La Clairiere

La Clairiere

Contemporary Project  |  Princeton, New Jersey
A two-story transparent space cuts through dual brick volumes, establishing a deeply-rooted connection between family and nature.

In Princeton, New Jersey, a couple set out to build a home with the beauty of their natural surroundings at the forefront. With idyllic Carnegie Lake as their backyard, the serene residential site offered an alluring opportunity to be surrounded by nature on all sides.


With views of trees, sky, and water, the home’s all-glass living and dining space is enveloped by the landscape.


Engaging architect Pierre-Henri Hoppenot, founder and principal of Brooklyn-based Studio PHH, the home’s design and materiality leans into contrast. Two monolithic brick volumes anchor the home on either side, acting as a grounding force connecting structure to site. A glass-enclosed central volume links these two masses, becoming a spatial void through which nature can permeate, unobstructed. “The concept of the monolith split down the middle creates a clear dichotomy of space, program, and experience,” shares Hoppenot. “The split down the middle allows the users to feel like the landscape is moving through the project.”


The home’s design unifies two extremes—light and dark, weightless and heavy.


Organizationally, the home’s layout is simple and intuitive—private living spaces are tucked away in the protected brick volumes, while the glass-enclosed central volume is a public space for friends and family to gather. Although Hoppenot’s clients were looking to build a full-time residence for themselves, they also needed space and flexibility to host their children and grandkids for regular visits. “A key idea from the inception was to have the home function as easily for 20 people as it does for just two,” says Hoppenot. While there is ample living space in the 7,800 square foot home, guest zones can be easily closed off when the couple is on their own.


Glass, brick, and wood converge at the home’s central volume. “The brick returns as windows allow the openings to be sunken deep into the facade,” Hoppenot shares. “The intersection of materials makes them feel like they are one.”



“The primary building material for the project is light,” says Hoppenot. “The home has a limited materials palette that is rich in warmth and texture and allows natural light to be a main experiential material as it changes the quality of space throughout the day.”



The interior incorporates earthy materials like salvaged teak. “You can see the landscape on either side of you,” says Hoppenot. “The rich teak walls disappear into the height of the space, and diluted natural light floods down from the skylights and in through the windows.”

Hoppenot’s name for the project, “La Clairiere,” French for “the clearing” or “the glade,” is a nod to the glass-enclosed central volume—a gathering space that is the heart of the home. “A glade is a stopping point in a forest,” shares Hoppenot, “a rare space where light hits the ground, where you would want to pause and observe the light moving through the treetops surrounding you.” This clearing, light-filled yet protected, poetically mirrors the luminosity of the home’s central space. The glass volume benefits from dual exposures—Carnegie Lake on one side and the wooded landscape on the other—giving occupants and visitors the ability to experience nature through multiple and varied lenses.

We selected Kolbe for their energy efficiency, and the size of the window panes they could provide


The organic curve of the staircase borrows its form from nature—one of several biophilic design moves that increases resonance with the natural environment.


To execute the design vision for the jewel box-like central space, Hoppenot turned to Kolbe for large-format glazing solutions. “We selected Kolbe for their energy efficiency, and the size of the window panes they could provide,” he says. With scale and functionality top of mind, he pulled from Kolbe’s VistaLuxe WD LINE for the home’s fixed windows, casements, and swing doors. “The large glass openings and skylights in the central space make you feel like you are living outside,” says Hoppenot. From Kolbe’s Ultra Series, the 5-panel Lift & Slide door connects the public space to the exterior. When open, the barrier between outside and in disappears, inviting the landscape to become an intimate part of this all-important central zone.


Stone runs from the interior floor to the exterior terrace, creating a cohesive flow when the 5-panel Kolbe Lift & Slide door is fully opened.



While floor-to-ceiling glazing defines the public space, smaller picture windows—like the one at the home’s first floor office—frame views more selectively.



The large glass openings and skylights in the central space make you feel like you are living outside

Biophilic design principles contributed heavily to the home’s early conceptualization. Based on the idea that connection to nature is a deep-rooted human desire, biophilia asserts that prioritizing this connection through design can improve our comfort, health, and well-being. With large expanses of glass and operable windows and doors, the central space of La Clairiere maximizes natural light and ventilation, enhancing mood, comfort, and aligning circadian rhythms.

Visual connection to nature is an intentional undercurrent—through occupying the central space, one never loses sight of the landscape. Dual exposures offer glimpses of the sky, treetops, and water from different vantage points. “The user experience of being connected to nature is unmatched, and fills a primal necessity that gives you a sense of belonging,” shares Hoppenot, a feeling of belonging that is palpable in the home’s central space, where family togetherness is cherished, and appreciation of nature is ever-present.