Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Inner Workings

A traditional farmhouse belies its technological advances



John Gruen

For Rafe Churchill, the bright-yellow farmhouse he designed in Sharon isn’t about the sustainable technology that he and his brother concealed when building the home. It’s about the traditional look and feel that you can’t miss. “This being a farm property, we wanted to design a house in a setting that was appropriate because the owners do have plans to develop the property for small farming use and permaculture,” Churchill says. 

Churchill, a third-generation builder who owns Churchill Brothers, LLC, with his brother Seth, modeled the home after an early-1900s–style, center-hall colonial farmhouse. While Rafe runs the design studio, his brother manages most of the construction work. They started building this home in April 2011 and finished just nine months later. 

The brothers have been doing sustainable-building projects for several years, and Rafe says it’s not as challenging as one might think. “If you design responsibly and follow by building responsibly, you’re really halfway there,” he says. Sticking with the original design is something Rafe says is imperative for containing costs and usually leaves clients happier in the end. Staying “on plan,” he says, is something that set these clients apart from others. Having worked with the Churchill brothers on a sustainable townhouse in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, the family asked them to do their country home. 

“They came to us and said, ‘We want a very simple house, a house for us to use on the weekends and maybe for longer stays in the summer, and we don’t want our kids to have huge bedrooms with private baths. We want the family to spend time together,’” says Rafe. 

With that in mind, Rafe based the design of the four-bedroom, 2½-bath home on a traditional plan, with minor modifications to allow for a little more room in the common spaces because sharing those spaces is important to the family. Says Rafe, “If you’re inviting people to your house to spend time with you, why are they locked away in a thousand-square-foot suite when really they should be in the common areas together?”

In contrast to its traditional layout, the home also has some very up-to-date features. Solar panels on the roof basically offset all of the home’s electricity costs. Geothermal wells and heat pumps allow for radiant heat. Rainwater cisterns provide water for irrigation, filling the fresh-water pool, and flushing toilets. The home is also so well insulated that outside noise doesn’t permeate indoor spaces, nor can even a breeze be felt coming through the windows or doors as it would be in a drafty old farmhouse. 

“These homes are built so tight that we had to provide air systems that bring in fresh air to allow the kitchen hood to actually function correctly,” says Rafe. As mentioned, the house is equipped with all the latest technology, though it is hidden from view. “The house isn’t designed around the technology, the technology is designed around the house,” he adds. 

The simple, modest design seen from the outside is something the family also wanted to replicate for the interior of the home. That’s why they turned to Rafe’s wife, Heide Hendricks, who owns Reservoir, an interior design company and who decorated the homeowners’ townhouse in Brooklyn. Hendricks says the clients clicked with her passion for finding unique and vintage items and liked her design eye. 

When researching with the clients, Hendricks discovered their interest in Shaker aesthetic. “While they really responded to the uncluttered, well-organized flow of Shaker rooms, we strove to appropriate that. But they also loved furnishings with character and a natural patina,” says Hendricks. “Likewise, it was important for them to not source the stuff from across the country.” 

Hendricks says with a few exceptions, she was able to get most of the furnishings from within 75 miles of Sharon. She found wooden cannon-ball beds for the kids’ rooms at an estate sale, and the wrought-iron beds on the porch came from Hob Nail Iron Beds in Pawling. A cabinet in the powder room came from the Millerton Antiques Center, and a New England elk hide hanging over the living-room sofa was produced in Woodbury. (The animal died a natural death, we’re told.)

While most of the rooms in the home have the same textured, plaster walls and sparse furnishings, a couple of others stray from those motifs. One is the television room, which is filled with bright, vibrant patterns. The mudroom, with its pine walls, also stands out. Hendricks laughs as she says it was always supposed to be like a man cave. “You have the massive, worn-leather chair and the wood stove, and typically there’s a giant pile of fire wood.” The floor of the mudroom also contrasts with the rest of the home. Instead of the Southern yellow pine found in a lot of Shaker buildings, the mudroom floor is made of reclaimed bricks.

Like those bricks and many of the home’s fixtures, Rafe says the owners also intend to reclaim the property’s surrounding farmland—a project that will span the next few years. “They didn’t have a landscape company just come in and do a start-to-finish before they moved in,” says Rafe of his clients’ unique vision. “This is something that they want to see evolve, and I think that’s true of the house itself. They want to live in it, they want to adapt to it.” n

 

Connect With Us    

Sign-up for our event 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

December 2017

The Smithy Store will host a complimentary coffee and chocolate pairing event on Sunday, December 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 featuring Zero Prophet Coffee and Plum Brook Chocolate. ...

