Once passed down through four generations of women, a storied 1896 farmhouse in Skaneateles (the Finger Lakes area of central NY) had operated as a bed and breakfast before Shelly Kennedy and Mark Strang came to its rescue three years ago. The home’s floor plan had been chopped up to accommodate overnight guests (and even a full bathroom and Jacuzzi in the upstairs hallway). Part of the Military Plot 50, the property was a Revolutionary War land grant, of which 600 acres total had been arranged in the town for returning soldiers.
At first, Shelly and Mark made minor improvements. They tore down the wallpaper and heavy draperies in every room, and painted almost everything but the original woodwork white. Shelly didn’t have the heart to change it, but didn’t necessarily love the color of the wood, either. The white walls allow the wood to act as a “second color” in each room instead of fighting with it. The white also provides a crisp, clean background for colorful decor, art, and photos. More substantial renovations included finishing the attic, removing all the radiators and installing forced heat and AC with three zones, a new roof, paint, porches, and driveway. They also added a two-story 12×16′ section to the back of the house, making a proper entrance, mudroom, pantry, and master suite, and a 6×12′ bump-out in the kitchen area. Many interior walls were reworked throughout the entire house to improve its flow.
At the same time, the family (including a teenage daughter and son) completely rebuilt an even older 1848 barn on the grounds, and turned it into a gathering and party loft. They felt strongly enough about saving it to undertake the very costly and detailed renovation. Part of the original 30×60′ barn was rotten beyond repair, so its footprint was trimmed down to 30×40′. They took the barn boards off one by one (just leaving the hand-hewn frame), raised it, blocked it, removed the old and crumbling foundation, and rebuilt a new foundation, floors, and drainage — then pieced the building back together like a puzzle.
Shelly, who now operates drooz studio from her attic workspace, designs colorful, decorative accessories inspired by her own house and style. She is glad to have invested in this historic property — reviving it, and giving it a shot at standing for another 125 years. She caught it just in time. —Annie
Photography by Shelly Kennedy