Interior designer turns neglected Poconos house into a comfortable getaway
Thursday, July 15, 2010
BUCK HILL FALLS, PA. --
The beach or the mountains?
Like many local families, Alexandria residents Brandon Winfrey and Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey faced a choice of where to escape on weekends. When friends invited the couple to a Brigadoon-style village in the Pocono Mountains, they were caught by the spell of the fresh air, waterfalls and a cluster of charming Quaker cottages in northeast Pennsylvania.
"We were enchanted by the feeling that life here is relaxed and simple and so different from life in D.C., which is a real pressure cooker," says Cavin-Winfrey, an interior designer. Buck Hill Falls, now a private community of about 300 cottages, was founded as a retreat in 1901 by Philadelphia Quakers in a mountainside spot full of wildlife, streams and forests.
Four years ago, the couple found a neglected 1905 house here with two stone fireplaces and original pine wainscoting and brought it back to life. Now, it's the getaway they and their children, Grace, 10, and Cavin Reed, 8, enjoy year-round.
Cavin-Winfrey and her husband, a political fundraiser, spent a year thoughtfully renovating the property, which has three main levels plus an attic filled with twin beds and a crow's-nest on top. Then they filled it with roomy sofas, birch chairs and large wooden coffee tables to play games on.
The color palette is the greens and grays of the local lichens, mosses and ferns mixed with the blue of mountain skies. "Napping is one of the most important activities here," says Cavin-Winfrey, who outfitted the rooms and porches with antique metal beds and chaises piled with quilts.
The renovation uncovered a lot of history. For Cavin-Winfrey, keeping the heavy slap of the old screen doors was as important as creating a modern kitchen. The house had almost all of its original features but hadn't been used in 10 years. They polished the wooden doorknobs, heart of pine floors and a silver-plated toothbrush rack that holds 12 brushes. Cavin-Winfrey reused as much as she could: claw-foot tubs, Dutch doors and little corner sinks in the bedrooms. They carved a family room out of the basement, which had a dirt floor.
During the renovations, Cavin-Winfrey went shopping. She ordered a few Adirondack-style tables and chairs and added small pieces from local shops. She collected vintage pillow cases and sought out tweedy throws. She organized a "service center" for the kids at the back door as a place to hold baskets of towels, helmets, sunscreen and bug spray.
She brought family treasures, too. One wall in the dining room displays her kids' artwork in gold frames; her daughter's skipping stones rest in a bowl. "Here, they can learn the art of collecting," she says.
Last Thanksgiving, 14 family members stayed at the house. It's cozy in the winter with fireplaces blazing and 52 new windows, many with flannel-lined Roman shades.
Who needs sand and saltwater taffy? When spectacular meteor showers were forecast recently, the whole family grabbed their sleeping bags and joined neighbors for hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls under the stars.