- October 29, 2019
RENOVATING A HERITAGE FARMHOUSE FOR A FAMILY IN THE COUNTRY
This wasn’t a renovation, it was a rescue mission. When these clients purchased this 100-acre property of rolling hills, woods and blueberry farmland, they had dreams of turning the surviving 100-year-old Langley farmstead into a country-style, down-to-earth home for their kids to grow up in.
The farmstead, however, had “tear-down” written all over it. The chimney was crumbling, the staircase was decrepit, the kitchen was crammed, and everything was squeaky—but the family wanted to save it and tasked us with the job of recreating a true historical farmhouse.
Historical farmhouse is very different from a “modern farmhouse,” a look that borrows trendy elements from traditional farmhouses and modern homes (like slapping up antlers, a couple barn doors and calling it a day). No, for this project it was important to both our client and our team that we reject anything stylistically modern and instead dive deep into classical and traditional interior design.
We wanted to preserve the character of the historical Langley farmstead, and so we kept things that were quirky, like the ceilings and the smaller rooms so the home would still feel quite traditional.
DIY Breakfast Nook
There was a balcony on the second floor of this reverse-plan home (bedrooms on the bottom, public areas on top) that had the best views of the blueberry farm and the horse barn, so we walled it in and turned it into a large breakfast nook right off the kitchen. We did a patterned concrete tile in classic black and white, and wallpapered the room in newsprint featuring 1950s farm advertisements.
The family loves horses, and so here, as in other areas of the house, we wove in a few equestrian touches: the light fixture above the table is a lacquered brass with saddle-like leather straps. We also incorporated two roomy plaid chairs in this multifunctional space so the kids could have breakfast, or dad could sip his coffee, and the homeowners told us that everybody fights for these chairs in the morning.
The Green Kitchen
This bright nook rolls right into the green and brick galley kitchen. The colour was actually the homeowner’s request, she had found this historical photo of a green kitchen and fell in love with it. But the green we chose wasn’t a trendy forest green, but a lighter, fresher, Cushing Green from Benjamin Moore (www.benjaminmoore.com) that feels very vintage East Coast.
We kept the original layout and restored the kitchen’s 100-year-old floors. To make it feel even older, we designed copper wire-front cabinets, wrapped the hood fan in brick and used hand-chiseled black stone on the countertops. There are modern appliances and it is a state of the art kitchen for cooking, but this green, black and brown kitchen still feels authentically heritage.
There’s something about using warmer tones that’s very disarming. When you enter the home and it’s not all pristine and white and soft grey, you feel like you’re not scared to sit on the counter. We knew we were designing a home for a literally growing family (the couple had one young child with plans for more) and a growing family needs a home that can get used and abused and still look good.
Incorporating salvaged vintage pieces both from their farm and others was another way to inject that authentic note of heritage into the home. The white oak dining room table, with its base of old saw-mill machinery, was a custom collaboration between our team and the homeowners. A mix of seating, like reupholstered wing-backs, cane chairs and a low bench, surrounds the table, and we coupled that with plain linen drapery and an industrial light fixture. The room is completely understated—it’s not overly decorated and it feels very inviting.
The Great Room
There was a barn on the property that needed to be ripped down because it was unsafe, and so we salvaged the wood and reused it as cladding all over the house. You can see the multi-brown planks in the dining room and into the living room, which we paired with the home’s original shiplap on the ceiling. The homeowner’s own dark-cigar coloured leather sofas look right at home next to a salvaged black-linen trunk table, and a pair of re-upholstered wing-back chairs. The large-scale Cash and Carry sign and the Edison lightbulb barrel light in the ceiling are just a few special touches to age up the space. The M on the fireplace, like the first letter of the family’s surname, was a piece we plucked from Napier’s Country Antiques in Langley. Overall, we wanted this room to feel like it was grand in size, but feel intimate and cozy.
Having Fun with the Design in the Master Bedroom & Bathroom
The master bathroom used to be a closet, so it’s not huge. And when something isn’t huge, it’s a bit like short-person syndrome, where they have big personalities to compensate for their modest stature; we wanted the bathroom, despite its size, to really have a kick. We chose periwinkle blue on the Old World Cabinets (www.oldworldkitchens.com) to make it feel youthful and fresh, and then juxtaposed it with heritage details. We added brick, shiplap ceilings, more of the salvaged barn wood around the mirror, and on the floor, what looks like a paint-distressed wood is actually a durable ceramic replica.
We knew the kids were probably going to have baths in this room, so to make the space more playful and set it apart from the other rooms, we installed a fun modern light fixture above the bathtub. If you have a fully traditional house and you add just one contemporary piece into it, that piece really stands out and has more weight to it.
Not a Modern Farmhouse, a Modernized Farmhouse
You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but the home has wine fridges, new heat, air conditioning, every bell and whistle, every modern tech convention, every single thing you could ever want, but it’s all under the guise of being completely historical.
The family wanted a simpler life in the country, so we worked closely with them to build a timeless historic farm home, where nothing is too precious for their growing household; every space feels indestructible and looks effortlessly chic.