The Great Update: This Revamped Farmhouse Was Inspired by 1800s New England and 20th-Century Scandinavia
In a Hudson Valley hamlet 50 miles north of New York City, architect Annie Mennes took history into her own hands, transforming an outmoded 19th-century farmhouse and rebuilding its barn into spacious his-and-hers offices. She shares her smart approach and the creative sources she mined to design a vibrant, happy hub for running her business and raising her family.
When planning the renovation of her family's Garrison, New York, farmhouse six years ago, Annie Mennes channeled two very different places and times: 1800s New England and 20th-century Scandinavia. "I like traditional style when it's clean, crisp, and articulated; and on the modern side, I don't like rooms to be too spare," says the architect, who has worked for firms such as Roman and Williams in New York City and now runs her own studio, Garrison Foundry. "My approach is marrying the two together." What she started with, however, was rustic Adirondack vernacular, with cedar-shake siding that had been covered by white clapboard in the 1920s, and a front porch that had rotted and been ripped off by a previous owner. Reinstating the latter was high on her to-do list. "I'd always felt like the house was missing its nose," says Mennes. To find out what else it lacked, she; her husband, media executive David Minkin; and their three children—Elsa, 10, Axel, 8, and Leah, 4—lived there for five years before doing any work. "We realized we needed more storage, a mudroom, and a fourth bedroom," she says. Once it started, they stayed put, something she never recommends to clients: "For a while we had a blue tarp as a roof, which delighted my daughter, who told me she thought it was 'so cool.'" The work took just under a year, and was completed in 2017.
Not surprisingly, much of the home's character owes to the architectural updates Mennes made, and it reflects her penchant for quirky details and carving out clever nooks. She installed decorative rift-sawn white-oak beams throughout, and replaced the original windows with Lepage Millwork ones that are aluminum-clad on the exterior and pine on the interior. She liked the old-fashioned rosettes on some of the door frames, as well as the original baseboards and trim, and found companies to replicate them. After reinstating the front porch, she enclosed a second one off the living room as a sunroom; in Elsa's room, she added a dormer, creating a cozy hangout- slash-homework loft—a choice that really proved its worth over the past year. "It was well used while she was attending school remotely," says Minkin. "In fact, she's got the nicest room in the house."
Prior to all this, Mennes had designed adjoining work spaces for herself and Minkin out back. "When we bought the place, I thought we'd just insulate the old barn for our offices, because it was beautiful to my eye, but we discovered the joists were rotting and had to tear it down," she says. "We salvaged all of the old hemlock boards and reused them for David's side, which was his man cave before it became his home office last year."
Zooming side by side has had its perks. "I know the voices of everybody he works with at this point," she says. "I always joked that I didn't really understand what David did, and now after hearing him on endless calls, I do." Minkin, however, has always understood—and appreciated—his wife's work. "I can always recognize an Annie design," he says. "Now I'm lucky enough to live and work in one."
The back door makes a splashy entrance with Portola Paints & Glazes' Ching Ming. It opens onto a breakfast nook in Farrow & Ball Martin Kesselman White. Kufri pillows top the Gus* Design Group ottoman; the hook is by Lostine.
On the front porch of their home, Annie Mennes' younger daughter, Leah, and son, Axel, hang out on a Lowcountry swing bed. An Ikea rattan chair with Kufri fabric cushions is paired with an Urban Outfitters metal table. The floor is painted in Rust-Oleum Pearl Gray, and the home's clapboard exterior is in Benjamin Moore Cloud White, one of Mennes' favorite whites: "It reads crisp and bright, but it has a lot of warmth to it as well."
Sunny Breakfast Nook
The breakfast nook off the back door "has the best views of the rear yard from the house," says Annie. It's where they sit down to toast and coffee, and where her three kids do crafts and homework. The table and chairs are from Target, the rug is from Rugs.com, and the light fixture is by Muuto. The shiplap walls are painted Farrow & Ball Martin Kesselman White. Local millworker Ptacek Home made the cabinet, which holds a mishmash of Danish pottery and eBay finds, wooden bowls, and artwork by Mennes' three kids.
Creative in the Mudroom
Mennes enclosed a side porch to create a proper mudroom. The shelf is made from extra wood leftover from the beam cladding; its hooks are from eBay, and the brackets are from Lostine. The cabinets were an Ikea trick: "We get these large cabinets from Ikea and built some more above to make them look integrated," says Annie. "We recessed some black pulls into the doors to make them seem more custom." The bench is from Cost Plus World Market; the floors are encaustic cement tile from The Cement Tile Shop. The board-and-batten walls are painted Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, and the light fixture is from Roanoak Lighting on Etsy—one of Mennes's favorite shops. "They make beautiful handmade lighting," she says. The boot tray is an old Martha Stewart piece Mennes bought at Target.
