Category Archives: Blog

Princeton Kitchen Renovation: A Real Knockout

princeton kitchen - Dickson Development

When Frederik and Pallavi bought their 1960s-built Princeton home, they knew a renovation was in their future. The house was very well built, yet it had some quirky angles, a choppy flow and dated features. Like many homes of its era, the upstairs bathrooms were small, and the kitchen was as well.

The couple wanted more space, particularly in and around the kitchen, the center of family activity, and an overall better flow and modern feel. “It was important to us that any kind of addition worked well with the rest of the house,” said Frederik. “My wife had an idea to take part of the porch and make it part of the kitchen, so we knew the addition would be within zoning regulations.”

Since the porch was not being used, and its outside wall had fake stone, the wall came down. “As a professor of geoscience, I could not abide the fake stone anyway,” he mused. An addition was built on the front of the house to extend the kitchen. The front porch roof cover was rebuilt and expanded.

They also widened the opening to the kitchen from the family room, which had been only a pass-through, drastically improving the flow of the house, notes Frederick.. “The first floor feels more spacious yet still comfortable,” he says. “It does not feel cavernous, just homey and warm.”

A bright and welcoming space

Princeton Kitchen Expansion“Where we once had five feet of a porch that had no purpose, we now have a bright, modern and welcoming space. Ironically, we got the idea to improve the flow of the house because everyone was crowding in the kitchen, but now that the space is so open, it’s not only where everyone wants to be, it’s where everyone is most comfortable,” says Frederik.

This includes the couple’s three children, ages 14, 12 and 7, who spend a great deal of time at the large kitchen island—doing homework, eating meals and just hanging out together. One place they don’t have to crowd is in the bathroom. Each kid gets their own sink, a unique concept focused on function.

“The kids’ bathroom has one long, marble vanity; it was something we really wanted to do,” he explains. They worked with architects Sara Segal and John DaCruz to turn their ideas into a plan and partnered with the team at Dickson to transform that plan into reality. Together they reconfigured the entire master bedroom/bathroom suite to significantly increase the bathroom.

Whatever the problem, always a solution

Princeton Kitchen Expansion

“We decided on Dickson Development pretty quickly after our initial meeting. We knew of their reputation to get things done, and we felt complete trust in every member of the Dickson team,” Frederik continued. “I can’t say enough about Thom Stout, the foreman, who was very professional but also made the process personal. He could just figure things out; any little problem that would come along, he could solve. This was especially true with some of the odd angles we encountered when we were adding more steps to the stairs leading from the new kitchen opening into the existing family room.”

The installation of the new railing, as well as the custom cabinetry, a cathedral ceiling and other details, was a coordinated effort with few if any setbacks. “The coordination was all essentially seamless, and the whole project was a success,” says Frederik. “Our kitchen was small and crowded, and now we have a bright and open room where the kids can read and do their homework and we can cook and entertain.”

Here’s a look at the front exterior of the home, before and after the kitchen was expanded:

To schedule a consultation, please call 609.799.0220.

Choosing the Right Lighting for Your Home

The right lighting can make all the difference in the way you experience a room. When choosing lighting for your home, you should consider both form and function. For example, are you trying to create an overall mood for a room, or illuminate a specific space or object? Is energy efficiency your prime goal? Do you want to be able to control the lights when you’re not home? Are you looking to enhance your décor?

For many people, the answer is “yes” to all of the questions above—and sometimes more. With seemingly endless choices, ever-changing technology and intriguing new design trends, it’s wise to start with the basics and consult with the experts. The team at Dickson Development can help guide you through the process and connect you with the lighting professionals they trust to meet your needs.

Layer Your Lighting for Maximum Impact and Efficiency

“When we meet with clients in our showroom, we suggest they bring photos of their homes. The colors in a room have a tremendous impact on the lighting,” says Heather Winn at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery in Lawrenceville, NJ. Ferguson is Dickson Development’s preferred lighting resource. “Right now, we are seeing a lot of crisp whites and cool grays, which can present quite a bit differently depending on your choice of lighting.”

The best time to think about lighting is when you start a home improvement project, not when it’s wrapping up. “Lighting is a key element of the design of a room; it should not be an afterthought,” explains Bonnie Foster, Project Manager at Dickson Development. “You need to look at the room as a whole, and then break it down into layers.”

