Photographs by Angle Eye Photography
Nancy and David Michener were looking for a home that exuded Old World charm and blended seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. It would be something of a retreat for them—one with a modern interior for entertaining friends and family.
To strike a harmonious balance, the couple turned to Period Architecture’s Joseph Mackin Jr. Together, they conceived a design that looks as though it might have stood when George Washington’s troops fought at the Battle of Brandywine. The exterior of their 5,000-square-foot Chadds Ford, Pa., home is the perfect complement to five acres of woodlands and meadows, while the inside features a modern open floor plan. “We really wanted to have quiet and privacy,” says Nancy. “We were looking for something that would look like it fit this area and had been here for a long time.”
The couple decided on a Georgian-style farmhouse with the end-wall chimneys and coined stone corners indicative of the late 18th century. Mackin sourced Pennsylvania fieldstone, which was carefully placed by a stonemason. The couple also opted for a cedar shake roof. “It’s a very warm, classic look,” says Mackin.
Unlike farmhouses more typical of the time, “there’s a degree of formality in the design,” says Mackin. “We have a very classical cornice with dental molding, and that would be a sign that this was a more successful landowner or person in the day.”
To add to the authenticity, Mackin designed the home to look as if it had “grown over time.” As such, the garage appears to be a later addition, in keeping with how homes would’ve expanded over 200 years ago.
For all its Old World charm, the Michener’s home is very much in keeping with 21st-century sensibilities. The third-floor boasts a row of dormers that bring in plenty of natural light. The space can be used as bedroom suite or an office. Outfitted as a home gym, the finished basement could also serve as a bedroom suite, thanks to its full bath and fireplace. “[The house is] very open on the interior, which people are surprised to find when they walk in,” says Mackin. “Typically, older homes are very compartmentalized.”
Once fans of lavish dinner parties, Nancy and David now favor a more intimate setting. “It was important for us to have a good flow,” says Nancy.
The kitchen and living room feel like one large open area, demarcated by a pillared bench. “We wanted to create spaces that had their own identity and, at the same time, felt like one continuous space,” Mackin says.
In the kitchen, the formal dining table is most often used for entertaining and family gatherings. A large granite-topped center island provides additional seating. “We wanted a very open and beautiful kitchen,” says Nancy. “It’s the hub of the house.”
A spacious walk-in pantry with a sliding door and window houses the oven, warming tray and microwave. “We love it because, whenever we’re entertaining, everybody’s walking around the island and it’s really hard to get things in and out of the oven,” says Nancy.
The refrigerator and freezer are enclosed in cabinetry and fitted with panel doors. “It was important for us to find a way to symmetrically place those,” says Nancy.
A granite-topped work counter sits between the fridge and freezer, providing balance. Beam detailing on the ceiling makes the kitchen “feel more comfortable and intimate,” says Mackin.
A screened-in porch overlooks the sweeping vistas of woodlands and meadows. Mackin created paneling on the bottom so passersby can’t see in but those on the porch can see out. Nancy and David dine and entertain there in the warm months. “Joe really thought out the placement so it has great views from all sides,” says Nancy.
All in all, the Michener home is a true blend of past and present. “We’re enjoying a lot of the features that would be typical of the Georgian style, while incorporating [elements] that wouldn’t have existed in that period,” says Nancy.