Light hearted: An 1817 farmhouse upgrades with a bright, modern kitchen

Photo by Christian Hommel Photo by Christian Hommel

The idea of uncovering a buried treasure is not impossible in Virginia. With its rich history, the Commonwealth allows a homeowner to embark on a farmhouse renovation and suddenly find herself unearthing historical documents dating back to the early 1800s. At least, that’s how it happened for Julie Dixon. While removing the attic flooring in her 1817 Dillwyn home, Dixon came upon letters documenting the property’s early existence.

The home’s original architecture featured a double parlor separated by a large arch. Dixon designed the renovated kitchen, which stands in the same footprint as its earlier incarnation, to employ the same element, keeping it separate from—but visually connected to—the dining room. Photo: Christian Hommel

Named after Rosny, an obscure French poet, the house was built by the Bolling family, direct descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Anyone familiar with the area will recognize the names of three other Bolling-built houses: Chellowe, Saratoga, and Indian Gap. Dixon and her husband bought Rosny in 2000 and began a master kitchen addition in 2006.

“The new kitchen stands in the exact footprint of the earlier kitchen, which has been moved to a new location on the farm and is now our guest house,” said Dixon.

Photo by Christian Hommel
The family was determined to marry the old and the new. Just as they removed heart pine flooring from the attic and reused it in the kitchen, they took inspiration from the home’s previous life when concepting the renovation. Rich Lee Industries bar stools complement the stain of the hardwoods; modern “sparkling wine”-colored cabinetry is accessorized with vintage-inspired ice box hardware; the mantel and doors were salvaged from old houses in the area and stripped of years of paint.

“We wanted to fit all the elements of modernity into this addition so that we could preserve the old part of the house as purely as possible,” she said.

Even the bones of the farmhouse were taken into account. The home’s original architecture employed a double parlor that was divided symmetrically by an arch. Dixon, an architect at Rosney Co., said this feature has been repeated in the new kitchen to add consistency to the lines and feel of the original property. It separates the kitchen and adjacent eating area without visually disconnecting the two.

A large center island is topped with limestone. Photo by Christian Hommel
For anyone who cooks, it’s Dixon’s stove that steals the show. A massive French Lacanche range, dark in base color with silver and gold accents, it is nestled between two great windows and directly in front of the sink on the kitchen’s limestone-topped island.

Dixon said she has learned to love cooking (vegetarian for her, but pork and beef dishes for her family, since her husband raises and slaughters cattle on the farm) in part because of the stove, but also thanks to the kitchen’s ambience.

The bar is kyanite, a mineral that, in its raw state, is a blue crystal that expands irreversibly when heated. Photo by Christian Hommel
“This room contains abundant natural light and connects seamlessly to the outdoors. In this case, it gets light from three sides and spills directly onto the porch outside,” Dixon said.

Above the island hang three modern light fixtures from Restoration Hardware and track lighting on the ceiling that gives off enough brightness to recall a warm summer day. Said Dixon, “It feels like sunshine. It’s bright even on a rainy day.”

Photo by Christian Hommel


The breakdown

450 square feet

Primary materials or finishes

Reclaimed heart pine floor mantel and doors; Kyanite countertops from Kyanite Mining Corporation in Dillwyn (bar); Limestone countertops and backsplash from Paris Ceramics (kitchen); Lacanche range.


Mrs. Howard custom iron fixture (Charlotte, North Carolina); Restoration Hardware pendant lights; Low-voltage cable lights from Farmville Wholesale Electric.

Plumbing Fixtures 

Perrin & Rowe faucet

Other notable, custom, or innovative features

Leaded glass display on upper and bar cabinets; reclaimed pocket doors to pantry and office; ice box hardware.

Posted In:     Abode


Previous Post

A sense of place: Kendra Guiffre says good design is site-specific

Next Post

A line to design: David Day stresses attention to setting

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

0 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
0 Comment authors
Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of