Kathryn Sharp and Justin Nicholson Update Brandybend's Stone Farmhouse

The West Chester-based first-time homebuyers blend modern touches with the structure's rustic appeal.

Photo by John Lewis

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Interior design: Danziger Design, Wendy Danziger, 7212 Taveshire Way, Bethesda, Md., (301) 365-3300, danzigerdesign.com.

"Party barn” was the first thing that came to mind when Kathryn Sharp spied the listing for the 11-acre Brandybend Farm in West Chester. Having a separate two-story structure for entertaining just steps away from the property’s 1780 stone farmhouse struck a chord with Sharp and her fiancé, Justin Nicholson, both first-time homebuyers in their mid-20s. A little more than a year since taking the plunge, they couldn’t be happier. 

Though she was born in Philadelphia, Sharp grew up in a “really old house” on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, so she had a natural affinity for homes with a history. Nicholson, however, was raised in Manhattan. “It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I’ve loved the transition,” he says.

And that’s a good thing, since the couple moved to be closer to his family’s racehorse business. “We have a barn in Elkton, Md., so the commute from West Chester is a lot easier than the commute from where we were living in Washington, D.C.,” he says.

The two considered only one newer home during their search. “All the modern touches were there, but there was nothing for us to do with it,” says Nicholson. “It would’ve just been a house. We wanted a little bit of a project.”

Even so, the work involved wasn’t as daunting as it could’ve been for a house of its age. Thirty years prior, the previous owners had done a major renovation to what was once a one-room schoolhouse. Fresh paint, new furniture and some professional guidance went a long way toward making the place feel like home. “We were basically starting from scratch because we had college furniture,” says Kathryn. “And everything we had was for a modern apartment.”

And though they were living in an older home, they were going for a more transitional feel. The deep colors, hardwood floors and ceiling beams made the rooms a little too dreary for their taste. “I wanted our changes to fit the house,” says Sharp. “I wanted to be true to it, but have it still be us.”

Maryland-based interior designer Wendy Danziger was tasked with the makeover. “They were willing to take chances,” she says. “They didn’t want it to look like a dark, dated country farmhouse.”

On the first floor of the home, what was once a sitting room is now Sharp’s office. “I don’t know who uses a sitting room anymore,” says Sharp.

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