This old farmhouse is rich with history.
Every creaking floorboard, the well-worn woodwork and subtle sheen of wear on stair treads and doorknobs recalls the trials and tribulations of family life.
Like the rings of a centuries-old tree, its age can be ticked off in the number of additions as each generation left its mark. The original structure was built in 1869, with the first addition made in 1890. Another portion expanded the farmhouse in the 1960s, followed by a full-story addition and porch enclosure in the 1970s. Another addition added to the home’s profile in the 1980s, and the final (so far!) addition was made three years ago.
Now it’s hard to discern where the original structure ends and additions begin. The lines blur, at least from the outside.
“It’s always been important to maintain the integrity of the original home, to keep that history and be good stewards of that,” says the homeowner.
Her husband grew up on the farm and loves every stick of wood in the old place.
“I grew up in three-bedroom ranches. I was enamoured of this old house, and I wanted to live here when we got married. His parents immediately began plans to build a three-bedroom ranch,” she recalls, laughing. “It was an awesome place to raise seven children, and now we have 17 grandkids.”
Over the years, she has become an enthusiastic collector — with a discerning eye for staging her favorite pieces. Old kitchen utensils are artfully arranged for display, such wooden rolling pins tucked into vintage crockery. There’s also tinware, cookbooks, children’s books and toys and old quilts as art. “I enjoy the character and the make-do attitude of them.”
“I collected lamb and sheep figurines from the 1940s and ‘50s because I thought they were very sweet, but I can’t squeeze in another one. I collected flower frogs, and that’s at its limit unless I find something that’s totally different. It would be easy be cluttered if you just keep going. I’ve learned to stop, to draw a limit,” she explains.
She shrugs off dusting. “It’s a lived-in house. We live in the country. Dust is part of life.”
There are family heirloom pieces, too. Her great-grandmother’s bread bowl, homemade ice shoes for walking on ice and sleigh bells used for more than mere decoration are prized items, along with her mother-in-law’s Vaseline glasses.
“I wasn’t always a collector. When I had a house to decorate, I went out to an old shop on the farm, pulled out old things, cleaned them up and used them as decor. My father-in-law couldn’t believe I was hanging old farm implements on the walls,” she says.
In the basement, she discovered an old pie safe dating from the 1860s, dragged it upstairs, gave it a scrub-down and replaced worn screens. “I was delighted with it and still have it. Then I began collecting old crocks, kitchen utensils, old pictures, anything that appealed to me. If it was under $20 and I really liked it, I was thrilled it could be mine.”
Her husband guided plans for the latest addition which included a spacious garage with heated floors and a “bonus” room overhead. Actually, it’s less storage for vehicles than “party central” for big family gatherings, holidays and birthdays, and the area is decked out like any other room, including plenty of seating and decor.
She smiles. “In hindsight, his ideas were much more visionary than mine. And who knew how wonderful it would be to have an attached garage?”
Above the garage is a charming guest room and her sewing room, an expansive, cozy and comfortable space. A carpenter turned a $5 desk into a sewing table, and there is plenty of storage for her quilting fabrics. She’s quilted with Civil War-era fabrics, as well as fabrics from the 1920s and ‘30s, and loves reproduction fabrics. She is so organized that one closet is devoted to fabrics arranged by color and pattern.
This is her favorite room in the house, but a close second is a rather awkward space formed when two additions came together. Tucked up in the eaves, it’s a cozy, secluded library filled with books and collectibles.
The family room’s vintage stove still works and has kept them war, in blizzards past when power has gone off.
New countertops gave the kitchen a fresh look several years ago, and the homeowner enjoys views of her garden from the sink.