A Berkshires Dream House That Wouldn’t Need Renovating

A Berkshires Dream House That Wouldn’t Need Renovating

If you don’t try, you’ll never know what’s possible. That’s the philosophy Tracy Crawford adopted when she set out to buy and renovate her dream home.

For seven years, Ms. Crawford had lived in an adequate house in Pittsfield, Mass., with her husband, Craig Crawford, and children, Riley, now 18, and Maggie, 14. But whenever they drove into the city center, they passed a 1938 house that was impressively large — 5,500 square feet, it turned out — on a bucolic six-acre property with a barn.

“I was always like, ‘Oh, there’s my dream house,’” said Ms. Crawford, 54, the owner of Evergreen Home Real Estate. “Maybe one day.”

That day seemed to arrive in September 2017 when the house, which was owned by a bank, was listed for sale. But the asking price of $1.3 million was too high, so Ms. Crawford didn’t pursue it.

A year later, it was still on the market, and the price had been gradually reduced to about $1 million. That’s when they began thinking about making an offer. Suspecting that the bank would want to be rid of it, the couple bid the most they were willing to pay: $736,000.

It was a long shot, but worth a try. “I said to Craig, ‘We just need to make an offer, and if they take it, we’re going to do this,’” Ms. Crawford said.

She also made her husband another promise: If they did buy it, they wouldn’t need to renovate. Mr. Crawford, 53, the founder of Cadence Effects, a visual-effects company that has worked on movies and TV shows like “The Whale” and “Game of Thrones,” agreed.

“We both said, ‘If it’s meant to be, they will accept it,’” Ms. Crawford said. “Sure enough, they did.”

After closing in June 2019, Ms. Crawford was happy, but it didn’t take her long to start thinking about how she could improve the property, despite the promise she had made her husband.

It began with the two-story barn. The upstairs was an art studio, but Ms. Crawford decided to transform it into an apartment. “I thought, let’s just redo it and have it for guests,” she said.

The backyard was densely wooded, so the couple had much of it cleared to open up views and make way for a new pool and pool house. That was how they realized the rooms along the back of the main house weren’t ideal. Previous renovations had left them small and dark, linked by a mazelike route.

To remedy the situation, they hired Pamela Sandler, a local architect. “There were many beautiful parts of the house, but they weren’t cohesive,” Ms. Sandler said.

To fix that, “we blew out the back,” she said, a project that included demolishing a sunroom and part of the old kitchen to install an expanse of windows and sliding-glass doors that open to a new covered porch. She also changed the floor plan to create a generous mudroom and expanded kitchen.

With such a large project, Ms. Crawford began thinking she needed an interior designer, too. But who? Her favorite was Heidi Caillier, a Seattle-based designer who created traditional interiors with a modern twist that Ms. Crawford admired on Instagram.

She assumed that because Ms. Caillier lived on the other side of the country, she wouldn’t be interested in the project. But the only way to know was to ask. When she did, she learned that Ms. Caillier had lived nearby as a child and was thrilled to be involved.

“Tracy’s inspiration board was filled with pictures from my portfolio, which was so lovely,” Ms. Caillier said. “The whole design feel for this house is Old World British with old Americana, with lots of antiques, vintage and pattern.”

After working with Ms. Caillier over Zoom and email, the Crawfords moved into their barn apartment in September 2021 to allow Berkshire Construction & Logging to begin the interior overhaul.

The result was a home that looks almost as if it hasn’t been changed in decades — with a mudroom finished in floral Farrow & Ball wallpaper and wood floors painted in a diamond pattern; a living room wrapped in sage-colored paneling; and a dining room with scenic murals painted by James Mobley. The furnishings are a mix of antiques (think beaten-up Swedish cupboards), new pieces with patina (the kitchen island was made by Matthew Cox) and contemporary items (including the living room sofa and a painted puzzle artwork from BDDW).

The family moved back into the house in September 2022, while the finishing work continued, and the renovation was largely done just before the end of the year. In all, the cost was about $1.8 million. (Next month, the project will be featured in Ms. Caillier’s book, “Memories of Home,” published by Rizzoli.)

Although Ms. Crawford initially considered the house her forever home, the process was so rewarding, she said, that “I would do it all again — I’m dying to work with Heidi again.”

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