The Simple Life
Chester County farm-dwellers get civilized in a Devon colonial.
Throughout the Devon home of doctors Don and Linda Wilson are paintings by Peter Sculthorpe and other acclaimed Chester County artists depicting various rural themes. “Whenever I look at these paintings, it takes me back to our life on the farm,” says Don.
It’s been almost two years since the Wilsons left their previous life on a sprawling 130-acre horse farm in Parkesburg, Chester County, to be closer to their new jobs. Both worked at Brandywine Hospital; now Linda has relocated her practice to Paoli Hospital and Don is medical director for Quality Insights of Pennsylvania in Wayne.
But a shorter commute wasn’t their only objective. “The farm was a lot to take care of,” says Wilson. “Our daughter was leaving for college and my son lives in New York, so it was natural to downsize to a smaller home.” Still, it can be quite a culture shock moving from the solitude and open space of rural Chester County to the more densely populated Main Line. “We knew we didn’t want to move to a house that sat on a half-acre lot or was in a compact development,” Don says.
The first time the Wilsons drove down the tree-lined, quarter-mile lane leading to their 1750s-inspired farmhouse in Devon, they knew they’d found home. The couple admits the property surrounding the house made the biggest impression at first—and for good reason: In addition to the gorgeous acreage in the front yard, the house backs up to the Brandywine Conservancy’s 150-acre Waterloo Mills Preserve. “Looking outside is incredible; it’s so beautiful,” says Linda. “We see more wildlife here—wild turkeys, foxes, all kinds of birds and, of course, lots of deer—than we did on our farm.”
There’s also a small fenced herb garden off the back patio. “I still wanted a place to garden that wasn’t too overwhelming,” Linda says. “This is perfect.”
The colonial farmhouse style was a complete change from the contemporary home the Wilsons had on their farm. “We restored the original farmhouse on that property for my parents to live in, and then we built a very modern home,” says Don.
The couple was ready to give up the contemporary aesthetic. But after looking at several of the Main Line’s older homes, the Wilsons feared they’d be looking at countless weekends of home improvement projects. The Devon house was a perfect compromise since it replicates an 18th-century home but was built in the late 1970s. “The house was in great shape. It just needed to be updated for modern living,” Don says. “Most things were maintained very well.”
Even so, the older home took some getting used to. The Wilsons were accustomed to soaring, vaulted ceilings and open, spacious rooms. “Our other house was considerably larger,” Wilson says. “So although we wanted to downsize, after moving in, we felt cramped with the smaller rooms and more confined living spaces.”
So the Wilsons added more square footage by finishing the lower level and converting an attic space into a guestroom. They called on Doutrich Homes out of Lancaster County to handle the extensive renovations. It was Doutrich that built their previous home. “We loved working with them,” says Don.
The Wilsons didn’t have to go far to find an architect, choosing Gardner/Fox in Bryn Mawr. “We didn’t put any additions onto the house; we worked primarily within the existing framework,” says Don. “The architect, Aaron Boyd, was excellent about maximizing every inch of space possible.”
The Wilsons always envisioned having a home theater in their house—and a sizable, unfinished lower level accommodated those plans. “It was important for us to have a place to entertain our friends—and for my daughter to be able to entertain hers,” Don says.
As plans for the space evolved, so did three distinct spaces: a dedicated home theater room, a family-room-style living area (pictured above) with a plasma television, and a kitchen with a bar. “If we have people over, we don’t want to have to keep running up to the kitchen for drinks and snacks,” Don says. “We have everything right here.”
In the kitchen, deep cherry-wood cabinets are complemented by granite countertops with sand and gray-blue tones. In the area that doubles as a family room, the fireplace mantle and surrounding woodwork are painted a traditional Williamsburg blue. A leather couch and two reclining ottomans provide plenty of seating options. And just because it’s the lower level doesn’t mean the room has to have a dark feel. Sunlight floods the room through glass French doors, which provide access to stairs leading up to the backyard.
Then there’s the theater room (pictured above). “It’s exactly what I wanted,” says Don. “You go in there to watch a movie and you’re not distracted by anything else. You feel like you’re in a movie theater.”
Don didn’t want a modern, commercial look. So, to give the room a more sophisticated appearance, Creative Systems utilized waist-high paneling, columns and crown molding painted Williamsburg blue (a deeper shade than the color in the family room) and accented with sconces. Stretch fabric in a rich floral pattern covers the walls, adding more custom appeal. “You’re essentially covering the drywall and the acoustic panels,” says Jason Hendrie of Creative Systems. “It’s basically wall upholstery.”
The same fabric is used in curtains surrounding either side of the Runco Projector’s 98-inch screen. Instead of theater-style seating, the Wilsons opted for six freestanding, reclining chairs. All lighting is controlled by a Lutron Grafik Eye system. “This theater was completely customized for the Wilsons’ taste,” says Hendrie. “None of our theaters are ever cookie-cutter.”
WHILE DON WILSON OVERSAW the home theater, Linda focused on the new kitchen. Her two non-negotiable requests: two dishwashers and two usable work spaces with sinks. “I had two dishwashers in my old kitchen, and I can’t live without them,” she says. “My daughter and I also do a lot of cooking together, so two work spaces with sinks was an absolute.”
She also wanted as much storage and counter space as possible. Paradise Custom Kitchens, sister company of Doutrich Homes, designed, manufactured and installed the cabinets. “The kitchen was an average size,” says Tim Doutrich, a designer for Paradise. “Linda requested a lot of the amenities you find in much larger kitchens, so it really required a great design.”
The end result met all of her needs. Custom-made, cream-painted cabinetry with a chocolate glaze in an Old World style hides all the major appliances, from the Sub-Zero refrigerator to the side-by-side dishwashers. All counter-top appliances are concealed in a corner garage, allowing for plenty of free space. A decorative wood hood adds a customized touch, while a butcher-block-style main island sits between the sink and the stove. A second granite-topped island with a sink provides more of that extra space Linda was looking for, along with room for four to sit comfortably. The island also has an under-counter wine refrigerator. “It’s a much more usable kitchen now,” says Linda.
In the master bedroom, a small walk-in closet and equally small bathroom were combined to create one master bath. Double-doors lead into the room, where a porcelain-white soaking tub is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
On either side of the room, his-and-her vanities feature custom cherry-wood cabinets by Paradise Custom Kitchens. A wall was constructed behind the bedroom fireplace to accommodate a walk-in shower—fully tiled and sizable enough for a seat and multiple showerheads. The existing fireplace in the master bedroom is now surrounded with shallow floor-to-ceiling custom cabinetry in Williamsburg blue, providing extra storage for jewelry, ties and belts. The fireplace also features beautiful blue-and-white Delft pottery tiles. A small bedroom next to the master was converted to a large walk-in closet, with a center island for clothing.
Now that renovations are complete, the Wilsons are finally settled into their new home. And when they feel a little homesick, they simply look at one of their paintings for a quick trip back to rural Chester County. These days, that’s just about enough.
Architect: Gardner/Fox, Aaron Boyd, 919 Glenbrook Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 525-8305, gardnerfox.com
Builder: Doutrich Homes, 3333 Lincoln Hwy., East Paradise; (717) 768-8474, doutrichhomes.com
Kitchen and cabinetry: Paradise Custom Kitchens, 3333 Lincoln Hwy., East Paradise; (717) 768-7733, paradisecustomkitchens.com
Theater room: Creative Systems, 529 E. Main St., Lititz; (717) 625-2262, creativesys.com