(the before photos)
I have finally pulled together all of the photos highlighting our renovation work on this rambling old farmhouse in beautiful pastoral New Hampshire. I’ve changed my mind countless times about whether or not to post photos of our process, thinking that the changes mostly interest us and wouldn’t be of that much interest to everyone else.
Thank you for all of you who have requested that I write about our latest home owner adventure and historic farmhouse renovation. I guess if I’m going to ramble on here at “Thyme” about our renovation activities, I might as well have the pictures to go along with it!
So here it goes…and here they are!
My time here at “Thyme” is about capturing life’s personal moments, any travel stories we get to experience, as well as a cook’s journey through her kitchen. Also, I figured it would be important to document what we consider to be our final move from our string of houses over the 25 years that Patrick and I have been married. One of the descendants of Nehemiah Ordway stopped by our home a few months back. She is now in her 80’s. She handed me a hand written binder full of stories about when her aunt grew up in this house. It was the most precious of gifts. I hope, by documenting our little portion of life in this home, we are passing on to the future generations, what this house looked like when the Kenney’s left their mark here.
We’ve never used the word “final” before when it comes to locations to live nor to particular houses to keep. We’ve never really felt like any one location was “it” or any home was “the” home for us. We’ve enjoyed the many states we’ve lived in, the cultures we’ve experienced, and the most importantly, the friends we made along the way.
It was more the restart of life after a move that began to become so wearisome. Finding new doctors, dentists, vets, etc. became so tiresome. Re-establishing banking, utilities, address changes, and grocery stores became more of a nuisance rather than fun like it was in the beginning. After several years of floating around in a new location, when friendships finally FINALLY were formed, the sadness of moving away from those friends, knowing that our relationships would be altered forever, became a pain that grew heavier and heavier with each move.
So these renovation projects that we took on from early spring, when the first lily of the valleys peeked up through the cold soil, to late fall of 2015, when I was attempting to pull out fall decorations as the house was still awash with dirt and debris galore, had more meaning to us than any previous homes. We’ve built new homes before (Texas & Kansas City). We’ve renovated a beautiful chocolate brown 1874 Dutch revival brownstone (New York…it was a 4 story beauty), enjoyed a contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright designed home (our way coolest house yet…in Michigan), and have had the pleasure of experiencing a Japanese lifestyle complete with rice paper sliding doors and tatami mat floors.
So the story of this next phase of renovation at The Nehemiah Ordway Homestead in the little town of Warner, New Hampshire began moving through the seasons of 2015 with the start of hiring the most fantastic, easy going, positive-minded contractor, Tom Baye. We interviewed two other contractors, one based several hours from us and another in the city of Boston. Tom was the local choice…and, boy oh boy, the more we got knee-deep into the renovation work, the more we realized how important it was to have a good capable leader with his pocketful of trustworthy, tried and true local contacts. We must have said this a dozen times over and over throughout the project…thank goodness we went local.
Living in the house while the complete gutting of the kitchen occurred, complete gutting of 3 upstairs bedrooms, complete replacement of every window in the house (40-something windows at last count), complete opening of the front porch section of the house meant that for 6 months, the local crew that Tom hired would become our friends, our cheerleaders, our local fresh egg suppliers, our musical entertainers, and our lunch guests around our long country kitchen table.
We will never forget these high spirited, colorful, hard-working people that became like family from April to October. Tom, our contractor and fearless ring leader, travels everywhere with his hilarious little dachshund, Izzy. Early in the morning, after Tom’s huge grey truck would roll up the drive and park, Izzy would somehow scramble down from the tall front seat and pitter patter her tiny short paws inside the kitchen with her little belly inches away from the ground, take her place at the door of the refrigerator, and proceed to look up at me with her huge lovely chocolate brown eyes, and then wait ever so patiently.
Chester was completely smitten with Izzy. Well, no he wasn’t. Chester really doesn’t consider himself a dog and makes that fact clear when other dogs are around. But, because he knew that Izzy’s arrival meant that certain little cocktail sausages would be handed out, Chester would bounce forward in greeting, bound from one side of Izzy to the other, and ceremoniously usher her directly to the refrigerator door where the two of them (and it was so stink’in cute!) would sit up tall and stare triumphantly into my eyes….BFFs forever…until the sausages were handed out and then …without a glance toward each other…they would part ways and find a spot to curl up for hours of nap time.
