When Melissa and Matt Carr first moved into their current residence, Melissa couldn't believe she was really home. "For the first few weeks, every day I woke up and said, ‘I love it here,' " she recalls. "I kept saying to Matt, ‘I feel like we're on vacation.' "
Though the Carrs moved less than 15 minutes away from Salisbury, where they had lived for 13 years, their newly renovated farmhouse might as well have been a world away.
The Carrs' home is located just a few miles off the highway, in a rural swath of Midlothian where subdivisions and shopping malls give way to farmland, forests and a bona fide 19th-century general store. That store is now owned by the Carrs, who reinvented it as Gather, a French-country inspired home accessories and gift store.
The Carrs live right down the road from Gather, in the farmhouse that sits in the middle of a 10-acre working hayfield. The home's wide, wraparound porch provides an open invitation to relaxation. Its numerous windows offer pastoral views from every angle, providing endless inspiration to Melissa, an artist who specializes in landscape paintings. Matt's work is also connected to the earth: He's the East Coast general manager for a company that installs commercial green roofs. He's currently working on a dramatic, sloping garden roof for a new restaurant at Lincoln Center.
The interior of the Carrs' new home, which was gutted and reimagined during an extensive two-year renovation, features casual, open spaces; exposed pine beams; and a neutral color palette of white and natural wood tones.
Humble pine antiques, white-slipcovered furniture, and interesting architectural elements — many of which are simply the exposed bones of the house — combine to create a relaxed home. Melissa's natural talent for design and her own paintings elevate this farmhouse from laid-back style to true country chic.
The home's all-white color scheme was a departure for Melissa, who previously decorated with rich, sun-drenched Tuscan hues. Here, all rooms except the bedrooms are painted in Benjamin Moore's linen white.
"The colors here come from my artwork and from pillows," Melissa explains. "I'm really finding something comfortable, restful and peaceful about all of the white and old pine. Everything is mellow. It allows the architecture and the views to stand out, as well as the objects."
The home is a haven for simple pleasures. A large, stone-clad hearth dominates the main living area, with a fireplace opening to both the kitchen and living room. In cooler months, "we have a fire every day," Melissa says.
Their three children have also grown to love the home. Though sons Ian and Matt are in college, and their daughter, Hillary, will be leaving next year, the home is a magnet for the family and their friends. Evening bonfires are a popular entertainment.
The family's three large dogs have free reign of the place. "This truly is a farmhouse," Melissa says. "We are over trying to keep everything perfect. The floors have been scratched by the dogs. They get dirty. But that's how we live."
Worth the Effort
Architect John Flippen led the extensive renovation, which mostly preserved the original footprint of the house, with small bump-outs for the dining room, kitchen and master bathroom. These three small additions each have vaulted ceilings, with exposed pine beams and tongue-and-groove paneling.
Though it broke their hearts to do so, the heart-pine flooring downstairs was replaced after termite damage was discovered. This wood was recycled elsewhere, showing up in unexpected places like the paneling on the powder-room walls.
As a result, the house ended up "greener" than the Carrs originally intended. They also installed an ultra-efficient geothermal heating-and-cooling system. It takes advantage of the earth's ability to store heat by running water through pipes buried underground.
Melissa served as general contractor on the project, and her brother-in-law, carpenter Sandy Heavenrich, moved from California to work on the home.
Though the renovation took nearly two years, "It was worth the money, time and headaches," Melissa says. "I am so glad we shuffled the deck and have a new chapter in our lives."