hotos by Jason Sandy, Angle Eye Photography
Few things can test the strength of a new marriage like a new house. One quickly learns how well (or not so well) the other deals with negotiation—and how much patience both have when the property search wears on.
Newlyweds David and Nancy Michener had previous experience with both, so they didn’t let the highs and lows of creating a Chadds Ford farmhouse from scratch rattle them easily. “We’ve always loved the area because of its beauty,” says Nancy, who relocated from Mullica Hill, N.J., to join her husband in Chester County.
But their commitment to Chadds Ford came at a cost, as they soon discovered how difficult it was to find land to build on. “There’s simply not a lot of open space,” says Nancy.
It took more than two years to find exactly what they wanted: a four-and-a-half-acre property overlooking a meadow, with lots of privacy. “The views are amazing,” says Nancy.
From Left: The grand staircase; the kitchen’s centerpiece is a massive island
Luckily for the Micheners, finding an architect and a builder for the project was a less arduous undertaking. The couple wanted the exterior to look like a Chester County farmhouse, and they had quite a few specific ideas for the interior. They were looking for a collaborator.
They found their ideal match in Joe Mackin, co-founder and president of Period Architecture. “It was a very interactive process, and that’s what we wanted,” says Nancy. “We worked closely with Joe, putting together the home’s plans for over a year. He was amazing to work with.”
Mackin has plenty of experience with the Pennsylvania farmhouse vernacular. “The Micheners requested a timeless design that would fit well and complement the landscape and the region,” he says. “The aesthetic appeal of the home was the top priority.”
The living room has one of the home’s three working fireplaces.
The newlyweds have children from previous marriages, but all are living on their own. Topping their list of necessities: four bedrooms, so there would be room for family visits. They also wanted a three-car garage, a screened porch out the back, and a walkout basement. And Nancy’s husband had a special request. “He really wanted an outdoor shower,” she says, laughing. “It has come in handy because, in the winter, we use it as a place to store firewood.”
The house has fireplaces in the master bedroom, family room and living area, and the open floor plan is another key element. “We didn’t want ‘look rooms’ that you never use,” says Nancy. “We wanted to make the space useable.”
“The kitchen, dining room and living room are open to one another, which is very unique for this style of home,” adds Mackin.
Coffered ceilings, multilayered crown molding, intricate trim work, and random-width white-oak floors can be found throughout, tying everything together. No formal dining room means that all meals are eaten at the custom-made farmhouse table or the large kitchen island. “We have the perfect flow for entertaining,” Nancy says.
The Micheners made the unconventional move of placing their oven, microwave and warming drawer in the pantry. A pocket door closes off the pantry from the rest of the kitchen. “It makes it easier to cook when everyone is hanging out in the kitchen during a party,” says Nancy.
Custom touches allow for a stand-alone refrigerator and freezer to be disguised behind cabinetry paneling. Appliance garages hide kitchen staples like a KitchenAid mixer.
Nancy took on the task of handling the interior’s design, starting fresh with new décor to go with the home’s more traditional style. “We made a pact that we wouldn’t buy anything unless the other person loved it,” she says. “So there was a lot of negotiation.”
Most of the second floor is dedicated to the master suite. An arched entryway off the main hall leads to a spacious formal sitting room outfitted with an antique-reproduction wardrobe, plus an armchair and a matching ottoman. The sitting area flows into a bedroom with more antique-reproduction furniture, including a four-poster bed and a highboy dresser. And the fireplace isn’t “just for show,” assures Nancy, whose favorite thing about the room—aside from the custom closets—is the panoramic views of the property.
In the three years since they moved in, people often ask the Micheners if there’s anything about the house they would’ve changed. “Honestly there isn’t,” Nancy says. “We studied this thing and worked so hard on the plans. We love it.”
Architect: Joe Mackin, Period Architecture, Chadds Ford, (610) 719-0101.
Builder: John Cocchi, Cocchi Construction, Media, (610) 891-0743.