Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TEAM WORK: “We feel there is tremendous demand for attractive and energy-efficient homes in our neighborhoods. As professional designers, we are interested in a smarter way to bring this vision to reality,” Catherine M. Knight AIA (seated left) is shown with her colleagues, Lynn Davis (seated), and Louisa Clayton and Kim Holderman (standing).

Custom Modular Homes by Knight Architects LLC Offers New Opportunities for the Firm’s Clients

Since 1991, Catherine M. Knight AIA, principal of Knight Architects LLC, has been helping Princeton residents to achieve the home of their dreams. Whether it’s a renovation or addition — a new or remodeled kitchen, bath room, master bedroom, or family room — she is able to create a new look for an existing home, while keeping within the style and concept of the house.

“When I came to Princeton, I had not done much residential work,” explains Ms. Knight, who had previously worked in Connecticut and Boston. “I had focused on corporate buildings and large research facilities, and I expected designing houses would be simpler. In fact, it is very involved, with a variety of issues, including plumbing and heating. These can be complex challenges. But I very much enjoy the design phase, and I like solving problems. And once the frame has gone up, it is thrilling.”

Clients renovate or want additions to their houses for different reasons, she reports. Some want to upgrade and update the look, add energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features; others need additional or different space. Ms. Knight works on many sizes and types of projects.

“People often want to add large windows and sky lights, quality lighting fixtures, new tiling, and granite countertops,” she points out. “Others want to make changes so they can age in place: for example, adding a bathroom and master suite on the ground floor. Also, some clients want to be more hands-on than others. They are all different, and a lot of people who enter into the process really have no idea of what to expect. We do all we can to make it go smoothly, and work one-on-one with them. We’re a team. We have a lovely client base in Princeton. There are so many interesting people here.”

Many Projects

Ms. Knight has had many projects in Princeton (13 in her own neighborhood), as well as farther afield, including Cape May, Avalon, and New Hampshire. She often helps clients with a second home, frequently at the shore.

“We did a 1920s house in Cape May in the historic district, and there were special challenges and stipulations with that,” she reports. “We have been working on an 1895 neo-classic house on Mercer Street, which is an on-going project. This house has a very strong vocabulary, that is, the existing molding, trim, hardware. We have some of the best craftsmen to work on it. We also did a classroom at The Waldorf School.”

Ms. Knight adds that people often like to consult with her before they buy a house. They may already have renovations in mind, and want her expertise, and zoning issues may also be involved.

Projects vary in time of completion, depending on size and complexity, but frequently, a year or more is typical. These are custom projects, and they can be very involved, she notes.

Ms. Knight’s experience with renovations and additions and also her knowledge of clients’ preferences has led her to offer an alternative to on-site construction. Knight Classic Homes, which will parallel her original practice, was launched in March.

“We’ve had a lot of owners of smaller houses in downtown Princeton ask us to help with renovations, adding second floors, etc. Some of these projects can run $700,000,” explains Ms. Knight. “So, I thought what if we offered them a modular replacement home, which could be more cost-effective, take less time, and provide better quality of construction.”

Innovative Features

A modular house is built off-site in a factory, and then assembled on-site. Ms. Knight has designed five homes in a range of sizes, from 1,899 square feet to 3,792 square feet, starting at $600,000. They are all top-quality, environmentally-friendly, and well-designed, with innovative features. They offer many benefits, she points out.

“There is 30 percent less waste when a house is built in the factory. There is better insulation, better energy-efficiency, and because it is built in the factory, it is never exposed to the elements. Building materials last longer and are never wasted due to harmful weather conditions. Building in a factory ensures that your house is built stronger. All connections — door and window frames, roof and wall joints — are tighter, making your home both more durable and less susceptible to drafts, saving you money in repairs and utilities.”

Siding, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, and lighting are all provided in the factory, while roofing, flooring, ceramic tile, and granite countertops are put in on-site. The house will arrive 80 percent complete.

Selecting a modular home is a time-saver, adds Ms. Knight. “Our homes spend three to four weeks in the factory, and less than three months on site after finishing — meaning you are displaced from your home for only four months. Our builder can prepare your site and build your foundation while the modular factory builds the house.”

Optional Upgrades

Regardless of the style of the house chosen, all will feature traditional exteriors, porches, spacious living areas, tall windows, and large sky lights with low E glass, bamboo flooring, low VOC paints and finishes, granite countertops, energy-efficient and Energy Star-rated appliances, water-conserving Kohler and Moen plumbing fixtures, tile bathrooms, waterproof basements with natural light and finished walls, and attached or detached 2 or 3-car garages.

Optional upgrades include metal roofing, radiant floor heat, solar power, geothermal heating, and rain water collection system.

In addition to the five designs already in place, Ms. Knight can work with clients to customize their home even further. Knight Classic Homes is currently working with award-winning Epoch Homes modular design company in New Hampshire.

“And we have excellent site contractors here,” she adds. “We also have a number of real estate agents who are very interested in the project. It’s a great opportunity for new people looking to buy, but don’t see anything they like. There is also a financial company to help with financing.”

Ms. Knight is very enthusiastic and optimistic about this new venture, and looks forward to telling clients more about it. There will be a launch party in May. For more information, call (609) 252-0474. Website: or

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