A Rustic-Modern Farmhouse on Martha's Vineyard
Kathleen Walsh designed a modern retreat for a globetrotting family who decided to put their urban existence out to pasture and start a new life in the country.
From New York to Connecticut, Texas to London—the moves were fast-paced, far-flung, and often sudden thanks to Eric Glasgow’s job as an oil trader. But each time, he and his wife Molly took care to create a thoughtful home for their family. Designer Kathleen Walsh was an old friend and crucial member of the relocation team—with each new residence, she would leap into action, helping the family design a home appropriate to its new scenery, whether it was a modern duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side or a sprawling single-family house with French detailing in Houston.
“They were always very cognizant that their interiors should reflect the greater surrounds that they were in,” says Walsh, who met Molly while studying at the Pratt Institute in New York, and had previously designed homes for the newlywed couple and their growing family. “The design had to reflect where they were at the moment.” Even if they weren’t there for very long: “In their Greenwich house, we had just placed the last piece of furniture and finished taking the final photo when they told me they had to move again,” recalls Walsh, who was convinced no new relocation announcement by this nomadic family could ever surprise her.
That is, until the most recent one. “Molly called me and told me that they had just bought a dairy farm [called The Grey Barn and Farm] in Martha’s Vineyard, and that Eric was quitting his job so they could raise livestock and make cheese,” recalls Walsh. “I almost fell on the floor.” It was a shock, but the decision didn’t seem completely out of character for her friend. “Molly had always been very rooted to ideas of home, and I knew she and Eric wanted to do something that would set a powerful example for their sons.”
The 65-acre property was dotted with a collection of structures, each in varying states of disrepair. The farm hadn’t been active since 1961, so architect Mark Hutker was brought onboard to help bring the compound back to life and design the building where the family would live. The modest two-story, timber-framed dwelling was modeled after a Belgian farmhouse, and melded into the landscape seamlessly. “We really wanted to honor the original buildings that were there. But at the same time we weren’t trying to fake anything—it’s a modern structure, so we took some liberties,” says Walsh, referring to the mixing of stark white walls, floor-to-ceiling frameless picture windows and clean lines with the rough-hewn detailing created by the salvaged timber used throughout—not to mention the solar panels. “It honored the past of this property while moving it into the future.”
The design of the home itself was an exercise in figuring how the family wanted to live on a daily basis—they had spent so many years adapting to various existing spaces and ways of life that this opportunity was invaluable. The result is a house that emphasizes togetherness. The kitchen is the heart of the home and features two sizable islands—one for cook prep, the other for homework and hanging out, allowing the entire family to work in the same room. Most meals take place here, too, at the custom-designed modern farmhouse table and built-in banquette.
To one side of the kitchen is the dining and living room, the latter done in various shades of white and ivory so as not to steal the show from the actual star—a wall-sized picture window framing the pastures, a literal stomping ground for almost 60 grass-fed cows. “You want the eye to go outside to the ever-changing landscape,” says Walsh, “The spring is bright green and verdant with cows and chickens running around; in the summer, it’s a sea of wildflowers; the fall explodes with that classic New England firestorm of colors; and winter brings gorgeous gray and white and charcoal, with pinkish-purple hues at dusk. No interior scene could compete.”
To the other side of the kitchen is the family room and mudroom, where much of the daily action takes place. The family’s modestly sized bedrooms are upstairs, and a pair of guest rooms fan off from the back of the house, stylistically forming their own little annex. “At first the couple insisted we would be starting completely from scratch with the furnishings, as the style of this house was so different from their previous residences,” says Walsh. “But I actually found there were some pieces we should reuse—it was all about placement. These were pieces they had really chosen with care and there was nothing wrong with them.” Case in point, a pair of sofas were recovered in a neutral plaid and used in the family room, and a desk by Gregorius|Pineo found a second home in the living room. These familiar items have softened the family’s dramatic transition, not just in geography, but also lifestyle. “This place represents them and the experiences they’ve had together in such a profound way,” says Walsh, who doesn’t expect to be called on to design a new residence for this family any time soon. “They’ve found their home.”