Making a House a Home..Tahilla Farm

Just a tad nervous...
I am facing major home renovations for the first time and I am just a tad nervous about it all. Next week I fly from Vietnam to Boston and then drive to Tahilla Farm in New Hampshire. It has been eight months since I last visited and I have thought of it every day since.

Patience of a Saint...
We have a great architect who we have been teleconferencing with regularly these past few months. I think our architect has the patience of a Saint. The ideas from our end have been wild and crazy and they keep on changing. He has been with us the whole way. We are very happy with the am I so nervous?

This is my first major renovation...I have been dodging this for 27 years.

Climbing Mt. Everest... 
Five countries, four kids, a travelling husband and an energetic dog were enough for me...I have avoided houses that needed anything but basic interior and exterior work. Lick of paint, touch up the roof, sanding here and there, new boilers, minor adjustments and tweaks...OK..that's easy. Anything else and we have problems.

Picking out anything relating to a house is like climbing Mt. Everest for me. I like it all, can never decide, lose my "gut feel" when I need it most and figure the best decision is no decision when I am on the fence. The fence is my haven, it is quite comfy there. Every house we have purchased has required minimal work, it has been a prerequisite.

Tahilla Farm..Mending pasture fences by Dan Snow

"We come and go, but the land will always be here. 
Those people who love and understand it 
are the only ones who really own it- 
for a while."
Willla Cather, O Pioneer!

Tahilla Farm circa. 1790...
I have to wonder about the first owners of our house, those patriotic souls, establishing their roots in the pasture land of New Hampshire. In 1790, our house was built and the President of the United States, George Washington, gave his first State of the Union address in New York.

If only the stone walls around our property could speak and "Martha", the magnificent 150 year old maple tree outside our front door could do the same..just imagine the stories!

Jump ahead 224 years and you have Mr and Mrs H, bringing back the land to some semblance of what it once was and contemplating a renovation as they go.

"Martha" stands by her house.

We plan to tenderly renovate the original house to bring it into the 21st century. Windows, roof and insulation will be added without compromising the integrity of the original structure. It has a keeping room, study, two upstairs bedrooms/bathrooms and an attic space that small children would squeal with delight over.

An antique home holds onto it's roots, keeping room and study...this stays just as it is.

We have two wings off of the original house, the right wing and the master wing. The master wing holds the master bedroom, en suite and sitting room. The right wing holds the "life" of the house,  the kitchen, laundry, bathroom, dining room, guest room, and bath and screened in porch. Both wings were built within the past 10 years.

Down it comes...the right wing
And now...our biggest project of all, pulling down the right wing and replacing it with another of equal volume to the old house. While the right wing is underway, and the main house is tweaked, we will also modify the master wing.

We are making this house our home, our home away from home. It has been the plan all along. Once construction starts, I will be observing from afar in Vietnam, dependant on someone else to oversee the work for us. We estimate nine months to complete the work. I am guessing 12 months. I have complete confidence in those who will look after the project and plan to come back to check on how things are going. Something in me longs to be there for the whole process and then again another part of me sighs with relief that I will not.

What will one day be the  "before" picture.

The wing to the far right of the house, with the porch,
will be renovated. 

Am I crazy?
A question I seem to be asking myself and everyone around me these days is "Am I crazy?" I have a sneaking suspicion that some or you are reading this, nodding your heads and saying "yup, as crazy as they come". Others might be like me...ready to head for the hills (or mountain) at the sound of the first bang of a hammer and others will be telling me to just "let it go" and get on with it. Make your house your home....

Keeping an eye on a mountain.

Getting my act together... 
So this is the summer where I get my act together. It starts next week.  I have lots of decisions to make for a new kitchen, family room, fireplace, bookcases, lighting, doorknobs, guest bath, master bath, laundry, dressing room, all the bathrooms, guest bedroom. I plan to be well stocked on beer and wine through the summer to get me though those moments when I ask myself what I have gotten myself into.

Featured in NZ House and Garden, May 2007

The interior decorator...
And here is the thing, I know an interior decorator could make my life so much easier. But when it comes to decorators, I hesitate. I had a great decorator in my life. Kaye Coleman breezed up to my front door one day in New Zealand at the suggestion of a friend and I never looked back.  She said yes where others said no. We painted, stained, reupholstered and added to our collection with her. She was a marvel...a one of a kind. Every move since then, from England to Vietnam has been an easy transition due to her planning. We can mix and match any room, be prepared for any house, shape or size. The woman is a genius, I need her now. But alas, we are in New England and not New Zealand...I need to find another Kaye, a decorator with an eye for detail, who can think outside the decorating square when we bring our travelling world to Tahilla Farm.

