The Rappahannock River, or “Rivah” as everyone pronounces it around there, is home to some of Virginia’s oldest and sweetest farmhouses, and I am delighted to get to share with you a beautifully renovated farmhouse that is oozing sentimental charm. This sweet farmhouse was built in the 1800s and by the time the current owners saw it, it had been neglected and perhaps even viewed as a tear down.
An avid equestrian, current owner Kate first saw the house when she was in the field below it working on hay. She and her husband fell in love with it immediately. As luck would have it, they found out that the owners at the time were not planning on keeping it and were able to negotiate a way to purchase it without it hitting the market.
Renovated Country Kitchen
I’ve got to applaud Kate for seeing this kitchen and feeling inspired to take on the renovation.
It was dark and not what I would call particularly inviting.
But… drumroll… look at how Kate has transformed this space:
So cheerful! The side door opens to a cute little side porch that doubles as a mud room. Here’s a close up of the wreath on that door:
Kate actually made it herself using bird nests that fell out of her trees and local oyster shells and feathers.
Next to the door is a sweet mirror that belonged to one of Kate’s family members, along with two little painted horses that Kate’s aunt made for a baby mobile years ago.
Perhaps the sweetest thing about the kitchen is its view from the sink. Doing dishes while watching sailboats pass on the Rivah can’t be so bad, right?
Next to the window is a sweet little peephole that pays homage to the shipbuilder who built the house as well as lets in more sunlight. I love the butcher block countertops.
The piece de resistance, though, is this adorable vintage stove. It. Is. Perfection.
I have never seen one of these before: look at the old-school “fire extinguisher” Kate found. It looks like a light bulb filled with some kind of flame retardant liquid and if it gets hot enough, the glass will break and release the liquid. This farmhouse is full of the coolest details like this!
In the middle of the kitchen is an island that used to belong to one of Kate’s family members who was an artist. It adds so much depth and character (and also storage).
On the other side of the kitchen is a sweet little desk area with a homemade light. Kate made it by drilling into an old oyster can! How perfect for a riverfront country kitchen.
Farmhouse Dining Room
Directly next to the kitchen is the dining room. When Kate and her husband bought the house, the dining room was covered in wallpaper.
Look how Kate’s redecorated and redesigned this room. It is truly breathtaking to witness now:
The ceiling is original and it is spellbinding. I’ve never seen anything like it. I love how Kate chose a blue color that mimics the outdoors. She also hung a portrait of a great-great-uncle who was lost at sea, which I found particularly respectful and adds gravitas to the room.
Above is a close up photo of the woodwork in that ceiling. Have you ever seen anything like it? I can’t get over what a work of art it is. The man who put up the ceilings owned a local wood mill. His name was Joseph Chewning Stiff.
For a room with such gravitas, it cracked me up seeing the artwork on display on the sideboard.
On a related note, the photo below makes me love Kate and her family without reservation. It’s a tiny little hole in the top of the wall that meets up with the wood trim and in the hole, they stuck a fake (plastic) snake.
When Kate was first walking through this room before they had even moved in, she met an enormous snake. It scared the daylights out of her. To keep the memory alive of that experience they decided to permanently install a snake in the room (because why not?).
Screened In Porch
The door from the dining room leads to a beautiful screened in porch that Kate said she and her husband constantly enjoy for eating dinner with their two daughters.
It is so cheerful, surrounded by abundant flowers on the outside and looking out over fields of horses.
There’s another entrance from the screened in porch that goes into the house. It opens into a center hallway. Look at this absolutely stunning vintage door. I am in love with the details and paneling, plus you can see a really cool etched design in the glass portion.
The hallway is an absolutely gorgeous room that connects the dining room on one side to a living room on the other. In the back is that screened in porch with that cool etched glass door, and in the front is a door to the outside of the house leading to the river.
The ceiling in the hallway is just as spellbinding as the dining room.
This hallway bothered Kate when she was trying to figure out how to decorate it because she said it was so dark. She took out the old door that used to overlook the river and replaced it with the current glass-paneled one that lets in light, but the hallway was still dark. She decided to embrace the dark and go with a dark paint color. And oh does it look perfect!
The living room is so cozy and intimate. I love all of the sweet family mementos throughout the space.
Every item on the walls is meaningful to the family. It makes the whole experience of being in the room feel more intimate.
The ceiling here is also another impressive wood panel work of art. It’s just amazing carpentry.
There’s another screened-in porch on the side of the house that comes off of the living room.
Screened-In Side Porch
The side porch was not the most welcoming space when Kate and her husband bought the house, but oh does it have a great view of the field looking down at the river.
And again, Kate worked her magic! Such a charming area to hang out in with little lights around the top of the screens and relaxing furniture.
In particular, this side porch is a great place to hang out due to the breeze it almost always gets. It is so simple and there is great beauty in the simplicity. (There may also be great beauty in being surrounded by a river and horses. Hard to pinpoint exactly.)
When the side porch was originally built, apparently the homeowners had a bunch of kids and used it as a sort of playroom without a door going from the porch to the outside so that they could contain their kids in it safely without having to worry about them wandering away. (Genius, ha.) There is now a door going to the side yard.
