The memory of a slamming screen door in Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book “One Morning in Maine” guided Jessie and Matt Sheehan in their search for a Connecticut escape. The full-time Brooklynites wanted a rural-feeling spot where they could kick back with their two sons on weekends and holidays, and do more of the things they love: Jessie is a lawyer turned baker and author, most recently of “The Vintage Baker” (Chronicle); Matt is an urban farmer and environmental educator. Their fantasy was McCloskey’s simple cottage, with the sort of midcentury kitchen kids dash through to grab a snack on their way to the next adventure.
But they couldn’t find the house they wanted, where they wanted it. “The kinds of homes Matt and I love are very old, but in a town like Sharon, Connecticut, all the beautiful old homes are right on the road,” says Jessie. So, working with Rafe Churchill and Heide Hendricks, the husband-and-wife duo behind local design firm Hendricks Churchill, they decided to start from scratch on a wide-open plot that had been part of a dairy farm. The Sheehans spent two years camping there in an Airstream on the weekends, deciding exactly where to build. Then they devised a plan for an updated, evolved version of a historic house. The result has all the same charm but is spacious, eco-smart and close enough to town for a milk or sugar run.
Just like Jessie’s recipes, the place takes vintage ideas and runs with them. The trim and doors are painted in traditional Shaker colors, and the walls are covered in semi-polished Venetian-style plaster. Architectural salvage yards and antiques stores were their go-to sources for fixtures and lighting, with a Flos pendant light in the dining room as a rare exception. The result could pass for a 19th-century gem till you notice the generous proportions of the rooms and doorways, and all the sustainable features, from solar panels to a rainwater cistern to a stand-alone Frigidaire freezer, where, in true storybook fashion, Jessie stores surplus berries for the winter.