Step Inside This Young Family’s Charming Berkshires Farmhouse

Jerome Powell

Young couple seeks retreat from city life. It’s a tale as old as Manhattan. Four years ago, when Victoria and Jed Cairo bought a weekend house in the nearby Massachusetts Berkshires, they were newly engaged and pictured a place where friends and family would come for rollicking weekends filled with nature walks, bonfires, and libations. Of course, as the saying goes, you plan and God laughs. First came marriage; then they discovered they had a child on the way—son Otis is now 20 months. Then in March 2020, just as the pandemic was circling overhead, they packed their car for what they imagined would be a week or two of solitude in the country. Fourteen months later, they haven’t left.

The Cairos will be a family of four in the near future. Landscape design by Old Farm Nursery. 

Stephen Kent Johnson

Family-room sofas by John Derian and Ole Wanscher join an ottoman clad in an antique kilim. Svenskt Tenn wallpaper. Stephen Kent Johnson, © 2021 Bram van Velde / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. 

“Before this, we’d always joke about what it would be like to live here full-time,” says Victoria. “Now we’re getting to see.” The house is where Otis has learned to sit, crawl, walk, and talk. His first foods were eggs and vegetables from a farmstand down the road. “The other day, he was picking flowers in the grass, watching bees buzz around, and a butterfly landed on a nearby plant. I realized those are experiences he never would have had in the city.” It’s not a forever move, the couple say, but it is one that makes sense at a moment in time when they’re lucky enough not to have anything pinning them down. Jed’s career as cofounder of an investment firm offers him geographic flexibility, Victoria had already stepped back from her work as a journalist to focus on family and study to practice as a doula, and Otis isn’t yet school age.

Windsor chairs cushioned in a Claremont fabric in the dining room. Vintage Anders Pehrson pendant. Bjørn Wiinblad lamp.

Stephen Kent Johnson, © 2021 Rosemarie Trockel / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The Cairos first became acquainted with the bucolic area renting Airbnbs in the early days of dating. They had tested out the Catskills and Hudson Valley but fell in love with the Berkshires for its natural beauty, flourishing food scene, and cultural offerings. During long weekends playing house in other people’s homes, they eventually began looking at properties “just for fun,” Victoria explains. “Jed browses Zillow the way the rest of us look at Instagram.” They knew they wanted a place of their own eventually, and “we’d see these beautifully restored 18th- and 19th-century farmhouses, but they’d be right along major highways.” They wanted peace and quiet, not the sounds of cars whizzing by. Their current home was the last they saw on one particular day of window shopping. The listing had looked dark, dingy, and small, and they almost skipped it. Then they drove down the dirt road leading to the property, and before their eyes lay a charming 1870s farmhouse with two original barns and a chicken coop, flowers blooming all around.

It needed work, though—and as they started compiling mood boards, their imaginations kept returning to a particular guesthouse they had stayed in a year and a half prior. It was furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques and good art. They dug up the listing and discovered that it belonged to Daniel Sachs and Kevin Lindores, the designer-and-architect couple whose practice counts superstar photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin among its clients. “We were like, they’re never going to take on our small project,” Victoria said. The couple had the naive idea that they would simply redo the kitchen and bathrooms and slap some white paint on the walls. Once they started doing site visits, explains Victoria, “we were like, ‘If only there was one more bathroom upstairs, or we opened a wall here.’ ”

Mathieu Matégot pendants light the kitchen island. Carolina Irving & Daughters platter, Pierre Chapo stool, Viking range.

Stephen Kent Johnson, © 2021 Larry Poons / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

A custom fireplace by Malm Fireplaces, a Jacob Hermann chair in a Josef Frank fabric, green vase plants from John Derian, Beni Ourain rug.

Stephen Kent Johnson

Their small project quickly morphed into a substantial one. “The house was charming, intimate, and sweet,” notes Sachs, “but not well thought out in terms of living spaces.” The cramped kitchen had a chimney going through it. Three of the four bedrooms shared one bath. The first thing they did was knock out the chimney and expand the kitchen (“We learned a lot about fire codes,” quips Victoria). They enlarged the small screened porch to create a gracious space for lounging and entertaining, added window seats throughout, and moved the staircase four inches to allow enough space for a second corridor. One of the most dramatic transformations came by way of turning an oversized garage into a lofty family room. Victoria recalls the moment Lindores “climbed up in the gross, bee-infested crawl space and noticed there was this amazing roof up there. He was like, ‘This could be a much cooler space.’ ” The tongue-in-groove paneling now wrapping the pitched ceiling is echoed throughout the house, “unifying rooms that were disparate in the way they looked and felt,” says Lindores. “The house had a rustic feel, and we decided to make it more of a proud house. We gave it more authority,” adds Sachs.

Just as the roofing was about to start, Jed proposed adding dormer windows to the second floor and reshuffling that level’s layout to allow for the addition of a second bath. “It was really smart,” Lindores says. “The construction process took two years,” says Victoria. “I would say we were definitely first-time renovators in the way we approached it.”

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