Off the living room is a sweet little music room filled with light, instruments, and family heirlooms. (Also, look at that ceiling again! Swoon.)
A local artist, William H. Clarke from Blackstone Virginia, painted the piece of art above the mantle. Kate saw it while he was painting it; she said if he made the roof red she would buy it because it looked so similar to their farmhouse. It fits in perfectly.
I love the antique looking pie chest and clearly a comfortable leather chair. You can just feel the good vibes in this room.
One fun– and meaningful– detail is the braided rug below, done by Kate’s grandmother (and enjoyed by the pets!).
A half-bath sits right off the music room. When they bought the farmhouse, as you can see below, it had tiles and was painted a dingy yellow.
Now it’s got warm hardwoods and a cooler gray paint color with new sconces Kate found. It’s quaint with that sweet sink they restored, but it feels clean and fresh.
Old Staircase Going Upstairs
My favorite part of this house– I think– is the staircase going up. Although I also think my favorite part was the kitchen. And the porch(es). And the dining room snake. Okay well it turns out I have a lot of favorites but one of them is certainly this old staircase.
It is so sturdy and solid. The spindles are super simple and not trying to be fancy, just functional. The end effect is elegant to me.
The stairs lean to the left as you walk up, which is kind of hard to get a photo of, but it is perfectly imperfect for an old house and adds so much character. I love the dark wood trim on the ceiling here too, and how Kate kept the dark blue paint color going all the way up.
(For contrast, below is what the walls looked like when they bought it– what a totally different vibe!)
The floors at the top of the staircase are gorgeous and definitely have been well loved over the years.
The hallway was white and honestly a little creepy feeling with the dark trim (at least judging from this photo):
Now with the dark blue walls, the trim fits right in and isn’t jarring at all. There is a nice built-in bookshelf at the end of the hallway, perfect for storing hundreds of books that are sentimental to Kate’s family.
Family clearly matters a lot to Kate and her husband; the way they’ve decorated their house showcases so, so many beautiful objects passed down from various family members and ancestors. I love the curated look it achieves together.
Ohhhh what a bathroom transformation! I’m excited to show you what the bathroom looked like only because you won’t believe it’s the same bathroom now. Here’s the “before”:
And, whooooosh. You can take a sigh of relief seeing how beautiful it is now. I love the driftwood that is on the right with fun hooks for towels.
Kate had this slab of marble (again, from a relative) and the skilled carpenter who did this bathroom remodel worked it into a counter with storage cupboards built in above and below. They kept the sink and just moved it to a new location.
This bench is also made from a piece of driftwood and it matches the towel hook on the wall beautifully.
This bedroom has also undergone a transformation for one of Kate’s daughters. Behold the dated decor when they purchased it:
And now you’ll notice the same rug is there but with a different wall color that picks up the soft green in the rug pattern. For whatever reason, this one bedroom does not have the breathtaking wood paneling on the ceiling like the others.
More family pieces (Kate’s dad’s side of the family had an auto repair shop and the sign hangs proudly in her daughter’s room) decorate this space. Don’t you love how everything has a story?
Kate’s other daughter has a sunny yellow room that’s directly above the music room and has windows on three sides. The wood trim on the ceiling is stunning here like so much of the house.
Here’s a close up of the window woodwork and ceiling. I just can’t get enough of it! It must have taken someone so. much. time.
I love the warmth of this room. This room doesn’t have a river view, but it looks out over the horse fields, which is pretty incredible.
The master bedroom has been painted a fun kind of turquoise that brings out the warm wood tones of the trim and ceiling.
It looks like someone signed their name on this piece of wood– or started to?– and it makes me wonder what the backstory here is! So cool.
Kate and her husband decided to pay homage to both sides of their family with a few big decisions about the farmhouse. First of all, they named it Bronze Bow Farm, after the book that Kate’s husband’s grandmother, Elizabeth George Speare wrote in 1961. Elizabeth George Speare was a well known childrens/ young adult author and I love how they honored her legacy with the name of their farm.
The second way they honored their family right off the bat was more subtle in honor of Kate’s mother-in-law, Mary. Mary has a quintessential New England home in Connecticut with weathered grey shingles and white trim. She always keeps two huge pots of red geraniums on her front porch with additional pops of red throughout her home, which made Kate and her family appreciate the color red. That in turn led to the decision to put on a red metal roof shortly after purchasing the home.
The acreage surrounding the house holds stunning horses, and not just any horses: Kate is the operating partner of Fountain Greene Farm, a retirement farm for horses. Kate is passionate about horses and riding (as are her daughters– what a place to grow up!) and I admire her work in caring for geriatric horses and helping provide jobs for people to look after them.
(Kate has a pet cow. Haven’t you always wanted a pet cow? I have.)
Can we all agree that this is a unique and well loved property? I greatly admire the life Kate and her husband have built here and the new life they’ve given this farmhouse. Not everyone would put this much blood sweat and tears into restoring a house that looked the way this one did when they found it, but my oh my has it paid off! See more of our tours here >>