Our travelling home..shown here in Auckland, New Zealand
Full article here

Forging ahead...
At this point, I am planning on forging ahead on my own, with the help of our architect, a whole lot of pin boards from Pinterest and that beer and wine stocked in the refrigerator.

So I ask you.. 
Have you been there?  
Have you done that? 
Do you have any advice? 
Were you married when you renovated?
Are you still married?
Are you still sane?
I hear stories...
Am I crazy? 
(wait, don't answer that)

I will take it all and come back 
and post your thoughts and advice 
to share with other first timers.
There is nothing like the experience 
of those who have gone before us.

I have faith.

Knowing that many of you prefer to email rather than comment, 
please feel free to write to me...


I eagerly await your responses..your words
of wisdom never cease to amaze me.

I am humbled...always.



Photos of Tahilla Farm 
Stone Wall by Dan Snow
all others Jeanne Henriques


  1. I cannot fathom the renovations of that scope and from will be exciting and to see it all come together will be rewarding. Furnishing your home should be lots of fun and I hope that you will enjoy shopping for just the right pieces.
    We have lived in our bungalow during all the renovations and it was a difficult and tedious process which I am not sure that I would recommend! Having a trustworthy builder is probably the most important thing, one who will coordinate and communicate well. My experience says double the estimate in time and cost and you will not be disappointed or shocked. Good luck on your adventure!

    1. Thank you Leslie...I shall heed all your advice!! ;)

  2. Having done this all on my own before, I would recommend no snap decisions and finding a good decorator to help. I dream of having Brooke Giannetti of the fabulous blog, Velvet and Linen help me with my home when we're ready to do some work.....or Phoebe Howard, the designer who made my friends "cottage" on Sea Island spectacular. I can't wait to hear all about your progress and to see the finished product as well!

    1. Thank you mentioned two great decorators! ;)

  3. Well, Jeanne, it's certainly a project to keep you busy for a while! It's hard to tell, but appears that the "right wing" is a house added onto the house, and probably can go and leave lots of opportunity to consolidate living space so that you can get back to one big old family house for when your children and friends come to NH to be with you. Knock it down! You've had lots of time to think about it and a good architect for support.

    Have you asked Kaye to help you long distance? In this day of Pinterest and Internet, and her knowledge of your likes, dislikes and collection ... could she help you with the overall design/look and then maybe someone more local could help with the details. Or, perhaps the two of you could do it all by long distance. Worth a few emails to discuss it - don't you think?

    Can't wait to see what happens this summer!

    1. Thanks Webb for your comment. I realised that I forgot to mention that a new "right wing" will be going up with a similar volume to the old house. Not sure how I missed on that little detail. It was kind of the point of the post. Classic case of woman getting carried away with her words! Kaye and I stay in touch, if we can make this work... I am all for it! ;)

  4. .. I have nothing for you, renovating over .... but I used to do it all myself. All I can offer is good luck, as I know it will all turn out well. What a great part of the country you are in.

    1. Thank you Karen...I really love the area. I fell in love with the land and town...then saw the potential in the house. I think I got it right on that one. ;)

  5. I will not presume to offer you advice. You have got yourselves such a beautiful home. All that wood makes me sigh, I love it so. I know how hard it can be to stock to a style or to something that works. But I am sure you will find a way to put everything together.

    1. Thank you Loree...I agree with you on the wood. It is all staying, it is one of the features I love about the house. Thank you for joining in the journey...xx

  6. Can I just say, as one who often works on projects which are not located anywhere near to me, that I think you should engage Kaye Coleman again, to work via email from NZ. You already have a connection, she knows what you like and how you like to live, and honestly, it is incredibly simple to do this work from another spot. My clients are dotted all over Australia, even though I am in Melbourne, and as most of our drawings and schedules are emailed anyway, it makes not a jot of difference how much distance there is between the client and myself, so I don't see why it would be any different for Kaye. She can still source local content from across the oceans…and the local contractors can also work with her directly via email, snapping any images required for her to "see" what is going on. Your stress would be reduced a thousand fold because you already trust her.

    1. Very wise words have given me words for thought. Thank you! ;)

    2. Listen to Virginia! She is wise beyond...beyond!

  7. Replies
    1. I like your advice the end of the day, it should be fun. So is looking very promising. ;)

    Yes, been there done that.......still married..........28 years come July............did we fight? Yes, over the light switches................!!!!He has the ones I wanted in HIS garage....I have the ones he wanted in the rest of the house!!!You will SURVIVE and what a GRAND surprise it will be when you come back to check in!!!I think you have the perfect situation..........NOT being there!
    I got your POST CARD TODAY............I laugh as it is NO postcard but a beautiful piece of ART!I will TREASURE for a long long time........until we meet in person one day and probably beyond!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth...I thought you would say that! So glad the postcard arrived..phew! Vietnam is moves at a snails pace when it comes to mail. I wouldn't be surprised if it arrives on my return in September. A lovely surprise to come home to. xx

