Barn Again–Repurposing an old barn
About ten years ago, we starting renting a weekend house in Rhinebeck—on the Hudson,” recalls Patricia Machado, who shares a home base during the week in Manhattan with her husband Jeff Neuman and daughter Sophie. “Jeff finally said we have to find something closer to the city—it was a two-hour-plus commute.” Machado wanted a country setting with an open vista, so their real-estate agent drove them through various towns that would keep them closer to New York where Sophie attends school.
“When she brought us to this road, and I saw the open land, I said ‘This is it!’” Machado says of the nook of North Salem they now call home. “We looked at a few houses, but this one really stood out. The moment we stepped in, we fell in love with it—the big windows, the way the outside is integrated with the inside, and all the architectural details.”
The structure is a hybrid of a vintage barn frame and new walls and floors. The family rented the furnished barn on six acres overlooking the Titicus Reservoir for four years before purchasing it in 2018 and quickly made plans to make it their own.
Machado says that with ownership came the realization that the design of both the house and the landscape were intentional. “Every single detail here, there is an intention, so that’s why I didn’t want to change that much.”
Enter Gretchen Farrell. “We met in North Salem,” says Farrell, an interior designer who lives a few doors down from the Machado-Neuman barn. “My husband was chopping wood as Jeff went by on his daily run, and they chatted and then introduced us.”
“I really loved the way she decorated her own house, and she loved this barn, so naturally, I wanted to have her help me,” adds Machado, who is executive director of the SQA Foundation which provides educational opportunities in both the US and her native Brazil.
“We started with editing the furnishings they would keep from the previous owners’ collection. They didn’t want to over-furnish. They wanted to keep things feeling open and to focus on the outdoor views—but with cozy areas to sit,” recalls Farrell. “Then, it turned into remodeling the kitchen and adding some new furnishings. The relationship grew organically. Patricia and I worked with Patrick Donovan at Concordia General Contracting, a contractor I’ve worked with before, on designing and building the kitchen. The focus was to maintain a Shaker style but keep it modern, functional, and fresh.”
The team opted for stock cabinets customized with touches such as bespoke legs on the island and added sleek, simple hardware. “It was important to Patricia to modernize the kitchen for the family but make it feel like a ‘barn kitchen’—like it’s authentic to the space,” says Farrell. “So, to that end, we brought in copper pendant lighting and pulled from the metalwork that’s throughout the barn to choose the color palette.”
They also embraced the vintage Stanley wood-fired stove that sits against a metal wall in the adjacent dining room. Machado, an avid cook, uses it not only for making stews but also to warm up the room on chilly days.
In addition to their Manhattan apartment, Machado and Neuman have a home in Rio, Brazil. “The other two homes are very, very modern,” says Machado. “The previous owners of the barn were collectors of antiques—something I was never into. But, this house made me realize that antique things belong here.” Since blending antiques into the décor was a new experience for her, she asked Farrell for guidance. “Gretchen took me antiquing, and we bought that little piece there,” she says of a cabinet artfully tucked in by the stove.
The dining room opens to the wraparound terrace with access to the swimming pool, meadow, and the lawn that rolls down to an old stone wall and the reservoir beyond. The room’s décor is a blend of new and old—a table that came with the house, accent chairs that Farrell found, dining chairs from the couple’s New York apartment, and new lighting. The kitchen is now open to the great room that features a wood burning stove, oversized windows, soaring ceilings and just enough furniture (including leather sofas and a carpet purchased from the previous owners, a bespoke wooden coffee table made by a friend, and a pair of Dumais lamps that Farrell found) to make the space warm and welcoming without being too busy.
The “winter room” is a cozy space tucked beside the great room where Jeff loves to read beside yet another wood stove. It features art that Machado and Farrell found in New Preston and Bantam, comfortable seating, and tray tables for fireside dining. The intimacy of the smaller space can be enhanced by simply sliding the barn door closed.
The second floor features two bedroom suites—Jeff and Patricia’s overlooks the great room, and Sophie’s overlooks the pool. The master bedroom is sparely furnished to allow the views to take center stage, and a small, vintage desk serves as a quiet workspace for Machado. A sitting area on the bridge that connects the two suites features rocking chairs and a sumptuous rug, making it a quiet oasis with views of the reservoir. A sweet little hideaway on the third floor currently boasts furnishings for a guest—though Patricia is playing with the idea of moving her Peloton up there.
In the end, the Machado-Neumans didn’t really want to change the barn so much as to make it their own. And with Farrell’s assistance, they have done just that.