Designer Brad Ford had been working with a New York City-based couple for years when they approached him about a new project outside of Princeton, New Jersey. Their long-standing relationship meant that the designer was well versed in their style. “They are into design and art,” he notes. “She has incredible taste.” This time, the couple wanted something slightly different from what they’d had in the past. “Early on they referenced a ‘modern barn,’ so it was a process of working through what that meant,” Ford says. The designer had to carefully consider how to bring this idea to life. “The emphasis was on creating an agricultural feel,” says architect Thomas Kligerman, whose firm was brought on upon Ford’s recommendation. “It’s also the idea of different styles of buildings, an architectural mash-up that looks like it came about over time.”
The architecture firm’s partner-in-charge Joel Barkley and project architect Andrew Urbany took this idea and ran with it, working with general contractor John Flower to create a charming, rambling home. Tall, lofty spaces create an expansive feel while materials such as fieldstone and reclaimed wood set the stage for a soft, timeworn feeling. “The fieldstone, the cupola, the little windows you might see on a barn–it’s a country aesthetic done in a residential way,” says Kligerman. “It has an earthiness about it. People respond to that,” adds Ford. “There’s also an openness. They live like a lot of families–they enjoy cooking and gathering at kitchen table, and the dining room is smack in the center of the house–but it just feels like there’s something so fresh about the open concept here.”
Much of that freshness comes through the home’s angled spaces and many windows–those small, barn-like ones Kligerman speaks of, but also large, contemporary picture windows. There’s also an airiness from the balance between a neutral, slightly earthy color scheme and midcentury modern furnishings. “Sometimes when you go more modern you have to be more considerate of the palette–go for something serene,” says the designer, who worked with project manager Erin Mahan. Ford and Mahan kept it edited but warm, not just by the palette but through the use of textures such as wood and nubby fabrics. They also ensured it was family friendly (there are four young children) and comfortably familiar. “We’d worked on a number of projects with them, so we thought, ‘What can we bring with us? What should we reupholster?’ It took quite a bit of strategy to make it all work together,” Ford recalls.
There are plenty of new additions too, like the Apparatus light fixture that fills the towering space above the dining table. “I always strive for a balance of sophistication and casual; impactful but not attention-getting,” Ford reveals. To that end, he played with scale in the powder room, with its big-blooming wallpaper, and brought in fluffy touches, like the living room’s woolly stools and a vintage sheep statue that keeps watch on the landing. There are fun moments in the architecture as well, especially in the master bedroom’s ceiling. “The idea behind the curved ceiling comes from when you’re in bed and the sheet billows over you and drops down–it feels good!” exclaims Kligerman, crediting Flower’s skill with creating this moment of serenity. “It’s just a really restful, dreamlike shape that hovers over the room.”
“This is a beautiful home but without feeling too serious,” echoes Ford–with one exception: a serious art collection, including a Thomas Struth in the family room, which was placed by the couple’s art advisor, Amy Snyder. “That was one of the first major pieces,” says the designer of the young family’s growing collection. “They like things that are livable. Works should be considered not just from an investment point of view, but from what you want to live with.” Here, the photograph, from Struth’s “Paradise” series, acts almost as a window, further tying the house to its wooded setting, a site enhanced by landscape architect Brian Bare. “We were commissioned to explore a fun and provocative landscape that respectfully integrated with their home,” says Bare, who worked with horticulturist Susan Howard. “There are interconnected elements of exploration: a berry labyrinth, a cherry orchard, a wildflower meadow, and a wetland and woodland walk.” Preservation of the site’s mature trees also imparts that sought-after feeling of age, along with a little mystery as to whether the home is new or a renovation. “In spite of the historical references on the outside, it’s really a very modern house,” says Kligerman. “It’s a modern building made for a modern family.”