Two years ago, a fatigued driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the 1780s Connecticut farmhouse of Haldan and Gina Block. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the impact rattled the aged foundation supports below a windowed bump-out in what is now the home’s library. The brick columns were ultimately fixed, but the accident caused the house to shift just enough to crack the room’s old plaster walls. That stroke of bad luck turned good when, upon making repairs, the couple felt inspired to paint the walls black and create a serene reading nook of the space.
Even beyond mishaps, the homeowners are particularly well-suited to the types of modernization projects required of this 1,160-square-foot structure in the Lower Connecticut River valley. Both natives of the state, Gina is an art director and graphic designer at organic food company Jovial, and Haldan is a lead at Erik Block Design, the design-build firm founded by his brother. The couple’s combined knowledge makes them a great team for shaping the home with their needs in mind. Gina first showed Haldan a picture of this house from a real estate listing, and he joked that they should have a look at it quickly before it fell down. She took him seriously, and suggested they drive by when mountain biking nearby. They of course both instantly fell in love with it, the downtown Higganum area, and the pristine surrounding landscape.
When they bought the home six-and-a-half years back, they teased that they could throw the level away. The residence had undergone a renovation during the Victorian period, and then again in the 1980s, neither of which were sufficient for the Blocks’ lifestyle. During the first three months after closing, they added a bathroom on the second floor, remodeled the kitchen, and turned the downstairs bathroom into a half-bath on one end and a pantry on the other. They stripped wallpaper and painted rooms. They uncovered many pleasant surprises upon removing ceilings and walls. In the pantry and bathroom they found a foundation wall with many layers of concrete and stone. In the kitchen, they found the original structure including a half-log supporting the upstairs floor system.
One less-than-ideal feature of many historic homes is that they tend to have been built for smaller people. Haldan, who is 6’8″ tall, was at first unable to walk through doorways without hitting his head. Removing the kitchen ceiling made the house livable for him. A year ago, he and Gina raised the door openings in the upstairs hallway so that he could fit underneath, and now he can safely walk about the house. They have added their own modern touches, but have also incorporated materials salvaged from jobsites or from the house itself. The Blocks can tell that the home had been loved by its previous owners, and while they are fine-tuning each room to their own taste, are also focused on revealing as many treasured antique details as possible. —Annie
Photography by Haldan Block
Floor- Benjamin Moore Navajo White
Wall- Benjamin Moore Navajo White
Window/Door color- high gloss black Benjamin Moore
Table- Haldan and Gina
Cabinet face- IKEA
Butcher block- Michigan Maple from Wood Welded
Couch- Pottery Barn
Jute rug- IKEA
Runner- West Elm
Sink and faucet- IKEA
Sink base- Haldan
Plant stand- ferm LIVING from TRNK
Metal work- Grayson Metal
Chair- Restoration Hardware
Octagonal table- West Elm
Jib sconce- PhotonicStudio on Etsy
Moroccan lights- local bazaar
Floor lamp – IKEA