One of the colorful cast of characters that we had the good fortune to meet last summer was George. George did all of the dry walling work. We tore down a section of the kitchen…made a part of it smaller and added a section for a mud room. We tore down walls upstairs…made one room a master closet and another room a master bath. George became our indispensable dry-waller and no electrician or painter, or finisher could enter the next phase until George worked his magic.
George is one of those men who comes across initially like a gruff old bulldog, with his heavy Bostonian accent. His accent made us laugh out loud at his many expressions and character filled mannerisms. His toughness didn’t fool us for a second. We loved George…for right under the surface was a big ‘ol sweet hearted man. George, and his wonderful facial expressions, entertained us with stories about his grown kids, past projects, and hilarious exploits of his childhood. What a character…what a genuinely kind man.
We spent the most time with Nick Wright (the painter both inside & out the house, window installer of many MANY windows and doors, and general carpenter of everything in between). If the projects extended any longer, we might have just about adopted Nick as one of our family members. Nick is the most good spirited, funny, intelligent, and open-minded person. He patiently sat down at the kitchen table and watched um-teen Youtube videos with me on various paint techniques I wanted for the kitchen and master bath. He was sure he could successfully attempt any one of them and never wavered in his enthusiasm to try out my (often misguided) ideas.
We were like the blind leading the blind at times since I really didn’t know what I wanted the rooms to look like (interior decorating will never be a career pursuit of mine) and Nick apparently lacked the capabilities and talents to effectively become a mind reader. That being said, he somehow channeled my flamboyant descriptions of “chalk painting” and “venetian plaster” and pin point directives like…”smokey, but not too depressingly smokey….antique-looking but not, you know, old-old” into the beautiful walls that I have throughout the house. And, he did all of this without a complaint to be heard…ever.
Chris lives right up the road from us…in town, as people say. If there exists an American Idol competition for Whistlers, it is obvious to us that Chris would win the whistling gold medal. We could have listened to Chris and his perfectly pitched melodious whistling all day long. In fact, we did listen to Chris and his perfectly pitched melodious whistling all day long throughout the summer and into the fall. He would bring his music box, hook it up near wherever he was working, and an outpouring of whistling talent would fill the house. He could carry every tune and match the various instruments in each song perfectly.
It was amazing…and we were trying in vain to whistle along with him in spirit but could not even come close to matching his talent. Oh, and by the way, Chris did excellent carpentry work all over the house, hand carves wooden bowls from the burls of maple trees, and has 6 children he is raising with his high school sweetheart. We could have adopted Chris as a new member of our family, too…simply to hear more of his hilarious stories starring any one of the antics performed by the 6 kids at his house.
The heat of summer poured in. Who says you don’t need air conditioning up here? Wimpy southerners who have never existed without air-conditioning, that’s who! With the windows pulled out and covered with tarp, black flies at their height of pro-creation, warmer temps than average for New Hampshire, it was a doozy of a summer. Fourth of July came and went, almost unnoticed until about a week later when Patrick managed to produce that photo with the delicious BBQ’s goodness. That was a heavenly meal…since there was essentially no cooking in the kitchen for 6 months.
Boxes of unlimited Klondike bars were handed out like clock work. We ate so many chocolate covered Klondike bars that we could now easily be hired as unequivocal advocates for this miracle ice cream product. Several times throughout the day I had to just bellow out, “It’s time!!” and everyone knew it was “Klondike Time”. We all turned into adolescents, eagerly ripped open our ice cream wrappers, slowly savored this sweet goodness, and only when the last speck of chocolate was licked off the stick would we all return to the corners of the house and continue on…Chris whistling, Izzy and Chester begging, and Patrick handling global phone calls in the front yard, a.k.a. his new office space.
For the master bath, we worked with the company, Penhaglion, to choose an antique reproduction of a double-sided slipper tub. We wanted the soaking tub to be the center piece of the master bath but to also look like it might have been with the farmhouse all along.
