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A Wellesley Farmhouse Is Shocked Into the Present with a Modern Twist

By Michael McCarthy | October 19, 2020 | Home & Real Estate


Jan Gleysteen and his architectural team were tasked with designing a home that mixes New England sensibilities (tall windows, stone accents, metal roof) and modern touches inside.

When architect Jan Gleysteen first talked to his clients about creating a new home, they offered up a challenge: a farmhouse design, but something that would be infinitely more elegant than rustic. “We were also challenged to fit the farmhouse look into a largely traditional suburban neighborhood,” says Gleysteen, the principal of Wellesley-based Jan Gleysteen Inc. ( “We work collaboratively with each client. One important exercise is for our clients to share photos of everything they want or like. Then we can easily provide a design that they will love. The client requested several specific spaces—a home office for two, children’s study room and attic studio.”

The bright, open kitchen.

The hurdle of forging a unique aesthetic— rustic with a twist—was anything but an exercise in simplicity. Gleysteen and his team tackled the New England farmhouse look first: shoebox massing, tall vertical windows, stone accents, metal roof and board-and-batten siding on the 8,500-square-foot home. Inside, elements like rough-sawn wood and understated flooring add warmth in the kitchen. Modernity pops on the exterior with indented eaves at the gable roof with vertical board and batten siding, while the interior features a clean design palette, metal railings and black window sashes.

Triangular beams with a skipdress finish grace the living room

The home site, which had a steep slope, exposed ledge and perched water, proved to be an initial challenge. It also borders a wetland. “We removed a large deposit of ledge, releasing the perched water, which allowed us to [position] the house in the middle of the site,” says Gleysteen, who planned the site for ideal solar orientation and to maximize the rear yard. “The rain garden in the front yard provides a slow recharging of the groundwater. The proper rate of recharge was important because of the adjacent wetland.” Inside, Gleysteen says the kitchen was designed as the heart of the home. “We wanted to continue the clean lines and crisp palette of the home—it also needed to be inviting and livable,” says Gleysteen, who notes that the kitchen, adjacent to the family room and breakfast room, naturally led to a separation of food preparation areas bounded by the two islands. “The island closest to the family room has a marble top with a leathered finish—very warm for a traditionally cool material—and is used for dining and entertaining. The island closest to the range has a durable Pental quartz countertop for food prep.”

Lovely contrasts—including the white shaker cabinets and the stained oak islands—build visual drama in the kitchen, where Gleysteen says his team added an uplight along the top of the cabinets to accent the ceiling and lighten its 10-foot height. Rounding out the space are PentalQuartz counters, a Caesarstone backsplash and Simon Pearce glass pendants.

The living room features triangular beams—with a rough-sawn finish called skipdress—that disguise steel tension rods, counteracting the thrust created by the vaulted ceiling. “We could have decorated [the beams] in many ways, but they’re an homage to Richard Serra,” says Gleysteen, referring to the legendary American artist involved in the process art movement. In the end, Gleysteen says the couple loved every square inch of the home—a testament to blending the warmth of a New England past with the lightness of contemporary design.

Photography by: Warren Patterson