Homage to Okie

Main Line Today

Tara Behan

14 January 2009

The setting often dictates the design of a new home. So it was no surprise when a local couple decided to build a farmhouse on their 15 beautiful acres in Malvern. As they sought out information on Pennsylvania farmhouses, they came across the work of famed Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie and were instantly taken by his signature style. Further inquiries led them to Richard Buchanan of Archer & Buchanan Architecture in West Chester. “We’ve designed many homes in the style of Okie,” says Buchanan. “We’re interpreting Okie, and Okie was interpreting the Pennsylvania farmhouse.” 

Buchanan’s appreciation for Okie’s work goes back to his childhood. “My father was an Okie enthusiast,” he says. “He was always pointing out examples of his work and explaining to me what made it so unique.”

It was Okie’s attention to detail that makes his designs classic. “A Pennsylvania farmhouse is so much more than just a simple five-bay house,” says Buchanan. “Okie’s homes have a simple image that sticks with you. There is no mistaking [an original] from a knockoff.”

With architect and client on the same page, the next step was finding a builder to articulate their vision. They decided on Paoli-based Martin J. Cappelletti Custom Builders, who boast an impressive portfolio of additions, renovations and new construction. “We consider ourselves a boutique builder,” says Marty Cappelletti. “We get really involved with our projects and always give our clients very personal attention.”

Cappelletti knew Archer & Buchanan would be the perfect collaborator. “If you’re looking for detail and someone who is going to monitor that detail, Archer & Buchanan are your guys,” he says. “They don’t settle for anything that doesn’t exactly match what they’ve drawn. And their absolute attention to detail shows when they finish.”

Before construction began, Buchanan stressed two things to project superintendent Andy Lucas. “He told me the key was that it had to be simple and not overdone,” Lucas recalls.

For the homeowners, there were a number of absolutes. Plenty of windows were needed to maximize views of the gorgeous open acreage. “And we wanted the house to have the details of an older home, but to fit our family with four children,” says one owner.

They sought to avoid some of the elements common in newer homes. “We didn’t want soaring ceilings, a two-story entry foyer or oversized rooms,” she says. “We didn’t want any wasted space.”

Buchanan designed a kitchen that opened up to the family room. “These are the two rooms we spend the most time in together as a family,” says the owner. “I love standing [in the kitchen] cooking and having a perfect view of the fireplace.”

The kitchen’s white cabinets and beaded inset doors were chosen for their easy maintenance and Quaker-like simplicity. Classic white subway-style tiles form the backsplash for the stainless steel oven and hood; the refrigerator is also stainless steel. Black, honed granite tops the counters, which line the perimeter of the room.

“I love the white kitchen,” says the owner. “Plenty of color always fills the room through the food.”

The focal point of the room is a large, custom-built center island commissioned to Jeff Knudsen Woodworking of Kirkwood. In the days of Okie, kitchens were furnished, so Buchanan wanted the island to be a standalone piece. “He is such a beautiful furniture maker,” says Buchanan. “His pieces are so detailed and authentic that they’ve been mistaken for antiques. This was definitely a well-deserved splurge for this kitchen.” 

The island’s dark-walnut base and chunky bun feet were modeled after a William and Mary period antique; its white, honed marble countertop and a prep sink provide a large workspace for family baking projects. A 150-year-old Canadian beech beam salvaged from an Amish barn helps lend a feeling of separation between the kitchen’s dining area and its main workspace while also bringing a rustic element to the room. Solid walnut countertops—also found in the adjacent butler’s pantry—support an additional wall of cabinets and a desk in the kitchen.

Authentic, re-sawn oak floors are found throughout the house. For the informal back staircase, Buchanan designed his interpretation of an 18th-century box winder, with beadboard walls—another Okie signature.

For the sake of convenience, the children’s bedrooms are just up the stairs from the kitchen and family room. A large, floral upholstered sectional couch predetermined the family room’s dimensions. It’s custom Okie-inspired millwork accommodates a flat-screen TV and other electronics. An adjacent home office has windows on two sides. “I usually don’t like the way garages are the first thing you see when you drive up to a house,” says the homeowner. “But since I wanted everything in the back of the house to take advantage of the great views, I had the garage put in the front so nothing would disturb [them].” 

Though the days of serving tea in a formal living room or sitting area are long gone, Buchanan still thinks it’s important to have a place where adults can go to entertain and converse. “The majority of modern-day living occurs in the kitchen and family rooms,” he says. “But there should still be formal living rooms and dining rooms.” 

Since the space wouldn’t be used on a regular basis, it’s almost half the size of a traditional living room. The millwork is exceptional—from the enclosed, built-in liquor cabinet to the cope and pattern walls in the front entry. The fireplace’s plaster box surround—the plaster flush against the woodwork—is a classic Pennsylvania farmhouse feature. “It’s a way to create an elegant look in a room,” says Buchanan.