A well-lit room will provide layers of three basic kinds of lighting—ambient, task and accent. When putting them together, consider the scale of the room, such as the height of the ceiling, the color on the walls, any natural lighting sources and, of course, the intended function of the room and its spaces. While some lighting can multitask, none can do it all.

Know Your Lighting Options

Ideally every light in your home will function as part of a team that creates the overall effect. Here are the key players:

Task lighting. As its name implies, task lighting helps you perform everyday tasks. Choose task lighting to illuminate a work space, such as a kitchen counter, or in areas where you will be reading or shaving or doing other tasks that require visual clarity. Examples include table lamps in a living room and under-counter lights in a kitchen.

signAccent lighting. This kind of lighting is useful when you want to spotlight a specific area or object in a room. Examples include recessed or track lighting that can be focused on an object of any size.

Ambient lighting. This provides general, overall lighting. Examples include a wall sconce or a pendant, recessed fixtures that point downward and other gentle sources of light that create a uniform level of light. Dimmer switches create the same effect.

Decorative or aesthetic lighting. You will want to use this kind of lighting alongside other more practical choices to achieve balance and acuity. Think of the fixture itself as an extension of the décor—a lovely piece of art to beautify your home. It cannot stand alone as an optimal source of light.

All the Way with LED?

LED, or “light-emitting diode,” lighting technology has long been considered an extremely long-lasting and energy-efficient though expensive source of light. LED bulbs are better for the environment than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs because they use considerably less energy. They are also available in a growing variety of styles, colors and brightness.

Over time, the up-front cost of LED lighting is offset by its efficiency. You will save both money and power without sacrificing function. While it may not be practical to replace all your lighting at once, it is certainly a good idea to consider when and where to replace your older bulbs with newer technology.

Lighting Your Smart Home

Today’s smart lighting controls allow you to control your lights from smart switches and from your phone or from Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. You can program lighting scenes and timed lighting from these systems.“ It’s amazing the way technology is changing the way we live our lives—and light our homes,” says Heather.

As more people expand their homes outward, and create outdoor living spaces, lighting has gone beyond the basic and functional to the more aesthetic. “You can now use wet location rated chandeliers and pendants for your outdoor living spaces. They are designed in a way that the bulb is protected and enclosed by glass, allowing them to be installed outside,” notes Heather.

Personal Style Still Matters

The science and technology of lighting has opened the door to endless possibilities. Yet, at the end of the day, you want your home to reflect your personal taste and the way you live. Today’s design trends continue to focus on transitional, mid-century modern and industrial looks. These trends are then translated into fixtures throughout an entire home. “Many of the modern styles use an integrated LED light source, which allows the designs to become very creative,” adds Heather.

A well-lit home can improve your quality of life in many ways. Proper lighting not only enhances the overall look of any room, but it also reflects your personal style and taste.

To schedule a consultation, email info@dicksondevelopment.com or call Richard Dickson at 609-799-0220.

What It’s Like To Work with Dickson Development

What it's like to work with Dickson Development

Ask architect John Pazdera what it’s like to work with Richard Dickson, and he’s likely to reminisce about the day they met. The two go back more than a decade to when Dickson Development was building an addition for one of John’s cousins. “I always remember how Richard stopped by the site during construction, and the way he paid attention to every detail. It made a lasting impression,” he says.

A Solid Foundation of Long-term Relationships

Richard Dickson has been on construction sites since he was 10 years old. The son of a builder, he says it’s all he can remember wanting to do. The firm he founded in his name, Dickson Development, has been designing, building and renovating homes in the Princeton area for more than 46 years. That kind of longevity in a relatively small geographic area can be explained in one word: relationships. With clients, trade partners and team members.

John is one of several long-standing trade partners, and an extended member of the Dickson team that includes president and CEO Richard Dickson, project manager Bonnie Foster and office manager Ronnie Rudolph. John provides the architectural design work on a majority of Dickson Development’s design-build projects.

Design-build combines design and construction into one seamless delivery method. “Basically, this means that we integrate architectural design into our construction process, and we become the single source of contact for the client. This can be very convenient and cost-effective for the client,” explains Richard. “Design-build is an alternative to design-bid-build, which separates design and build. Naturally, we are happy to work both ways. If clients bring us their own drawings, we collaborate closely with their architects to complete the project.”

