A couple's new take on an old barn
The homeonwers have created a serene retreat that makes nature the star. Addy, the family dog, hangs out in the kitchen area connected to the great room.
Photos by Jane Beiles
For over a decade Scott and Kim McKessy regularly traveled north on Route 33 with their children, Owen and Grace, to visit Scott’s parents in Ridgefield. Kim routinely admired a renovated barn situated at the north end of Kent pond in Wilton. “It was painted schoolhouse red and it really stood out. The setting looked so quiet and peaceful,” she recalls. “One day we were on our way to visit my in-laws and as we drove by I saw a for sale sign. I immediately called for an appointment to view the house.”
Kim, a property manager in Greenwich with a background in landscape design; and Scott, an attorney in Westport, are no strangers to buying and selling houses. Prior to moving to Wilton, the couple had renovated and flipped three properties. “A farmhouse in Fairfield and two Capes in Darien,” says Kim, “and all three were sold fully furnished.”
But after years of moving around, the couple felt that it was time for their children to be settled in a single school system. Wilton and the pond-side barn, beckoned. In December 2011 the McKessys closed on the new property. They spent the next six months living through the chaos of a complete gut renovation.
A traditional post and beam structure, the barn had originally belonged to H.E. Salter of Wilton. In 1968 it was purchased and moved piece-by-piece to its current location. “You can still see some of the Roman numerals on the beams,” says Kim, pointing out a VII carved into a strut.
The barn’s infrastructure had already been professionally updated, and the structure itself was sound, but the interior design leaned towards the traditional and didn’t reflect the new owners’ more casual style. Paint and decor were in historic colors of burgundy, hunter green, and mustard yellow. A loft obscured much of the 20-foot ceiling—which had been stained red—and the kitchen was completely closed off from the living and dining spaces. The rest of the barn’s interior area had been compartmentalized into multiple rooms, making the place feel claustrophobic.
“While this style obviously suited the previous owners,” says Kim, “my aesthetic is minimal. I like straight lines, natural elements, and a neutral palette of gray, ivory, and greige. I was looking for a clean slate and wanted an open canvas in every sense of the word.”
Kim had a strong vision for the barn, including the creation of a single great room that incorporated cooking, eating, and living spaces. She also wanted as much natural light as possible, and decided to open up the back wall completely, with oversized windows and double sets of 12-foot French doors to take full advantage of outdoor views.
“I’m not fussy. I know what I like. And once I make a decision I don’t waiver,” says Kim. “I love color, but not to live in. I like the energy for our family to be neutral and calming.”
Though the McKessys didn’t use an architect, Kim did consult with Brown House Designs to help her re-conceptualize the kitchen. Now the space is completely open to the great room. It’s delineated by a sizeable custom-made walnut island topped with a two-and-a-half-inch thick slab of slate gray Caesarstone. There are no upper cabinets, just two open wood shelves that display everyday dishes and glasses.
An informal eating area adjacent to the kitchen combines a vintage Parsons table with modern Eames-style white molded plastic chairs —perfect for family meals. The McKessy’s also gather at the breakfast bar or at an outside dining table surrounded by nature.Ten-inch wide plank oak floors were refinished throughout and the fireplace was refaced with fieldstone and a reclaimed beam mantle, making it a dramatic focal point of the great room.
A combination of mid-century modern-inspired furnishings, contemporary design elements, and individual antique pieces create an inviting vibe. The living room is defined by a square Berber wool rug and anchored by an oversize wood coffee table and a sectional sofa from Lillian August in what Kim describes as “squirrel gray faux suede.” A chrome arc lamp provides additional lighting and ties in with the chrome and gray Ultrasuede lounge chair and ottoman.
“I wanted to bring the outside in, so there are lots of natural textures throughout the house including plants, drift wood, stone, moss, and several bird nests,” says Kim. The natural elements play off of each other and warm up the sleek, modern aesthetic.
In the master bedroom, outsize windows frame the idyllic pond view. The room is painted in a soothing gray and has wall-to-wall sea grass carpet. The headboard is upholstered in ivory linen with nail head detail and flanking the bed are identical square glass and chrome side tables with modern glass lamps. An antique desk and caramel velvet tufted post-modern chair add character.
Owen and Grace’s rooms are similarly streamlined. A fourth bedroom has been turned into an elegant office for Kim. The wall color and sea grass carpeting are identical to the master suite. A faux zebra skin rug adds a pop of personality and serves as a pleasing counterpoint to the feminine lines of a settee upholstered in ivory linen.
“If I’m not at my desk inside, I’m generally outside working on the garden,” says Kim. Judging from the beautifully designed and maintained exterior, the homeowners spend as much time outside as they do inside.
Kim’s initial impression from her car window that the barn and property would be serene and peaceful, proved to be prophetic.