Drew and Jeanne Barber thought they’d found a heavenly place to raise their two young children when they bought a four-bedroom, 4,900-square-foot house on 11 acres in Farmington, Conn, in 2018. visited.
A 1975 house with a gambrel roof that had been extended with multiple additions, it offered plenty of room to spread out, manicured gardens, a cute stone pool house for the summer and – most importantly for Mr. Barber, an avid hockey fan – a large yard suitable for an ice rink in winter.
But it also had something less desirable that the pair only discovered when it was too late: a thriving colony of mice.
After closing that August for $900,000, they moved in with their children, Camden and Colette, now 8 and 6, and were happy enough for the first few months. The interior of the house was dated, but Mrs. Barber, 36, the founder of Camden Grace Interiors, had no doubts that she could freshen it up.
“Inside it was a whole country, and we’re not at all,” said Mr Barber, 36, a lawyer. But he trusted Ms. Barber when she explained how to give it a more contemporary, eclectic vibe with a few simple cosmetic changes. “It was nice to see it through her eyes, and what it could be,” he said.
But just as Mrs. Barber began renovation plans, the uninvited guests arrived. “As the weather got colder, we started noticing feces and odors,” she said.
And before long, rodents seemed to be almost everywhere. “It turned out that the house was overrun by mice,” she continued.
It was then that Mrs. Barber, who had no previous experience with rodents, discovered something about herself: She has a deep-seated, uncontrollable aversion to mice. “If I go into the basement and see a mouse in a trap, I scream like a bloody murder,” she said. “I do not know what it is.”
So the couple put their renovation plans on hold and called pest control companies instead of contractors. “The timeline was pushed back to deal with the mice,” Ms. Barber said. “And to give me time to reconsider whether I could even continue living there.”
After about six months of trial and error with various companies, they hired Catseye Pest Control to install a metal barrier where the cedar shingle siding touches the foundation around the entire perimeter of the house, blocking the rodent freeway. . By the time they finally had lighting, and after a thorough clean, including replacing broken insulation, they had spent about $40,000.
While their walls and ceilings were reassuringly quiet, Mrs. Barber went back to work on the renovation last year, planning to make a series of changes over time, room by room.
The biggest change was in the kitchen, which had knotty pine cabinets and a beige tile back wall under a vaulted ceiling. Mrs. Barber tore it all down and knocked down a wall to open sight lines to the garden and circulation around a breakfast table. She then installed Shaker-style cabinets, painted light gray in a new layout, with a large island in the center.
Striving for visual warmth and character, she selected three types of material for the counters in different areas: Nero Mist granite, on top of most perimeter cabinets; white Carrara marble, for the island; and walnut, on a baking station. Then she added brass details: cabinet pulls and mesh door inserts; the strapping on the extractor hood; and a vintage Italian stand, found at an estate sale, to hold glass jerry cans. Over her head, she installed rough-hewn wooden beams reclaimed from a Pennsylvania barn to match the exposed beams in other rooms.
Throughout the rest of the house, she kept elements she liked while transforming the look of each room with paint, wall coverings and furniture that reflect her interest in design from different periods and places.
“In my dream world I would have a mid-century modern ski chalet and a real traditional Palm Beach home,” said Ms. Barber. “But I don’t, so I wanted to mix styles.”
In the family room, she installed shapely vintage Lucite chairs by Charles Hollis Jones, upholstered in sage green fabric, around a pedestal table that serves as a multi-purpose station for folding laundry and playing board games. In the living room, she placed a tufted pink sofa and a willow-like antique rattan armchair on a traditional Persian rug that belonged to Mr. Barber’s grandfather.
Meanwhile, Mr. Barber, who used to play league hockey as a goalkeeper and now coaches his son, started working on his own dream projects: mastering the art of building backyard ice rinks and building an all-weather practice room using synthetic ice in the basement.
The pair have spent about $200,000 on improvements and aesthetic changes so far, including another strategic change downstairs.
“The previous owners had painted many murals on the walls, including one in the wine cellar, where a little mouse was painted on the wall,” says Ms Barber, who prefers not to be reminded of some of the home’s former homes. residents. “I said to the carpenter, ‘Do some milling on that.'”
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