Far-Sighted: Architect Jill Porter Reimagines A Colonial Farmhouse

Life is full of illusions. But even the most fantastical illusion must rest on some logic, no matter how hidden, if we are to be swept up by it. When it comes to architecture – whether it is the Sagrada Familia or OMA’s Seattle Public Library – that logic rides on volume, proportion and scale. Our minds may not always grasp these qualities, but as we approach a building, our eyes do and once we are inside, our bodies let us know if we feel at home. When New York-based architect Jill Porter took on the task of re-imagining a 1980s colonial nestled in the Dutchess County countryside, she went back to these essential building blocks to create a home that made sense.

“With this house, scale and proportion were the main problem,” exclaims Porter. “The entry was dwarfed by a large garage. It cowered under this overwhelming volume. So, we had to re-sculpt the facade. We added a gable above the front door to change the complexion of that part of the house.” The rear of the property was marred by an ill-conceived addition that included a modest screened-in porch. “Someone thought that porch was a lovely gesture, but it was long and skinny, more of a hallway than a gathering place,” relates Porter. She closed its exterior wall with an array of windows and reconfigured the interior to marry up with the existing family room. The kitchen too was a long space, without – as Porter contends “any center.” Taking an approach that runs counter to the prevailing taste for expansive, wide open kitchens, Porter convinced her client to pare back. “We carved out a mudroom at one end and tightened up the kitchen in order for it to feel right. In this case, big was not better, because it was totally out of scale.”

The homeowners wanted a modern farmhouse look for this weekend getaway. While the exterior board and batten siding and black window frames certainly hit that mark, inside, the home strikes a more transitional note. “Although there are some existing crown moldings, this is a fairly modern interior,” observes Porter. “There’s no nostalgia in it. At the same time, it doesn’t have the sterility that sometimes accompanies a modern interior.”

The kitchen sports an island encased in beautifully veined Breccia Capraia. Upper cabinets have been replaced with open shelving with brass uprights that are anything but country. The brass hood Porter designed hovers over the stove like a levitating Donald Judd. In a bathroom, boldly patterned concrete tiles run across the floor and into the shower.

“I don’t always get involved in all the interior choices, but this client really pushed me that way,” shares Porter. “It was, ‘You just pick out the paint color, you figure out if that tile is right.’ And she had no fear when it came to pattern and materials. Where I might usually encourage someone to do one dramatic thing, like, say, the marble on the island, she went all the way, opting for the striking tile backsplash in the kitchen. She was brave. And I think that loosened me up a bit when I was renovating my own place. I think this experience made me feel a bit more brave.”

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Photography by Amanda Kirkpatrick.

For more like this farmhouse from Jill Porter be sure to check out this sprawling Connecticut compound.

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