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Forsaking Formal - Garito
03/05/2010 - By A.J. Perna

Forsaking Formal - Garito

Photography by AK Photo / Al Kruper

A Long-Time Colts Neck Family is Enjoying Life and Keeping it Casual

When visiting the home of the Garito family for the first time, it may take dinner guests a few minutes, or maybe even a few hours, before realizing that they will not be enjoying their meal in the dining room. That’s because A.J. and Cara Garito  have no dining room! And that is no accident. Cara proudly explains that they are not formal people, so did not want a formal dining room. When the Garito’s entertain, guests spend their time socializing in a kitchen with counter areas and  seating enough for 20, or having a few glasses of A.J.’s home made wine around the custom bar in the finished basement. In the warmer months, they might spill out on to the expansive backyard patio and entertainment area. There just was  never a need for another separate room devoted exclusively to eating.

Having spent most of his life in Colts Neck, A.J. Garito was quite familiar with the nooks and crannies of the town, and where some of the more desirable properties were located. Drawing on this life-long knowledge of the area, in 2001, the  Garito’s purchased a 150-year-old farmhouse on a large, out-of-the-way piece of land, where the family resided for two years while constructing their new home elsewhere on the property.

In 2003, A.J., Cara, and their two children were finally able to take their leave of the old farmhouse, now nothing more than a memory that used to stand where the current driveway ends, and take up residence in a brand new home of their own  design. Quite an inviting sight in cedar shakes and Bucks County fieldstone, the Garito home is a “cozy” 6,700-square-foot delight, designed with family and entertaining in mind.

Life is not just all fun and frolic for the Garito’s - they realize that they are fortunate to live and raise their children in a town as wonderful as Colts Neck, and take every opportunity to give back to the community. From the Colts Neck sports  foundation to the P.T.O.; from the township recreation committee to the local Girl Scouts, this family is involved. Mention the Garito family somewhere in town, and there’s a very good chance that someone within earshot will know exactly who  you are talking about.

The massive fieldstone fireplace gets things heated up on the back deck.





Under an arched entryway, rich African mahogany floors move on past the stairway and through the home. The foyer walls are painted with a finish to give the appearance of old stone.

The spacious kitchen was designed entirely by Cara and is the hub of the home. The built-in double ovens are not in the wall, but tucked under the 2-tiered granite countertop seating area for easy access. The centerpiece of this room is an island topped with  a custom, solid walnut butcher block, designed and built by Cara’s brother-in-law, furniture maker, Charlie Parenteau.


The vanity in the first floor lavatory is made from an antique dresser and is complimented by the whimsical “library” wallpaper.



In the breakfast nook, a deep tray ceiling adorned with a modeled-green
finish dramatically towers above a table made from reclaimed antique
wood, surrounded by four pairs of mismatched chairs.


One of the home’s four fireplaces adds to the warmth and comfort of the family room, which has beamed ceilings that crisscross right up to the edge of the kitchen and great room area.

A brightly lit escape along the side of the home, the sunroom is a place to relax and read, or tickle the ivories of the antique baby grand piano.

The large cupola-topped room above the garage was just a plain room until painters that had been working in the house stumbled upon it. They had the idea to paint the entire room to simulate the inside of a big top circus tent - an idea that A.J. & Cara happily  agreed to let them try. In the planning stages, the artists sat with daughter, Sophie and together they chose the animals and figures that now adorn the walls.



Plenty of good times are spent in the finished basement. With a full bar, fireplace & mantle, as well as a custom shuffleboard game, it’s a wonder that anyone ever leaves!







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