Horse Owners Earn a Blue Ribbon for Décor

A trophy room inspires.



resources  contractor: Porter Construction, Scott Porter, 126 Center Mill Road, Chadds Ford, (302) 530-6011, www.porterconstructionllc.comarchitect: Archer & Buchanan, Richard Buchanan, 125 W. Miner St., West Chester, (610) 692-9112, www.archerbuchanan.com.

Left to Right: the dining room & The Family Room.

Rick and Betsy Porter went house hunting with a unique wish list: a first-floor master suite, a bit of land—and a trophy room to display some of the loftiest accolades in thoroughbred racing. The Porters own Fox Hill Farm, whose champions include a Horse of the Year, two Kentucky Derby runners-up and eight Eclipse finalists.

The couple entrusted their quest for a new house to their son, Scott, founder of Porter Construction in Chadds Ford and an experienced real estate agent. He showed his parents dozens of houses and determined that the property that suited them best was, in fact, his own elegant country residence in a sylvan setting. “All that was missing was the trophy room,” Scott recalls.

In the Porters’ previous home, that space was located in a walkout basement. It was impressive, but seldom visited because it was separated from the first-floor living area.

For their new home, Scott suggested that his parents construct a main-floor trophy room. In addition to providing display space for Fox Hill Farm’s awards and mementos, the area would serve as an inviting gathering place. 

Scott drew up the plans for the original house, a layout that artfully blends traditional rooms and open spaces. To come up with the blueprints to seamlessly integrate a trophy room with the main structure, he turned to architect Richard Buchanan in West Chester.

The plan included razing a bathroom to provide access to the addition. An adjacent guest bedroom would become an office for Rick. For most of the construction process, the elder Porters stayed at their winter home in Florida. Scott emailed pictures to update them. “Betsy and I have done a lot of projects, and this was by far the easiest because Scott took care of everything,” Rick says.

Seamless transition

A priority was ensuring that the trophy room felt and functioned like the space was part of the house rather than an add-on.

Outside, the addition integrates a large patio and dining area, accessed through French doors. Inside, a bar and display area serve as an anteroom, a transitional space that is ideal for entertaining. “This space works just as well for 35 people as it does for two,” Rick says.

The floor is paved with Chicago bricks, reclaimed from an industrial site. A beverage fridge and icemaker are hidden behind raised-panel cabinetry. The red-and-white silks of Fox Hill Farm are displayed in a glass-fronted shadow box. Over the bar, there’s a portrait of renowned rider Ramon Dominguez in jodhpurs and an English-style jockey’s cap.

Left to Right: Hardly ostentatious, the trophy room of the Porter home, with its  stunning antique fireplace mantel, has the feel and functionality of a cozy domestic space; the gallery-style foyer and the kitchen also impress with their livable elegance. 

Winning combination

To ease the flow of guests, there are two doors leading into the trophy room, positioned on either side of the bar. The room is outfitted with lighted custom cabinets to showcase the silver, bronze and crystal trophies earned by Fox Hill Farm thoroughbreds. A dozen saddle towels from landmark races are hung on rods, including the one worn by the filly Eight Belles when she collapsed after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby. 

To date, the crown of the collection is the trophy earned by Fox Hill’s speedy bay filly, Havre de Grace, in 2011, when she was named Horse of the Year. “That is an honor that probably only comes once in a lifetime,” Rick says.

Havre de Grace’s portrait hangs over the mantel. The artist is Andre Pater, one of America’s foremost equestrian painters. Pater also painted the portraits of the jockey Dominguez and Hard Spun, the colt who placed second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Typically, Pater has a 15-year waiting list for his talents, but he has made exceptions for the Porters. “I think he took a liking to Betsy,” Rick says with a smile.

Designer details

Scott attributes his affinity for design to his mother, who has been creating beautiful interiors for the Porters throughout 52 years of marriage. She discovered the reeded antique fireplace mantel on a trip to Lexington, Ky., and shipped it home. “We built this room around the mantel,” he says.

Large structural beams give the room a sense of age. The coved ceiling is made from tongue-in-groove planks. The floors are hand-scraped hickory, accented with square plugs. 

The interior of a large lantern chandelier is painted in Fox Hill Farm’s red, a subtle echo of the crimson textured coverings on the walls. “Those small details are what really pull a room together,” Scott says.

The Porters furnished the space with a comfortable blend of seating: a pair of cozy sofas, club chairs upholstered in an equestrian print, and two tufted leather chairs accented with nail heads. They ordered the furniture through Conaty Interiors in Wilmington, Del., where they were able to create custom pieces by combining various fabrics, legs and trims. Scott designed the beige linen draperies.

The result is an inviting room the Porters enjoy every day. “My favorite times are when it’s just Betsy and me and our two little dogs, cuddled up on the sofa watching TV,” Rick says. “For me, that’s the best place in the world.”

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