A Pittsboro family lives happily ever after in a nearly 100-year-old home in the woods
By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Beth Kennedy and Taylor Kennedy fell for each other while working together at Virginia Cross Elementary School. Taylor, a physical education teacher originally from Siler City, and Beth, a licensed clinical mental health counselor who grew up in Cary, bonded over their North Carolina roots. When it came time to put down roots and start their family, Chatham County’s rich history and quieter pace of life was the easy choice.
They bought their first home in Powell Place and enjoyed the walkable neighborhood and convenient location on Highway 15-501. “It was great – it just didn’t feel like us,” Beth explains. When son Carson Kennedy, 8, and daughter Charlotte Kennedy, 6, began to walk, talk and play, the couple knew it was time to start looking for a new place to settle down. “We knew we wanted to give our kids a different life, one that involves exploring nature and getting to know the world around them,” Beth says.
They found the idyllic location just 10 miles northwest of Pittsboro, in a traditional farmhouse off Highway 87. The whole family fell in love with the charming home on their first visit, but another buyer beat them to it. “We thought it just wasn’t meant to be,” Beth says. But then a twist of fate placed the home back on the market, so Taylor and Beth listed their house and turned their dream into a reality in February 2018.
Historic barns and hardy trees that have stood for generations line the driveway leading up to the home, which was built in 1923. A walled courtyard and screened porch invite visitors into the kitchen, where natural textures of concrete, wood and copper all nod to the home’s rustic past. The Kennedys’ additions include a modern subway tile backsplash, fresh paint and sculptural light fixtures that all bring a whimsical touch to the space. The original cabinet knobs even got a gold leaf facelift from Deep River Mercantile’s Hannah Brown.
“Deep River is one of my favorite places to find unique things to mix in with our antiques,” Beth says. Several family heirlooms blend seamlessly with newer, more colorful pieces throughout the home – Beth’s grandparents’ china cabinet, for example, makes a warm statement against the dining room’s bright color palette, and in the family room, an antique writing desk rests on a vivid patterned rug from Deep River.
The hardwood floors that run throughout the house were cut from trees on the property, and plenty of built-in shelves on the first floor offer space to display books, seasonal decor and even a bar. “We love being the spot where everyone gathers, and decorating for fall and the holidays,” Beth says.
Several details date to the home’s construction period, like the scrollwork front door knob, the large bay window and its three fireplaces. Some of the Kennedys’ favorite features are the built-in storage options throughout the first floor – one was repurposed as a wet bar in the dining room and another showcases a colorful library in the hall. In the guest bathroom, a jewel-toned stained glass window and ornate pendant lamp cast a magical glow over a classic clawfoot tub.
One piece of furniture that came with the house also holds a relic from the past – a bullet lodged in the surface of a reclaimed wooden coffee table. “The story is there was a milk barn across the way, and one day some men playing cards got into a disagreement,” Beth says. “One of the previous homeowners made the table [with the wood from the barn], and it has stayed with the house ever since.”
Outside, a wraparound porch is home to rocking chairs and a swing that once belonged to Taylor’s grandmother. “We used to swing on it together when I was little, and now our kids get to use it,” he says. The home is larger than their last one, too, but it’s the outdoor space that was the biggest draw – and the kids agree. “We like to play and climb the big magnolia tree,” Carson says. “I like to jump on the trampoline and do front flips,” Charlotte adds.
“Sometimes they will come in covered in mud, or with a jar full of bugs they’ve collected,” Taylor says. Dog River, cat Stella and a handful of chickens also enjoy the shady porch and yard. “It’s amazing the difference it makes to be in a wooded area; even when it’s warm out, the trees keep us cool,” Taylor says.
The Kennedys plan to turn their attention to the home’s exterior when it comes to future projects. Taylor would like to create a hangout space in the garage, and while Beth always has her eyes open for the perfect rug, paint color or chandelier, she hopes some changes to the landscape may be on the horizon. “This home has taught us so much, and given us so many ideas,” she says. “We love it here.”
Sign up for our monthly Home & Garden newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest interior news, trends and ideas!