Tom and Margaret Ritchie’s country getaway in Alabama has had a number of different chapters. The property was originally purchased in 1838 in the midst of a cotton boom. It has been the site of a one-room schoolhouse, a train stop, and decades later, a ranch for racehorses with a large track and sparkling lake. Amid a backdrop of longleaf pines, the property’s most recent story began in 1998, when Tom purchased the land. In 2004 the couple began a full renovation of the rustic home that increased the footprint, allowing more space for friends and family to gather on weekends and holidays.
Today, one common theme runs through the polished, upscale farmhouse: “Quiet,” Margaret reveals. “Our country home is such a quiet place that the stillness is only occasionally interrupted by the sound of a passing train. This is a true rural escape, and we love that.”
The original farmhouse had a symmetrical I-house design, a common 19th century floor plan in the Southeast that features a breezeway through the center to keep families cool in the hot climate. In the Ritchie home, the dining and living rooms flanked opposite sides on the main floor, while two bedrooms mirrored one another on the second floor.
When they expanded the small home, the couple opted to keep a few features of the original farmhouse, including the breezeway entrance hall’s rich wood paneling that warmly welcomes arriving guests and the five fireplaces, which add an element of coziness in the winter.
The modern kitchen is a beautiful marriage of rustic and contemporary, mixing and matching materials between the soaring brick fireplace, striking wooden beams, and long white marble island. On one end, a pair of wrought iron bulls—which originally hung in a French butcher shop—supports the impressive island.
This bovine theme carries over into the glazed, copper-colored dining room, where a pair of cow paintings hangs above the mantel. An antique sideboard houses Margaret’s collection of French porcelain in shades of cream and green, while warm earth tones coat the room from the rug to the window treatments.
Like stepping into the past while savoring the present, a visit to the Ritchies’ home will always be memorable. “Indeed,” Margaret says, “this is a retreat, a place of nurturing, and one of nostalgia.”
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