A Verdant Retreat in Pennsylvania

The Farm is a 150-acre private property that has been carefully created and curated to be the ultimate experience in Zen, sophistication and sustainable living. An elegant, verdant vision in Pennsylvania, The Farm has been shaped by Esther Dormer over a period of a decade. Permaculturists restored the land to a healthy state, and pond and building locations were decided based on the sun, wind patterns and the soil. It took eight years to restore the wooded areas, five to create paths and walking trails, as well as forming or restoring ponds.  Esther and her team, designer Lisa Dagnal and organic expert Darrell Frey, have formulated a veritable oasis of calm and beauty.  A+A recently interviewed Esther via email for a post today:

What is the intent of the design?

The intent of the design was to enhance the natural beauty of the land.  With sweeping views of woods and pastures, we did not want to disrupt the beauty but showcase it.   Using permaculture specialists to do the site plan and then using natural materials and a similar palette, we set out to design a farm that had enduring, quiet beauty.

The inspiration for the design?

Both Lisa and I had spent time in the countryside of Provence and loved it.  We did not want to copy the look of Provence but the feel of it.

The challenges inherent in the design?

Whenever you are furnishing the outdoors, you have to take into consideration the elements.  We have four beautiful seasons, but our winters can be harsh.  Designing landscape and furnishings that are both aesthetically-pleasing and durable was quite a challenge.  We went with natural hides, vintage wood, and fabrics that would withstand the weather and the wear, while designing around pieces we particularly loved.  The scale was also difficult; we needed to find décor pieces that did not get lost in the scale of the vast property.  That necessitated a lot of custom-work throughout.

Materials and furnishings?

We purchased and used a lot of very old wood from the area.   For instance, the very large table in the barn was made by wood from our local forests.  We used stone, concrete, and natural fabrics paired with neutral colors.  Over many years, we found pieces from NYC, Chicago, Central PA and Europe.  Most of the pieces were chosen because we were attracted to them, and then found a way to incorporate them into the project.   Others were found through a network of stores that we work with.  We have several storage units filled with possibilities!


We have natural swales to handle water run-off and used our ponds to irrigate in the summer.  Our master plan, created by sustainability experts, was our very first step.  We have never used chemicals on the land.  So, it is truly an organic farm.

Who’s the target market for The Farm?

The farm is a private retreat designed for solitude and relaxation among nature.  It is also a place to share with family and friends.  The Farm can accommodate large parties with ease.  We have had more than 600 guests at one time.  It is meant to be a respite from our busy lives and a place to connect with the outdoors and the beauty of the land.

For more on the Farm, go to http://www.thefarm.ws/

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