Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly

Kaleena Thompson

01 April 2011

Merging traditional forms with reclaimed materials for a fresh Philadelphia farmstead. 

The future once hung in the balance for a dilapidated contemporary pink-stucco and glass house on a hilltop overlooking Chester County, Pennsylvania. Now an 18th century-style farmstead reigns supreme on the rolling hills of the Brandywine Conservancy. Composed of a stone Colonial-style main house, carriage house, and barn, the property blends new and old seamlessly together. 

The land, nicknamed Starry Night Farm, was brought to life by West Chester, Pennsylvania based Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd. The firm holds an abiding interest in preserving and enhancing Philadelphia's rich tradition, historic suburbs, and rural surroundings. "We find ourselves in a market in demand of historic influences, so our new construction is historically driven, and our restoration embodies historic preservation," says Richard Buchanan, AlA, founding partner of Archer & Buchanan Architecture.

The Starry Night Farm

New and old blend seamlessly together in this hilltop farmhouse overlooking the rolling pastures of Chester County, PA. In the style of the 18th-century farms that enrich this area. the property contains a farmhouse with walls made of salvaged fieldstone from an old barn, a horse barn, and two wooden carriage houses. The six-stall horse barn features a broad, sheltering roof and all of the firm's key barn design elements. The dining room features salvaged timber-frame beams on the ceiling, country antiques, a wide-plank timber floor, and reproduction antique light fixtures.

Since its inception in 1996, the company has also earned an earnest reputation in farms and equestrian facilities. Most notable is Starry Night, where "the clients wanted a home that could serve them and their guests for weekend stays and cater to their individual interests while still retaining the spirit of the Pennsylvania farmhouse," says Jessica Fogle, LEED AP.  The first order of business was to assess the displaced pink house. The clients were open to renovation; however, Archer & Buchanan had other plans. "We demolished the pink house and built a very traditional farmhouse of superlative quality," Buchanan says. Inspired by the 1720s Pennsylvania stone farmhouse, the clients were dedicated to the centuries-old design. "The clients searched near and far for antique architectural elements that respected their vision for historic character," Fogle says. Reclaimed materials such as salvaged doors and jambs, window sills, and rugged wooden floors play to the 18th century vernacular and boost the sense that the 6,000 sf house and 33-acre site were meant for each other. 

The adoption of antique materials punctuates Starry Night Farm, so much so, in fact, that it could fade into a history book. "Before, the landscape was an eyesore, but now it's an understated classic farmhouse overlooking the valley," Buchanan says. Although traditional in character, the layout is that of a contemporary home. The basement features an award-winning home theater, a study, and a wine cellar. The handrail and robust balusters lead the way to the upper floors, which contain additional bedrooms and bathrooms. A combined attached garage-carriage house is complete with an apartment above it.

On the main level, the kitchen is a central presence and opens to the dining room, living room, and back porch. The rooms increase the living space and enhance options for relaxation or entertaining. "As guests transition from one room to the other, there is still a relationship," Buchanan says. Separate from the house, a six-stall barn completes the Chester County farmstead. The barn includes fieldstone salvaged from an old barn near the property. 

Experts in historic renovations, Archer & Buchanan's award-winning 1898 Stable Renovation at the Alan H. Reed Estate in Wayne, Pennsylvania, is also worthy of high praise. The architects converted dilapidated horse stalls, carriage bays, and hay lofts to a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath residence and perfected its worn Tudor aesthetic. "William Price was the original architect, and we wanted to retain the architectural integrity of the time period," Buchanan says. The exterior brick walls were restored with a matched mortar mix. The pebbledash stucco was repaired, and the original clay roof was salvaged. The interior is reflective of the exterior. "The owners are able to see the structure inside since exposed timber is carried through the interior of the ceiling," Buchanan says. Wood beams and cast-iron beams, antique salvaged oak flooring, deep chamfers, and balusters are just some of the historic hallmarks. Whether it's building, restoring, or renovating homes, Archer & Buchanan is saving a part of Philadelphia's past.

Archer 6 Buchanan's Top Barn-Design Elements

When Archer & Buchanan Architecture designs barns, the firm is sure to include five elements that give the structure its superior frame and finish.

1. Proportions for the horse. The stalls, sliding doors, and Dutch doors provide the horses comfort, ease of movement, and easy access to the outside.

2. A center aisle. This open-air area allows cross breezes through stalls and access to both sides.

3. Bank-barn design. Built into the landscape, this barn-design style features a loft for hay storage that includes floor hatches for dropping hay into the stalls.

4. A tack room. This space comfortably accommodates storage, a powder room, feed bins, and blanket storage. This is often the social center of the barn.

5. Durable materials. The barn features a palette of stone, wood, concrete, and rubber mats with durability to spare.

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