House Tour: Dream Acres Farmhouse in Michigan
Outside Erik and Tami Lepley’s kitchen window, 50 shaggy Scottish Highland cattle roam 80 acres dotted with ponds and trees blazing with autumn color. It’s the same view the couple enjoys from the living room and the master bedroom. The entire western Michigan farmhouse, in fact, is oriented to let the Lepleys keep watch over their herd and land.
Six years ago, the outlook wasn’t so idyllic. After a fire reduced their beloved century-old farmhouse to smoldering ash, the empty nesters moved to a nearby apartment. Slowly, they formed a plan for their new abode on the same property, building the best of a classic farmhouse while eliminating the shortcomings.
For buying guide: Dream Acres Farmhouse Resources
A breezeway links the garage to the house, designed with simple, durable materials, such as white-painted board-and-batten siding and metal roofing. “We wanted the farmhouse to look like it was on a working farm instead of built for show,” says architect Robert Sears.
The heated garage accommodates the couple's office, a dog/boot wash station and hooks for coveralls. After a day of working fields of soybeans, corn or alfalfa, Erik and Tami can walk in the home's side door and go directly down to the basement to clean up in the guest bathroom. "It keeps the dust and dirt out of the main living areas," Tami says.
Living room contrasts
A knotty alder fireplace mantel contrasts crisp architecture in the living room. A coffered ceiling dresses up the space and adds dimension.
Tami, who grew up on a Michigan dairy farm, incorporates sculptures and wall art depicting cows, chickens, sheep and pigs into her decor. Her rural-style collections pair well with the warm buttercream yellow, gold, persimmon and brown palette of the main floor. “We looked at colors you would see on Grandma’s apron back in the 1950s,” interior designer Thomas Krupansky says. They found all the living room furniture (and most furniture throughout the house) at one store in Grand Rapids. “When we saw that outrageous sofa with the different colors and patterns, we both knew it was Tami’s style,” Thomas says. “But we limited pattern to select pieces to avoid a cluttered, heavy look.”
Warm and welcoming display
Empty vintage-look frames create a sophisticated display above a painted buffet, where Tami stores vases and serving pieces.
Guests pour their drinks at the beverage bar situated out of the cook's way in the dining area. The built-in unit resembles a cottage-style hutch.
The dining area, kitchen and living area form one big great-room on the 1,126-square-foot main floor. “Old farmhouses were typically cut up into a bunch of small rooms: a kitchen, a dining room, a parlor,” Tami says. “We wanted a modern farmhouse that’s open and airy.”
Refined rural kitchen
Schoolhouse light fixtures and beaded-board detailing on the vent hood recall old farmhouse kitchens. A black-painted island and black soapstone perimeter countertops create an elegant contrast to the cream cabinetry throughout the room. A tin ceiling delineates the kitchen from the living room.
The kitchen, bolstered with a marble-top 5x8-foot island, provides plenty of prep and party space. Two square tables pushed together seat six in the connected dining area; two more stored in the barn expand seating to 16—helpful for when the Lepleys’ two college-age kids and other family visit. French doors in the adjacent living room open to a large terrace with outdoor seating. “We love the flow of the house,” Tami says.
A farm kitchen isn’t complete without an apron-front sink.
Twin rocking chairs bring classic farmhouse comfort to the front porch.
Lattice-style cabinet doors dress up built-in storage in the mudroom.
The hallway pantry door is a replica of the screen door on their original house.
Relaxing master suite
The 700-square-foot upstairs master suite fosters relaxation. Robin’s-egg blue on the ceiling and floral and plaid patterns create a soothing scheme; white-painted wood paneling brings country character.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘You should put the master bedroom on the main floor. You’re going to get old and not going to want to climb steps,’” Tami says. But Tami didn’t want a first-floor bedroom because it would block farmland scenery from her living room and kitchen. Instead, the upstairs master bedroom and its balcony extend her view across the pastures and ponds. “It’s so nice to wake up in the morning and look out and see the cattle,” she says.
Honeycomb tile and a claw-foot tub that reminds Tami of her parents’ tub set the tone in the master bath.