This Colorful Country House Turns ‘Farmhouse Chic’ on Its Head

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For many, Dirt Road Farm in Weston, Connecticut, has reached something of mythic notoriety. The 1830s saltbox house and barn sit on a 5½-acre farm that boasts a verdant orchard frequented by resident honeybees, winding berry patches and herb gardens, many chickens, and a flourishing 425-tap maple syrup operation. Manhattanites in search of an escape from city life return each season to enjoy a legendary farm-to-table barn supper, put on by the farm’s stewards, farmer-chef Phoebe Cole-Smith and her husband, former NHL executive Mike Smith. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it became harder and more costly to keep up with everything. “Of course we could’ve one day shut down the maple syrup operation, stopped creating the barn suppers and events, consolidated the gardens and grown less, given the chickens and bees away,” Cole-Smith wrote in enthusiast publication Edible Vineyard. “Or we could pass the proverbial baton…. That is precisely what we did.”

house tour

William Jess Laird

The saltbox house sits on a 5½-acre farm.

Cole-Smith and her husband sold the farm to a Brooklyn-based couple who planned to use it as a country escape from the city for a year or two before moving in as full-time stewards of the farm. But before that happened, the pair wanted to make it their own. In particular, they were looking for an aesthetic that was “bright and playful, rooted in tradition but with a strong mix of vintage and new.”

“I like to use unexpected color combinations that take a backseat to what else is happening in the room.”

Interior designer and fellow Brooklynite, Jenna Chused, was just the person for the job. Not only is Chused a self-described rummager (the designer runs the shop Antik, a chicly curated selection of her vintage finds), her interiors embrace colorful moments, but with restraint. “I don’t shock with color,” Chused explains. “I like to use unexpected color combinations that take a backseat to what else is happening in the room.”

For the four-bedroom, four-bathroom farmhouse project, however, she needed to deftly translate the client’s color-happy brief to 200-year-old interiors. “English country looks great with these really bright colors in a photoshoot,” Chused explains, recalling a few inspirational images the homeowners were referencing. “But it’s another question if you want to live, day to day, with a bright blue kitchen.”

Chused opted to create refined rustic spaces that still maintain all the hallmarks of a classic farmhouse—but with a flirtatious edge. She eschewed played-out modern farmhouse hallmarks (think weathered-everything and sliding barn doors) in favor of audacious color choices. A bathroom, for instance, got a hit of that bright blue with a bold floral wallpaper hung above dark gray wainscoting. The kitchen, with its green painted floor, became “one of the best things in the house,” Chused says. The home’s true showstopper, however, is what Chused has dubbed the fire room, a small L-shaped snug with a fireplace at the center, which she doused in sultry burgundy lacquer for a jolt of drama.

house tour

William Jess Laird

In the dining room, the custom banquette features cushions in a C&C Milano fabric and is surrounded by vintage Dutch leather and walnut chairs.

One of the trickiest spaces to tackle was the dining room, which the client envisioned as the default hangout room for the many guests she plans to invite. Chused’s solution was a long banquette, upholstered in a C&C Milano stripe, that wraps around a long dining table, facing the living room and fireplace. The subdued textiles lend sophistication to a jack-of-all trades nook. “It has like 18 uses,” Chused says. “A kid can sit at the banquet and work on an art project, someone else could be watching TV on the couch, another reading in the corner—and at the end of the day, as many as 12 people can gather around the table for dinner.”

a room with a table and chairs

Courtesy of William Jess Laird

The fire room features a library nook, a game table, and a mini home bar moment. But the room’s finest true personality comes from the little vignettes. “I love that little weird man by the bar area,” Chused laughs.

The home’s true personality comes in the little vignettes Chused created from vintage finds. In the fire room, there’s a rare Mathieu Matégot tray she found at an antique market, a charcoal sketch, and a small woven badge mounted in a fire-orange matte that she found at an estate sale of a recently deceased artist, along with a plaster statue from the ’50s. “I love that little weird man by the bar area,” she laughs. “And then there’s a modern piece of artwork alongside an old portrait. That’s the sort of mix that I love.”

Four years since the Covid pandemic first hit, Dirt Road Farm embarks on its second chapter, in the hands of new stewards who knew just whom to call to make it the home of their dreams. The garden blooms are just starting to emerge, the birds have returned to their nests in the orchard, and the barn doors have reopened with the promise of for similarly convivial gatherings. “It’s whimsical, it’s charming, it’s something truly special,” Chused adds.

Headshot of Rachel Silva

Rachel Silva, the Assistant Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends, and anything to do with haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Citywire.

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