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A Historic Pennsylvania Farmhouse

A Historic Pennsylvania Farmhouse

exterior of historic Pennsylvania home

Built-in 1803, this historic Pennsylvania farmhouse preserves its authentic charm through updates and renovations.

Can you imagine moving into your first home with toxic plaster walls, no running water and no heat in the middle of a snowy winter? That was the reality for blogger Tiffany of Painted Roots Home when she and her husband, Ryan, first scored their 218-year-old historic Pennsylvania farmhouse in 2011.

The couple knew they wanted a historic house, and even though neglected greenery had almost completely obscured the “For Sale” sign on the property, they took their chances and put in an offer.

sitting room in historic farmhouse home
vintage duck paintings in historic Pennsylvania home
From the typewriter and radio to the exquisite framed ducks, homeowner Tiffany St. John’s eyes are always peeled for a new vintage addition to her décor. Even if she doesn’t know exactly where it will live, she’ll snag an item and find a way to make it stand out in her home.

Also Read: Tips for Doing a Historic Renovation

Rough Beginnings

The couple’s journey inside the historic Pennsylvanian farmhouse was less than romantic. Thieves had stripped the structure of its copper plumbing lines and other valuable objects. The plaster was peeling and filled with horse hair. The floors hadn’t been cleaned in years.

“People thought we were crazy, but I had this absolute love for the home when I first walked in,” Tiffany says. “I just saw the hidden diamond that we could totally reimagine and make the space feel alive again.” 

vintage and antique ottoman jute rug
Jute rugs from local auctions help outline room zones in the living and sitting rooms, maintaining a natural flow between the two spaces. An upholsterer helped the St. Johns upcycle drop cloths to cover wingback chairs and an antique ottoman, matching period style while protecting the pieces from little fingers.

Also Read: How to Restore a Historic Home Without Gutting It

houseplants in sitting room of historic farmhouse
Upcycling furniture is Tiffany’s passion, but her second favorite activity is gardening. She switches out greenery to match the season, even pulling from her own property depending on the time of year. “Plants are just as important as the other things you bring into your home,” Tiffany says. “Your spaces can feel dreary without the sun in the cold months.”

Tiffany and Ryan's first priority was to create a livable space. Starting slow and small with projects like a fresh coat of paint or clearing the brush from the yard, Tiffany and Ryan made renovation progress while keeping their full-time jobs. “Until I was three years in, we didn’t have a fully functioning kitchen,” Tiffany says. “We went to the laundromat for a while.”

historic home sitting area
When approaching her interior color palette, Tiffany kept the walls white to let the natural wood beams and stone fireplace shine, while incorporating textures and patterns into the décor. “If I love the items I’ve chosen, I leave them, but if I make mistakes, then changing pillows, curtains and rugs is easier than painting a wall,” Tiffany says.
tortoise shell and houseplants in historic Pennsylvania home
Another treasured collection from adventuring and antiquing are the St. Johns’ tortoise shells, adding another layer to the animal-themed living room. “Sometimes I have cuckoo ideas, like these shells, but we’ll try them out if I feel like it’s important to the time period,” Tiffany says.

Restoring History

Beneath the necessary renovations, the historic Pennsylvania farmhouse roots were deep and rich, and Tiffany wanted to preserve them. The fireplaces are still original with local fieldstone, and the kitchen’s focal point is the 1800s hearth. The couple even found authentic wooden beams underneath the plaster ceiling on the first floor. 

historic home kitchen
Plain white subway tile is Tiffany’s understated backsplash choice to let the historic kitchen features like slate floors and wood countertops take center stage. Following suit, her cabinets, sink, range and refrigerator are simple and sleek so textures from the rest of the room can pop.
historic home kitchen with island, baskets and subway tile
Combatting a lack of storage in the kitchen, the St. Johns aimed to maximize their cabinet space without taking away from the home’s coziness. Shelving and cupboards fashioned from different materials ensure they have enough storage to host large groups.

The kitchen now boasts a custom wood island countertop and vintage-inspired appliances, which Tiffany chose for their old-school style. The room reflects its 1800s origins with vintage filing cart bins for extra storage, the original farmhouse kitchen door and period-appropriate slate floors. 

original hearth in historic home kitchen
What’s more fitting for upholding a home’s 1800s charm than its original hearth? Although they added modern appliances, the St. Johns wanted to keep the hearth as the focal point, because it would have been primarily used to prepare meals at the time.
transparent pendant light in historic home kitchen
Tiffany battled with the lighting design for her kitchen and changed her mind most about this pendant light. With help from a local shop, she custom-designed the piece to her specifications, choosing the height and transparency to ensure visitors would be able to see through the light rather than crane around it.

Another room overhaul, and one of Tiffany’s favorites, was renovating the old adjoining smokehouse into a laundry room and bathroom. She and Ryan gutted the space and designed plumbing and electricity for the modern appliances. But even with limited square footage, Tiffany paid tribute to the historic Pennsylvania farmhouse's colonial days with brick floors, faux ceiling beams, a trough sink and wallpaper reminiscent of the time period.

laundry room with floral wallpaper in historic farmhouse home
One of Tiffany’s favorite DIY projects lives in the laundry room, which displays a harmonious union of modern appliances and period details. She upcycled the door that previously opened into their kitchen and turned it into the laundry countertop, and an old, barn house trough plays the new role of a laundry sink.
antique bedrame in historic Pennsylvania home
One of the only family heirlooms in the house resides in the current primary bedroom. Tiffany’s grandfather bequeathed the bed frame to her family, and it has become one of her most prized possessions. “He was in the Navy, so we’re assuming he picked that up while traveling,” Tiffany said. “I remember seeing it in their home, and I absolutely love it.”

Tried and True

After years of work, Tiffany and Ryan have a beautiful historic Pennsylvania farmhouse they’re proud of. They’ve hosted weddings on the property, and continually open their home for the holidays.

They still have work to do, like restore the third floor suite with its own fireplace, but they don’t mind taking the renovations one step at a time. They even rope their kids into the process. “We don’t always get it right the first time, whether it’s lighting or pillows or furniture mistakes,” Tiffany says. “But when you let the room speak to you, it tells you when it feels right and when it doesn’t.”

renovated bathroom in historic home with shiplap and hexagonal floor tile
The second floor bathroom is another gutted and renovated space in the farmhouse. Though small, the room packs a punch with unique auction finds like the vanity, charming period tile patterns, the original tub and an unorthodox but seamless blend of fixtures. “People say they would have never mixed all these shades of gold and silver, but then they tell me it looks great!” Tiffany says.
apothecary cabinet in home office in historic Pennsylvania home
The smallest room in the house has served many purposes: a baby nursery, walk-in closet and now a home office. Tiffany updated the wallpaper and added a sleek, steel-blue army cabinet she found while antiquing to house her family’s craft supplies. “We don’t have closets, so all of the kids’ pencils, glue, sewing supplies, ribbons and miscellaneous items are stored in there,” she says.
bedroom with original fireplace in historic Pennsylvania home
plate collection and tapered candles in historic home
This intriguing mix of state plates the St. Johns picked up on East Coast adventures is just one example of Tiffany’s love for collections. “It was fun to accumulate them over the years, and we thought they fit a home as old as ours,” she says. “Plus, the kids are now part of providing historic aspects to our house.”

Love the vintage farmhouse look? See how you can get it in your own house! And don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest for your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!

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