Monday, April 7, 2008

Style Guide: New England Farmhouse

A Vermont couple rehabilitated their 1792 home with attention to historical accuracy as well as health and environmental concerns.

Seventeen years ago, a married couple purchased this Federal-period house in rural Vermont. Once part of a large dairy farm, the 1792 farmhouse and 55-acre property represented the best of both worlds, since the wife wanted an old house and the husband wanted some land.

As time passed, however, she realized that she was getting sick fairly regularly and that her allergies were especially bothersome whenever she spent a lot of time at the house. After hiring an environmental engineer, the couple discovered that the damp, inadequately insulated dwelling was plagued by 200 years' worth of mold and other allergens.

To remedy the problem, the homeowners set out to make their house "healthy" as well as to restore it. In addition to disinfecting the entire structure and installing custom windows, they brought wiring up to code and installed cotton insulation instead of fiberglass. They also removed lead-based paint products from walls, floors, and woodwork, and then finished them with all-natural paints, sealers, and stains.

Let's go inside and see how a faithful restoration can also be a healthy one.

Front Hall

Stripped and refinished with water-based paint products that are free of fungicides and chemical additives, the entry hall's pine floorboards and pale, unadorned walls help to establish the understated, clean-lined look that prevails throughout this Federal farmhouse.

Nuetral shades of cream and white play off one another in the hall and the Vermont sunlight modulates the walls and floors. Oriental rugs lend a little color to the spare decor. The dining room is visible beyond.


In honor of the wife's favorite author, the homeowners playfully refer to the comfortable parlor as the Edith Wharton Reading Room. The parlor's Federal-style mantel, designed by Weather Hill Restoration to replace one installed in the room during the Victorian era, supports framed antique botanicals and a luster-decorated pitcher.

The overstuffed traditional furnishings are covered in complementary florals and plaids. A striped rug underfoot pulls the decorative scheme together.


Designed by architect Jeffrey Barnes in collaboration with Weather Hill Restoration, the kitchen reflects the house's 18th-century roots without sacrificing the benefits of modern conveniences. The pine cabinets feature a rich forest-green painted finish. The cherry countertops are protected with a nontoxic sealer.

As in the dining room, the original rough-hewn ceiling beams were exposed; the multi-paned windows and plankwood flooring are also true to the period. In the room's center, local Vermont marble tops the island where the components for a wholesome picnic feast are arranged on a wooden dough board.

Garden Room

French doors form the outer wall of the garden room, which was added to the kitchen during the restoration. Pine ladder-back chairs surround an American hutch table found in Vermont.

Although the homeowners were told that checkerboard floors weren't common during the period their house was built, they decided to toss historical accuracy to the wind in this one instance. "No matter how much you consult with architects and interior designers, if you have a strong feeling about what is going to make you happy you should do it," the wife advises.


The bedroom upstairs has the airy, floral feeling of a garden bower. The wife combed design stores for nearly five months before she decided on the bedroom's floral-patterned wallpaper. "It's the kind of dreamy paper that looks as though its been there for 100 years," she says.

Cherry beds, a pine bureau, and a painted wire bench outfit the bedroom, one of two guest rooms situated on the second floor. Furnishings are kept simple to minimize dust and allergens. Antique quilts decorate the beds, and the windows are left unadorned, the better to admit the bright sunshine.


Located on a quiet rural road, the three-bedroom clapboard dwelling features two brick chimneys. Built on to the rear of the house, the small pitched-roof addition off the kitchen functions as a mudroom. A flowering crab apple tree provides shade for a garden patio. A wrought-iron table with heart-motif side chairs is ready for outdoor entertaining.

During the restoration of the house, the old windows were removed and replaced with custom-made thermal windows fitted with vintage glass. The new windows not only look beautiful, they will last forever.


Anonymous said...

The house is very nice but definitely looks like a new “early American” interior built inside of four old walls. Not a true restoration.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful house that provided me some good inspiration!

capecodder said...

Beautiful job, and inspiring. How much did it run you to have custom made thermal windows with vintage glass? Curious because we want to replace the windows on our 1812 farmhouse, but love the waves & imperfections in the old glass.