Mennes expanded the kitchen into the dining room, but had to keep the chimney (it vents the heating system). So she worked it into the island, which is painted in Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain and topped with Silestone quartz. White-oak countertops and a Fireclay Tile backsplash surround the NXR stove; the faucet is by Perrin & Rowe.
Time to Dine
The more formal dining area off the kitchen has a table and bench custom-made by Ptacek Home; the chairs are vintage Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs with Ikea cushions. Mennes had the table runner made with fabric from Kufri. The light fixture is from Light & Living, and the wool-and-sisal-blend rug is from Rugs.com. She had the window seat built into the bay window. It has a cushion covered in Perennials performance fabric ("a great source for performance fabric that looks natural and soft," says Mennes), and pillows from Kufri and Target.
In the Sun
One of the family's two cats, a Maine Coon mix named Vinny, dozes off on the Ikea cushion of one of the dining room's vintage chairs. Their other cat, Brother, came with the house: "The previous owners gave Brother to a farmer at a local farm, but he escaped and walked 10 miles back to our house when we moved here nine years ago!" says Mennes. "We often joke that we live in Brother's house, and he is the actual owner."
The centerpiece of the living room's gallery wall is a yellow star print by artist Lena Wolff. It's surrounded by (clockwise from top) a pink Agnes Martin print, a landscape from Anthropologie, an Agnes Martin exhibit poster, a black-and-white Claire Oswalt collage, a Donna Walker landscape painting, a black-and-white collage that Mennes found on Etsy, a Nicole Patel landscape, and an Animal Print Shop bunny print. The lamp is from Victoria Morris Pottery.
Old and New
"Like a lot of older homes, our house has two living areas. This room was the former parlor," says Mennes. "We use it as another living area for quiet activities." Given the history of the space, you'd think the fireplace was just as old—but it is, despite its convincing aesthetics, entirely new. "We wanted it to feel old. I purchased the wood surround on eBay—it came from a farmhouse in Pennsylvania—and we had to cut it a bit to make it work. Then, we purchased a new coal basket type gas insert. We wanted it to feel like an old fireplace that was original to the house."
A Justina Blakeney Kerani wall hanging and hand-loomed Peruvian frazada from Intiearth (used as a coverlet) give the parents' retreat a boho feel. The bed is from Room & Board, the linen sheets and basket are from Zara Home, and the blue pillow is from Amazon. A Danish vase that Mennes found on eBay accents the Betania side table from Anthropologie. She had the Serena & Lily Flynn wall sconce hardwired into the wall.
Mennes' half of the rebuilt barn is painted in Benjamin Moore Cloud White; her husband's is paneled in hemlock they salvaged. Metal-caged warehouse lights line the peaked ceiling. For her desk, she laid a reclaimed pine slab across Bisley file cabinets, and mounted a Home Depot pegboard (also painted Cloud White). Ikea boxes and magazine files and a Fartech calendar flip clock fill the floating shelves. She found the faux-Eames desk chair on eBay, and the ladder with wire bins on Etsy; the lounge chair is by Jens Risom.
Mennes enclosed a former screened porch on the side of the house with Lepage Millwork windows, and finished the interior with board-and-batten paneling that's painted in Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. When the kids aren't playing here, she stretches out with a book on the Urban Outfitters daybed and cushion. The large textured pillow is from Anthropologie, the striped one is from Target, and the pink geometric-print ones are from Kufri. A Noguchi Akari light sculpture hangs above, and the Moroccan carpet is from Heja Home.
Local garden designer and former Living gardening editor Lindsey Taylor surrounded the home's side terrace with low-maintenance plants and flowers, like sedum, lavender, and poppies. The pergola has a temporary willow top for shade until the wisteria and clematis grow in. A Viwei rattan pendant lights the Teak Warehouse table, bench, and chairs. The original stone fireplace was outfitted for grilling; the family fires it up for fish and flatbreads all summer long.
Room to Grow
Behind the property's barn is a cutting garden, where Mennes grows a mix of wildflowers ("Last year, I grew a lot of cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and tall marigolds which is what you see here," she says) and vegetables. "I love coming out here—it is a special spot where I teach my kids the joy of growing flowers and vegetables. For the most part, they love it. I am still working on getting them to help with the weeds, but they love planting the seeds!"