Okie was known for searching out colonial buildings, measuring and recording their details, and incorporating the findings into his own work. In keeping with that tradition, Buchanan found an Okie house at West Chester University with a beautiful cornice he wanted to incorporate into the Malvern project. Ladder in hand, he went to the campus, measured the cornice, recorded its details, and had an exact replica made. This authentic touch is complemented by other exterior details, including a custom-made, Spanish-cedar front door (the same wood used on all the home’s exterior millwork) and a traditional standing-seam copper roof over the home’s informal family entryway.

While excavating for the home, Cappelletti Custom Builders dug up tons of fieldstone and rocks that would typically be discarded. A stonemason suggested cleaning off the stone and using it to veneer the residence. In the end, more than 100 tons were used.

“Two hundred years ago, that’s how the farmers built their homes—with stone from their land,” says Cappelletti. “We didn’t have to buy any stone—and if we ever need any more, we know where to find it. In terms of ‘green’ building, we saved approximately 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel that would’ve been used in hauling and excavating the stone.”

With the first anniversary of their new home coming this summer, the owners have plenty to celebrate. “We wanted a house that would enhance this beautiful property and the existing neighborhood,” says one owner. “Our expectations were exceeded tremendously.”

Houzz Pro Spotlight: How Rural Regulations Can Enrich Your Country Estate

A West Chester architect shares design opportunities - 27 March 2017

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

AIA Philadelphia - 25 November 2013

50 Years of Stuckeman Works

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Feature - 1 May 2013

AIA Small Projects Structure Winner

Architectural Products
 - 1 July 2008

Please Vote for ABA's Cor-Ten Cattails

Architizer - 3 March 2015

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit House in PA

Associated Press - 12 December 2012

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit house in PA Country

Associated Press Video - 12 December 2012

Digital Underground

Bucks Life - 1 September 2013

On the drawing board

Building Design + Construction - 1 July 2013

Historic Stonework Defines New Residential Design

Building Stone Magazine - 28 June 2017

Estates of Excellence

Chester County Town & Country Living - 1 October 2001

Bucolic Beauty, Classic Charm

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 June 2005

Preserving Land and History

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 April 2005

An Epic in the Making

Chester County Town & Country 
Living - 23 October 2008

Unique Homes - A House fit for a Hobbit

CNN Money - 28 November 2011

Vision Becomes Reality for Tolkien Collector

Collector’s News - 1 October 2006

Fit for a Hobbit

Cottages & Bungalows - 1 February 2009

Home of the Month

County Lines - 1 March 2013

All Around Farm

County Lines - 1 February 2013

73rd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2013

Kimberton Sanctuary

County Lines - 1 September 2012

72nd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2012

Arts & Crafts Inspiration

County Lines - 1 February 2010

71st Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2011

Preserving & Celebrating History

County Lines Magazine - 31 January 2017

Mercer Hill Farm

Covertside - 1 December 2007

Ground broken for Lenfest Center

Daily Local News - 24 May 2012

The return of an old favorite is brewing in Greenville

Delaware Community News - 16 August 2009

Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network - 1 June 2013

Archer & Buchanan's Cattail Fence Wins Design Award

Dexigner.com - 20 September 2012

Soundproof Theater Fits Country Lifestyle

Electronic House
 - 1 May 2008

A cottage fit for a hobbit

Fine Homebuilding - 1 May 2007

Adirondack, Shingle Style

Fine Homebuilding - 1 April 2005

Sounds as Good as it Looks

Fine Homebuilding - 1 March 2005

Mud Room's the Name, Organizing's the Aim

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 24 September 2015

Arts & Crafts and Automobiles

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 1 March 2017

Swarthmore's New Greenhouse

Garden Design - 24 February 2010

On the Fence

Gardening Australia Magazine - 1 June 2015

Scott's new Wister Center receives Green Building of America Award

Greater Philadelphia Gardens - 20 August 2009

Old-fashioned Entertainment

HD Living - 1 January 2008

"Home Sweet Home" in a Barn

HGTV - 23 February 2017

5 Houses Where You Can Pretend to Be a Hobbit

HGTV Front Door - 9 December 2013

Can't go wrong with...

