Farming It Out

A historic former dairy farm gets a funky face-lift and a donkey named Domino
The “party barn” (opposite) is a working barn and home to the Kahns’ menagerie of animals, as well as to the original milking stations from when it was a dairy farm. It also includes a bar for entertaining. Photographs by Joe Vaughn

Brigid Mulroy Kahn always wanted to live on an animal farm. Her husband Joe, however, was a different story. So when they bought a 153-year-old former dairy farm just north of Milford, his family reacted accordingly. “We didn’t know you wanted a farm,” they said. “Neither did I,” he replied, laughing.

Built in 1855 by Squire and Dolly Rowe, their fieldstone farmhouse came with six acres and a spot on the state’s list of registered historic sites. When Brigid first heard the Rowe house was for sale, she immediately called her Realtor and told her they wanted it. “Then I told Joe that it didn’t need any work done whatsoever,” she says, with a knowing smile.

But soon after purchasing the 4,000-square-foot home — and an additional five acres from their neighbor — the couple began an extensive eight-month renovation. For help overhauling the home and its six farm structures, the Kahns enlisted the creative talents of interior designer Leslie Ann Pilling.

“Joe and Brigid’s dream was to keep the personality of the 1855 farmhouse but make it funky, eclectic, and colorful,” says Pilling, whose efforts included co-designing an indoor drinking fountain crafted from a John Deere tractor hood with Richard Gage Studio.
After completing the restoration — which included all but three bathrooms and the guest bedroom — the couple moved into what they now refer to as their “gentleman’s farm” in October 2005.

And although Joe’s family may not have originally thought so, farm life suits him well. He and Brigid run their accounting firm, Kahn & Mulroy P.C., from an office above the garage in the carriage house, allowing them time to crunch the numbers and work the farm. “I can tend to the animals, get deliveries, or set out the sprinkler,” he says, noting that he mows four of the 11 acres himself while Brigid uses her John Deere Gator to move hay. “I just love our historic farm,” he says. “When I go to work, I just walk down the driveway.”

When they do venture out, it’s usually to the feed store to buy goat chow for their goats, Taffy and Benjamin; flock raiser for their ducks, Downy and Daisy; or hay for their donkey, Domino — not to mention the needs of their dog, cat, and nine goldfish. Their beloved menagerie lives in what they call the “party barn,” where the Kahns installed a bar for the many parties they throw.

And as if all those animals and acres weren’t enough, the Kahns had another wish. “The most important aspect was to have the coolest kitchen in the history of the world,” Brigid says.

We’ll let history be the judge.

Designed by Leslie Ann Pilling, the solid-oak bed in the Kahns’ bedroom incorporates the fireplace mantel from their previous home and a regal crown molding. Pilling also designed the draperies made from silk fabric by Carleton V. The pair of antique French-crystal chandeliers and Biedermeier footboard bench are from the Antiques Centre of Troy. Wide-striped walls in tones of warm butter yellow accentuate the luxurious bedroom.

The kitchen was meant to have the look of an old-fashioned general store. The island has apothecary drawer facades and houses a professional range with six burners and a griddle. All appliances and plumbing fixtures are from Specialties Showroom. Pilling cut apart a bi-fold screen to create the shutters of the pass-through leading to the laundry room and Brigid’s collection of vintage advertising signs. LaFata Cabinets did the cherry-wood cabinetry. Pilling designed the “bale of hay” hood in cooperation with Richard Gage Studio.
Currently owned by Joe Kahn and Brigid Mulroy Kahn, this fieldstone farmhouse was built in 1855 by Squire and Dolly Rowe.