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A Gathering Place



Stephen Saint-Onge

We are living in a time when it is important to make your current home a bit more like your dream home. You may be dreaming of having a home on the beach, a farmhouse in Provence, or even a custom home that captures the essence of who you are. I say, Why wait? Make your current home like the home you aspire to have.

Such was the case with a former three-season sunroom being renovated into a casual, family dining room for a farmhouse in the countryside. When I saw the “before,” it was only a patio with the dated 1980s sunroom structure already removed. I immediately envisioned designing a new room that would look and feel like it was originally part of this 1940s house. I also wanted it to represent a place that could mark a return to the simple things that life has to offer, a place to enjoy time with family and friends over a meal—a gathering place.

When I wrote my book No Place Like Home, I spoke about how the homes that I grew up in around New England are very much a part of my own, personal, design aesthetic today. Those homes were not necessarily fancy or large, but they captured simplicity with their classic design. That idea became the undercurrent of what I wanted this new gathering room to be: classic and simple, with elements that bring in their own history.

I started the design with two things in mind—the room was going to be all about windows and all about a long, farmhouse table. Windows are like the eyes of the home; they need to be the right choice or they can take away from a house. Then I pictured a table—basic yet one that would set the stage for the new gathering place.

The project started with the Green Mountain Window Company (whose products are available at Ring’s End), a family-owned business that makes windows the old-fashioned way—by hand. I know this because I visited the company’s factory in Vermont and saw the windows for this project being made. There is something to be said about products made here in the USA and of a family producing them to such high standards. The classic farmhouse-style windows and French door that I ordered became the foundation for the new room. The windows and door showcase the views outside and allow natural light to pour in. The French door can be open on warm autumn days; I had Phantom screens installed—hidden when not in use.

Next came the farmhouse table and finding the right one. I kept picturing the house at twilight—my favorite time of day—a bonfire on the terrace, with Adirondack chairs gathered around.

I heard about this family-owned company called After The Barn that makes farmhouse tables (and other furniture) from reclaimed barn wood. This father-and-son team actually are the ones that go out and dismantle the rustic barns themselves that scatter the countryside of New England. Barns that were once part of working family farms and those that had once seen better days. These guys give them a new lease on life, literally creating things “after the barn” that bring history to homes with the barn wood used to create their furniture. I love that. I went to see where they create their handmade product and I was truly impressed by an attention to detail and quality that is a rarity these days. The table itself tells a story and gives new meaning to the phrase farm to table.
This room is probably the closest to my own personal style of any project I have done. I like the mix of rustic and modern. I loved being able to repurpose the home’s existing clapboard siding for the room’s interior walls. I painted them a clean and simple white from Mythic Paint, which makes the original, exterior, antique lanterns fitted with Edison bulbs stand out even more. To add to the warm lighting, I introduced an oversized, burlap drum pendant from PotteryBarn.com over the table. To continue the mix of old and new, I chose French metal Tolix chairs for the main table seating to complement the rich, wood tone of the ten-foot table.

Outside the new room, I painted the exterior and trim with my go-to white for a house, using a Regal Select Low Lustre from Benjamin Moore. Finally, being one who is all about moving things around and creating areas quickly, I used various potted shrubs and greenery found locally to add lushness to the entrance area. To cover the old patio wall edge, I used faux stone panels from FauxPanels.com to give that area an instant makeover that looks great. Another innovative product I used in place of rain gutters along the new roof line was a product from RainHandler.com—it is designed for easy maintainence.
I think it’s important to have a vision for your home, one that inspires you to actually create it. For this project, my vision became about creating a place for gathering and reconnecting in our busy world.

My passionate plea is to remember the simple, good things in life—your home, your family, your friends. That pretty much says it all.

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November 2018

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