A Haverford Couple Downsizes … and Gets More

The historic fixer-upper still feels like a family home.

It had come to the time in Joanie and Bob Hall’s lives that more bedrooms were empty than full in their Haverford home. Their three kids—a daughter who’d graduated college, a son currently there, and another boy in boarding school—were growing up. And Joanie hated walking past the empty bedrooms to get to her own. It’s what compelled the Halls to considering downsizing. 

But Joanie still wanted a place that felt like a family home. “I didn’t want the kids to see this as a downsized house where my husband and I now live,” says Hall. “This is theirs, too.” 

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The Halls didn’t have to go far. They found a converted stable and cottage house in their current neighborhood. It was once part of the historic Millbrook Farms Estate in Haverford. 

“We weren’t looking for a project,” says Hall referring to the stable’s need of an update. “But it captured us right off the bat.” 

The Halls also liked the idea of being close to their old place. Another plus for Joanie: The stable’s setup had the master bedroom on the first floor and three additional bedrooms on the second level. And that meant no more walking past empty bedrooms on a daily basis.

Open shelving, white cabinetry, and natural woods lend a clean aesthetic to the kitchen//photos courtesy of custom woodcraft Inc. builders

The open-concept living area

Renovation revisited

The Halls tapped the Villanova-based Custom Woodcraft Inc. Builders to help transform the stable. CWI founder Frank Bedford IV had worked with the Halls on several renovation projects at their previous two homes. This time, Bedford’s son, Frank, would oversee the project. 

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“Coincidentally, my father had renovated this stable in 1985,” says Bedford. “So, I’m the second generation to work on this property.” 

Before they started work on the stable, Bedford and his team tackled renovating the cottage, which would eventually be Bob’s home office. The renovation included the addition of a small kitchen and a full bathroom. This would be where the Halls lived for more than six months while the work on the stable was being completed. 

With its 22-inch stonewalls, windows in each stall and multiple columns on both levels, the stable exuded so much of its original charm. The previous owner had done extensive landscaping, so specimen trees, bushes and plantings were plentiful throughout the property. 

Joanie’s vision for open living on the main floor required a complete gutting. “Our job was to execute Joanie’s ideas,” says Bedford. “She’s fantastic when it comes to design. She had a whole book of tear sheets reflecting what she wanted every room to look like.” 

Though not trained in interior design, Joanie has an inherent knack for it. “I’ve been dabbling forever in decorative arts in all forms,” she says. 

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It’s a talent that runs in Hall’s family. Her mom, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, is the cofounder of the exceedingly popular lifestyle brand Vera Bradley.

a metal-framed shower brings an industrial look to a master bathroom outfitted with subway tiles and Carrara marble; the v-groove paneling in the entryway is a consistent design element throughout the home.

Designed right

A bold Arteriors light fixture with brass spokes protruding from the center sphere hangs in the dining room, greeting guests when they enter the home. “It was the first thing I bought for the house,” says Hall. “The house is really traditional, but I definitely thought it needed a few contemporary touches. This light fixture was a great way to do it.” 

White beadboard paneling is everywhere on the first floor, but Hall wanted to do something different in the dining room. “We had a great knotty pine den in the old house,” she says. “So I wanted to have a room that was similar.” 

For the kitchen, Hall drew inspiration from her previous home. Hence, the white Kountry Kraft cabinets accented with Carrara marble counter tops and white subway tiles. A large island in the center of the room is topped with a wormy chestnut butcher block and a large farmhouse-style sink. The pair of lanterns situated above the island is repeated in the open living space above the family room area. 

A cobalt-blue range brings color to the otherwise neutral color scheme in the kitchen. Reclaimed, wide-plank heart pine floors with black walnut plugs cover the floors, and a set of Spanish cedar double doors opens things up for indoor/outdoor entertaining. “The big, open kitchen and living areas are perfect for this stage in life,” says Joanie. “We all want to be together and hang out with each other.”

White subway tiles and Carrara marble can also be found in the master bathroom—and then there’s the shower, featuring a metal-framed glass door with mullions. “I couldn’t picture plain glass for the shower—it felt too contemporary,” says Hall, who opted for a more industrial feel instead. 

The steam shower has a flip transom on the side, and a vast built-in soaking tub boasts a deck made of Carrara marble. The window centered above the tub used to be part of a stable door. All the sleek chrome hardware is Hamilton Sinkler. 

specimen trees and lush landscaping surround the pool area

Finishing touches

A hayloft once occupied the second floor. Now, it has three bedrooms and a sitting area. There was only a single bath before, so Bedford divided the space so each bedroom had its own. 

In the third bedroom, Bedford added a toilet and a sink. Sliding barn doors close off the bedrooms to the open sitting area. 

Outside the home, an existing in-ground pool was a bonus. Bedford redid the patio, finishing it with painted wood decking and crossbuck railings. 

With homes in Montana and New York, the Halls now have a new place in Haverford that feels like a relaxed country retreat. “This project definitely was a collaboration,” says Joanie. “Frank totally gets my taste, and he was able to execute my ideas to perfection.” 

What’s been the truest testament to the project’s success? “When my son was back from college, I asked him if he missed the old house,” Joanie says. “He said this house felt like home—and that’s exactly what I wanted.” 

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