  9. Dear Jeanne: You and your husband have committed yourselves to a big project for the life of your family being together in a home. Some place to come "home" to is very important, I believe to help find comfort from a vast vast world, when all you want is your own little space. Why on earth would you not consider consulting with Kaye and incorporating her ideas with your own. If you can work with your Architect and Landscaper by telephone, fax, e-mail, skype etc., then Kaye can and should be added to your list. If you give her enough information, then she does not have to be there. She can hang photos, diagrams, swatches, etc., on her office walls and understands what needs to be done based on your desires and your husbands, and the needs of your family. I think there is a wonderful opportunity here for you to continue working with Kaye. Sitting on the fence while easy for you in some ways does not promote the project to keep moving forward. It means you are temporarily stuck. Kaye can help the keep the project moving. It's a real treasure and partnership to have that karma together. I hope you can find her and pick up where you left off. Best of luck and I hope you find some fun along the way.

    1. AH..I am loving this, all wise words Kathleen, I can see a pattern to this already. Just what I needed. Thank you!! xx PS..postcard on it's way. I left a comment on your recent post. Get well soon!

  10. You will love it, Jeanne. It's a fabulous home and when you make it your own, there will be nothing like it. We have been remodeling an 1800's home in Beaufort, NC remotely for the last 20 months. It has been quite an ordeal, but there is nothing quite like seeing a house in shambles come to life. We bought the beach home with our daughter and son in law and we are all still in tack. It's not been without its surprises and shocks, but we've had a great time!! Would we do it again…you betcha!

    1. Beth and dynamic duo, inspiration for all my Pinboards...thank you for your inspiration today! ;)

  11. We have been remodeling already 3 times in different countries (as you know) and it was a challenge and
    at the end always a pleasant surprise. I want give you advise how to do it because your very personal
    taste will reflect the house and this is what it should be...your own gem. Enjoy that progress and have a
    wonderful summer in N.H.

    1. Thank you Rena..I hope you are settling in well in your new home. xx

  12. I'm looking forward to following you through the process, Jeanne !:)

  13. Jeanne, you will be fine! The most important thing is to get a clear idea of how you want the house to look. This involves a lot of fun homework. Keep a notebook or file with pages torn our of home design magazines. Divide it into topics such as kitchen, living room, master bedroom, etc. Then even pare it down further into topics such as light lighting fixtures, curtain rods, door knobs, etc. You will start to get a vision of how you want the house to look on the inside, the colors, patterns, styles that make you feel cozy. If you decide to hire a decorator, this kind of information will enable he or she to facilitate your vision. This will be such an exciting project for you! I would want to be there as much as possible to see the progress and deal with any problems on the spot. Your house in New Hampshire is a dream!
    xx Sunday

    1. Thank you guess is that their is an inner Virgo in you. I love the way you organized your made my heart go pitter patter. A Virgo likes order which is probably why I get myself into a state. A clear plan is everything. I am sure it will come together over the summer, I have many of your suggestions in place but had not thought of the little door knobs. Yikes! Off to Pinterest! Thx you! xx

  14. This is going to be exciting Jeanne and I'll be following along. Have never had the chance to renovate a historic house, just stay busy keeping this little cottage comfy and hopefully attractive.

    The Vietnam postcard arrived yesterday - I'm thrilled with it and thank you so very much. Great stamps too! Appreciate you taking the time to write.

    Hugs - Mary

    1. Thank you Mary and I am so glad your postcard arrived. Reports of sightings are coming in from around the world...I just love it when that happens! xx

  15. Well, maybe I am oversimplifying things but I have two thoughts: my first, immediate one was, "I get it" and the second - talk about a wanky Americanism! - is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" aka if Kaye rocks your world then that is who you should try your hardest to work with - I know it will work out. You are going to put that extra, new space to good use.

    TF loves you already, it will all be just fine.
    PS. I vote yes for a pond. :)

    1. Thank you Heather...the advice from everyone is just what I needed to read. I shall go forth and conquer! xx

      PS.. I am going for a pool first, pond second and if I am lucky, we will have both. :)

    2. Opps..meaning that I have to convince Mr. H to all of the above. ;)

  16. I've renovated a number of houses, but not to the extent of the three-story, 6,400 sq ft house I did in my 20's. I did almost all of the work and became an expert at everything except electrical. Want a wall moved? No problem! I'm your gal. Now I'm working on a house--with lots of help this time--that was butchered by "flippers" who made dangerous decisions when they "updated" it. The flippers have also turned out to be my next door neighbors, which has been a lesson in "being nice," because if I could have them arrested for what they've done, I might think twice about it. Brenda Coffee


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