After completing dozens upon dozens of projects with Dickson Development, John knows exactly what to expect. “There is a respect for details, which I really appreciate as an architect. With Richard, the homeowner always comes first, and finishing on time and on budget is a top priority,” John says. “The process is smooth and as painless as possible. They just have really good clients. It’s an enjoyable experience all around.”

signClients Know What to Expect: Attentive Service

Clients also know what to expect, and this has resulted in a great deal of repeat work and referral business. “We don’t just get repeat business from previous customers,” Dickson says. “We get referrals from generation to generation. We’re working on a project now that was referred to us by the homeowner’s parents, whose home we had renovated many years earlier.”

Both Richard and Bonnie spend a great deal of time up front getting to know the homeowner. What are their goals and vision? What do they want their living space to say about them? How do they live now, and how do they want to live when the project is complete?

Based on these conversations, Dickson collaborates with John and other trade partners to create the ideal solution. A member of the Dickson staff always accompanies the homeowner to choose appliances, flooring, cabinets and other finishes to not only help them make the best decisions, but to make sure everything arrives on time. “It’s always a pleasure when Bonnie comes into our showroom with one of their clients,” says Heather Winn, lighting manager of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lawrenceville.

Trade Partners Are Valued Extensions of the Dickson Team

They understand how proper lighting can transform a room but also take time to understand each client’s personal style,” Heather notes. “With so many options available today, it can be overwhelming. We partner with the Dickson team to educate homeowners and provide a number of solutions. They’ll come into the showroom with specs and measurements, and visions.”

What happens when a homeowner’s visions need adjustments on-site? Dickson Development rarely takes jobs that are more than 15 minutes from their office to allow someone to be on-site on short notice. “By staying close to Princeton, we can manage and supervise the process, provide quality control, and deliver the kind of customer service homeowners demand when they make a major investment,” says Richard.

Of course, it’s not just proximity to the job site that makes Dickson successful. Dickson works only with trade partners whose expertise, talent and work ethic have been proven time after time. Ultimately, it’s the homeowner who benefits from these relationships.

“I have known Richard Dickson for many, many years and didn’t expect anything less than a stellar experience when we remodeled our entire townhome earlier this year,” says Gail Levitt of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. “There were no surprises, and there was ongoing communication and collaboration. In a matter of days, we picked out almost everything, from the cabinets at Woodhaven Lumber, to the ceramic tiles at Galaxy Tile, to the fixtures at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. “We got incredible service wherever we went.”

Open, Spacious, Bright Kitchen Remodel in Princeton NJA Stake in the Princeton Market

This is not only a reflection of long-term relationships but also of the strong reputation Dickson has built in the Princeton area. “I’ve been working with the same plumber since I started the business 46 years ago,” Richard says. “His father was my father’s plumber. Because we work with the same trade partners on every project, we know the work will be done to our high standards.”

With hundreds of building and renovation projects complete, all within a seven-mile radius, what’s up next for Dickson Development? Certainly not retirement.

“I’m 72 years old, and I still love going to work,” Richard laughs. “Why would I want to stop?”

To schedule a consultation, email info@dicksondevelopment.com or call Richard Dickson at 609-799-0220.

Today’s Discerning Homeowners Want A Peaceful, Open Kitchen

Open Kitchen Remodel - Princeton NJ Contractor - Dickson Development

Clean, clean, clean. Sleek, uncluttered, peaceful and open. Those are the adjectives that best describe the trends in kitchen design these days. And did I mention clean?

The clean and open look, which has been gathering steam for many years, is now going as far as sacrificing cabinet storage for new windows that offer views of nature and give household chefs a feeling of peaceful relief. That single window over the sink? No more. Homeowners tell us that they want sunlight and more sunlight.

“Our clients want their kitchens to be centerpieces in their open layouts. They ask us to take down walls between rooms so that when the chef is hard at work in the kitchen, they don’t feel isolated,” says Richard Dickson

That’s not to say that storage isn’t important. More than half of homeowners believe that adequate storage is the most important feature in the kitchen. So if we’re removing cabinets in favor of windows, where do we find storage? One growing trend is to build separate walk in pantries, which can hold much more dry goods, appliances and kitchenware than cramped cabinets.

