Among the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, nestled in the picturesque wilds of Madison County, a beautiful modern farmhouse stands as a tranquil retreat for a Charlotte-based couple. When Chelsea Benay, Durham-based interior designer of Chelsea Benay, LLC, was approached with the task of turning the new construction home into an airy getaway that felt both rooted in the area’s history, as well as convenient and accommodating for the homeowners and their extended family, she visited the site for inspiration.
When she saw the stunning homesite and newly constructed barn by Sineath Construction with its hunter green gooseneck lights, the starting points for the design began to fall in place.
“I initially connected with my clients over our shared love of modern farmhouse style and was able to grasp their vision for the project quickly.” Space planning and a cohesive vision that was both functional and beautiful were critical to getting a plan in place, and Benay credits the communicative client-designer relationship, despite the long distance, in keeping everything on track.
From there, Benay visited her clients at their primary residence to photograph, measure, and consider any existing antiques or art that might be incorporated into the project. They selected an antique pew bench and antique stained-glass windows for the foyer, as well as antique end tables for the living room. “My clients spent a few years in England, so some of these pieces were from their time abroad while others were passed down,” Benay says. “I considered how to blend the antique pieces with the transitional-contemporary furniture selections, fusing the two styles with interior finishes.”
Benay’s vision included a modern farmhouse aesthetic with relaxed elegance. Because the clients built the home as a vacation getaway for their family to gather—one to be passed down to their children and grandchildren—they wanted it to look like a renovated farmhouse original to the property. This look was achieved with large hand-scraped pine beams, shiplap accents, and quality millwork. A focus on lowmaintenance finishes was incorporated early on, as the primary purpose of this home was to be a retreat where the family could relax and be at peace in nature. The Blue Ridge Mountains, winding rivers, and dense forests provided the perfect backdrop, where the homeowners could get their hands dirty, pursuing their love of caring for the property while also enjoying a home perfectly suited to the relaxed mountain lifestyle.
“I was careful to make sure the farmhouse leaned toward rustic elegance rather than heavy rustic, as my clients expressed a desire to depart from the darker finishes and traditional antiques in their main residence,” Benay says. “This was achieved with a palette of light neutrals, curved and clean lines in the furniture selections, and also by adding a few pops of modern style with the lamps and accessories. It was important we create a relaxed and airy atmosphere that would stand the test of time.”
Benay committed to creating an easy-to-maintain and stress-free lifestyle and paid extra attention to details to ensure ease of use and maintenance. The tiles are almost all porcelain, and the countertops in heavy use areas are quartz, which requires no sealing or resealing. All bedding is washable, and the dining chair fabric is a Perennials performance fabric that provides superior stain resistance and easy cleaning.
“We wanted people to walk in the door and feel at ease, not worried they might spill something or damage fussy furnishings,” Benay adds.
A soothing palette of whites and grays, soft, cool colors, warm gray-brown finishes, and rustic wood tones help create the relaxed elegance Benay envisioned.
Contrast and texture were critical components to balancing the light-neutral color palette. Varying light and medium interior finishes combined with darker bronze and metal accents to add depth to the spaces while natural finishes like wood, jute, and linen add texture and warmth.
Each room is unique while also featuring the key elements like wood and painted finishes, cabinetry style, metal finishes, and tile colors. “I strived to ensure every room in the home has a curated feel. When you walk into the space, you know every design element and selection was carefully chosen in keeping with the aesthetic—tasteful, serene, and charming,” Benay says. In the living room, Benjamin Moore White Dove paint combined with hand-scraped pine ceiling beams in gray stain and a reclaimed wood fireplace give the space a cozy, rustic ambiance. Solid, textured fabrics, custom throw pillows in patchwork geometric fabric, and a hammered metal floor lamp add interest and refinement.
In the kitchen and adjacent breakfast room, matching gunmetal counter stools and bistro chairs invite family and guests to pull up a chair and chat amid sprawling outdoor views. The family workroom is a multi-functional space, serving as a pantry, workroom, and mud room with tall cabinets and open shelving that is connected to the kitchen with a Dutch door.
“I love to cook, and the expansive kitchen with the large Jenn-Air stove is the perfect place to cook a meal for my family,” homeowner Judy Adams says. “The original plan didn’t call for a door, but Chelsea’s idea to install a Dutch half-door was brilliant. It gives the space an extra openness and allows me to be in the kitchen and still watch my eighteen-month-old grandbaby toddle around in safety.”
The bedrooms boast a refined aesthetic that highlights the tranquility of the home and surroundings, and the master suite, which includes a private sunroom, provides unmatched views of the winding mountain stream at the property’s rear. Organic green tones in the focal art piece are mirrored in softer hues on the custom bed and textured glass lamps. In the master bath, Moroccan-inspired tile inset in classic white porcelain stone adds a pop of intrigue against a nature-inspired color scheme.
Adams is thrilled with the finished design. “After moving thirteen times in thirty-eight years, I wanted a beautiful home that could become an integral fixture in the family—one to be passed down for generations. We couldn’t have achieved all of it without Chelsea’s guidance and expertise.”