Cost: free

Where:
The Smithy Store
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Carol
Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

SHEPAUG TO STAGE THE 1940s RADIO HOUR OPENING NIGHT – FRIDAY DECEMBER 8 WASHINGTON, CT,  November 5, 2017 – Shepaug Dramatics is proud to bring The 1940s Radio Hour to the stage...

Cost: $10 Per Ticket, $5 for Seniors and Veterans

Where:
Shepaug Valley School
159 South Street
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Shepaug Valley School
Telephone: 203-770-1891
Contact Name: Julie King
Website »

More information

St. Michael’s Parish will present Candlelight Advent Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 10, beginning at 4pm.   St. Michael's Parish, illuminated by candles, provides a...

Cost: Freewill Offering

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: St. Michael's-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-4456
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Department of Theatre Arts will present "Happy Holiday from Irving Berlin: A Musical Revue" in the MainStage Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside...

Cost: $7-15

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

December 1st - December 30th The show opens with a reception on Saturday, December 2nd from 11AM to 4PM.  The Fine Line Art Gallery’s Holiday Art Show 'Miniature...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sodexo will host a Hot Chocolate Bar with Toppings from 1 to 4 p.m. in the WCSU Student Center Restaurant on the university's Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Students can use a meal...

Cost: $9.75

Where:
WCSU Midtown Campus
181 White St.
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies at WCSU invites the campus community to join them at a screening of the documentary, "Jane," based on the life of Dr. Jane...

Cost: $5

Where:
Bank Street Theatre
46 Bank St.
New Milford, CT
View map »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sodexo will host a Hot Chocolate Bar with Toppings at The Daily Grind in the WCSU Campus Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. The cost is charged a la carte. For...

Cost: A la carte

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave. Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The OWL Cookbook Club wants to simplify your holiday baking! Join Audra MacLaren and Patricia Moore as they host the Cookbook Club’s Holiday Cookie Swap Party. Be inspired by one of our...

Cost: FREE and open to the public.

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Unplug and spend the afternoon crafting and creating! The Litchfield Historical Society’s Crafternoons will explore a new theme in history with hands-on crafts and games that encourage...

Cost: $7 members; $10 non-members

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06032
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan
Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

December 1st - December 30th The show opens with a reception on Saturday, December 2nd from 11AM to 4PM.  The Fine Line Art Gallery’s Holiday Art Show 'Miniature...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us the 3rd Friday of each month for a light lunch, music and dancing. Music this month: “Michael Ciulla Music made possible by the NW CT Community Foundation Litchfield Community...

Cost: $7.00 pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

December 1st - December 30th The show opens with a reception on Saturday, December 2nd from 11AM to 4PM.  The Fine Line Art Gallery’s Holiday Art Show 'Miniature...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Paul Winter's Winter Solstice celebrates the spirit of the holidays with the extraordinary acoustic of NY's greatest Cathedral, St. John the Divine. This multi media event features...

Cost: $90.00 pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Rd.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Website »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Deyber Master Artist from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Robert Deyber is an American artist...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

WCSU will host a 5 p.m. planetarium show Saturday, Dec. 16, followed by telescope viewing of the sky from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Westside Observatory and Planetarium on the university's...

Cost: Free

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

As part of the Newtown Savings Bank Fine Arts & Family Series, Ives Concert Park will present the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir at 7 p.m. in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall in the Visual...

Cost: Advance tickets $25, at the door $30

Where:
Veronica Hagman Concert Hall
WCSU Visual & Performing Arts Center
43 Lake Avenue Ext., Danbury, CT 06811
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Telephone: 203-837-8732
Website »

More information

As part of the Newtown Savings Bank Fine Arts & Family Series, Ives Concert Park will present the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir at 7 p.m. in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall in the...

Cost: $25-30

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

The Byrde + the b is pleased to announce the opening of Jivan Wolf master jeweler from 4-7 pm on Saturday December 2, 2017 and runs through Jan 31, 2018. Jivan Wolf hand fabricates jewelry...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

December 1st - December 30th The show opens with a reception on Saturday, December 2nd from 11AM to 4PM.  The Fine Line Art Gallery’s Holiday Art Show 'Miniature...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Living in History

Owning Litchfield's oldest house is both a privilege and a commitment, and this stylish and design-oriented couple have both left their mark on the Olcott house and adhered to its authenticity.

Old House, New Tricks

With a two-story frame house, a barn, and several outbuildings, the property in Washington had everything the house-hunters were looking for. Now they just needed an architect to make it right.

Lake Effect

Amie Weitzman and her husband David Adler bought a one story lake-side cottage hoping that they could turn it into a much needed retreat. Though it took more work than the family originally planned, they now have a home with a wonderful view.

Tree Hugger

Party at Stacey's

Edit ModuleShow Tags