The Challenge – Preserve The History Of A Century Old Farmhouse While Bringing It Into Modern Times

Posted on | June 13, 2017 | No Comments

Across the country, homeowners are choosing to revisit a simpler time by adding classic farmhouse elements to their homes. In North Carolina, our agricultural roots run deep, and actual century-old farmhouses are in every town. The challenge with these homes is to preserve their history, while bringing them into modern times. Today’s featured home is an example of how superbly this feat can be accomplished in the right hands. Sean Sullivan, owner of Asheville’s celebrated design build firm Living Stone Construction, explained to North Carolina Design how he gave the homeowners the fairy tale renovation they were long awaiting.

Images Courtesy of Living Stone Construction ©

The homeowners loved the home, and for good reason. “It was a Farmhouse style home, which is the most popular style in the country right now,” says Sean. “The house was 110 years old, and it had an incredible amount of character and charm. It’s in a spectacular location. There’s a farm across the street, and you can see the Seven Sisters range from one angle, and the Craggy Mountains from another angle.”

“The homeowners had lived in the house for years. They raised their three kids there. The husband, David, spent years dreaming of more space. When he contacted me about this project I was surprised. I said, ‘you’re pretty much empty nesters – now you decide to expand?’ David had this really great vision of a home with three separate, yet connected spaces. His wife, Berdjette, who is of Swiss descent, had a vision of a home with elements of Old World European farm life.”

“The house had all kinds of structural issues,” observes Sean. “It was leaning, and needed reinforcing. The roof was leaking, and had to be reframed from the inside out.” To add space, Sean built new additions, which he incorporated directly into the old house. Following David’s vision, the home now has three sections: the left section is the old house; the right section features a detached garage, an office, and an apartment; and the middle section, which connects the left and right, features a sitting room.

The home offers an abundance of classic Old World delights. The cantilevered Juliet balcony off the master suite is a perfect spot to enjoy the view. The screened-in sleeping porch – complete with a hanging bed – is an ideal place for an outdoor nap.  The patio, which features rustic stone steps and walls and includes an old Swiss pizza oven, is a charming and tranquil place to relax outdoors. The homeowners’ goats and chickens do their part to add a true sense of pastoral Europe.

Small details throughout the home add to its charm and reflect its history. “You have some industrial elements, like the steel Juliet balcony,”  explains Sean. “Then, you have the abundance of wood and exposed brick. The master bath has shiplap on the ceiling, and has ceramic tile planks that look like whitewashed wood. The kitchen has shiplap everywhere, including the peninsula. The door to the laundry room is an old barn door.  We kept the brick from the old chimney, and used it as a kitchen accent wall.”

Sean also relied on details to bridge the old space and the new spaces. “In any project, the key to pulling everything together is to repeat elements just often enough, and in just the right way. In this house, we kept the old brick chimneys and then incorporated some new brick that’s slightly different, but complements the old brick. Laura Sullivan, from ID.ology Interior Design, did an exceptional job finding materials that were similar enough to provide continuity, but different enough to add interest.”

Of course, there are wholly new elements to the home that make it comfortable for modern living. “The home is fully insulated, and it’s built to Energy Star specifications and green build specifications,” says Sean. “The windows match the old windows, but they’re are all new. This was a really fun project to work on. It was like taking a step back in time, while still staying firmly in this century. And it was a dream realized, in many ways.”

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