After years of searching, high school sweethearts Clary and Travis Pfeiffer built a breezy farmhouse on a hilltop field of dreams just outside their Illinois hometown.
The candlelight glow of the setting sun pours through kitchen windows, signalling dinnertime. As if chased by the light, Clary Pfeiffer heads the opposite way, through the living room and out the rear French doors to a weathered table, shaded in the evening by the house. Her husband, Travis, tends pizza on the grill while the children pluck herbs from raised beds. “I like that I can ask the kids to get some thyme from the garden and they know what it looks like,” Clary says. “It’s one of the reasons we wanted to move out here.”
Here is a farmhouse the Pfeiffers built along a meandering country road outside Edwardsville, Illinois. Clary and Travis wanted to better balance their successful careers in Chicago—hers as a photographer and his as a civil engineer—with raising their kids, Hughes and Jettie. So they decided to move back to their quiet hometown.
Initially, the couple planned to renovate a 150-year-old house they admired growing up, but the sale fell through. Clary and Travis were heartbroken. But another nostalgic spot emerged, a swath of land the Pfeiffers drove by often while dating. It was priced out of reach—until the owners decided to carve it up, creating an affordable 3.5-acre parcel. “It’s a perfect mix of woods that give us privacy in the back and wide-open views of the fields at the front,” Clary says. “We situated the house so that when the sun sets, it looks like it’s dropping into an ocean and all above you is the sky. We call it our sky real estate.”
The home’s interior delivers expansive views, too. “We wanted the space to be very open,” Clary explains. “The rooms that are more private are off to both sides, but when you walk in, you see the kitchen, dining room and living room.” To fit the timeless spirit of a farmhouse, Clary didn’t want the view from the living room to be a hulking stainless-steel refrigerator or banks of cabinets. So she put the fridge, small appliances, extra dishes and linens in two side pantry rooms. (It works because the kitchen is small; nothing is actually far out of reach.)
Other unexpected moves: They sacrificed a powder room, but added a surplus of exits and entries, including two doors in the kitchen, three in the living room (all accessing the wraparound porch), a bedroom patio and garage entry via a mudroom. It’s a bit excessive, sure, for a 2,100-square-foot house, but the doors reflect the lifestyle the Pfeiffers dreamed of back in the city. In every room and from every angle, Travis and Clary’s home nudges the family to go outside.
They happily oblige. Clary basks with her coffee in the morning sun by her bedroom. She fantasizes about an orchard and a greenhouse, but for now, there are rows of peas and peppers; clumps of aromatic lavender for tucking in firewood to keep the bugs away; and an overgrown tangle of honeysuckle, buzzing with bees from a neighbor’s hives. The kids trim branches for vases, and Clary says they’ll make honeysuckle syrup in August: “It’s like bottling up summer to make it last a little longer.”
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The softly variegated natural glaze of Moroccan terra-cotta tiles provides handmade personality and matches pieces made by Clary’s father, a potter. Brass fixtures and a vintage rug warm up the cool tones.
An 11-foot-long farmhouse table means homework or crafts can be pushed to one side during meals instead of completely cleared.
The main bedroom has a private patio of pea gravel and pavers overlooking the woods. Taupe and cream textiles create a calm mood.
Timber beams help to ground the 20-foot vaulted ceiling and white walls. A concrete fireplace surround visually mirrors the kitchen’s range hood, directly opposite.
Framed photographs by Clary sit both over and under a 6-foot-long console table with a 3-inch-thick solid oak top.
Sliding cypress barn doors access a covered patio that leads to the house’s two front doors, which flank the kitchen range.