Achieve ev­ery­thing on your ren­o­va­tion wish list

Or­chard Hill Farm, the Michi­gan farm­house the Bridgers have trans­formed, is now a dream home with loads of charm and in­tegrity.

Cottages & Bungalows - - Contents -

“Re­ally ed­u­cate

your­self un­sexy, about foun­da­tional


Ac­cord­ing to Jon Faris of Par­a­digm Ren­o­va­tion, the wall sid­ing isn’t shiplap since it was not in­tended to be ex­posed. No­tice how the boards are a va­ri­ety of widths. The Bridgers loved the char­ac­ter of it, how­ever, and de­cided to leave it vis­i­ble. When the Barn­storm­ers Wood team in­stalled the hard­wood white ash floors, they im­i­tated the ap­proach by us­ing vary­ing widths in the floor.

|OP­PO­SITE| Given Michi­gan’s four-sea­son cli­mate, out­door din­ing fur­ni­ture needs to be sturdy. The Bridgers chose a din­ing set and per­gola from Lowe’s that fit the bill.

Last Jan­uary,

we in­tro­duced you to the Bridgers and what then might have passed for a haunted house in Fen­nville, Michi­gan.

Since then, they have been hard at work do­ing what they do best: bring­ing their cre­ativ­ity to bear on a ren­o­va­tion that merges old with new in a co­her­ent, charm­ing whole.


The liv­ing room and me­dia room are the last fin­ished spa­ces to ap­pear in our pages, and these ar­eas ex­em­plify the Bridgers’ ap­proach. They pri­or­i­tized main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal farm­house as the heart of the ren­o­vated home. When they stripped “un­for­tu­nate era ma­te­ri­als” left by the last own­ers, in­clud­ing “hor­ri­ble shag car­pet” and pan­el­ing, beau­ti­ful old wood sid­ing was re­vealed. While it looks like shiplap, Chris­tine says, “our builder says it’s not be­cause it was never meant to

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to have

de­sign de­ci­sions in­spired by the

orig­i­nal struc­ture.

It has such a sweet feel … un­like any­thing you see to­day be­cause of roofline and win­dow po­si­tion­ing.”

The heart of the home, the liv­ing room is a ren­o­va­tion of the orig­i­nal struc­ture. The mod­ern stair­case and loft rail­ings add con­trast in both color and style.

be ex­posed.” But the Bridgers loved the tex­ture and per­son­al­ity of the wood in its vary­ing sizes, so they worked around it, opt­ing to in­su­late with dry­wall on the outer walls so the ex­posed wood could stay un­touched.

To echo the ex­posed sid­ing on the walls, the ash wood floors from Barn­storm­ers Wood are also var­ied in size. The Bridgers orig­i­nally planned on stain­ing the wood but de­cided in­stead to use a matte nat­u­ral fin­ish to al­low the wood grain to show. The floor is one of Chris­tine’s fa­vorite fea­tures of the home.

Given the home’s idyl­lic lo­ca­tion, the Bridgers did not want a TV in the liv­ing room. In­stead, a slid­ing door sep­a­rates the me­dia room from the liv­ing room so that the TV is avail­able but not ob­tru­sive. The me­dia room, too, has the orig­i­nal sid­ing, even though Chris­tine says, “we made the de­ci­sion know­ing we’d be vac­u­um­ing up paint chips.” Some things are worth the ex­tra ef­fort.


Now that the ren­o­va­tion is com­plete, Chris­tine shares her fa­vorite el­e­ments—and her big­gest take­away les­son. Chris­tine re­ports she is “most happy with the de­sign of the ac­tual space and the con­nec­tion be­tween old and new.” In fact, when peo­ple visit, “they can’t re­ally tell old from new.” The home has earned the re­spect and

in­ter­est of the neigh­bor­hood, and is ac­tu­ally a traf­fic prob­lem some­times, Chris­tine says, be­cause peo­ple come just to see the house. Chris­tine is grate­ful for “an op­por­tu­nity to have de­sign de­ci­sions in­spired by the orig­i­nal struc­ture. It has such a sweet feel … un­like any­thing you see to­day be­cause of roofline and win­dow po­si­tion­ing.” Most of all, Chris­tine says, she’s happy that this has be­come “a home that cre­ates mo­ments that bring you back to what mat­ters,” of­fer­ing an “es­cape from the hus­tle and bus­tle.”

Lessons learned? Chris­tine ex­plains the sep­tic sys­tem pre­sented their big­gest learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. She and her hus­band, Gabe, didn’t know any­thing about sep­tic tanks, in­clud­ing that they cause hard-wa­ter stains. They planted seed in their or­chard, then re­al­ized they hadn’t con­sid­ered ir­ri­ga­tion, so they had to dig up the seed to in­stall sprin­klers. Then, Chris­tine says, they “dug up the sprin­klers to in­stall the sep­tic tank, then to in­stall the wa­ter soft­ener.” Learn from Chris­tine’s mis­takes with her hard-won ad­vice: “Re­ally ed­u­cate your­self about un­sexy, foun­da­tional el­e­ments. Un­der­stand how you’re go­ing to use your home and whether the in­fra­struc­ture can sup­port it—for ex­am­ple, do you need a sep­tic sys­tem that can sup­port 22 peo­ple vis­it­ing rather than just two.”

On the whole, though, Chris­tine says the process was “a de­signer’s dream.” She and her fam­ily rel­ish the chal­lenge and re­ward of projects like this. The home no one wanted be­cause it was too much work, the land they’ve turned into an or­chard, the new peo­ple and op­por­tu­ni­ties they’ve had as a re­sult of this ad­ven­ture—all of it is em­blem­atic of an ap­proach to life. Chris­tine ex­plains, “As hu­man be­ings, we’re ca­pa­ble of so much more than we ever set out to achieve. It’s a great way to live.”

The TV is in a room es­pe­cially re­served for movie nights, rather than the cen­tral liv­ing area. The slid­ing door al­lows con­ver­sa­tion to con­tinue in the ad­join­ing liv­ing room.

For the Bridgers (left to right: Emelia, Chris­tine, Gabe and Jen­son), the ren­o­va­tion process and re­sults are a fam­ily af­fair.


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