Formal elegance and gracious country living in Chester Springs.
In a secluded corner of northern Chester County, a short walk from famed Birchrunville Store Café, you’ll find seven meticulously landscaped acres that are home to, not yet another stone Colonial mansion, but instead a unique French Country-style farmhouse dating back to the 18th century and renovated to the highest standards.
A detached barn—with a sunny office above horse stalls plus space for a large studio, den or party space—a pool with spa and waterfall set among specimen plantings, an apple orchard and extensive gardens are all enclosed in a private pocket of space making this feel like a special piece of heaven.
The singular character of this home is revealed in the details—from priceless millwork added by a Winterthur curator, a wood railing designed and built by a protégé of Wharton Esherick, custom cabinets crafted by a woodworker on loan from the Smithsonian Museum, to a $12,000 Lacanche stove, a 300-year-old mantle from Provence, hand-painted floors in the laundry room and much more.
Surrounded on three sides by rebuilt stone walls, the landscape design displays the same attention to detail. See garden paths using original four-to-six-inch-thick flagstones, original millstones incorporated into the newer terraces, a stone courtyard with fountain, and rare cucumber magnolia and stunning copper beech trees. Over $400,000 was invested in enhancing the exterior since 2009.
The original 1769 core of the home remains, expanded in the early 1800s, then enlarged again in the 1940s, and again by architect Helena van Vliet and totally updated in 2000. Each stage in its evolution added to the unique feel of this extraordinary home.
Brimming with charm and period details, the original parts of the home—housing the entry, formal living and dining rooms, library, and some bedrooms—boast such features as beamed ceilings made by incorporating wood from an 18th-century French ship, random-width wood floors, deep-set windows, antique hardware, rare tombstone built-in cabinets, and antique slate and marble slab floors.
Later additions to this stuccoed fieldstone home were designed to preserve the centrality of the original home, keeping it as the main event of the composition.
Not surprisingly, this distinctive home was once owned by one of Winterthur’s curators, Arthur Sussell, who added priceless millwork—moldings, wainscoting, paneling and other details. Sussell built a fitting stage for his priceless antiques collection, later auctioned by Sotheby’s. Hardwood floors—chestnut, oak, hardwood pine, walnut—plaster walls, antique hardware and more details integral to the home make it a kind of antique itself. And all on display as the home is currently unoccupied.
The Final Addition
Although adding significant space in 2000 to what is now a four-bedroom home with three full and two partial baths and six fireplaces, the final addition was designed to appear small so as not to outshine the original structure—matching the original in height, width and roof pitch. The construction used local and green materials and techniques (recycled wood and stone, low VOC paints, high efficiency heating, etc.).
Following a design philosophy that buildings should reconnect with the natural world, architect van Vliet added a large, gourmet country kitchen (while retaining the original as a prep kitchen), sunny family room with eating area overlooking the property, lower-level media room with French doors to the grounds, gentleman’s study, and a second-floor master bedroom suite with dressing rooms and baths to provide modern amenities.
The existing interior space was also updated and reorganized, adding a wine cellar (expanded in 2012 to store 500 bottles), laundry room and pantry. Meanwhile the exterior got new terraces and balconies, added to take advantage of the private viewscapes and providing more areas for sitting, eating and entertaining.
Practical details were not overlooked. Electrical and heating systems, water treatment systems, central air, radiant heat, a security system, driveway alarm and sound system were added or updated. Exterior work included a cedar shake roof, copper gutters and downspouts, new doors and windows, and in 2012, repainting and stuccoing.
With its pristine setting and extraordinary collection of site-specific details, this is the kind of unique home that could well be a highlight of Chester County Day when the tour returns to this area. And a gracious home any day of the year.
This unique seven-acre Chester Springs property with barn, pool and residence (4 bedrooms, 3.2 baths, 6 fireplaces on four levels) is offered for $1.75 million. For details or to arrange a visit, contact Bill Cochrane, James A. Cochrane, Inc. 610-469-6100 or 610-476-4779; CochraneInc.com.