Farmhouse, Family House

“When clients trust the designer, and the process, it’s all a joy,” says award-winning interior designer Lisa Furey. Her Country Farmhouse project, which evolved from just this kind of collaborative trust, embodies a timeless beauty that’s personal, luxurious, and livable.

Furey’s passion for architecture informs all of her work, and she enjoys being involved with a project, quite literally, from the ground up. “I love the selections and construction part of the project more than anything,” she says. “The doors, hardware, millwork, and cabinetry are all permanent. The flooring, tile and stone selections, and lighting are costly and all have to be beautiful, functional, and timeless.”

Her interest was piqued, therefore, when “the nicest young family,” with plans to build a farmhouse-style home on a beautiful lot complete with a fishing pond and weeping willow tree, approached her. Although the project was a little far away from her base on the Main Line, the client’s brother, Christopher Carrigan, was the architect. “He works for Historical Concepts in Atlanta,” Furey says, “and I’ve admired their work for years.” So she took the job. 

“The house was custom, and the drawings were just amazing in their level of detail,” she says. “We specified everything—from the floors, windows, and roof to the cabinets, counters, paint, wallpaper, and tile.” When Furey is designing a home, she considers the exterior first. “I want to discover the architect’s aesthetic, in addition to considering the landscape and surroundings, so I can ensure that the outside and inside of the house work together and that the house is a good neighbor with surrounding homes.” In this instance, she was able to be an integral part of that dynamic process. She also commends Erwin Forrest Builders for their superb attention to every aspect of the build.

Design Challenge: Sight Lines to Everywhere

From planning and design to the final review, Furey collaborates with her clients every step of the way. She went to school for interior design before going to law school and practicing for ten years as an attorney, and she says the two disciplines intersect when it comes to fact-finding and problem-solving. She always starts with an extensive Q&A session with her clients. This in-depth interaction enables her to get to know them well and also helps her to identify the challenges that may present so she can solve them before the shovel hits the dirt.

Through this ongoing dialogue, Furey helps clients identify and articulate what they want in a home and how they will actually use the spaces within the home. When looking through their inspiration photos, she’ll ask what it is that they like about a particular room. “People don’t always know why they’re drawn to a space,” she says. Although these clients never pointed it out as a feature they liked, she noticed, for example, that they showed her lots of pictures with brick walls. “We incorporated brick floors and brick walls into our design based on that,” she says.

Because there’s a sight line to almost every key room in this big open house—from the great room, kitchen, and dining room to the foyer and front and back porches—one of the major challenges was to ensure that there was a visual harmony and design subtexts that all worked together. “Meeting all functionality requirements and keeping everything looking cohesive was a challenge,” Furey says. She accomplished this in many different, and often subtle, ways. Broad-stroke decisions, such as the use of whites, wood, and neutral tones, accented with blues and greens, create a calm, fresh palette. The theme of woven textures—in baskets, flooring, chairs, and textiles like pillows and throws—echoes throughout these spaces. Savannah grey brick on the kitchen walls corresponds to the brick flooring in the entryway and mudroom. 

Clear glass light fixtures, vases, candle holders, and a terrarium add to the quality of openness and light. Accents like round tables and a circular tray offset the horizontal lines of the louvered plantation shutters and shiplap wood walls and the clean, shaker angularity of square windowpanes in the porch doors, kitchen cabinets, and transoms. A section of open shelving displaying dishes in the kitchen accomplishes a similar function, adding depth and texture to balance and complement the simple lines of the cabinets. These shelves are also a nod to utilitarian farmhouse style and practical elegance in a busy family household where storage and accessibility are both key. 

Design Challenge: A Family Home—for Living

The other major challenge with this project (as with all projects) was to ensure that the house would be a livable home for this active young family. “It’s one thing to tie it all together with color and theme, and within budget,” Furey says, “but it also had to be highly functional and durable. There are no rooms that are off-limits to the children—nor should there be.” The lighter floors and distressed finishes, she says, are part of the farmhouse design concept but they’re also practical. The wide-plank, quarter sawn white oak floors with a matte finish don’t show dust or scratches and can be oiled to fill in scratches when they do occur. 

“I live the way I design, and I only recommend what works,” Furey says. The clients had wanted Carrara marble countertops, for example, but after discussing the inevitable stains that happen when children live in a house or a glass of red wine spills, they decided on the more practical, and still beautiful, quartz. “There are tradeoffs,” Furey says. “It’s important for this wonderful young family to be able to live comfortably in this house. It’s not a museum—it’s a ‘barefoot interior.’” She laughs when she says that part of her job is to advise clients what not to do after she has made the very same mistakes already in her own home. 

“The great news is that technology is so advanced now that there’s no reason for people to wait until the kids grow up to have a house that’s stylish,” she says. She paid lots of attention to choosing items that would withstand the wear and tear of three young children and pets. The upholstery is easy-clean Crypton, and the ottoman is commercial-grade vinyl. “Everything looks a little bit worn and is low maintenance—and will improve with age,” she says.

Furey says the combination of an amazing architect, a dedicated builder, and a team commitment to quality throughout, in terms of both functionality and design, is a recipe for success. “The best result ever is that this endearing family is happy and loves spending time in their home,” she says.

As for Furey herself, she’s recently sold the South Carolina home she built and designed that’s featured on the cover of Beautiful Kitchens and Baths and The Cottage Journal and is looking at building sites for her next project. She’s brimming with new ideas and concepts and is anxious to watch them take shape—from the ground up.

Written by TARA S. SMITH



Photography by REBECCA MCALPIN

Katie Groves