HGTV Magazine - 1 April 2013

Converting an Old Horse Barn in Pennsylvania

Hooked on Houses - 5 September 2013

15 Dream Closets to Admire

Houzz - 23 January 2017

Renovation Detail: The Transom Window

Houzz.com - 3 May 2012

Groom your Rooms with Kentucky Derby Decor

Houzz.com - 29 April 2012

Staircase Landings Worth a Linger

Houzz.com - 10 November 2012

8 Fireplaces to Feed Your Kitchen's Style

Houzz.com - 21 January 2013

Fall in Love with Lacquer

Houzz.com - 7 January 2016

Sample Bright Color in the Kitchen

Houzz.com - 27 February 2012

Beauty Goes Beyond the Eye of the Beholder

Houzz.com - 28 August 2013

14 Gardens Straight out of Fairy Tales

Houzz.com - 31 January 2015

25 Most Bookmarked Houzz Tours of 2012

Houzz.com - 1 January 2013

25 Dream Homes to Satisfy Your Soul

Houzz.com - 17 June 2012

Help Your Stair Landing Take Off

Houzz.com - 6 June 2012

9 Ways to Boost Winter Curb Appeal

Houzz.com - 28 November 2013

4 Hobbit Houses Bring Charm to the Landscape

Houzz.com - 1 December 2012

Academy Attic Hearth Uncovered

Lower Merion Historical Society Milestones - 1 April 2009

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly - 1 April 2011

Mod Men

Main Line - 1 October 2009

A Celebration of Preservation

Main Line Suburban Life
 - 1 September 2010

Custom Cozy

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Peeling Back the Layers

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Country Living

Main Line Today - 25 January 2011

A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today - 5 February 2016

Handmade Marvel

Main Line Today - 1 December 2006

Homage to Okie

Main Line Today - 14 January 2009

Artsy Elegance

Main Line Today - 1 June 2008

Element of Surprise

Main Line Today - 22 January 2010

Going to The Whip

Main Line Today - 1 March 2008

101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs

Main Line Today Magazine - 1 March 2015

Music Recording, Down on the Farm

Mix - 1 August 2002

The New Hampshire House

Montco Homes, Gardens, & Lifestyle - 1 November 2016

Take a Tour of the Lenfest Center…

Natural Lands Spring/Summer 2013 - 1 June 2013

Chester Co. Hobbit House Belongs to Lifelong Tolkien Fan

NBC 10 Philadelphia - 14 December 2012

Okie Inspired

New Old House - 1 April 2009

Starry Night Farm

New Old House - 1 January 2008

Small Comfort

Period Homes - 1 July 2007

Built to Last

Period Homes - 1 January 2007

Pure and Simple

Period Homes - 1 November 2009

Fluid Forms

Period Homes - 1 September 2006

Equestrian Lifestyle

Period Homes - 1 May 2013

Palladio Through the Years

Period Homes - 1 January 2011

A Place in the Sun

Period Homes
 - 1 March 2006

Stable R&R

Period Homes
 - 1 July 2005

Great Expectations

Philadelphia - 1 June 2009

Making New Look Old

Philadelphia Business Journal - 8 June 2007

Finding an Architect

Philadelphia Home & Garden - 1 January 2007

Cool Rooms

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 October 2003

Safe Harbor

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 June 2006

Born to Love Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 June 2011

Come Along To See Their Party Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 May 2014

A Newfangled, Old-Fashioned Mash Up

Philadelphia Inquirer - 6 July 2013

Decorator unleashes the potential of her own home

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 July 2011

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

Philadelphia Magazine - 9 February 2017

The Stunning New Farmhouse on Historic Ardrossan Estate


Back to the barn

Philadelphia Style - 1 November 2007

Architectural Portfolio "Outstanding Designs"

Press Release - 1 November 2008

Archer & Buchanan’s Land Preserve Wins Design Award

Press Release - 23 September 2013

Christian Activities Building

Press Release - 1 May 2009

Archer & Buchanan Student Activities Center Opens

Press Release - 1 October 2012

Wister Center Wins GOLD

Press Release - 1 November 2010

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

Press Release - 1 November 2013

Archer & Buchanan Names New Senior Associate

Press Release - 1 August 2012

Archer & Buchanan Bring on New Principal

Press Release - 1 June 2012

New Life for Water Works Building

Press Release - 1 November 2011

Archer & Buchanan Receives Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Press Release - 4 February 2014

Archer & Buchanan Receives 2014 Palladio Award

Press Release - 10 March 2014

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Wins First Outstanding Firm Award

Society of American Registered Architects, Pennsylvania Council honors firm and new project - 30 November 2015

Remaking History

Suburban Life - 1 March 2012

Big Building Projects at Grove City College

The Business Journal - 9 February 2011

Down on the Farm

The Hunt - 1 April 2008

The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt - 1 December 2012

The Custom Home: Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt Magazine - 1 December 2013

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve

The Hunt Magazine - 22 July 2013

Modernizing an 18th Century Farmhouse

The Hunt Magazine - 20 June 2017

A Barn For all Reasons-- Especially Parties

The Hunt Magazine - 4 May 2016

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Giving Antique Objects a Second Chance

The Hunt Magazine - 19 January 2017

The Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

The Journal of Green Building - 1 April 2010

Pet Projects

The Philadelphia Inquirer - 11 December 2015

A 'modest proposal' could save Eastern's log cabin

The Suburban and Wayne Times - 13 March 2008

Stars Align to Spotlight Preserve’s Latest Addition

The Unionville Times - 18 June 2013

Complementing History

Traditional Building Magazine - 23 June 2014

Planting Ideas

Traditional Building
 - 1 October 2010

All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine - 4 May 2015

Happy Days

Veranda - 1 January 2013

Loading tweets...