New This Month

A New Connecticut Home with Serious Vintage Charm

Baker and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan’s happy place is at the butcherblock island in her yolk-yellow kitchen, rolling out dough for her signature biscuits and pies. She invites us into her Connecticut getaway, where traditional details come alive thanks to vibrant, Shaker-inspired colors and modern amenities that make it a weekend retreat she and her family never want to leave.

 

Left: The home the Sheehans built features a screened porch and solar panels.

The memory of a slamming screen door in Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book "One Morning in Maine" guided Jessie and Matt Sheehan in their search for a Connecticut escape. The full-time Brooklynites wanted a rural-feeling spot where they could kick back with their two sons on weekends and holidays, and do more of the things they love: Jessie is a lawyer turned baker and author, most recently of "The Vintage Baker" (Chronicle); Matt is an urban farmer and environmental educator. Their fantasy was McCloskey’s simple cottage, with the sort of midcentury kitchen kids dash through to grab a snack on their way to the next adventure.

 

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But they couldn’t find the house they wanted, where they wanted it. “The kinds of homes Matt and I love are very old, but in a town like Sharon, Connecticut, all the beautiful old homes are right on the road,” says Jessie. So, working with Rafe Churchill and Heide Hendricks, the husband-and-wife duo behind local design firm Hendricks Churchill, they decided to start from scratch on a wide-open plot that had been part of a dairy farm. The Sheehans spent two years camping there in an Airstream on the weekends, deciding exactly where to build. Then they devised a plan for an updated, evolved version of a historic house. The result has all the same charm but is spacious, eco-smart, and close enough to town for a milk or sugar run.
 

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Just like Jessie’s recipes, the place takes vintage ideas and runs with them. The trim and doors are painted in traditional Shaker colors, and the walls are covered in semipolished Venetian-style plaster. Architectural salvage yards and antiques stores were their go-to sources for fixtures and lighting, with a Flos pendant light in the dining room as a rare exception. The result could pass for a 19th-century gem till you notice the generous proportions of the rooms and doorways, and all the sustainable features, from solar panels to a rainwater cistern to a standalone Frigidaire freezer, where, in true storybook fashion, Jessie stores surplus berries for the winter.

Left: Jessie rolls out her everything buttermilk biscuits.

From left: L.L. Bean blankets cover antique cannonball beds in older son Oliver’s room. Shaker pegs hold Jessie’s aprons and husband Matt’s gardening hats.

 

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From left: A Shaker stool by New York furniture maker Chris Harter cozies up to the kitchen’s working island. The Sheehans’ long, narrow dining-room table from nearby Hunt Country Furniture can seat up to 12.

From left: The family room features a Paulette Tavormina photograph and green built-ins designed by Rafe Churchill; the drawers stash games and craft supplies. Opposite the hearth, an Audubon print hangs over a 19th-century French walnut dropleaf table, with chairs found at an estate sale.

Bold Strokes

The Sheehan home’s exterior and porch take a cue from the chrome yellow of Shaker workshops. It continues indoors on the woodwork, while the walls are ivory plaster. That neutral base gives the rooms a cohesive flow while playing up all the striking paint choices. Jessie especially loves the effect in the kitchen: “I really wanted a yellow kitchen. When I was a child, my mother’s best friend had one.” Blue is the home’s other dominant color: Upstairs, the boys’ rooms feature a saturated shade, and out front, the porch ceiling is painted a lighter one. “I fell for the primer color,” says Jessie, “so I asked, ‘Can we just keep it that way?’ I love how it mimics the sky.”

  • House exterior and porch
    House exterior and porch

    Benjamin Moore Yellow Oxide

  • Dining-room and kitchen trim, island, and cabinets
    Dining-room and kitchen trim, island, and cabinets

    Farrow & Ball Babouche

  • Family-room cabinets and trim
    Family-room cabinets and trim

    Farrow & Ball Folly Green

  • Boys’-room trim
    Boys’-room trim

    Farrow & Ball Pitch Blue

  • Baseboards and hallway trim
    Baseboards and hallway trim

    Farrow & Ball Plummett

  • House exterior and porch
    House exterior and porch

    Benjamin Moore Yellow Oxide

  • Boys’-room trim
    Boys’-room trim

    Farrow & Ball Pitch Blue

  • Dining-room and kitchen trim, island, and cabinets
    Dining-room and kitchen trim, island, and cabinets

    Farrow & Ball Babouche

  • Baseboards and hallway trim
    Baseboards and hallway trim

    Farrow & Ball Plummett

  • Family-room cabinets and trim
    Family-room cabinets and trim

    Farrow & Ball Folly Green

Jessie; her younger son, Jack, 13; and the family’s pit bull, Knibloe, hang out on the screened porch, where they eat and entertain deep into autumn (the table and benches are from Village Braider Antiques, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where Matt’s parents live).