Sarah Richardson Turns a Farmhouse Into a Retreat

On her show, Sarah Richardson, host of Sarah 101, totally transformed an old farmhouse into a cozy retreat for her family. We dropped by to see what life is really like at her weekend place.

By: Audrey Davidow

Picturesque Retreat

Sarah's farmhouse sits on 50 acres of land 80 miles outside Toronto.
Photo: Björn Wallander

Keep Your Room Cozy

What's this above the fireplace? A plaster crest that once belonged to the Bank of Nova Scotia. Sarah gave it to her husband as a birthday present.

Sarah says: Set your house temp at 65 degrees F and enjoy a fire more. Sarah swaps her pillows every season for an instant sofa facelift!
Photo: Björn Wallander

Breakfast Room

"I love my morning coffee spot. I sit here after the kids are settled and all is humming along. I found these adorable wicker chairs at a consignment shop. They're comfy and loungy, inexpensive and durable. It's great that the cushions come off. I just throw the covers in the wash whenever they get dirty." In the winter the girls zoom around on an "indoor only" purple trike.
Photo: Björn Wallander

Add a Pop of Color

"Any part of a house can be fun. Why not add color and pattern where you can? On our back stairs, I painted an orange and yellow 'runner' and added old house numbers that I found at flea markets and hardware stores. The girls love to count out loud as they go up and down the steps."

"Nothing is off-limits to the kids. Not even our vintage china. We use it all the time. I think it's nice to learn at a young age to appreciate pretty things. And if it breaks, it breaks. Otherwise, what's the point of having it?"
Photo: Björn Wallander

Living Room

Saturdays are for goofing around: Sarah and her husband, Alexander, and their daughters, Fiona (left) and Robin.

"I banished the TV from the living room. This is a getaway house, so the goal is to spend time with family and friends, sitting in front of the fire, having a glass of wine, reading, and playing games. We have a TV in the basement when the girls need some cartoon time."

"I rearrange furniture at least once a year. I have two sofas and lots of different chairs that I mix up. And my lightweight footstools are always on the move. I put them in just about every design job I do. They work as extra seating, laptop landing pads, and puzzle tables for the kids."
Photo: Björn Wallander

Organizational Secret

"Baskets are my secret weapon. They keep me organized. I have tall ones, lidded ones, giant picnic baskets, water hyacinth weaves. Every basket holds something different. I'm always picking things up throughout the day. I don't go to bed until everything is in its place."
Photo: Björn Wallander

Robin's Bedroom

"My daughters' rooms aren't too 'kiddie.' My girls' bedrooms are playful and appeal to their imaginations, but they'll also last for the long haul. Robin's room has a floral fabric on the drapes and headboard, and since she loves pink, I painted the lower part of the wall a rosy shade. My mom gave me the quilt on her bed when I was a teenager." Check out this neat trick: Sarah hung curtain rods from the ceiling.
Photo: Björn Wallander

Put Quilts to Use

"I'm obsessed with vintage quilts. I don't even care if they’re falling apart a little. I made the pillows and bed skirt in Robin's room out of an old chenille quilt that I found in the linen closet when we moved into the house. For the master bedroom, I found a yellow and orange quilt at a flea market. The bold color caught my eye, and I thought, It's like sunshine."
Photo: Björn Wallander

Master Bedroom

"We like to be lazy before breakfast. Alexander and I aren't great about sleeping in because we don't want to miss any fun with the kids. If we sleep past eight, it's decadence! Our weekend tradition is pancakes in our pajamas — the girls love to crack the eggs — but first we like to snuggle with both kids in bed and read books. There's a fireplace in the room, so our bedroom is one of the coziest spots in the house. It's a fantastic way to wake up."
Photo: Björn Wallander

Learn How to Edit

"I constantly edit my stuff. I love decorative things, like candles, trays, bowls, and books — they add a lot of personality to a room. But I don't like clutter, so if we don't use it, I get rid of it. Nothing in my house is just for show."
Photo: Björn Wallander

Sarah's Closet Secret

Sarah admits that she's really proud of the closets she designed throughout the house. They're fitted with slatted shelves made of cedar fence boards that she ripped in half, then sanded so they'd have smooth edges. The gaps between the boards allow air to move through the space, which keeps moths away from woolen items like sweaters, jackets, and blankets. It's a good look for any house — and it smells great, too!
Photo: Björn Wallander

Laundry Drop

Dirty dish towels and napkins land in an antique crock placed in the kitchen until they can be carted to the laundry room. “With two little kids and a puppy, there always seems to be lots of kitchen laundry,” says Sarah.
Photo: Stacey Brandford

Kitchen Pantry

Illy coffee (her favorite wake-up call), walnuts for salads, mustards for marinades, homemade jam, gourmet cocoa for brownies, and healthy cereal on the low shelves so the kids can pick what they want for breakfast. "Shallow shelves are ideal," says Sarah. "Easy to organize."
Photo: Stacey Brandford

Gift-Wrap Stash

"I love beautiful ribbons and trims, so I have a designated drawer where I save all the leftovers," says Sarah. "Never toss good ribbon! It can be used again and again."
Photo: Stacey Brandford

Master Bath Cabinet

Sears hand towels, Guinot Paris face products, Dr. Hauschka Sage Bath, Gucci Envy Me perfume, Aveeno Baby wash, Estée Lauder face scrub and toner, and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour hand cream
Photo: Stacey Brandford

Guest Bath Drawer

Grapefruit room spray by Votivo and vintage days-of-the-week embroidered linen hand towels. Robin makes sure the correct day is always put out.
Photo: Stacey Brandford

Closet by the Back Door

Muddy boots on the floor, fuzzy slippers up top. Mittens, hats and scarves stay organized in baskets. A trusty flashlight and Alexander's chain saw helmet. ("He's always working on an outdoor project, like cutting trails in the woods,” says Sarah.) A cobblestone marble floor is her smart pick for high-traffic areas. "You can never have too many baskets!" says Sarah.
Photo: Stacey Brandford

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