A New Hampshire Farmhouse
November 18, 2016
In New Hampshire, the landscape spoke—and everybody listened.
Text by Maria LaPiana Photography by Greg Premru Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent
The family had been summering in southern New Hampshire for years. They came with the kids, with friends and family, for the swimming and kayaking on pristine lakes, for the music, the theater, the quaint small towns—and for the captivating views of Mount Monadnock.
They were charmed by everything the region has to offer, especially the sense of community. Three years ago, with the children growing up fast and retirement on the horizon, the couple decided to put down roots. They found the perfect parcel, one that served up a generous slice of the New Hampshire life they’d grown to love. It was vast, at 340 acres, yet it felt cozy, too. The 1930s farmhouse was surrounded by meadows, woodlands, stone walls. It offered what garden designer Gordon Hayward describes as “comfort . . . the kind that comes from a feeling of safety and enclosure.”
While the house that stood on the property had its charms, there were a few too many flaws: rooms that were gracious in size but with low ceilings, small windows that didn’t take advantage of views. The couple didn’t need more space so much as better space. They did the math on a total renovation and decided to build new. The wife says they wanted a home that looked like it belonged—but “nothing too big or too precious.” They could have put the house anywhere but chose to build on the original footprint. “We liked its nice proximity to the quiet road,” she says.
Architect Sheldon Pennoyer delivered a home in sync with its surroundings. He calls it a “traditional New England farmhouse with a modern plan that connects the built environment to the natural one.”
“Things unfolded in a very natural way,” says the wife, thanks to the talents of all who had a hand in building the home—from Pennoyer and builder Tim Groesbeck, to interior designer Cameron Schwabenton, to Hayward, who executed the captivating landscape design.
For starters, Pennoyer really listened. “We love that he walked the property with us,” the homeowner says. His design met every need: four bedrooms and four baths, open areas, rooms for retreat—and then some. “We created an informal set of spaces reminiscent of summer cottage living for the living room, dining room, kitchen, and screened porch,” the architect says.
In New England, where spirits are plentiful, “the to be the weather. “We started around Thanksgiving, and it’s a pretty exposed site, up high,” says Groesbeck. As trees came down, prevailing winds from the west picked up. “By the time we were done, we saw Vermont,” he says.
Having already proved her mettle as the designer for the family’s house on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island, Cameron Schwabenton was called in early on to choose colors and surfaces. “She was delightful; we showed her pictures, and she created something that felt like us,” the wife remembers.
In keeping with the New Hampshire landscape, the interiors are “quiet, warm, and bright,” says Schwabenton. “They’re authentic, inspired by my clients’ dreams—with a creative touch of the unexpected. The design balances masculine and feminine, the past and present, and a sense of place.”
Schwabenton used lots of antiques and custom American-made pieces within a restful palette of neutrals and blues. Texture and a judicious use of color add warmth to the space. There’s a farmhouse feel throughout, especially in the living room, where comfortable seating focuses on the fireplace and views, and in the cozy study with its warm browns and grays, woods, midcentury upholstery, and antiques.
For his part, garden designer Hayward “got it” from the get-go. He says the first step in his process is always to “find a meeting point between the people, the house, and the land.” Once those three are in a sound relationship, he says, the appropriate design can emerge. This particular plan called for myriad outdoor spaces enclosed by classic stone walls done by the expert hand of Debra Shelley, of Jaffrey, New Hampshire’s Shelley Masonry. (Not far away on the property, master dry stone wall builder Dan Snow also designed and built an eighty-foot-long vegetable garden with five-foot-high walls, in the shape of a pumpkin seed.)
All enclosed spaces should be informed by the size of interior rooms, says Hayward; it’s orientation that inspires purpose. In this case, the north side is all about arrival. Bluestone walkways and an opening in the stone wall beckon visitors to “come this way.”
The east side is an extension of the understated home. There, fine outdoor furniture sits in the protection of the house itself. A fabulous screened porch is sited to the west. It’s a less formal space, where stepping-stones guide the way through a shade garden. And to the south, an extraordinary vista of a fifty-acre meadow unfolds before your eyes.
The plantings—all low-maintenance, with hardy good looks designed to endure New Hampshire’s long winters—were chosen last. Because the “entry experience” called for separation from a sitting area, for example, Hayward planted Stewartia, small flowering trees that create a semi-transparent screen.
At the end of the day, the home and its surroundings embody the essence of New Hampshire, Hayward says: “Big views from cozy places.”
Architecture: Sheldon Pennoyer, Sheldon Pennoyer Architects
Interior design: Cameron Schwabenton, Cameron Stewart
Builder: Tim Groesbeck, Groesbeck Construction
Landscape design: Gordon Hayward, Hayward Gardens