I’m excited to share an article this week that was written by an old friend and amazing writer. We extend our sincerest thanks to Josh for telling our story better than we ever could ourselves. I think we could most accurately be described as the latter in the words of Steve Martin:
“Some people have a way with words, and other people… oh, uh, not have way.”
So without further preamble, here is the wonderful new piece about our home. Thanks again Josh!
The House Our Fathers Built
Living a Dream in a New “Old” West Virginia Farmhouse
written by Joshua Stump, M.A.T.
There are dozens of remarkable details in Heather and Bronson McNemar’s home that inspire delight—a small clay pot in the home’s entryway made from the property’s sumptuous West Virginia clay, the library-style rail and ladder system the couple installed throughout for access to high cupboards, a chipped and charming reclaimed cast iron sink in the laundry room—but what is perhaps most remarkable is that each constituent piece of the family’s demure farm house was consciously and meticulously planned.
“We were on the road for five years due to Bronson’s work,” explains Heather, “and living full-time in a fifth wheel trailer really began to take its toll.”
She pauses. “I think I really started to put this home together in my head during the first year out, so this has actually been a seven year process.” She produces a stack of paperwork containing construction and design notes, a catalog of every piece of art and décor in the house, and ideas and drawings for some of the customized features of the home. Flipping through the details, it becomes readily apparent that the McNemars conceived and executed a vision for their home with thoughtfulness and precision.
Heather retrieves the original design for the home, a blueprint from Southern Living called Wilder House, and then contrasts it with the customized blueprint they used for the actual construction.
“We made some changes–removed a breakfast nook, added in a covered front porch—but the majority of the plan details are there. Like I said, I had a lot of time to tweak, but this is the plan that I really fell in love with.”
The guiding principle behind the overall design was to emulate the look and feel of a farm house that had been standing for a hundred years, but with updated features and modern construction techniques. To that end, the couple studied both the architectural features and design elements of older farm houses and incorporated them into their own home.
“The furniture and art are eclectic for sure,” explains Heather, “but there are certain things that are consistent throughout.” As an example, she points out that the trim framing the doorways, windows, and ceilings is made of smooth edge square planks of various sizes, assembled and painted to resemble the modest appointments of a 20th century working farm home.
Says Bronson: “My father in law got to the point where he could trim out a doorway in no time. We bought the strips in bulk and cut them to size with a chop saw. From there it was pretty easy.”
Visitors to the home traverse a stamped concrete walkway to the covered front porch, lit by two gas lamp-style fixtures on either side of a striking red door, which was custom made by a local builder from one of Heather’s drawings. The entryway is adorned with a low table with various pieces of local art and other curiosities. Though the flooring appears to be oak, it is actually ceramic tile with a high-definition veneer, another thoughtful design choice made with durability in mind thanks to the family’s very large dog, Wendell, and their active son, Gunner.
One of the home’s crown jewels is the library, a cozy affair with a sprawling and eclectic assortment of material that reaches from floor to ceiling. A handmade wooden ladder glides along a rail system, providing access to out-of-reach volumes and lending an elegant yet utilitarian touch to the space. Surprises are hidden among the shelved tomes: busts of historical figures, small pieces of artwork, pinned insects in a shadowbox. Two large windows and abundant, warm lighting create an inviting atmosphere for reading, study, and leisure, while the antique desk and matching chair at the room’s center lend a scholarly air.
“This is, by far, my favorite room in the house,” explains Bronson as he enters the home’s spacious and well-appointed kitchen. Brushed steel appliances reflect light from a dozen or so recessed lighting elements and three hanging steel fixtures, drawing attention to the large center island that doubles as the family’s day-to-day dining and meal preparation surface. The island features a cavernous double sink and two dishwashers (“We hate doing dishes,” Heather admits), along with ample utensil and cookware storage. Two industrial gas ranges, complete with ovens, occupy space below a commercial fume hood, while elsewhere the recessed refrigerator, beer froster, and coffee pot allow the McNemars to extract the most utility from their substantial counter space.
Inset cabinetry lines the ceiling and walls, with the highest space accessible by the rail and ladder system seen elsewhere throughout the home. The utility of this choice is readily apparent; the kitchen is uncluttered, accessible, and eminently inviting for both cooking and entertaining. A long dining room table sits adjacent to the main kitchen area, but the family admits they don’t use it much—the kitchen itself, they relate, is simply too convenient.
