By Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on September 29, 2014.
One interior designer’s passion for fashion and love of antiques has inspired the bold design within a historic bucks county farmhouse.
The 100-acre Bucks County property on which this historic and daringly decorated farmhouse sits includes a Chinese pavilion and a 17th century English-style hedge maze.
When designer Andrew Hartnagle traded his Rittenhouse Square townhouse for a place in the country, he considered his new Bucks County farmhouse as another antique to collect, just on a larger scale. What he did with the home over the next 25 years was everything that no one expected. “I wanted it to be dramatic, so I put an explosion of different finishes, colors, and fabrics throughout, so people looked alive in it,” he explains of incorporating his bold fashion sense and many English antiques into the house.
In fact, it was serendipitous that Twin Silo farm, as it is known, was just down the road from a home he created for the then-head of design for Vera Wang. The two would talk about fabrics and colors for everything from walls to clothing during the process. Some of these conversations influenced Hartnagle’s décor decisions, such as the foyer, done in bright yellow grasscloth with ebonized floors and featuring a curved staircase. In other rooms, he lacquered pine floors and used luxe materials like mahogany for doors and ceiling beams or onyx for floors. Bright, glossy elements were the perfect contrast to the “boringly grand” furniture he had bought over the years at auctions with his partner, Wayne Stark, a retired investment banker. Hartnagle credits his foundations as a designer to working for Philadelphia’s Carl Steele, whose eclectic interiors have been featured in The New York Times and House Beautiful.
Hartnagle mixed English antiques with unexpected colors and patterns to arrive at his distinctive designs.
Perhaps Hartnagle’s favorite room at the farm was one that was ever changing—the great room—one he envisioned as a French salon. With vermilion and pink striped walls, he likens this treatment to the inside of a jewel box. “We used to have grand parties here, so I changed that room a lot. Varying the space from time to time was like changing the set design. When you fill the room with people, it’s spectacular,” he says. The walls dramatize the serious Chippendale mirrors, William Kent tables, and eight bronze d’or griffon sconces that make the room sparkle. To encourage guests to sit and talk, the designer put two sleek silk velvet sofas back to back and scattered four chairs from the 1840s in sapphire blue and gray stripes around the space. He added doors and trim made of mahogany. “The mix provides harmony in the space.”
The dining room features Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls and sleek mahogany ceiling beams.
In the gallery, which connects the main house to one of the two additions, his painter applied six coats of brilliant red paint, and then he worked with him on buffing the walls with wax. For an added dose of glamour, he chose metallic silver paint for the ceiling. The dining room was given a luxe makeover with Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls, replacing the rough-hewn beams with sleek mahogany ones, and covering the 10 chairs he bought at an auction with embroidered silk green velvet. In each room, sculptures and large oil canvasses of New Hope Impressionists give guests more eye candy. Of the unusual choices he made throughout the house, Hartnagle admits, “Some don’t understand it, but they’ve always loved it. They thought it was fresh and forward-thinking.”
The hedge maze has been a talking point of many a garden tour.
The designer also made sure certain rooms would offer a bird’s-eye view of the 100-acre property. In the study, there is a set of three doors, two of which open to a New Orleans–style balcony, which overlooks the patio, pavilions, barn, and garden. Years ago, when there was little there, he studied books on the famous English gardeners of the late 19th century to develop his plan for a garden that has since been the scene for many a tour. “I wanted to create gardens that would further embellish and give continuity to the iconic 18th century structures on the property,” Hartnagle says. The gardens include alleys, a 17th-century English-style hedge maze, and a three-acre pond replete with a peninsula and a Chinese pavilion. Each morning, he gets his hands dirty working there and planning new areas.
Now that the property is complete, the couple will move to a new place nearby, where Hartnagle will develop a residence that has a more modern feel. “I look forward to working on a new home and garden, but I will miss this one,” he says. “There is a mystique about this property. Everyone who knows this farm loves it as we have.” Linda Danese, Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty, 6038 Lower York Road, New Hope, 215-794-1300