All together now: Lewis Catherine House gets a guest-friendly makeover

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Photo: Stephen Barling Photo: Stephen Barling

The old farmhouse in Afton wasn’t exactly ready for prime time. But it had a stellar location for the short-term rental that two young homeowners dreamed of opening. Positioned in a spot with lovely mountain views, it was right down the road from popular wedding venue Veritas Vineyards—and it boasted five bedrooms. “We thought of a million reasons why a group would stay here,” says one of the homeowners.

When she and her husband acquired the property—the 1903 house, plus several outbuildings, sits on seven acres—they knew they were taking on a project. “It was in good shape,” she recalls. But it was, of course, dated, and they needed to boost its style quotient and make it functional for modern-day bridal parties and vacationers.

Décor-wise, the homeowners stuck to a neutral palette accented by items that suggest links to the past: aged books, thrift store globes, even cow-print pillows. Photo: Stephen Barling

“We did end up gutting it, but we tried to keep the old farmhouse feel,” says one of the owners. “It was about taking walls down and opening things up.”

For neighbors used to driving past the property, the very existence of the house may have been a surprise; it had been nearly hidden behind overgrown boxwoods. Now it would present a more striking face to the world. The gray-blue exterior changed to crisp white and the new owners pared down the landscaping to make the most of the mountain views.

Inside, the couple aimed to create a layout that would strike a balance for guests. They can all get together in one space when they want, like the large dining room, anchored by a long handmade farm table and accented with two beaded Pottery Barn chandeliers. Yet there are smaller seating areas for more intimate conversations, too.

Removing one wall of the kitchen brought that room into greater connection with other spaces, though an old chimney remained, its bricks dressed up with white paint. Light-colored quartz countertops and white cabinets are offset by a ceiling made of repurposed siding from the house’s exterior. Copper sinks provide focal points, and a couple of bars double as pass-throughs for food and drinks.

The couple removed a wall of the kitchen to open it up to the adjacent rooms. Though an old chimney remained, its bricks were dressed up with white paint. Photo: Stephen Barling

Being a rental and not a full-time home, the house had to meet specific requirements. Bathrooms would be more important to guests than storage, so the couple sacrificed a couple of closets, converted the square footage to bathrooms and installed hooks for hanging clothes.

One of the owners says that saving old house parts was key to maintaining the feel she wanted for the space. “We saved all the original doors,” she says. “Doors make or break a house. And the banister is low, but we didn’t change it out.” Floors are pine, finished with polyurethane to amber over time.

The couple redid the front porch columns in natural wood, refinished the interior woodwork and bricked in nonfunctional fireplaces. Some downstairs rooms got shiplap walls, and each of the three and a half bathrooms got its own tile and fixtures. “I want it to be eclectic and organic, not uniform,” says a homeowner.

Photo: Stephen Barling

She created a different look for each bedroom, playing to the variety of sizes and shapes that the rooms themselves offered. One large bedroom got two queen-size beds in a farmhouse style; a small space at the front seemed right for a kids’ room with two twin beds.

In a former addition, a bedroom and sitting room seemed to have an odd layout. “How are these supposed to interact?” the homeowner remembers thinking. Then she had it. “I immediately envisioned these as the perfect place for a bride to get ready.” She added two desks with mirrors—de facto dressing tables—in the sitting room, along with a sofa. Off the bedroom, a private deck has a mountain view.

The house is full of natural materials, neutral hues and décor that suggests a link to the past, using everything from aged books to thrift store globes to cow-print pillows to create an appealing look for the space. “We explored a lot of local antique places,” says the homeowner.

In the entryway, a repurposed metal chicken coop hangs on the wall with houseplants poking from its nest boxes. An antique dresser, with a stone top added, serves as a vanity in one bathroom.

In the near-level yard, outbuildings got a fresh coat of paint in classic red and white, and a new fire pit lets guests soak in the views. For the couple, having guests occupy the Lewis Catherine House is the completion of a yearlong effort and an even longer-term dream.

“We always had this vision to have a place where people gathered together,” she says.

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