Photos By John Cole

Home & Garden

This Historic Brandywine Conservancy Home is an Equestrian Lover’s Dream

Tucked away on a 34-acre enclave in Chadds Ford, the 18th century stone manor celebrates the owners’ passion for horses.

By Eileen Smith Dallabrida |

In the 1700s, when this stately stone manor house was first built, visitors approached by horseback.

Transportation has since moved into the future. The house has moved, too, hauled stone by stone from its original site in Harrisburg in 1969 to a 34-acre enclave in the Brandywine Conservancy.

Horses remain an important presence on the property. The owners—she’s an astrophysicist and he’s a manager of family real estate holdings in New York City—are also partners in AJ Suited and Ninety North Racing. They’re among the co-founders of Equestricon, the first international horse racing convention, fan festival and trade show. “Racing is in our blood, in our hearts,” he says.

At their previous house in West Chester, the Radnor Hunt galloped past their front door. The couple’s new place reflects their continued passion for horses. Their new home is an equestrian’s dream, complete with bank barn stables, an authentic log cabin workshop, heated kennels, an oversized storage barn, an in-ground pool, a pond stocked with trout, and a meandering creek.

 

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The Cool Factor

Inside the 6,050 square-foot house, there are 11 fireplaces, nine of them converted to gas. The previous owner also installed a geothermal heating system and a contemporary kitchen addition with banks of windows that provide panoramic views of the grounds.

While the couple appreciated the updates, they wanted interior décor that was more their style— cool with an equestrian-inspired twist.

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“They’re a hip, young couple,” says their designer, Wendy Danziger, who notes the couple was finishing grad school when they met. “Their style is sophisticated, yet fresh and youthful.”

The house is the third collaboration between the owners and their designer, who’s based in Bethesda, Md.

 

A Fresh Take on Tradition

In the family room, the furnishings are a mid-century interpretation of traditional pieces. The sofa is clean, accented with nail-head trim. The TV is tucked into a wooden storage unit with planks laid in a chevron pattern. In a casual seating area, wing chairs set against a fieldstone wall combine traditional tartan upholstery with pared-back lines.

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To offset a spartan layout in the kitchen, Danziger replaced a long worktable with a center island that offers a prep area, seating and wine storage. The natural wood counter top is treated to be impervious to water and stains. Danziger introduced a pedestal dining table, topped with a large slice of wood that retains the natural edges of the tree. The surrounding chairs are covered in tactile tapestry. It’s warm and organic, the type of piece that promotes gathering.
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One of the owner’s favorite spaces is the dining room, previously used as a library. There are still volumes in the built-in bookcases, artfully arranged with pottery, sculptures and botanical prints. Now there’s also a large wood trestle table surrounded by comfy chairs upholstered in green leather. Small imprints of ferns, reminiscent of fossils, are embossed in the plaster ceiling.

“It’s a wonderful place to get people together,” says the owner. “We hosted 15 guests for Thanksgiving [last year].”

 

A Toast to the Thoroughbreds

A whisky room, inspired by the lounge at the Greenwich Hotel in New York City, provides a retreat for the man of house. “It’s where I sit with my laptop and handicap races,” he says. 

Clean-lined club chairs are outfitted in a blend of leather and fabric, while the windows are dressed simply, with tweed roman shades. Achieving a storied club look required a blend of art and ingenuity. First, they swapped drywall on three walls for walnut paneling, an exacting task in an old house where lines are not precise.

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Existing wood paneling surrounding the large fireplace—painted deep blue by the previous owners—now has a faux graining to match the natural walnut panels. The same painters made a map of the world on the ceiling, recreating cartography from the 18th century, when the house was built. “They painted it on a huge canvas, which we then applied to the ceiling,” the designer notes.

The results were worth it, though. And now the whisky room is also the ideal place to raise a glass to the couple’s horses, whose trophies are displayed in cabinetry centered on a painting of thoroughbreds galloping toward the finish line.

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Elsewhere in the house are other nods to their equestrian lifestyle, including decorative painting on the walls in a powder room, which has canine and equestrian silhouettes painted in cameos.

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In the master suite, the floor in the anteroom to the master bath is hand painted to depict a koi pond. The walk-through closet includes display space for the owner’s fanciful collection of race-day millinery she’s sported at various events, including Britain’s iconic Royal Ascot and a derby in Dubai. Handpainted stars are a nod to her astrophysics studies.

Each morning, the couple awakes beneath a ceiling of massive beams, a stunning reminder of the home’s heritage.