It’s a thing in Barrington Hills and neighboring communities to give your farm a name. Perhaps it’s a nod to the English royal tradition of christening great estates with noble nomenclature, or just one of those traditions that got passed down from the days of sprawling gentlemen’s farms in this area. Either way, it’s part of the charm of our community.
Whatever the reason, Susan Sullivan and her husband Dr. John Sullivan fully embraced the notion when they completed their dream home on Hawley Lake in 2015.
“We called it Bedford Falls Farm after the idyllic town of Bedford Falls in our favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life,” explains Sullivan. “We love the small town feel of the Barrington area. When we become empty-nesters someday, we can then consider the farm animal acquisition—or installing a putting green for John.”
The five-bedroom, five-bathroom (with two powder rooms) home is perfectly situated on 750-feet of frontage on Hawley Lake in Barrington Hills. The property spans 10 acres, giving it a true estate feel. But what Sullivan loves the most is how the house takes advantage of the lakefront location.
“The home is built on a peninsula with views of Hawley Lake,” she says. “Numerous French doors lead to the back garden. The property has many mature oak trees which provide ample shade for patios in summer. And the kitchen in particular has views of the front court and the lake out the back.”
Sullivan, a local interior designer, says building a custom home on this site is something she’d been envisioning for years. It would embrace the coastal theme in every way, to the point of borrowing design elements from Rob Lowe’s Santa Barbara home, as featured in Architectural Digest.
“Rather than have separate hallways connecting one room to another, Lowe’s home was designed with passageways flowing through the formal rooms,” she says. “We loved the idea of walking through these elegant spaces each day. It is an efficient use of space as well.”
Like other interior design enthusiasts, she had been collecting inspiration pieces for years—compiling a library of images and resources to draw from. To bring all of this to life, the Barrington couple hired David and Sharon Poulton of The Poulton Group, which had designed and built Susan’s mother’s house in Lake Forest about a decade ago.
“They embraced my mother’s design-savvy contributions. After working with them on that project, I knew they were the firm to work with on our next project,” says Sullivan, explaining that she and her husband have lived in the Barrington area for 18 years—raising son Keaton (now a senior at Northwestern University); daughter Kelsey (a freshman at Miami of Ohio University); and daughter Hannah (a sophomore at Barrington High School) here. “We brought our ideas to The Poulton Group and David nailed it on his preliminary design. It was a labor-of-love design, from the cabinetry to the finishing materials.”
The vibe overall evokes a classic country estate, but with an East Coast flair. Hand-scraped hickory floors and walnut millwork add texture and pedigree, along with stone imported from Connecticut and a slate roof. The graceful wide hallways benefit from the added touch of layered, detailed custom millwork—a Poulton Group trademark.
“As an interior designer, I made selections in advance to keep the project on schedule,” she says. “Now that we have moved-in, I am enjoying taking my time with the furnishings and details. I encourage to my clients to invest in the major pieces of furniture first, adding the finishing touches last.”
While Sullivan enjoys almost every space in the home, a favorite family gathering spot (when the kids haven’t taken it over to do their homework) is the sun room with views out over Hawley Lake.
“We also especially enjoy the approach to the house down the long driveway,” she adds, explaining that her stepmother Maria Smithburg (of Artemisia) designed the landscape plan for the exterior and collaborated with John on plant and hardscape selections.
“We host prom and homecoming photos every year and as our kids say ‘we have the best garden for it so they will all show up’,” Sullivan says. “We wanted a home with a coastal vibe that fits our busy lifestyle, and we got everything we wanted and then some. It’s a wonderful life indeed.”