Willow Hill Farm

When a rainy morning the day of UVA’s graduation changed the venue from the Rotunda to indoors and limited the number of seats available, Jeff & Cathie had to change their plans last-minute even though they were already on their way to Charlottesville from Richmond. They decided to stop by a farm that had been on the market for a while and fell in love with both the historic farmhouse and the graceful property surrounding it, including frontage on the majestic Rivanna River. They bought it and renovated it to make it their own, and it’s become a true family homestead for both of their kids, grandkids, and friends to gather alike.

Don’t you love the entrance sign?

Meandering down a gravel driveway, this is the view you get once the woods clears and you see the side of the farmhouse.

The front porch is welcoming and has so much character you can only find in a historic home, like these perfectly imperfect floor boards.

current view of the house
old photograph of the house

One striking detail about the exterior of this farmhouse I’ve never seen before is the obvious Masonic symbol in the front. There have got to be some rich historical details involving the construction of the house related to members of the Freemasons, but the specific story evades the current owners.

the Freemason symbol on the front facade

To the side of the house is a beautiful huge grassy hill that slopes down to the Rivanna River. The land on the other side of the river is in a conservation easement so these views are here to stay.

Check out the little architectural details like these cornices when you walk in through the front porch:

Swwwooon. And these double doors off the front foyer area! Look at how they close at the top. And the paneling in each door.

The living room is just behind the doors and I adore the way Cathie decorated this space, respecting the simplicity of the house’s farmhouse architectural style.

She’s mastered the cozy/ inviting yet charming/ graceful aesthetic, hasn’t she? I asked Cathie what her favorite part of the house was and she immediately said the kitchen. It was originally added to the existing house in ~1940 and she totally redid it once they moved in. This old army range was against the wall and huge, and they had it moved into the center of the room and put countertop on the top to make it their kitchen island! How creative is that!

This is by far my favorite detail of their farmhouse. They are able to utilize the inside for storage and it just works so perfectly.

This room is bright, airy, has beautiful old windows looking out over the farm’s driveway on one side and the Rivanna River on the other side.

Those floors. To. Die. For.

The house has five fireplaces, each styled so simply and elegantly.

If I were to design my dream historic farmhouse, it would have this staircase. I love it because it goes “backwards,” meaning as you go up the steps you go toward the front door, instead of the typical stairs that start on the first floor by the front door and go up toward the back of the house. I think it’s cool to see where doorways on the sides used to be– the molding is still there but as the house has evolved over the years, they’re walls now.

Once you go upstairs, a stunning warm neutral grasscloth wallpaper covers the walls– even this fun curved wall.

And here’s an itty bitty little window looking out on the side of the house facing the river. With a view that lovely, I guess you gotta take advantage of all the possible window spaces you can!

Apparently someone named Noel took it upon herself to carve her name into the bottom of one of the doors back in 1887. I would love to know the story of who Noel was/ why she carved her name in the door. I think that’s one of the coolest mindsets about being in old houses… you realize you’re just a temporary inhabitant, and the house has seen people living their lives there that you’ll never get to understand. You just respect their unknown story like future inhabitants respect you were there once, too.

Jeff and Cathie decided to add on a garage to the back of the house, and LOOK HOW COOL IT TURNED OUT. Rather than add on to the existing house aesthetic, they created a brand new structure that looks like an old barn that just got joined together with the farmhouse.

Check out the awesome sliding door that leads from the old house (through the kitchen) into the mud room, which then goes on to the garage.

In the space that connects the new addition (“barn” garage) to the kitchen, they used an old door from a guest house that used to stand on the property. I love how they thought to repurpose the door and give it a new home.

Below you can see a view of the whole house from a pasture, just perfectly situated among some big old trees that you don’t find at newer houses around here.

The entire vibe at this farmhouse is so relaxed and also, importantly, so respectful to the history of the home and its setting in the countryside. It was such a treat for me to get to spend time here taking photos. I’m lucky enough to have been to their farm a bunch of times before with my family, and every time I come, being in the relaxing atmosphere helps me remember that even though life can often seem really busy, it’s never so busy we can’t take a step back to appreciate our surroundings and the beauty of the every day. So I guess what I’m trying to say is: the moral of the story is… when life hands you a rained out graduation, get yourself an 1879 farmhouse.

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