Decades ago, there was a concept of home building known as "crib construction," where boards were stacked like pancakes inside walls. The idea was to create insulation, but the concept fell by the wayside over the years. I had the opportunity to not only view one of the last 30 crib construction homes in the country, but to see how you can create a warm blend of country and ultra modern.
In 2007, Jane Bryden and her husband purchased the rare home and began applying their own touches. "We got to do all the fun stuff really," said Bryden.
The house also came with an interesting history besides its unusual construction. Built in 1830, the house was part of a working farm for about 100 years. In 1920, Bryden said, the land and house was purchased by a collective that turned the property into a men’s country club. "There was even a trout hatchery here. They would come to play cards, shoot skeet, or play horseshoes," said Bryden. However, by the 1980’s the country club closed and the property sat in disrepair for more than 30 years. "It was derelict. There were holes in the roof – it’s was really a mess," said Bryden.
The property nearly fell into the hands of developers, but was championed by a local land trust and conservation commission, which led to the preservation of the house. The initial remodeling work was done by a former owner. "It was all white walls when we bought the house, but the former owner had saved a lot of the old doors and preserved a lot of the wood flooring," said Bryden.
The couple, not only painted rooms warm Earth tones, but reconstructed (with the help of an architect) many of the rooms in the house.
The kitchen is a focal point in the home as Bryden said it was important to her husband. "He’s a great cook," she said.
The kitchen layout is smooth and light-filled and designed to allow several people to work easily together preparing food or cleaning up. There is a large stone island in the center of the room which has its own sink and an induction burner built in. Bryden said that the stone is a type of mica schist from a quarry in Ashfield, MA. There is an industrial-style gas stove with a built-in faucet on the wall above. The kitchen also has an entire wall of south-facing windows. "When the sun comes pouring through it’s marvelous," said Bryden.
While many of the floors are original polished wood, there are stone floors in areas such as the bedrooms and bathrooms that have radiant heat built in. The master bedroom also has a free-standing wall and a loft. "The architect raised the ceilings too – it’s a relatively small bedroom, but it gives the feeling of spaciousness," said Bryden. The bath off of the master bedroom is primarily a large shower with a glass wall and naturally, a toilet. The sink, with a mica schist counter top, rests on wooden cabinetry just outside the bath.
Bryden said that in one of the home’s bathrooms she even saved the old tub and had it sand-blasted.
In one area of the house, Bryden said it was a "problematic" to figure out what to do with the long, narrow room that once served as the club house. The couple chose to turn part of the room into a music room, complete with grand piano, and the other half put in a wood stove and lots of cabinets and book shelves. "The cupboards are very old New England," said Bryden. "This was also the room where you could see the sky through a big hole in the roof. They just had a tarp covering it," she said.
The house has five different heating zones. "The upstairs is usually really cold," said Bryden.
In addition, the property had an old "two-seater" outhouse the couple turned into a garden shed and a barn which was almost completely rebuilt. However, the barn does retain many of its old chestnut beams. Some of the cabinetry that was originally in the house was moved to the tack room.
Bryden said that they were required to keep the classic farmhouse look to the outside of the house. However, the inside is like stepping into another world. "I was obsessed when I moved here," said Bryden with a grin.