Creating Storage in Creative Ways

Kitchen Remodeling Storage Ideas - Dickson Development - PrincetonAnother popular place to hide storage is under the ever-growing kitchen island. In addition to cabinetry, homeowners are also placing microwave ovens and even second refrigerators under the kitchen island.Particularly popular are refrigerated drawers that can be installed next to the sink in an island. Why? You can keep items like fresh produce within easy reach of the sink while saving space in the main refrigerator.

Hiding that microwave is particularly important for the vast majority of people who are trying to keep their counters as uncluttered as humanly possible. And the ever-important electrical outlets and charging stations tend to be recessed or otherwise hidden. Many homeowners today are subtly planting home assistants from Amazon or Google to go along with their voice-controlled appliances.

Quartz vs. Granite: And the Winner Is?

Modern Kitchen Remodel in Princeton, NJSpeaking of those countertops, homeowners today want a sleek, engineered look. And while granite is still popular, increasingly owners are turning to engineered quartz, which is impervious to bacteria and germs and unlikely to be stained by oil, tomatoes, coffee and other common kitchen items. Most importantly, engineered quartz comes in a richer range of color options than can be found in natural stone, including bright greens, blues and yellows.

But even though they can get those richer colors, homeowners tend to be sticking with the white or grey kitchen, particularly for backsplashes, countertops and wall finishes. Some designers are even recommending the same materials for the countertops and the backsplash for an even more minimalist and cleaner aesthetic.

Standing out amongst all the white is jewel-like cabinet hardware that needs to be as functional as it beautiful. Some popular finishes are chrome, polished chrome, nickel, matte stain nickel, lacquered aluminum, gold and coffee. Bright colored cabinetry and warm wood finishes are also emerging as new trends.

Everything Minimalist … Except the Kitchen Sink

Open, Spacious, Bright Kitchen Remodel in Princeton NJThose finishings, however, do not seem to be transitioning to the sink, where most people still prefer a large under-mounted single bowl in stainless steel. While the farm house sink is still somewhat popular, the stainless steel bowl wins the day, particularly since some manufacturers are adding on items such as fitted cutting boards, drying racks and a bottom grid.

Today’s kitchen has emerged as the center of activity in many homes. At the center of many new kitchens is a large island where people gather, prepare food and eat. Many homeowners are even eliminating a traditional kitchen table completely. This is a significant shift in the way we live, and in the way we design kitchens.

To schedule a consultation, email info@dicksondevelopment.com or call Richard Dickson at 609-799-0220.

Prepping Your Home for Nicer Weather

Update your deck for summer - Princeton NJ

With the longer, colder days – hopefully — soon over, now is the time to think about dedicating a sunny weekend day for starting to prep your house for spring and summer.

Some of the best ways to check your home’s post-winter integrity is to grab a pair of binoculars and scan your roof for curling, cracked or missing shingles. Also check for damaged metal flashing around any chimneys, pipes and skylights.

And while you are checking the roof, make sure to scan the rest of your house for any damaged siding, which can be easily fixed. A good scrub brush and sturdy cleanser should eliminate winter dirt and mold on vinyl, aluminum or engineered wood siding. Think about getting your gutters cleaned out, powering washing your siding and checking for any possible winter damage.

Now is also the time to make sure your air conditioning systems are going to be ready. Replace your air conditioner’s filter or have your central air system professionally checked (or maybe think about getting a more energy-efficient system installed). Give us a call for help or referrals for these and other necessary fixes.

Get Your Home Ready for Spring and Summer:

  • Get your deck ready for SummerConsider dedicating a spot in your garage to outdoor sports gear. Sports storage racks – either wall mounted or sitting on the floor — can make the most of your space and keep the complaining down from the kids who can never ever find anything!
  • What about that porch or decking? Summer is the time for outdoor living so make sure to make your outdoor spaces as comfortable as possible with ample seating, fresh cushions and candles. If bugs and mosquitos bother you, consider an overhead fan or have your porch screened in. It may also be time to consider redoing your decking and upgrading to engineered wood.
  • And why not make this the year that you finally invest in the outdoor feature that you and your family have been dreaming about? A fire pit, grilling area, pizza oven, outdoor shower, hot tub … the possibilities are endless and these types of upgrades can add long-term value to your property.

To schedule a consultation, email info@dicksondevelopment.com or call Richard Dickson at 609-799-0220.