Credit Tim Lenz
The hamlet of Ellsworth is situated in the northwest corner of Litchfield County, Connecticut, due east of the colonial town of Sharon, an area renowned for its outstanding rural beauty. A country road winds through old-growth woodlands that give way to acres of open pasture, punctuated only by the long, meandering lines of stonewalls. Along this quiet road sits Ellsworth, a Victorian farmhouse built in 1871 as part of a large dairy farm that closed nearly a century later. A majestic horse chestnut and maple trees flank the house, along with a pear orchard, grape arbors and apple trees. The house’s bucolic setting, regal presence and sense of history caught the attention of Heide Hendricks and Rafe Churchill in 2003, shortly after they moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Sharon with their newborn daughter.
At that time, still inhabited by the elderly gentleman who had called it home for fifty years, the farmhouse had begun to show signs of disrepair. But it set the couple dreaming. They imagined what it would look like restored to its former glory, with all the original details kept intact. Over the next fifteen years, Heide and Rafe created their Sharon-based design firm, Hendricks Churchill, working on a wide range of award-winning projects, both locally and in New York City. In that time, they also undertook two major home renovations and moves of their own. Their daughter was joined by a son. And then, in June 2018, the farmhouse with its 33 acres came on the market. The stars aligned and the future guardianship of “Ellsworth,” as they had dubbed it, passed into the hands of Rafe and Heide.
Although it had been a long time coming, the acquisition happened at precisely the right time. After 20 years working and living together, the couple’s aesthetic and vision were perfectly aligned. They knew exactly how they wanted to approach the renovation of Ellsworth and the entire project took just seven months. As with all the homes they update, they were careful to keep their initial emotional response to the property as a touchstone. The house had been chopped up to suit the previous owner but all the fine artisanal work had stood the test of time. Hendricks Churchill simply removed insertions from the 1960s and 70s, altering the design as little as possible, while bringing it up to modern living standards. The high-ceilinged, light-drenched rooms flow from one to the next, with tall windows offering sweeping views of the natural beauty beyond. Crown moldings were added and the floors were repaired, including chestnut boards from an old barn on the property. Wherever they added new doors or windows, they were careful to replicate the existing proportions and details.
Heide took inspiration from how the light hit each room to choose a lively yet sophisticated color palette. The furnishings are warm and eclectic, a signature mix of pieces rich in patina that conveys a sense of life’s journey. Today the Hendricks Churchill family enjoys Ellsworth as their home. A place where they continue to honor the history of the farm–the hay fields are cut and baled by a local farmer, the large dairy barn restoration is underway and the woodland forest is managed with an eye toward improved wildlife habitat.
Contributing industry partners to Ellsworth include Clarke Distribution, Duravit, Farrow & Ball, Fayce Textiles, Heritage Tile, Marvin Windows, Original BTC, Ponders Hollow, Urban Archaeology, Vermont Farm Table and Waterworks. The home was first featured by The New York Times in April 2020.
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