In its storied history, the Ivy League town of Princeton, New Jersey has long been known for the best in education, the arts, and culture. It has also—since 1974—been known as a showhouse town. But in recent years that aspect of Princeton culture had ceased, until last year when aspire design and home launched Aspire House Princeton, in a contemporary home only a few minutes from the Gothic towers of Princeton University and its surrounding landmark mansions. A portion of the proceeds from the showhouse were set aside to benefit the education and careers of up-and-coming designers from underrepresented communities.
Inside the Showhouse with Alirio Pirela
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Alirio Pirela: I had six months to get room details finished, furniture restored and reupholstered, drapery and window treatment done, a fireplace built and all details picked carefully.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a “Eureka!” moment during the process?
Alirio: The room was very small for a drawing room—with not enough light or any architectural details. The biggest challenge was to make the room spacious, joyful, bright and cozy adding the right color palette, enough-but-thoughtful lighting, and key elements to make the room sumptuous but understated.
Seeking Inspiration and Finding Cohesiveness
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Alirio: Window treatments. They were a very important part of the room and an initial part of the inspiration. The beautiful Dedar fabric with Pazl pattern and lait de coco color was my starting point. The pattern has a sumptuous but organic feel. It was the main pattern in the room, and I chose the color palette and a variety of timepieces around it.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project?
Alirio: I think executing it in such a short amount of time, putting in all the elements to make the room feel organically cozy but luxurious, filled with surprising moments but easy on the eyes. This was my first showhouse, so I had to adapt to the logistics involved in the process.
aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an
inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
Alirio: It was completely my own process.
aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
Alirio: I would say now after working in such a small space I would rather work with the extensive creative opportunities that a large space offers.
aspire: Describe the town of Princeton in one sentence.
Alirio: Filled with old charm architecture.
“This or That?” with Alirio Pirela
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
Alirio: Beach in the spring and summer, mountains fall and winter.
aspire: Saturated color or black and white?
Alirio: Black and white.
aspire: Brunch or dinner?
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Alirio: Mixing both
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Alirio: Depends on the space
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Alirio: Space Odyssey.
aspire: Week at the spa or week of Broadway shows?
Alirio: Spa followed by a fun show.
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Photography by Mike Van Tassell.
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