton

One of the trends I shared with you for 2010 was how vegetable gardens are being grown by many more of us. A vegetable or herb garden may be as simple as a few plants in containers on your townhouse patio or as organized as fenced in beds at a large home awash with grass. In Princeton this spring, the foundations for a community garden will begin growing on a plot of land next to affordable housing, offering the gift of gardening to its community. Raised beds have been designed to also allow those in wheelchairs the ability to participate more easily. Residents of Elm Court and Harriet Bryan House will be able to grow their own tomatoes and zucchini, and other plans include pumpkins and high bush blueberries.

Gardening within community builds a village in a way that will allow all involved to feel like they matter to the end miracle. A local landscaper and Boy Scout Troup 43 started this process in the cold by cleaning up the area and readying planter beds. It will be fun to watch this project take hold and perhaps even lend a hand.

Jan 16, 2010

Slow Food and Princeton Winter Farmers Market

This last week I attended a couple more films that were part of the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

One was Food Fight which was super inspiring even to those of us that might not consider ourselves "foodies." Chefs Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Wolfgang Puck and Suzanne Goin were interviewed and reminded us how important it is to know your food sources.  Alice Waters started out as a chef that has turned local food sourcing into a political action by supporting local agriculture in California. Back in the seventies era under the Nixon administration agriculture became agri- corporate farming. Did you know that some of the chemicals that were used in the Vietnam War are the same chemicals that Monsantos uses to "fertilize" our crops?

This led to a panel discussion by local chef Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra,  Gabby Cabone co-owner of the Bent Spoon serving locally made artisanal ice cream,  J. David Waldman of Rojo's Roastery in Lambertville who has the expertise and palate to improve our coffee IQ, Jonathan White farmer and cheesemaker of Bobolink Farm, Jeanne Denoyer of Princeton University and Fran McManus of Whole Earth Center. This panel was kind enough to spend some time exploring flavor and farming with us.  Small scale farming is really delivering some splendid flavor in cheeses, ice cream, eggs, and meats. The fact that more chefs and local citizens are in direct contact with farmers is giving all of us a more dynamic experience in our cooking  and our restaurant experience.

Why not visit the Slow Food Winter Farmers Market on January 23 at 10:00am - 2:00pm?  It will be at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton. Nice way to learn what the slow food movement is about with your own tastebuds.  Simple, local and in season...

Jan 14, 2010

First-Time Home Buyer's Tax Credit Extension

In my work with real estate clients at NT Callaway, both buyers and sellers, there have been many questions on the extension of the first-time Home Buyer Tax Credit. With the extension to April 30, 2010, the credit is still an attractive factor in making a move in today's tough real estate market. I found this article on a Wall Street Journal blog that gives a good summary of how it works. Some key points to highlight are:

- buyers may be under contract by April 30 and still qualify so long as the closing is within 60 days.
- the credit phases out for home buyers with incomes above $125,000 for single filers and $225,000 for married couples.
- homes that cost more than $800,000 are not eligible for the credit.

Jan 12, 2010

Local Princeton Artisan "Upcycles" Cedar Wood

What would  you think if an artist sculptor came to you and unloaded a bunch of wood you wanted off site?  Well that is exactly what Jonathan Shor did in Princeton!  Now if you saw what he did with it you might just rethink letting this reclaimed wood go.  Jonathan Shor did another "upcycle" move.  He took old cedar wood from a tear down in Princeton. The color has a depth and I love the width of the boards for this application. It  was still stunning and he turned it horizontal to make a true design element that gives purpose,  privacy, style and a richness that we all love in cedar.

Think of taking every artful opportunity your property has to offer.   It will give you lasting pleasure and add value.  I want to soften the fence just  a bit with some ground cover epidmedium or esarum wild european ginger or maybe even a climbing hydrandea. He already has some lovely old azaleas along some of this fence.

Jan 11, 2010

Garden Trends for 2010

Let's talk about what is important in this coming decade to make our outdoor spaces feel like we are moving in positive directions.

First of all, water rain barrels are positive ways to conserve water and return them to our garden beds instead of just allowing water to run off. This is more sustainable and will help your water bill and the environment.

