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

January 2019

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Join the area’s leading investment and financial professionals at the CFA Society Hartford’s Annual Forecast Dinner. The group’s premier networking event of the year will be...

Cost: Individual Member seats are $90 before 1/8, $110 for non-members

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT  06103
View map »


Sponsor: CFA Society Hartford
Telephone: 860-604-1411
Contact Name: Rebecca Taylor
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Curious about meditation? Come experience an hour of guided meditation and sound healing aimed to help you release tension, sleep better, and cultivate overall happiness. No prior experience...

Cost: 15.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Jampa Mackenzie Stewart of Valley Spirit and Wellness Center in Washington Depot, CT presents TaiChi & Meditation an Introduction.  Join us for a...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Margaret Ferguson

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Calling all fans of Scottish food and Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. Don your tartan, make like Jamie’s clan motto and be ready! You’re invited to an amazing Outlander...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Join us for a very special evening of music from these four accomplished singer songwriters: David Ray, Mike Latini, Dave Goldenberg, George Mallas.  

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm in New Morning’s handicapped accessible Community Room on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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