Homestead Then And Wow


For any property owner squeezed into too small of space and needing more, one of the greatest challenges is trying to resolve how to expand their current dwelling in a manner that looks and feels right. Does one add an addition that mirrors the existing residence so it appears harmonious and as if ‘it’s always been there’? Or does one construct an architectural contrast that presents the original as ‘then’ and the new as ‘wow!’? I have to say I prefer the later.

Over the past twenty years of my real estate career-path, which has included the redevelopment of several adaptive reuse conversions, I have always maintained my commitment to preserve as much of the structure, character and patina of a site’s original built form while embracing my love for contemporary design. I believe the ability to honour the essence and elements original to a site and enhance them into a new and improved ‘elevated experience’ often makes for the very best in architecture and design providing, of course, it’s done with respect and integrity.

This Eighteenth Century homestead in an apple orchard located in Columbia Country, New York, was executed by Messana O’Rorke. Built of huge hand hewn timbers, there wasn’t alot of the original structure that could be preserved beyond some wide board flooring and a miraculously preserved wattle and daub wall in the field stone basement. Retaining more the spirit than its physical components, the dwelling became a modern house that honours its past while embracing the new. The original building stands on it’s own, revealing the history of the site, while the new addition connects it to a new chapter in modern living. On the inside plank flooring, wooden beams and a fireplace reinforce the ‘hearth as home’ history of pioneer life, while the space plan and fittings (except the gorgeous clawfoot tub!) are distinctly contemporary.

On the exterior, while the then and wow additions are distinct, I love how the new addition’s stone retaining wall accessing the lower level reads as a ‘cellar’. It brings harmony to the whole, a simple design element which I think makes this renovation a success!

Here’s a link to the whole story (and more pics) posted in

~ Steven 

**Photos from


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