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Peek Inside This Colonial Revival Home Redesign in Chester County

Photos by Jeffrey Totaro

A reimagined design with an emphasis on craftsmanship and spaciousness breathes new life into a classic Chester County abode.

From the outside, the home still possessed the considerable charm of an iconic southeastern Pennsylvania farmhouse—this one designed in 1931 by R. Brognard Okie, an architect celebrated for his meticulously detailed Colonial Revival style. Inside, views of the Chester County countryside were obscured by an awkward addition. The kitchen was cramped and isolated in the interior of the home. And the only way to get from one side of the house to the other was a circuitous path through the butler’s pantry and formal dining room.

The owners were looking for a design that would create a foundation for the next chapter of their lives. Recent empty nesters, they wanted to be prepared to welcome back adult children and their expanding families with a more functional and comfortable layout. “They also wanted the renovated home to accommodate a large number of guests for social functions, yet still provide spaces that feel intimate and comfortable for just the two of them,” says Archer & Buchanan’s Alex Rice, the project architect.

Large windows and French and sliding doors essentially create a wall of glass along the back of the house.

Okie’s clients included a Supreme Court justice, a U.S. attorney general and a governor of Delaware. He restored the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, his own home in Devon, and scores of houses and churches around the region. Celebrated writer Joseph Hergesheimer was so obsessed with Okie’s 1925 renovation of his West Chester home that he wrote a book about it called From an Old House.

Fitted raised-panel cabinets in the butler’s pantry are accented with hammered wrought-iron knobs and pulls, an Okie signature.

Archer & Buchanan approached the project with its typical philosophy of stewardship, focusing on quality craftsmanship and a design that respects the home’s architectural roots. The plan called for taking down a dysfunctional addition, making modest revisions of the original space, and creating an ambitious new space to give the owners the natural light, easy flow and unobstructed views they lacked.

Though the clients were focused on the first floor, a one-story fix wasn’t esthetically compatible with the rest of the farmhouse. Rice’s elegant solution involved a space with a soaring ceiling that has the look of a two-story addition. Timber-frame construction, simple yet lovely queen-post trusses, and reclaimed wood and stone emulate the look and feel of a colonial farmhouse. “The vaulted ceiling achieved several of the owners’ goals while becoming a natural extension of the Okie esthetic,” Rice says. “By dropping the cornice line and using the quintessential Okie half-dormers as additional windows serving the vaulted spaces below, we created a design filled with dramatic daylight from every direction throughout the day.”

“The vaulted ceiling achieved several of the owners’ goals while becoming a natural extension of the Okie esthetic.”
—Architect Alex Rice

The result is a cheerful open concept with a well-appointed kitchen and a large porch-style dining niche. A soaring fieldstone fireplace anchors a comfy seating area for conversation or watching television. In the adjoining service areas, fitted raised-panel cabinets in the butler’s pantry are accented with hammered wrought-iron knobs and pulls, an Okie signature. A combined mudroom and breezeway has a window seat, a built-in bookcase with drawers, and a pierced colonial-style cupboard. Multiple access points enhance the flow, including a new side entry at the mudroom. A covered, screened porch can be accessed from the breakfast area or the family room.

While the previous addition blocked sightlines, the new space provides 270-degree views of the seven-acre property. Large windows and French and sliding doors essentially create a wall of glass along the back of the house, with views of the surrounding landscape and a pool house located just down a gentle slope from the house.

“For most of the year, the owners are treated to the setting sun shining beautiful golden light into the kitchen, family room and informal dining porch,” says Rice.

Eileen Smith Dallabrida

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