This East Coast Victorian farmhouse is a masterclass in blending old and new
The owners of this New Jersey period home honored its history yet brought it into the 21st century with an English country meets California aesthetic
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After living in Los Angeles for 18 years, this beautiful Victorian farmhouse was the home that lured Jennifer Muirhead and her family back to the East Coast, location of many modern farmhouse style homes.
‘It was very important to us to maintain the historical integrity of the home, stripping back some of the layers from over the past few decades, yet we didn’t want it to feel like a museum,‘ says Jennifer, founder of Jennifer Muirhead Interiors (opens in new tab). ‘We have a young daughter and a dog, so we needed it to be practical as well. I looked to a lot of English decorators for inspiration as the English are masterful at marrying old and new.‘
Jennifer was keen to honor the home’s history and generations of previous owners while putting her own mark on it. ‘In the end, we felt we succeeded in that,‘ she says. ‘The house even started to feel like another family member in a way.‘
To ensure the screened-in porch felt like another room in the house and not just a summer-only patio, Jennifer introduced a mix of both indoor and outdoor pieces. ‘We use it nine months out of the year because it is just so comfortable, and is the best spot to watch a rainstorm.‘
Jennifer describes the interior style as ‘California English‘ because ‘while there are definitely classic English country elements, there are little moments of mid century modern here and there that reflect our 18 years in Los Angeles.‘
Her living room ideas epitomize this blend. The jumping off point was the floral Pyne Hollyhock drapery fabric by Schumacher, which Jennifer has always loved. ‘Nancy Pyne, its namesake, lived not too far down the road from us so it felt appropriate,‘ she says. Gray swivel chairs and a Tulip Table inject a mid century touch.
Jennifer was keen to incorporate the original floors wherever possible. ‘When we pulled up the flooring in the dining room, however, we discovered there had been a fire at one point and so we had to use some reclaimed wood from an old railroad station in New York.‘
Her dining room ideas included creating a classic scheme with a custom dining table made in England and an antique John Opie painting, which was a chance find in a local antique shop. Juxtaposition was introduced with the statement Julie Neill light fixture.
‘The den is the unanimous favorite room,‘ says Jennifer. ‘Everyone loves the moody green grasscloth walls and rustic woodwork around the fireplace. There are also so many trees and bushes just outside the windows that it’s the perfect birdwatching room.‘ The Brook Perdigon fabric on the Romans shades references the birds outside.
Jennifer's key requirement for this room was an enormous sofa that the family could all pile onto and still looked great, so she opted for a classic English roll arm style in an off white to lift the scheme.
The period feel of this room was enhanced by replacing the existing basin with a Victorian style pedestal and unlacquered brass Waterworks fixtures that look like they’ve always been there. Jennifer says she never tires of Cole & Son’s Nuvolette wallpaper, which creates a dramatic backdrop in the space.
The light in the primary bedroom is dreamy and moody, so bedroom ideas focused on a palette in keeping with those feelings – creams, taupes, grays, sages and blues. Jennifer also incorporated what felt like a nod to another local legend, Sister Parish, with a Parish Hadley print on the drapery.
Because the dressing room is off the primary, Jennifer pulled out the sage color from it, intensifying it so that it related to the primary but is also its own distinct space.
A round skirted table was a must as soon as Jennifer saw the space. This custom one is made from a Colefax and Fowler linen with a Samuel & Sons fringe.
Antique pine furniture adds to the country feel in the guest bedroom while injecting cosy tones. Walls in Light Blue by Farrow & Ball create a calming backdrop.
The tones from the Manuel Canovas drapery are teased out to create a colorful bedroom scheme.
One of Jennifer's bathroom ideas was to use a pretty blue and ivory William Morris print on the walls. ‘It was designed the same year that the house was built, but manages to look so fresh and modern,‘ she says.
Home office ideas included painting the entire attic room in China White by Benjamin Moore. From a practical point of view, it's a good backdrop for all of the swatches that Jennifer is constantly looking at for work, plus it enhances the light and bright feel.
‘My husband’s office is the “his” version of mine,‘ says Jennifer. ‘We left the wood untouched here so it felt distinct from mine.‘
Jennifer created a window nook in her husband's office. ‘Our challenge in this space was finding pieces that fit through the narrow old doorways and up the attic staircase,‘ she says.
Interior design/ Jennifer Muirhead Interiors (opens in new tab)
Styling/ Deirdre King
Photographs/ Raquel Langworthy
Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.
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