We chose the “Stratford” which is a cast iron double slipper clawfoot bathtub with a hand burnished exterior to reveal the cast iron mold finish. We couldn’t be happier with this tub. We looked at 100’s of tubs, it seemed, and we’re super pleased with our final choice.
Tesh, at Penhaglion, worked well with us and easily accommodated changes we wanted to make, and offered to sponsor a portion of this article if we were happy with their product.
After long cold winter days, a hot steamy soaking tub up here in New Hampshire is a wonderful luxury.
Thank you, Tesh, for a wonderful product. We would highly recommend a Penhaglion tub to our friends!
For the kitchen, we again had the opportunity to work with a supplier who made it possible for “Thyme” to sponsor what we consider to be the most classic of all french ranges. I am not a name brand conscious person. I can easily shop from thrift stores and be thrilled with a “find” that I might cherish for years.
When it comes to the kitchen, I would live for days drooling over the pages of the LaCanche website. The store begins like this,
“In a tiny little village in France called Lacanche, there is a tiny little factory, family-owned, hand manufacturing classic french ranges for the past 200 years…..”
Stop already. I’m all yours…Lacanche.
No one knows how to market better than the french. Am I right? Let’s just point out the example of those unassuming/fairly unattractive french macaron cookies, when after one bite, leave one falling to one’s knees with praise and adoration…willing to pay obscene amounts for one cookie.
Lacanche has managed to make a french cook stove appear all at once artisanal, artistic, and oh, my….sexy.
So it is with nothing but praise, that I thank the good people of Lacanche for working with us over a 6 month waiting period for the delivery from the little village of Lacanche to our farmhouse here in our little village in New Hampshire for our beautiful “marron glace” (that is the color description…swoon) french range.
I have now cooked many soups on the stove top, turkeys and goose in the oven, and cookies galore at Christmas time. The ability to control the gas burners to exactly the temperature I need is wonderful. Also, having one stove that is gas (for roasting meats) and the other side electric (for general cooking/baking) is terrific. For the holidays, I had my meat in the gas side and my side dishes warming up in the electric side.
We wanted to have a traditional farmhouse look in the kitchen. The previous owners put in beautiful hickory floors so we kept those in but darkened the color of them to a chocolate brown.
The previous owners also chose black soapstone for all of the countertops and sink. We liked that look so we dismantled everything, cut up the soapstone to fit our design concept, and reused this material.
While wandering through antique shops over the summer, we came across a heavy thick piece of butcher block that was once in a restaurant kitchen in Portsmouth, NH. The restaurant burned down years ago and one of the only pieces they managed to salvage was this butcher block from the kitchen. We found a local cabinet maker who fashioned the butcher block into a reproduction of an old English kitchen table. We added a section of marble for baking. Aside from the Lacanche stove, this center butcher block table is one of our favorite pieces in the kitchen.
We cannot begin to thank the entire crew who helped us move through the stages of renovation. We knew that many others before us have made their mark on this old historical landmark home of this beautiful New Hampshire village. We wanted to be careful not to alter the soul of this home. Many of the crew had memories and stories associated with the house so it was heart warming to know that we were bringing back to life a much loved property.
Below, I’ve included many contacts and websites that we used in order to create our “farmhouse” look. There is no one on the list that we wouldn’t fully recommend highly.
Tom Baye Building- contractor (603) 848-5750 Contoocook, NH
Nick Wright – Wright Painting (603) 219-4099 Canterbury, NH
Seth Kiedaisch – Custom Furniture, Cabinetry & Design (603) 470-5727 Warner, NH
David Bridgewater – Custom Cabinetry(603)547-7163 Greenfield, NH
Skip Ford – Artisan Stonecraftsman New Hampshire
Penhaglion Vintage Reproduction Tubs
Van Dyke’s Restoreres – reproduction hardware for kitchen & bath
Authentic Designs – Vermont – lighting
The Copper House – Epsom, New Hampshire – lighting
Vintage Tub & Bath – bath accessories (Whitehaus Vintage III – kitchen faucet)
Signature Hardware – shower accessories
Wayfair – bath sink & toilet
Country Villa Ceramics – Etsy shop. kitchen hand painted tiles
Homary – bath fixtures, slipper tub faucet set
Kitchen Dishes – Leslie Freeman Designs
Linen Bath Towels – Rough Linen