Secondly, with a farm to table movement under way and a true appreciation again for what is local and heirloom, vegatable gardens can be implemented with even the simplest space available. One raised flower box might quench yours needs or even containers can behave as a true garden. I happen to have a deck with which I fill pots with scented polargariums and baby sun gold tomatoes. Many more will be happening with spring. And by the way, pay more for fresh food today so that decades from now we are not caught up in the healthcare system.  Good local food, extended good health.

Thirdly, try going native within your perennial flower beds. Why not stop fighting the environment and simply go with what is happy to thrive in your zone? Examples might be: False Sunflower-Heliopsis helianthoides, Foamflower-Tiarella cordifolia, Indian Grass-Sorghastrum nutans,  or lovely Jack in the Pulpit- Arisaema triphyllum.  Jack in the Pulpit can be seen in the Sourland Mountains. Please never dig a plant out of the woods. None of these will need be to be tended to and once in the ground will perform like loyal loves.

Fourthly, start walking to the farmers markets. Princeton,  the Hopewell Community Organic Farmers market in the Historic Hopewell train station in the borough, Lawrenceville, West Windsor , and Pennington boro all have farmers markets.  Farms like Cherry Grove, Highland Market, Simply Grazin and Solebury Orchards, North Slope Farm, and just a few of my favorites. Get chickens or support your local farmer with free range eggs. Nothing tastes better and chickens free ranging are what gives the egg its flavor and real nutrition. By the way, chickens like baths too.

Fifth trend that I have seen in the last couple years that is still strong is the outside firepit.  Many clients are trading in the vacations for home and hearth while our economy recovers.

Jan 10, 2010

Local Princeton Artisan "Upcycles" Wood Fence

Have you ever wondered what you should do with old fence lumber that just doesn't meet your needs anymore? How about having a local Princeton artisan like Jonathan Shor "upcycle" it for you? He turned these boards inside out and literally built a garden folly structure! In these times when we are all trying to be conscious about the decisions we make for our properties wouldn't you feel super to pay less in materials while at the same time adding value to them?
This structure has a modern vibe with "rustic re-use" energy and as a garden designer myself, I love it! I am going to try and talk Jonathan Shor into espaliering a tree on the side of this structure. Perhaps a redbud or a favored apple tree? This saves on space not available and will bring some green to this folly! Can't you imagine using this for garden tools, artistic endeavors, or a bit of solitude in downtown Princeton?! I bet children would love to use the second floor as their loft. A bit of "downtown" in our ever growing Princeton.

Jan 7, 2010

Artisanal Stone Sink by Local Princeton Craftsman

What a stunning entrance! Here we get to look at a most raw honed piece of granite selected as an all in one countertop and sink. I spent the morning with Jonathan Shor who designs select furniture, benches, fountains, and one of a kind sculptures. Here is another example of taking a simple purposeful sink and making it an actual piece of art. I am honored to have had Jonathan design a bench for one of my own landscape clients. I am looking forward to sharing with you more of this home and garden design aesthetic in and around Princeton!

Jan 6, 2010

Thoughts for Buyers in the New Year

Some market analysts believe home prices are going to stabilize by the end of 2009 indicating that it may be time to act for buyers who have been waiting to catch the bottom. In my experience as a realtor, the challenge for many buyers right now is rationalizing how to sell their existing property for less than they might want to and making the leap to try to trade up. The opportunity now is to buy real value. Every situation is unique, but the timing of buying at this low point in the market along with fixing a low mortgage rate and taking advantage of the $8000 home owner's tax credit makes a compelling case for buying in the new year.

Moody's has published a number of notable articles with forecasts that 2010 will begin to show recovery in housing prices, housing starts and also a decline in first mortgage defaults. This chart of Moody's data on USA Today is a great snapshot of some of these key indicators. 

The NY Times ran an article on 12/29/09 referencing the blogging community's concept of "house arrest", the state of being trapped in one's current home ownership and unable to sell because what is owed on the mortgage exceeds what the house could sell for.  If you were considering trading up to another property, one cannot deny that now is the time.    I would be pleased to share comparables and sales in your area to help you make that ever important decision.