A Victorian Carriage House And Barn Become A Home And Studio For a Textile Designer And Her Family
Written by Rebekah Carey
Betsy and Peter Olmsted share their home with their two boys Emmett (7) and Wells (4), as well as Winnie the mature-madam shepherd mix, Hank the French bulldog, and Archer the leopard gecko. Their home was originally a Victorian carriage house and barn that was used for three neighboring mansions, built in 1890 when it also had three deeds. The 5,400-square-foot home was created from the converted spaces in 2008, and the Olmsted family moved in and made it their own a year ago. The downstairs features an open plan, their den, and the attached stables that became The Betsy Olmsted Design Studio — Betsy’s namesake textile company, Betsy Olmsted, which features a line of printed vibrant watercolor infused textile housewares with her whimsically sophisticated illustrations (which are heavily inspired by animals and nature). Upstairs you’ll find more open spaces, three bedrooms and baths, a study, and even a screened-in sleeping porch.
Betsy and Peter have kept close to their love story, literally: they met in college, married in Saratoga Springs, NY, and now their home is just down the street from their alma mater. The family was planning to relocate to be closer to Peter’s job and had one weekend to find their house; coming back to their college hometown was a happy byproduct. Despite the varying styles of homes they toured, Peter and Betsy knew the moment they stepped into their now home that it was “the one.” Betsy had actually always wanted to live in a barn, and loved how open the spaces were. The fact that it was somehow an in-town barn made walking to restaurants and shops incredibly convenient, it had a space for an on-site design studio as well — it was the perfect fit.
While the bones of the home were heavenly (while sitting in the living room you can look up and see all the way through the cupola) the style felt a little more like a lodge than a home. So, the timbers and doors and windows were all painted white (Benjamin Moore “Linen White”), in a terrifying process using plywood sheets and ladders to reach the some 40 feet up. Iron balusters were updated with steel cable and tempered glass. In Betsy’s studio, she took the dark green former stables and painted everything white and added casements under the window to allow for more natural light in the somewhat cave-like space. The last vestige of the lodge feel for Betsy and Peter is their fireplace, and because of the scale, it will take a while for them to figure out what the perfect replacement will be. While the open spaces were something Betsy had dreamed of, and one of her favorite features, they do create the design challenge of being able to see everything from one end of the house to the other. Betsy had to make sure when she was designing the space that everything felt cohesive. Scale is also a key design element in their home — pieces that once felt huge in their last home were now dwarfed in the massive barn house.
Creating a space that was colorful, informal, incorporated furniture inherited from Betsy’s grandparents (traditional on one side and mid-century from the other), and that could handle two wild boys, was essential. Betsy is most thankful for the former stables that became her studio, originally thinking that she would have to rent a studio before they found their home. Betsy explains, “The feeling of old time past and rustic white wood are so brand-friendly. It’s a luxury to work while the boys are home and at night without leaving the house. I also bring them into the studio to make projects like tie dying and painting. Plus I like for them to be exposed daily to my work and to art and design — I hope to inspire them.” She also never takes the open space for granted, especially during the long winters. Betsy adds, “They run around, build obstacle courses, and shoot Nerf bullets all over the place. It really helps keep them ‘out of my bubble’ and I can see everything they’re doing while cooking, etc.”
The Olmsted family has no shortage of interests and activities they like to partake in; for Betsy it’s design and art, gardening (their neighborhood allows for supporting local farms and produce, too), yoga, and scoring vintage finds. Peter’s work is in energy policy and he is an advocate for sustainable energy and enjoys cycling and outdoor adventuring. Their seven-year-old, Emmett, loves nature (especially rocks and fossils at the moment) and animals. Last but not least, Wells loves track suits, costumes and his favorite gold high-tops. We can only imagine how much fun this family will have creating art and memories together in this inspiring space.