Ask anyone who has ever fallen for the charms of an old house and they can usually recall the feeling they had upon first seeing it. "It seemed to glow from within," says Keleigh Swan of the circa 1770 farmhouse that she purchased and began renovating over ten years ago with her husband, . "We fell in love with this glowing white house, set against green trees and heirloom boxwoods, with romantic porches and a wonderful view of the barn. It has amazing energy."
Indeed, there is much to admire about the farmhouse, which has retained much of its original character and exudes the kind of quiet beauty one would cherish in a country home. Officially dubbed the Hiram Hedges House, it's set on five peaceful acres that also include a barn, original smokehouse, and outhouse (a two-seater!). The couple is the first outside of the Hedges family ever to reside in the home, and now, for only the second time in 247 years, they've placed the incredible property
The renovation has taken years to complete, but the couple is understandably proud of the serene, light-filled space they've created. The home was structurally sound when they purchased it, but the interior was bare bones — a "vanilla box," Swan recalls. It needed quite a bit of aesthetic work, but that was a welcome challenge for Swan, who knows old homes like the back of her hand. A creative director, stylist, and design industry veteran, she also happens to carry a graduate degree in historic preservation.
For her, the house was an easy sell. "I'd been living in crowded cities for 20 years. When I finally met my husband and we started looking for a home, I wanted to find something historic and architecturally interesting." Location mattered, too, for the newlyweds. "Our creative minds needed the quiet of the country, yet we wanted to be close enough to Washington, DC (where we work and socialize) that we didn't feel totally isolated."
With its proximity to the city despite a feeling of being world's away, the Shenandoah Valley seemed to be fit their needs perfectly. In between bouts of designing, painting and landscaping (she personally dug holes for 400 iris bulbs!), Swan reminisces fondly about the couple's spontaneous weekend drives, pausing to buy heirloom pumpkins in the fall and fresh herbs in the summertime.
Bucking what they refer to as "house museum" decor, Swan and Blunt took a fresh and modern approach to the home's design. "Our vision was to preserve historic character and original elements, while introducing modern functionality and European farmhouse style." Inspired by Scandinavian design and the surrounding nature, they employed a clean, airy color palette that gives the home a luminous quality.
Despite the modern touches, there's still a strong sense of history at play here. Original hand-hewn log chinking has been preserved along with the trim and paneled doors. Artifacts discovered during the renovation remain hidden in the home, such as a pair of lady's shoes buried in the logs above the main stair — an Old English superstition against bad luck. The original parchment land grant from Lord Fairfax of England, who granted the property to John Hedges in 1754, was discovered in the attic. And thanks to Swan's own research work, the home has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Saying good-bye to such a special place isn't easy, but the Swan and Blunt are confident that the next owners will appreciate, as they have, the qualities that come with being so close to nature: "the ancient trees, colorful sunsets, hooting owls and rare birds, the deer that sleep in the field." And like Swan, they'll likely love to sit in the sun-strewn master bedroom, looking out over the barn and watching the mama raccoon nest each summer with her cubs in a nearby tree. These are the very qualities that make an old farmhouse a home.
Asking Price: $849,900
For more information, contact Shannon Downs Casper, at (703) 508-3195.