Writings

Looking Forward to Monday Mornings
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
Three Twelves Farm
by Daniel Frisch
Posted July 3rd, 2019

In anticipation of hosting the annual Kent Land Trust benefit in the Fall of 2019, we wrote the following piece on our Connecticut home, Three Twelves Farm, outlining the approach, steps and priorities taken in restoring and rehabilitating the land and property.

Property History

160 Kent Hollow Road, owned by Darcy and Dan Frisch, is a picturesque farm and homestead in the Kent Hollow area of Kent, CT. In 2012, the Frisches purchased the property from the Kallstrom family, long-time farming residents of Kent Hollow. The fifty-plus acres of land had been referred to by the Kallstroms as Tompkins West, being one of two large parcels of land straddling Kent Hollow Road purchased from the Tompkins family in 1917.  In the middle of the original Tompkins farm was a farmhouse and yard carved out of the west parcel, and a garage with parking carved out of the east parcel across Kent Hollow Road. The farmhouse and garage with their combined four acres of property were retained by the Tompkins family, and sold later in the twentieth century to unrelated homeowners.

In December of 2012, the Frisches and the Kent Land Trust executed a conservation easement comprised of twenty-two acres including wetlands, forest, and a portion of a stream feeding the West Aspetuck River. Finally, in 2013, Darcy and Dan bought the house and garage parcels at the center of the property in a foreclosure auction.

 

Land Conservation and Property Restoration

The land was in need of restoration, with many of its important features overgrown and overrun by invasive species; multiflora rose and barberry, predominantly. Since acquisition, the Frisch family has worked with the brothers Kallstrom (Brent, Steve, and Gunnar) to renew the land – felling dead trees, re-establishing historic pastures, removing invasive plant species, and repairing fence lines and stone walls.

The weathered nineteenth century bank barn is believed to have been a tobacco barn, with each siding board separated from its adjacent board by one to two inches for ventilation. By 2012, the barn was in need of extensive renovation. The south face was sprung, and the roof and floors had gaping holes. Gunnar Kallstrom’s Hereford cattle that previously sheltered underneath were relocated to a newly constructed run-in shed. A new barn foundation was installed beneath the structure, the floor was leveled, and antique lumber was acquired to repair the south facade. A metal roof and a thin-film photovoltaic solar system was installed, and the barn became an off-the-grid party barn, complete with lighting, sofas, backgammon, vintage pinball machines, ping-pong and shuffle puck.

If the land and barn were in need of attention, the house and garage were in worse shape. The main house, dating to 1760 was listing as the foundations at the south end had settled dramatically, and a majority of the interior finishes had been stripped. Initial thoughts were that salvage would be impractical, if not impossible.

The vinyl-sided three-car garage had been built in the fifties, and although it featured a loft room that made for a perfect construction office, room for improvement was obvious.

When construction began, the twentieth-century additions to the main house were removed, revealing the beauty of the original post and beam structure. With the thirty-foot by forty-foot structure uncovered, a new concrete foundation was poured beneath the original frame, ensuring its continued use by future generations. The main house today sits upon the footprint of the past structure, and from the outside, presents as a vernacular farm house, with it’s nearest corner only eleven feet from Kent Hollow Road. Together with the newly constructed additions to the south and west, the house contains 5,300 square feet of living space on three levels; protecting a piece of history, while simultaneously meeting the needs of a modern family.

 

Preservation and the Environment

For the new buildings, the primary considerations were a) historical sensitivity, b) management of the environment (i.e., sustainability), and c) design simplicity and beauty. Respecting the importance of the historic homestead, the most visible portion of the home occupies the original farmhouse footprint – a decision considered by many to be unusual. The house seemed at first look to be a tear-down, and with plenty of land available, many contemporary homeowners would elect to build their home as far from a public thoroughfare as possible. Although shoring and re-using the historic frame added significant expense, and maintaining the historic building footprints seemed quizzical, the end results confirm the wisdom and benefits of historic preservation.

In addition to the post and beam frame, there are several other elements of the antique house that were restored, reclaimed, and re-used. The original twelve-over-twelve divided-lite double-hung window sashes were re-used both as windows and as sliding bypass upper cabinet doors in the kitchen. The original fieldstone fireplace and beehive oven were preserved and the chimney reconstructed. Oak and chestnut sheathing boards found beneath the plaster were reclaimed and re-purposed as countertops for the kitchen, wet bar and master vanity. The below-grade room at the northeast corner of the first floor was re-imagined as a naturally conditioned 600 bottle wine room.

