Barn in the ‘Burbs
Planned Community Living Can Still Have Farmhouse Style
Lauren Hoch attributes her interior design aesthetic to her experiences growing up on a farm and living in a barn (her parents’ post-and-beam Yankee Barn home, to be precise). She has an affinity for reclaimed wood, distressed finishes, milk paint and accessories and art that honor an unpretentious, rural way of life. “An old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere” would be her ideal address.
You might wonder, then, what led Lauren in 2010 to set up housekeeping in The Villages of Urbana in a brand-new, Ryan-built home that on the outside bears no resemblance to a farmhouse. Plainly put, it was a matter of practicality. Husband Andrew requires a reasonable commute to his D.C.-area job. Their three active sons, ages 8 to 13, need to be close to schools and playing fields for sports involving just about every type of ball. Plus, rather than have to cart the boys over hill and dale to connect with friends, it’s far easier to just let them out the back door and right into a herd of kids.
The Hochs lived their early married years in The Highlands community in Urbana then followed Andrew’s job to Florida. Transferred back to Maryland after that four-year stint, they again gravitated toward Urbana. This time they chose an open-concept floor plan in The Villages that offered the option to bump out here and there and add a morning room with plenty of windows to capture sunrises and sunsets.
The couple’s suburban surroundings have by no means precluded Lauren from decorating in a style she calls “transitional farmhouse.” In the seven years since moving in, she has applied her design sense to create an interior rooted in natural colors, rustic textures and laid-back comfort. With the assistance of a “very handy” husband, she’s been able to implement her ideas without calling in contractors. “We do everything on our own,” Lauren says, noting that as her style evolves this self-reliance makes changing up the décor more achievable.
Inspiration often comes from Southern Living and Modern Farmhouse magazines and HGTV’s Fixer Upper. (Lauren confesses to recording the show, checking out the “before” story and then fast-forwarding to the big reveal at the end.) Visits to the likes of Chartreuse in Buckeystown and the vintage furniture shops of Lucketts, Va., stir her creativity as well.
One of Lauren’s design principles is to be “thoughtful about what will be comfortable and functional” for her family. With no need for formal spaces, she has converted the dining and living rooms into a combination studio-office for her home-based business. Family and guests alike sit down for meals in the repurposed morning room, where cushioned benches and modern Windsor-back chairs surround a substantial farm table.
Sofas and chairs in the family room sport washable slipcovers, which Lauren finds are “so much easier with kids.” Beyond a sliding barn door—a recent addition built by Andrew and Lauren—is the boys’ homework room. Always in search of ways to reduce clutter, Lauren has designated a giant basket in the corner to corral their shoes.
A palette of earthy grays and tans for the walls establishes a subtle backdrop for the creams, blacks and wood tones of the trim, upholstery, carpet and case goods. Window treatments are consistently uncomplicated and done in neutral shades. These choices allow Lauren to freely swap out colorful pillows and other decorative items with the seasons or occasion.
Lauren accessorizes sparingly with pieces that appeal to her farmhouse sensibility, her love of family, or both. “I tend toward things that make me feel good, that make me happy and that have meaning,” Lauren says. “I can tell a story about most anything in the house.”
A ceramic bust of a cow—fondly called Bessie—peers down over the kitchen table. Chicken wire lines the doors of an old breakfront discovered at Chartreuse. A pair of weathered wood shelves supported by iron pipe fittings—one of the Hochs’ DIY collaborations—adds industrial chic in the family room.
A shadow-box frame features one of three feathers given by a cousin to Lauren and her mother last year when they traced their heritage to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont. (Fittingly, the family’s new puppy Koda—a Native American name that means “friend” or “brother bear”—sleeps in a tepee that Lauren snatched up at Home Goods.)
Unfussy black frames and white mats border most of the carefully curated artwork and photographs. Subject matter ranges from tractors and barns to maternal and paternal grandfathers who were once, respectively, a rodeo rider on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and a horse trainer at Sagamore Farm in Reisterstown.
Falling squarely (or roundly) into the “go big or go home” category is a colossal barn-wood clock that Lauren made herself.
Then there are the wooden typography signs. The one above the mantel says it all, “Farmhouse, est. 2010.” There’s “Grand Central Station,” which is what the Hoch home usually feels like, and in the boys’ study a reminder to “Work Hard and Be Nice.” An oversized subway sign calls out iconic local destinations under the heading “Frederick.”
Many of the handcrafted signs are the product of Sissy and Co., a partnership between Lauren and her backyard neighbor Tonya Martin. The best friends officially launched the business a year ago after friends and family members urged them to take their sign-making talents to the next level.
Today, their collections range from inspirational to heritage to—no surprise!—modern farmhouse, with an emphasis on personalized, custom items. Lauren and Tonya letter the words, messages and quotes on reclaimed wood and common board that they have sanded, painted and distressed to bring out the wood’s character. Through word of mouth, a website, and a presence on Etsy, Sissy and Co.’s clientele has grown to include homeowners, brides to be, wedding planners, interior designers and business owners.
The business venture keeps Lauren in touch with her inner country girl while providing another outlet for her artistic ability. But she still has plenty of projects on deck for her home, such as installing crown molding and chalk-painting the kitchen island.
As the saying goes, “A farmer’s work is never done.”