From the Concrete of Los Angeles to a Farmhouse in Vermont

This article is part our latest Design special report. It’s about new creative paths shaped by the pandemic. In 2007, Kathryn Alverson, Rich Costey, and their family bought a 1783 farmhouse in Putney, Vt. as a weekend getaway from their home in Manhattan’s East Village. They never thought about the possibility of living there full-time. The couple, who are Grammy-Award-winning music producers and mixers, bought a 1783 farmhouse near Putney, Vt. in 2007. They were looking for a weekend escape from their home in Manhattan’s East Village. Ms. Alverson was studying philosophy, art history, and photography at the New School. A series of repair and renovation projects has not only made it livable year-round; it has transformed the house into a welcoming family home.As they got to know the property a little better, the Alverson-Costeysdiscovered a host of problems: the foundation was sinking, the attic was full of bats and the old windows produced lead-laden dust every time they were opened or closed.ImageThough they moved from sunny California, the Alverson-Costey family has been able to adapt to their farmhouse home in snowy Vermont. Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoWith the help of a team restoration specialists, they slowly fixed the most serious problems in the home while making every new intervention almost invisible. They lifted the house, fixed the foundation and replaced the floor joists. They also added insulation and radiators. They expelled the bats for the most part. They managed to exterminate the bats for the most part. Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoImageBarbara bestor is well-known for her modernist designs, but her redesign to the 1783 farmhouse kept its charming features intact, with bright colors in her kitchen. Credit…Yoshihiro Makino. Mr. Costey, 52, stated that the goal was to do a lot of work but not look like it had been done a lot. He said that the house looked unchanged but that they had been putting a lot of money into it. “For a while, we definitely felt as though we were in the movie ‘The Money Pit’.” Ms. Alverson, 54, said that they were preoccupied with their West Coast lifestyle after moving to Los Angeles in 2009. Mr. Costey stated that they didn’t return to the house as often and considered selling it because they were too busy. However, the couple never got around to listing the house for the sale. Everything changed in 2020 when the pandemic. Costey was unable to go to his studio so he tried working from home, but it proved difficult. Ms. Alverson was living with her mother Gina Alverson (now 92) and was suffering from dementia. The couple were concerned about Gina getting Covid-19. Simone switched to online education after a break-in at her Santa Monica studio in May 2020. He rushed to save his most valuable equipment and loaded it into his car. He said that it was at that point that living in the city had “just kinda stopped being fun.” “We were like, ‘What is this?'” ImageKathryn Averson, Rich Costey, and Simone in their renovated farmhouse. The family traveled East in a band bus with Ms. Alverson’s mom and Louise, their black Aussie mix, which they rescued in Los Angeles 10 year ago. The white dog, Hank, was rescued last spring, after they were living fulltime in Vermont.Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoIn Vermont, they had 60 acres of forested privacy. Simone was able to attend in-person classes. Mr. Costey knew someone who had built Guilford Sound in their area. This was a world-class studio that could be used for recording. They decided to sell their California home to move to Vermont permanently. The only problem was how to get there. Ms. Alverson stated that it was impossible to just take my mother with dementia, in the middle Covid, and hop on an airplane. “So we thought that we could rent an RV. But everyone in the country was renting an RV during the summer 2020, so there weren’t any RVs. That’s when Mr. Costey got an idea. With so many concerts cancelled across the country, surely there would be some tour buses sitting idle. He said that he called Muse’s tour manager and referred him to a friend who owns a tour bus company that rents out to Post Malone. His instinct was correct: Buses with drivers were available. The couple loaded their daughter, mother and dog into a tour bus that was fit for a rock star. They also had to adjust to the small space: The farmhouse, measuring 1,000 square feet, had only one bedroom. Ms. Alverson ended up sleeping on the sofa in the living room. Barbara Bestor, a Los Angeles-based architectural firm that had previously renovated a California home for them, was hired to make the property more livable. Although Bestor is most well-known for her modernist designs, she was happy to tackle a centuries old farmhouse. “I’m originally from Cambridge, Mass. and part of my schtick are the stuff you get out of houses from the 1700s,” she stated, noting that centuries-old monochromatic siding and windows still looks modern today. “I believe you can steal from old to give to new.” Ms. Bestor converted the bat-filled attic into an 800-square foot second floor, adding two bedrooms and a bath. The head space was increased by a new insulated roof and dormers. She took pains to leave the rough-hewed rafters and collar ties exposed, and to remove, refinish and then reinstall the old wood flooring above new recycled-denim insulation.ImageIn renovating the house’s old bat-filled attic, Ms. Bestor took pains to leave the rough-hewed rafters and collar ties exposed when she added dormers to provide head space for two added bedrooms and a bathroom.Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoImageStorage space was incorporated into the hallway of the renovated farmhouse attic.Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoImageTwo bedrooms were created in the attic of the farmhouse by adding dormers.Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoImageA bright yellow vanity was tucked under the eaves of the renovated farmhouse attic, where Ms. Bestor also preserved original elements of the house. Credit…Yoshihiro MakinoThe construction of the second floor took three month and was completed in the fall 2020. The family lived in a nearby rental during this time. They have been working with Ms. Bestor to plan a new structure to replace their old barn. It will have a loft-like living area, kitchen, studio, and mudroom. But they have discovered that Vermont is quite idyllic. Mr. Costey is as productive in Santa Monica as he was in Santa Monica. It is also a short flight from Boston to London where he often works. Ms. Alverson has refocused her photography and started rowing on Connecticut River. Simone is doing well at her new school. She has taken up alpine skiing and found refuge in the picturesque landscape. Gina Alverson is also doing well. Her daughter stated that her family has a beautiful 200-year-old apple tree in their backyard. “She would sit under the tree and look out at the view every day during their first summer in Vermont. She died in February 2021 at the age of 93.