After giving up city life, a family of four starts over in a modern farmhouse on Martha’s Vineyard.
Text by Tiffany Chan, photos by Eric Roth
The idea of living on a farm may seem far-fetched for most of us, but there are days when we dream of escaping the city for a more bucolic life in the country. But for one expat family the dream has become a reality in the US.
Eric and Molly Glasgow and their two young sons were living as expats in London when they decided they wanted a simpler life. So they gave up their high-powered cosmopolitan ways and bought an 86-acre dairy farm on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off Cape Cod in the state of Massachusetts. The change was radical. With an interest in food and where it comes from, but with no experience in farming, they set out to establish an organic dairy farm and learn how to produce meat, eggs, milk and cheese to sell on-site.
But when it came to creating a home on the farm, the couple called in the professionals, commissioning architect Mark Hutker to design the buildings and interior designer Kathleen Walsh, to work her magic.
“I wanted the design of the house to be reflective of the greater place that it is in,” Walsh says. “The homeowners were inspired by Belgian farmhouses in Europe. Their goal was to harmonise those details with a New England vernacular.”
The 6,000 sq ft, three-storey house is utterly in keeping with its setting. While decidedly modern European rustic but not rough, sophisticated but not opulent – it resembles a restored barn, with its gable roof, timber frames and weathered cedar-plank siding. But several features reveal its modernity, including a massive steel-and-glass entrance and giant picture windows overlooking the lush pastures and the family’s herd of Dutch Belted cows.
Inside, antique timber beams, limed-wood floors and snowy white walls provide a clean, muted backdrop for custom-made oversized couches positioned for the best views of the scenery with its shifting herds of animals and changing seasons.
“It was important to create a home that would leave room for life and change,” Walsh says. “The clean palette welcomes these layers without creating a sense of clutter, but rather a sense of purpose. The glass front door and glass panel in the living room create a connection to the outdoors no matter where you are in the house.”
The home exudes palpable familial warmth: fireplaces in the three main rooms blaze cosily during the harsh New England winters, the rugs are thick and plush, and wood-framed modern Danish furniture is comfortable but minimalist.
“The farmhouse is built for a family with young kids where dirt comes tracking through the door. Friends are able to walk in and there is no formality,” Walsh says. “It is a barefoot kind of household and is meant to welcome. You can plop on the sofa, perch on a chair and feel right at home.”
However, nuances in the design means there are subtle differences throughout the house.
“The living room is meant to be an escape, placed at the far end of the house, where one person can achieve a sense of quiet and escape just as easily as a group of friends can gather and immediately feel at ease,” Walsh says. “The family room was laid out for the kids to play and the family to gather. The kids’ bedrooms and lounge serve as a space to sleep, relax, study and play. Guests are able to retreat to their own wing. The master suite was meant to be a retreat while the grand views simultaneously remind you of the beauty that lies outside.”
But at the heart of the home is the kitchen, where the family congregates and the boys do their homework or practise their musical instruments while Molly cooks. “The kitchen is on the first floor and really serves as the heart of the home.
Not only do the owners cook, but the entire reason for moving to the vineyard was to establish an organic dairy farm,” Walsh says. “Their everyday life revolves around the farm and their kitchen, which is the place where day-to-day work and family life intersect.”
The living room best epitomises the pastoral comfort the Glasgows were seeking, with large sofas overlooking their farmland through giant sliding windows. Exposed beams and hand-hewn reclaimed wood add a rustic, agrarian touch, while an antique mantle warms the space. The family room is fitted with armchairs and a stone fireplace.
The dining room doubles as a library, with fumed-oak bookshelves contrasting beautifully with the light floors. Japanese chairs surround a modern Danish table and a geometric chandelier adds a contemporary touch. A secret ladder leads to a wine room and connects to the kids’ playroom upstairs.
The master bedroom is painted in the same soft white as the rest of the home (with the exception of the kids’ rooms), with wooden beams and an upholstered wall behind the bed for a cosy touch. The bathtub in the master en-suite overlooks the farm.
The kitchen is the focal point of the home, where the family gathers and spends much of their time. Parallel islands fitted with sleek granite counters highlight the modern La Cornue range, which serves as a centrepiece. A long window seat frames the view.