Photo Courtesy John Gruen
When architect Rafe Churchill built a farmhouse in Sharon, Connecticut in 2012, the intention was to create a house that appeared historical in scale and proportion while offering modern amenities. This harmonious fusion of old and new is what Churchill refers to as the "new old house", which his firm has become known for designing.
The home is quite charming, sitting in the midst of an expansive and minimally landscaped meadow. Minimalism is part of what helps to create the modern historic aesthetic, both indoors and out.
When asked how Churchill designed the home to look like a traditional farmhouse with a more modern look, he responded, "We were looking at Shaker architecture. We were interested in designing a house loosely based on Shaker design, but we wanted to design a house that would still be very much a family house. We also considered classic farmhouses built around 1900 as a great example of simple and functional design. The modern look seems to be mostly found in the Shaker details such as handrails, cabinets, millwork, and of course in the roof which is mounted with solar panels."
The mixture of old and new works really beautifully in this home, which has a warm yet clean look throughout. Natural materials are used, which bring a rustic, old-fashioned feel to the rooms. Churchill explains, "Most of the house has Southern Yellow Pine floors. The first floor has Bona Naturale as the sealer, while the upper levels are painted with a high gloss industrial paint. The mudroom floor is tiled with re-sawn brick."
Vintage lighting from PW Vintage Lighting in Great Barrington, MA was used in the home. Churchill explains, "It was our goal to find authentic lighting that had an obvious patina and simplicity. Sometimes the only way to achieve this is to use the real thing."
The creative use of pleasing but somewhat offbeat colors is another way that Churchill brought a more modern look to the farmhouse, with its light pumpkin orange exterior, apple green living room, bright yellow kitchen and bright yellow mouldings in the dining room. The ceiling of the screened-in porch is painted a rich blue, and other unique colors are used throughout the interior of the house.
Energy efficiency was high on the list of priorities for the new farmhouse. Churchill explains, "There is a 10 kilowatt solar array on the roof. The house has geothermal wells for heating, rainwater collection, SIP's wall systems, and HRV systems. There is no propane in the house. All appliances and the geothermal system are run by electricity which is mostly powered by the solar panels." This part of the project was not new to Churchill, as in recent years he had designed and built the first LEED-certified house and the first Net Zero house in Western Connecticut.
When asked if there were any challenges with the project, Churchill explained, "The biggest challenge was building a new house that looked authentic and historically accurate. The house is often mistaken for a renovated farmhouse."
The 4,500 square foot house took nine months to build. Aside from the main home there is also a barn, two sheds and a pool.