The house and garage leverage passive and active solar systems that significantly reduce energy consumption – to near-zero for both buildings. Passive components include the building siting and exposure, stone floors, solar shades, and ventilation strategies. Actively, the house and garage (and the barn) have nearly invisible building-integrated adhesive thin film solar panels on their roofs. The main house has solar thermal pex tubing installed below the metal roof, pre-warming the domestic hot water and hydronic radiant heat system running throughout the house.

 

Building Local

Equally important to the Frisch family was that the ongoing projects represent an investment in the local community. The Kallstroms continue to maintain a small herd of (four) cattle, build stone walls, and perform the landscaping chores for the property. The construction projects were tirelessly managed and overseen by Jared Stein, a general contractor and New Milford native. A short list of local contractors, subcontractors and suppliers follows this narrative. Darcy and Dan extend their heartfelt thanks to this crew and are thrilled to recommend each and every individual who helped make their project the very best it could be.

 

The Hosts

Darcy and Dan Frisch and their children Nelle (9) and Buddy (7) split their time between Kent Hollow and the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City, where the kids attend The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, and where Darcy and Dan work.

Darcy grew up in Ridgefield, CT, and at Lake Waramaug, where her parents maintained a summer home – and, when Darcy went to high school, a permanent home. A graduate of Yale University and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, Darcy has spent nearly 20 years investing in early-stage technology businesses for the Hearst Corporation.

Dan grew up in Michigan, studied architecture at UVA and Columbia University, and upon graduation in 1991, founded his eponymous residential architecture practice in midtown Manhattan. In addition to the Frisch family home in Kent, Daniel Frisch Architecture has designed private homes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Michigan, Virginia, Maine, and New Hampshire. While his practice has taken him to a number of states, many of the firms most exciting projects are located in Litchfield County.

 

Resources

Architecture: Daniel Frisch Architecture.  www.danielfrisch.com
Site Engineering: Arthur H. Howland & Associates, PC.  pszymanski@ahhowland.com
Landscape Architecture: Silvia Erskine.  www.erskineassoc.com
Legal: James G. Kelly.  jim@jgk-law.com
Appraisal: George DeVoe.  devoe@earthlink.net
Land Conservation: Kent Land Trust. Connie Manes.  www.kentlandtrust.org
Construction and Carpentry: Jared Stein Carpentry, LLC.  stein6162@yahoo.com
Excavation: Tracs-Diverse Services. Stuart Tracy.  860-868-8078
Concrete Foundations: Dave Grossenbacher, DG Concrete Construction.  860-354-8268
Timber Frame: Harvest Moon Timber Frame.  www.harvestmoontimberframe.com
Material Supply: Washington Supply Company.  www.washingtonsupply.com
Material Supply: Woodbury Supply.  www.woodburysupply.com
Plumbing Supply: Modern Supply.  www.modernplumbing.biz
Antique Lumber: Chestnut Woodworking & Antique flooring Co.  www.chestnutwoodworking.com
Solar: Litchfield Hills Solar. Ray Furse.  www.litchfieldhillssolar.com
Electrical: South 7 Electric. Chris Harrington.  chrisharry66@gmail.com
Radiant Flooring Materials: Warmboard.  www.warmboard.com
Plumbing: Hanlon’s Plumbing Company, LLC. Chris Hanlon.  203-947-8207
HVAC: Siddall Heating & Cooling LLC  siddallheatingandcooling.net
Painting: Ron Weiser.  rweiser9850@gmail.com
Metal Roofing: Mario Lallier LLC.  www.mariolallier.com
Appliances: Powerhouse Appliances.  http://www.powerhouseappliances.com
Stone Walls: Gunnar Kallstrom.  gunnarkallstrom@att.net
Farm Management: Brent Kallstrom.  bkallstrom5815@charter.net
Landscaping: Steve Kallstrom.  203-893-1915
Green Roof: New York Green Roofs. Chris Brunner.  www.newyorkgreenroofs.com
Plant Material: The Green Spot. Chris Bruzzi.  www.thegreenspotnewmilford.com
Vintage Pinball: Levi Neyman.  crazylevipinball@gmail.com
Mortgage Financing: Union Savings. Patty Dyer.  pdyer@unionsavings.com
Wine: Kent Wine. Ira Smith.  ira@kentwine.com
Brewery: Kent Falls Brewery.  www.kentfallsbrewing.com

Existing Property