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Farmhouse Refresh: An Antiques Dealer’s Clean and Simple Family Retreat on Shelter Island

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Farmhouse Refresh: An Antiques Dealer’s Clean and Simple Family Retreat on Shelter Island

January 7, 2019

Pre-marriage and pre-kids, antiques dealer Jonathan Burden and costume designer JJ Joseph spent summer weekends in a group share on Shelter Island situated off the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. Both are people who gravitate to the old and untouched, so they couldn’t help but admire the scraggly farmhouse across the way.”It had fantastic old trees and the house itself was always empty,” says Jonathan. “It was clearly a gem that needed to polished and that’s what I do.”

Several years later, when friends reported that the elderly owners of the farm wanted to sell, the couple expressed their interest and, after much back and forth, struck an agreement. Or thought they had: “It was a nice handshake deal that turned stratospheric when real estate brokers got involved and we had to step away. It was really quite painful.” A year passed and, to Jonathan’s surprise, he got a call from the owners: “They said they liked us and were ready to sell—at the price we’d originally agreed upon.”

That was more than a decade ago, and Jonathan and JJ, now the parents of 10 and 13 year old daughters, have since lovingly shored up every inch of the place. They themselves have now put it on the market—being in the restoration business, Jonathan says he’s ready for his next big project and has set his sights on upstate New York or northwest Connecticut: “we’ve done the beach and now I want to reinvent something in the hills, where I can also set up a workshop.” Two friends of the family, stylist Hilary Robertson and photographer Dana Gallagher, recently visited for a weekend and came away with this chronicle of life at the Burden farm.

Styling by Hilary Robertson and photography by Dana Gallagher, unless noted.

The family get around on the island in Jonathan&#8
Above: The family get around on the island in Jonathan’s dark blue 1958 MG, which he acquired from his former partner in the antiques business. (Jonathan grew up in Yorkshire, England, and has a degree in furniture restoration from West Dean, an arts and conservation college; his NYC gallery and restoration studio, Burden, is in Long Island City). The farm’s old horse barn and Matt’s Pond are in the background.
The mid-th century house sits atop a hill next to Coecles Harbor, where the family keeps their sailboat (scroll to the end for an aerial view of the property). The side porch was formerly boarded up and used for storage; the Burdens restored it and added copper screens. They also planted many more trees for privacy (scroll to the end for an aerial view) and introduced a long driveway that winds around the property and &#8
Above: The mid-19th century house sits atop a hill next to Coecles Harbor, where the family keeps their sailboat (scroll to the end for an aerial view of the property). The side porch was formerly boarded up and used for storage; the Burdens restored it and added copper screens. They also planted many more trees for privacy (scroll to the end for an aerial view) and introduced a long driveway that winds around the property and “through a cathedral of two huge walnut trees.”
As the couple suspected, nothing had been done to the house for years, &#8
Above: As the couple suspected, nothing had been done to the house for years, “so we didn’t have to redo bad things,” says Jonathan. Their approach was to “restore and put life back into the place.”

The kitchen is located in a long-ago converted chicken coop, which the Burdens refreshed with understated components: a farmhouse sink, cherry counter with skirted storage underneath (see New Directions: 11 Interiors Trends for 2019 for more on skirted sinks) and open shelving in the unused space next to the fridge. Jonathan painted the checkerboard floor himself and worked alongside a local carpenter in every room. The walls here are painted a Farrow & Ball warm gray called Dove Tail.

The floors throughout the rest of the house are painted white: &#8
Above: The floors throughout the rest of the house are painted white: “We went back and forth with Danish waxes and tea stains for about a year,” says Jonathan. “Then we settled on three coats of Farrow & Ball Old White. It was a great decision; painted floors are so easy to clean and they’ve really held up.”

The dining room, shown here, has its original beadboard paneling: like the kitchen it’s painted in Farrow & Ball’s Dove Tail. Most of the furnishings are antiques dealer favorites and castoffs: Jonathan made the dining table by marrying an Anglo-Indian base with a new top and the wall hutch was originally part of an old Welsh dresser.

Edward Curtis portraits flank the passage between the living and dining rooms.
Above: Edward Curtis portraits flank the passage between the living and dining rooms.
A wood-burning stove by Rais of Denmark heats the living room: &#8
Above: A wood-burning stove by Rais of Denmark heats the living room: “we put it into the old flu; it’s a super-efficient little machine and the best money we spent,” says Jonathan. The sofa is an 1860s Chesterfield “about as old as the house” covered in a purple-brown George Smith mohair called Mink.
Jonathan added cube-shaped log holders on either side of the stove: &#8
Above: Jonathan added cube-shaped log holders on either side of the stove: “I just built out the frame on either side of the chimney using two-by-fours and a brick base. It serves as the focal point of the room—a mantel and display space.”  Here, the walls are painted Farrow & Ball Strong White.
Jonathan sits at a th century &#8
Above: Jonathan sits at a 17th century “Cromwellian table” in the back of the living room, which opens onto a library. He inherited the pair of Windsor chairs from his father—who, in turn, inherited them from his parents—and the abstract painting in the background is by his mother, Ann Burden. The hanging light is a Danish midcentury design purchased at Christie’s.

As for Birdie, the cockatiel: “My wife was sitting outside doing her bookkeeping, when he just landed on her head and wouldn’t leave her. We put up lost bird flyers, but that was ten years ago and he’s still with us. Before we had a car, he traveled to the island with us by jitney. We put a blanket over his travel cage and he’s perfectly happy.”

The house serves as a repository for Jonathan and JJ&#8
Above: The house serves as a repository for Jonathan and JJ’s collection of art books. The striped chair came as is from a vintage store in Sag Harbor and the layered daybed is a Swedish antique.
Set under the eaves, the master bedroom has a platform bed that Jonathan built from wood left over from the library shelves. It overlooks a large soaking tub at the other end of the room.
Above: Set under the eaves, the master bedroom has a platform bed that Jonathan built from wood left over from the library shelves. It overlooks a large soaking tub at the other end of the room.
The Burden&#8
Above: The Burden’s teen daughter, Ophelia, has a pale pink room with an old hospital bed and a 1950s glass tulip light that came with the house.
The Burden girls hang out on the screened porch in a hammock that the family brought back from a trip to Brazil. The Zigzag chairs are prototypes from Jonathan&#8
Above: The Burden girls hang out on the screened porch in a hammock that the family brought back from a trip to Brazil. The Zigzag chairs are prototypes from Jonathan’s modern line, Burden Contemporary
French doors in the back of the house open to a gravel patio shaded by a wisteria arbor: &#8
Above: French doors in the back of the house open to a gravel patio shaded by a wisteria arbor: “It shields us and the house from the heat,” says Jonathan, “but it takes some maintenance: you have to wack it back every few weeks.”  Jonathan made the painted table from old boards found in the barn. The Bistro Folding Chairs are French classics from Fermob.
The Burden kids&#8
Above: The Burden kids’ maternal grandmother sent them their tree swing from Atlanta, Georgia, where JJ is from. The family are avid sailors and plan to return to Shelter Island every summer and live on their boat.
 See more of the house and property in its Corcoran listing. Photograph by Hally Dinkel via Corcoran.
Above: See more of the house and property in its Corcoran listing. Photograph by Hally Dinkel via Corcoran.

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