A detour to the laundry room again showcases the rail and ladder cabinetry along with a large antique cast iron sink retrieved from a Mennonite family on a trip to Virginia. The voluminous storage options beget plenty of uncluttered counter space for folding and ironing, carrying the “out of sight, out of the way” decluttering motif in from the kitchen.
A wall with the family’s collection of musical instruments leads guests past an entrance to one of the home’s two elevated exterior porches and into the sitting area, a cozy space that features a large (and well-stocked) wine rack on one wall and a striking illuminated traffic light mounted in a corner.
A polished wooden staircase with wrought iron balusters winds its way upstairs to the second floor, where the first stop is the youngest McNemar’s room. The space is cozy and eclectic, with a small panel bed and clothes organization flanking an animal skin rug in the center. Further on, the guest room is comfortable and spacious, with an antique hutch, elaborate headboard, and compact writing desk rounding out the appointments.
The master bedroom is roomy, comfortable, and contains an assortment of items special to the couple, including their custom-made headboard that came without the custom-made pricetag. “We found a headboard we loved, but it was ridiculously expensive,” says Heather. “So once again our parents came through for us and built this one. My dad did the cutting, and Bronson’s parents did the upholstery and assembly.” Opposite the bed sits a chest of drawers with a striking Picasso print and an antique buffet mirror behind. An antique trunk breaks up the space at the foot of the bed and ties together several of the shades of wood in the space. Moving into the ensuite master bathroom reveals a pair of sinks and mirrors adjacent to a roomy walk-in closet with pull-out shoe and jewelry racks and hidden rope lighting for extra illumination.
“The rope lights are hardwired,” interjects Bronson. He pauses a moment. “It was a huge pain.”
“But worth it,” adds Heather.
Further into the bathroom lies a recessed vanity area with theater-style task lighting flanking the mirror and a wall-mounted, telescoping beauty mirror. A deep whirlpool tub area occupies the back wall of the bathroom, surrounded by white tile walls and a tall window overlooking the hillside below. Diagonal from the tub is a spacious glass-doored shower with a bevy of shower heads and a large but soothing overhead light fixture.
A smaller set of stairs leads to the unfinished attic, which is, for now, a toy room and storage space. In keeping with the couple’s penchant for thrifty style the area is adorned in bulk canvas affixed to the exposed wall studs; the effect is cozy and inviting, a seemingly impossible feat considering the space. “We are still deciding what to do with this area, but we wanted it to be useful and feel as complete as possible,” Heather remarks.
The home’s most striking technological feature: a complex automation system controlled by wall mounted panels or the couple’s smartphones. Unlocking the front door, for example, triggers lighting in the entryway, living room, and kitchen. Window treatments, too, are motorized and will deploy at specified times of day. The automation even extends to the couple’s bathroom: one specific scene turns on the overhead lighting, shower, and bathroom heater. The system is convenient, but also saves energy by turning on lights and other features based on a programmed schedule, as well as efficiently controlling the home’s climate zones. In fact, the couple observed that they rarely touch the lighting controls in their downstairs space—the system is more than adequately programmed to meet their needs.
When asked what it took to bring their home to life the couple offer effusive thanks to their fathers.
“We literally could not have done without our dads—we really don’t feel like we did much at all. The hard work they put into this home has been incredible, and it stands as a testament to their love for us. The most important thing about this entire journey is that we feel like their legacies will live on through this home long after they’re gone, and that’s what makes this place so special.”
Written by Joshua Stump, M.A.T.
Photography by Callie Lindsey
Fresh Flower Arrangements by Chantelle Kerr
Construction by Daymon Jordon and Ron McNemar
Peter Cornett Fine Furniture
Mach Excavation and Trucking, LLC
The Cabinet Joint
Northwest Hardwoods, Inc.
Ware’s Glass & Awning
Mountain State Pest Control
Special Thanks to: Ivan Perkins, Matthew Perkins, Joshua Burr, James Dennis, Scott Cutright, Jacob Endicott, Pat Jordon, Delores Jordon, Debra McNemar, Patty Jordon, Andy Snyder, and Mike Campbell