Inside a Modernized Litchfield Farmhouse
It’s difficult to rival the historic charm of a circa 1740s farmhouse. But the real star of the show at the restored Hidden Hollow home in the rolling countryside of Litchfield County is the land itself. In charge of the project, husband and wife team Devin O’Neill and Faith Rose of O'Neill Rose Architects merged and updated the home interior with the natural beauty of the property, especially a large pond that sits below the farmhouse. Mission accomplished.
“When we started the project,” explains O’Neill, “our client knew that she wanted to make the house more usable and to create a connection between the house and the land.”
The home owner, a noted philanthropist, art patron, collector and advocate for art education, wanted the four-bedroom, two-bathroom house to be a place for her family to spend time comfortably and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. She wanted a home that is well used, with children and grandchildren romping to and from the farmhouse to play soccer in the yard, or swim and boat in the pond.
“Someone said it seems a little like Switzerland,” says the home owner. “We have so much privacy. The renovations gave us much more room and visually opened everything up to the surrounding land. We have as many as 12 to 14 people at once using the house in the summertime, and now we have everything we need.”
The architect couple tastefully and skillfully altered the interior perspective of the two-story house from one that faces the fields to the east (and an obligatory red New England barn) to one that embraces the water, a stand of tall pines beyond the pond, and the large yard that slopes to the water’s edge.
Key to the design’s success was the addition of a large (12-by-55-foot) screened porch that extends along the eastern side of the house. It is supported on piers so not to affect the wetlands. Screen panels can be replaced with glazed panels to allow the space to be used in colder weather. A large sliding window allows access to the kitchen, where a white marble counter extends into the porch for use as an exterior table.
A new open porch along the south side of the house and new large windows in the living room help reorient the house to the pond. A lovely touch is a swinging bed suspended in the open porch, which allows for sleeping outside or merely whiling away the days in sweet reverie. Within the house, every major access aligns with a view to the outside.
Low stone walls located around the house echo the radial structure typical of farmhouses of the era, when central hearths with fireplaces opened on three sides and stone chimneys functioned as the main support for the floor joists that radiated out from them. The architects and builder also created large openings in the house’s exterior walls to help blur the boundary between inside and outside.
As with any project involving a very old house, there were challenges along the way. “Many of the challenges came from the fact that the house is more than 200 years old,” notes O’Neill. “Our contractor, Richard McCue, skillfully balanced the charming older elements of the house with a modern design.”
Great care was taken to reuse salvageable original elements of the house. New exterior rooms are all built on minimal piers or existing rock walls to prevent disturbance of the nearby wetlands. Existing wide-plank flooring removed at the ground floor level was reinstalled along the dining room and kitchen wall, a brilliant touch that preserves the historic feel of the home. Exterior walls and the roof were filled with closed-cell, sprayed insulation to reduce energy use. The roof of the barn has solar panels.
At this 270-year-old farmhouse, something old is new again, heralding a new era of hosting friends and family for years to come, all in rooms with a view.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Lake Effect.