Rustic Farmhouse, Contemporary & Comforting

Contributing Writer

They say life is made up of second chances.

It was a second chance that brought Natalie and Reise Officer to Maplecrest, their historic, century-old farmhouse outside of Anchorage.

When the couple first moved to Louisville from Chicago in 2008, they saw the house listed online but Natalie says they nixed it for a couple of reasons.

They moved to London after a year, and when they returned in 2010 saw Maplecrest was still on the market.

“We drove up to see it,” Natalie recalls. “We actually broke through the gate. And as we were driving up, a huge buck deer walked across the yard. We turned to each other and said, ‘This is our place!’ ”

But when they looked in the windows of the charming old farmhouse, the charm dissipated a little.

“It had been gutted,” she says, “right down to the studs.”

Larry Townsend, the Louisville entrepreneur, had bought the house in 2008 with the idea of completely renovating and modernizing its more than 3,000 square feet. But his illness prevented him from completing the work. (He died from Parkinson’s Disease in 2012.)

Three years later, the Officers’ finished home is a testimonial to love – their love of the property and its history, their love of family and heritage and their love of fine and interesting décor.

Natalie operates the interior design firm, Natalie O Design. So she looked at her new home from a distinctive perspective. She noted how the light angled in as the seasons changed. “We get to see the sun set every night, in the back of the house,” she says.

At the front entryway to the old farmhouse is the 1901 wooden staircase, the only original element in the house left standing. But Officer didn’t use that to pay homage to the home’s historic heritage.

Rather, she papered the front entryway – “the only place in the house that you’ll find wallpaper” – with textured gold fabric to balance the traditional staircase with “something more interesting,” she says. “The rest of the house is not so traditional.”

In fact, it’s pretty eclectic, from the furniture on the floor to the artwork on the walls, from the chandeliers hanging from the ceilings to the shape and fabric of the furniture.

“Every room has a mix,” Natalie says. The living room features a pairing of vintage club chairs under a colorful piece of modern art by Louisville artist Kelly Zellers. “The chairs are probably 40 years old,” she says, “and the art came off the press three weeks ago.”

She says she wants people coming into her house to feel more than comfortable, she says she wants them to feel “comforted.”

“And I think when you use vintage pieces, it makes people feel comforted. It’s something they can relate to, shapes that they’ve seen before.”

A coat rack on the wall mixes a piece of barnwood from her grandfather’s farm with a pair of modern gold hands, made by local artisan Dan Gulley.

In the living room is a raw piece of wood placed on Lucite legs so that it appears to be floating. The ceiling lights are antiques taken from an old movie theater in New Albany. There’s also a wall clock from her grandmother and an upright piano against the wall that has no family relevance, she says, “except to hone the talents of our children” – six-year-old Jewel and five-year-old Jesse. “We’ll see how that goes.”

The dining room table is made of a vintage slab of wood with a live, unfinished edge, and an aged wood bench for seating. But overhead is a very contemporary brushed brass orb light fixture and on the wall is a print of Andy Warhol’s “Elvis 2 Times.”

Officer emphatically placed her design stamp on the children’s upstairs bedrooms – vibrant colors and interesting shapes that appeal to them but don’t represent whichever Disney movie just came out.

“I’m not a big fan of Disney rooms,” she says. “I want them to represent who my kids are. Most people want their house to feel like their own home. If they’ve done their homework and called the right designer, they’ll know that their home has a Natalie O flair that tells their own story.

“If they want a Disney room, they don’t need to pay me to do it.”

A fun ladder that climbs to a third-floor playroom was built by contractor Jeremy Angermeier of Paradigm Construction, who did all the finishing work on the house.

Her upstairs Natalie O office features a pinboard stuffed with her creative ideas and inspirations. (Current inspirations include pictures of Gwen Stefani and Mother Theresa.)

“My husband has been very accepting of my creativity throughout this process,” Natalie says. “I think he can see and appreciate now what I do outside the home.”