What attracted these Virginia homeowners to their 3-acre lot in Paeonian Springs was in part its bucolic acreage and in part its unusual legacy.
“It was once the site of the American Work Horse Museum (1971–1999), which was affiliated with the Smithsonian,” says the wife. “There are stables on the property where horses were boarded, and several outbuildings, like what was once the tack barn or the museum warehouse.”
When the couple, who have four grown children, broke ground in 2018 to build their four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot “forever house,” they dearly wanted to be true to the property’s rich history—to draw directly from its equestrian heritage and reflect that in the home’s design.
“With roots in Colorado, our clients wanted a ranch-style home, with soaring ceilings and rustic beams,” says designer Molly Kay Johns of MK Interiors, who did the interior design and consulted with her husband, Thomas Johns of Legacy Construction & Woodworking on materials and finishes for new build. “I wanted it to feel contemporary, while giving off a modern farmhouse vibe and paying homage to its historical context.”
From the breezy front porch, with its row of clean-lined columns and black rocking chairs, to the fully furnished rear patio, the house boasts views of rolling pastures, mature trees, and old barns. One of the horse barns was repurposed as an entertainment room/guesthouse, featuring a custom island wrapped in sheet metal, as well as a built-in bunkroom that sleeps five.
The couple likes to entertain, and nowhere is that clearer than the open floor plan in the main house. “The foyer opens up into the main living area,” says Johns of the large rectilinear space anchored by a kitchen at one end and a living room at the other. “Our clients wanted one very open level, but they also wanted it to be homey.”
To achieve that warmth, Johns added open display shelves to the high-contrast black-and-white palette, and timbered beams to the 11-foot-high ceilings. She also used a lot of natural materials, like saddle-brown leather, cowhide upholstery, and jute carpets to layer on the practical 9-inch-wide charcoal-hued oak-laminate floors.
“Not only do the floors look great, but the couple have dogs and live in the country,” says Johns. “Those floors will take a beating and still shine.” For the beloved pooches, there is also a special doggie shower in the laundry room, which features black, white, and gray tiles on its floors.
“We wanted to create a home that our grown children would keep coming back to,” says the homeowner. “I trusted Molly Kay completely, having worked with her on a couple of other homes, to execute a contemporary design with rustic elements.”
Johns sourced transitional yet pragmatic pieces for this home that fit its rural setting while maintaining an intrinsic degree of sophistication. For example, the root console in the foyer sets the tone; it also happens to be one of Johns’s favorite pieces. Meanwhile, in the living room, a pair of roomy light-gray sofas upholstered in performance fabric sit on either side of a tan leather coffee table guaranteed to age with patina; two swivel armchairs provide extra seating. There is also a soaring stone fireplace in this space, as well as one in the master bedroom.
“It was important that my clients have plenty of space when their kids come to visit and when they entertain,” says Johns. “That was the always the thinking behind the big open areas.”
The kitchen features white Shaker-style cabinets, with contrasting black cabinetry in the same style on the island, which also features X-details. The backsplash is outfitted in glass subway tile for a bit of sparkle, while the hood was custom-finished in a matte-black powder coat.
“I love that we have all these windows and tall French doors to let in as much of the outside elements as possible,” says the homeowner of the house’s pastoral setting and charm. Johns took a similar approach with lighting. “I wanted all of it to be elegant, but stick to open, modern pieces you could see through, so your eye continues to move in the space,” she says.
One of the views out the rear French doors is the charming red horse barn that now does double duty as an entertainment room and guest quarters. “Turning that old horse barn into a guesthouse was such a fun project after we finished the main house. We went for a rustic but comfortable feel out there, with a bit of industrial design thrown in,” says Johns.
All these components have added up to a unique property on a special lot. The homeowners find themselves enjoying the pastoral lifestyle too, keeping a chicken coop active with five hens and freshly laid eggs for whipping up a farmer’s breakfast anytime. It’s country chic—at its most comfortable.