An Antique Connecticut Farmhouse Made Modern

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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

 

Notable Sources

Kitchen:
Floor- Benjamin Moore Navajo White
Wall- Benjamin Moore Navajo White
Window/Door color- high gloss black Benjamin Moore
Table- Haldan and Gina
Sink- IKEA
Rug- IKEA

Pantry:
Cabinet face- IKEA
Butcher block- Michigan Maple from Wood Welded
Knobs- Anthropologie
Containers- IKEA

Living room:
Couch- Pottery Barn
Jute rug- IKEA
Runner- West Elm

Half bathroom:
Sink and faucet- IKEA
Sink base- Haldan

Front hall:
Plant stand- ferm LIVING from TRNK

Bedroom:
Nightstand- West Elm
Headboard- Haldan and Gina
Reading lights- IKEA
Throw- H&M
Curtains and rods- West Elm
Painting- Christa Pisano from Sylvan Gallery
Pastel- Christian Brechneff

Office:
Desktop and shelves- City Bench
Legs- HairpinLove on Etsy
Bed- IKEA
Lighting- IKEA and Restoration Hardware
Metal work- Grayson Metal

Library:
Metal work- Grayson Metal
Chair- Restoration Hardware
Octagonal table- West Elm
Jib sconce- PhotonicStudio on Etsy
Daybed- Crate&Barrel
Moroccan lights- local bazaar
Floor lamp – IKEA
Mirror- IKEA

  1. Lynn says:

    This is gorgeous. I love the exposed beams, and how they’ve highlighted so many of the antique details while blending in modern touches.
    Lynn

  2. Diana says:

    Paint colors? Love the white and the dark/moody color in the Hall?!

  3. Margot says:

    A lovely sympathetic renovation. I love that they are putting their own stamp on the house while at same time “listening” to what the house needs and retaining and enhancing the special features of the spaces. Love how they have opened up the ceilings exposing rough hewn beams and that stone wall in the half bath downstairs. Overall totally gorgeous.

  4. Gina Block says:

    Hi Diana,

    Thanks for the kind words! The paint color in the front hall is Black Iron by Benjamin Moore. The halls upstairs are Decorator’s White (also BM.)

    1. Elodie Blakely says:

      Hi Gina!

      What is that fabulous red in the living room? What is that paint color?

      1. Gina Block says:

        Hi Elodie,

        Thank you! It was painted quite a while ago, but I think the color is “Autumn Leaves” by Martha Stewart (Home Depot). I’m not sure if they carry it any more :(

  5. Katherine G. says:

    Congrats, Haldan & Gina! I’ve always wanted to see the inside of your house from driving past it for so many years. What a wonderful restoration! You should be proud.

  6. Wendy Douglas says:

    awesome job guys!

  7. Marissa Lehmacher says:

    Gorgeous house that is even more stunning in person. Gina and Haldan are fabulous designers.

  8. Kate says:

    Really pretty! I love the exposed foundation wall in the bathroom; it’s a lovely feature. I was thrown off by the mention of Victorian houses in Telluride, though, in the second-to-last slide—is that style of architecture prevalent in Telluride, and what’s the connection to these homeowners?

    1. Gina Block says:

      Kate, thanks so much! Re: Telluride – Haldan and I both fell head over heels with the architectural style that’s prevalent in downtown Telluride. Many of the buildings are small, Victorian-era structures, but have been updated with more modern industrial/rustic materials. The homeowners do a wonderful job preserving the original lines of the structures while placing them squarely the 21st century. (Think natural reclaimed siding with corrugated metal roofs and Corten steel details.)

  9. Lynn says:

    A pug always elevates it’s surroundings!

  10. Emily H says:

    Great work Haldan and Gina! I love what you’ve done with color throughout.

    So fun to see what creatives in the area are doing with older homes :)

    – Emily

  11. Alix says:

    I love how the homeowners have updated the space so tastefully to pay homage to the great bones of the house!

    I also wanted to kindly point out a few typos in the text…seems it was not fully edited before posting:

    “She wrapped each one in IKEA paper and print a labels for them, too.”

    “…and added the radiator when even though they updated the heating system to keep the antique feel of the space”

    “The Blocks experiments with the herringbone brick veneer floor glossy IKEA upper cabinet door.”

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Alix

      Our copy editor has been away this week working on our book shoots- please hang in there with us while we try to manage these two big projects at the same time,

      Grace

  12. Christine says:

    Such a gorgous home with so much character. Love it!

  13. jaclyn says:

    Looking at these gorgeous photos just makes me want to throw a tantrum like a jealous 5 year old!

    So, so good!

  14. Sherry (&John) Block says:

    Amazing! And even more wonderful in person! Of course we’re prejudiced!
    Love you guys!!!

  15. Gentian says:

    This is beautiful! And what a surprise to find some familiar names here–I was friends with Erik in high school. Great job guys, and hello to the rest of the fam! So impressed!

  16. Nicole says:

    The quirks and character of this old home make it such a unique treasure, I love the thoughtful updates and the mix of the modern pieces juxtaposed against the primitive elements. Bravo!

  17. Zie says:

    Quirky indeed, love a good clean design mix with a couple of character decor pieces.

  18. Michele says:

    Love, love, love!

  19. Sarah says:

    Stunning visuals – however, I too was distracted by grammatical errors in the text. Glad that the absence of a copy editor is an exceptional event at Design Sponge. Nice work otherwise!

  20. lindsay says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

  21. caryna says:

    Good job guys..! I’ve always wanted to see the inside of your house from driving past it for so many years. What a wonderful restoration! You should be proud.

  22. Kevan says:

    I love your house, and am finding lots of inspiration for our new 1912 farmhouse in Washington state.
    Where did the pendant over the dining room table come from?

    1. Haldan says:

      The pendant over the table is actually IKEA, best of luck with your new farmhouse!

  23. Lauren says:

    Gorgeous home! The color palette is perfect. May I ask where you purchased your Killim pillows?

    1. Haldan says:

      Hello Lauren,
      Thank you very much! The pillows were purchased at a store in Santa Fe on our last vacation. The store has thousands to choose from and are extremely helpful. It is called Santa Kilim and can be found at santakilim.com.

  24. Justin B says:

    The home is amazing. May I ask what color on the wall you used for in the library? Nicely done!

    1. Haldan says:

      Justin, Thank you! The Library walls are Benjamin Moore Black Iron. It is a very versatile color, we have used it at clients house on cabinets, bookshelves and even a barn.

  25. Gordon says:

    (To Adam Netherlund, thanks for recommending your e-book for Maiil Chimp beginners.

  26. Karyn says:

    Love this space! Definitely inspiration for my renovations :) Curious, where is the little white office cabinet from? The one that’s beside the wooden slab desk with hairpin legs… looking for something similar to that little cabinet.

    Thanks!
    Karyn

  27. Haldan says:

    Karyn,
    The small office cabinet is from Poppin, we also outfitted the inside quite nicely with their other accessories. Thank you!

  28. elle says:

    Gorgeous home!! What is the paint color that you used in the upstairs bedrooms? Thanks in advance!

    1. Gina says:

      Hi Elle,
      Thanks for the kind words! The main bedroom wall colors are Berkshire Beige (Benjamin Moore) and the office/guest room walls are Revere Pewter (also Benjamin Moore.)

  29. Molly says:

    What color is the library? The dark dark green, nearly black color!

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