A Second Chance

‘Tis the season of before & afters here on the blog and I have just the right project to show you. You know how I’ve been into the refined rustic, country chic look lately and Country Living Magazine is quickly becoming a favorite! I find all kinds of gems and great inspiration ¨hidden¨ in older editions.

This next home was on the cover of the February 2007 issue and it’s a double treat to write about. First because I love historical renovations, and people who respect the time and space of their home; second because before & afters deliver the instant gratification we all crave when we read about interior design. A restoration project can take months, even years to complete yet we get to see it as a presto-change-o. With before & after pictures, we see a designer’s vision come to life with a most dramatic effect. Who needs to know about the nightmare home remodeling can be?


Architectural designer Nancy Fishelson has a passion and a natural gift for restoring old homes. After working in the film industry,  she started investing in real estate projects in which she could see great potential. Older, unloved homes soon became her specialty. Ten years later, many of her projects have been featured in Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Achitectural Digest, Country Home, as well as HGTV’s show Country at Home.

¨I’m thinking about two things when I look at an old house. Keeping the integrity of the original architecture, and satisfying my desire to open up spaces and bring in the light. You have to balance the two.¨

This particular home is a 1795 clapboard house set on 20 acres in Woodbury, Connecticut. Here’s a before shot, in all its glory…


… and here’s the after! Nancy painted the exterior, replaced windows and planted a ¨moon garden¨ with hollyhocks and white hydrangeas. It feels like a brand new home, I love it!

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

As for the interiors, the floor plan stayed more or less the same. This is the kitchen before. Not the worst before picture I’ve ever seen but if you check the after….

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

Nancy replaced upper cabinets with a new bank of high & wide windows that bring in much needed light while taking advantage of the views.

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

Vintage European pulley lights above the sink and the island, white cabinets and reclaimed beams… The color palette consists of mostly whites and gray. Nancy believes in getting creative with the budget. She found bargain antiques on Craigslist and the high-end Sub-Zero refrigerator is a lucky Ebay purchase.

A close-up of a 19th century antique dish-rack.

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

¨I’ve always tended to use white for interiors. I find it creates a clean, fresh slate.¨

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

Period style furniture reupholstered in ivory linen, striped rugs and lots of patina….make this living room bright and cozy.

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder


A charming window seat by the fireplace.

To bring in the light she much loves in her homes, Nancy removed the dropped down ceilings, enlarged doorways and added French doors wherever was possible. For flooring and woodwork, she looked at flea markets and salvage yards.

¨If I need to replace or patch old beams or flooring, I look for existing pieces to borrow from another area of the house or at architectural salvage yards.¨

The dining table set in the prettiest weathered gray!

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

keeping room


The bedrooms are where Nancy sacrificed a little the architectural integrity of the home for the sake of modern day needs. She joined three small upstairs bedrooms to create a master bedroom and bath.

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

By the bed, the quirkiest chair I’ve ever seen! Half sofa, half something …


Another  salvage piece, the bath tub was refinished for a glorious second chance.

Cafe Design | Farmhouse Wonder

The stylish mudroom doubles as laundry room. How beautiful is this soapstone sink?!


I truly admire Nancy’s vision for this project. She made an old home feel loved again, and that’s not an easy endeavor. Inspiring! She has since sold this house and moved on with a new property, you can read more about her work on her page. Have a lovely Labor Day weekend, I’ll be back on Tuesday 🙂



P.S: Most images are from Country Living and Cote de Texas.