A Farmstead Created in Miniature
Downsizing in countryside splendor
By Elizabeth Sugg » Photos by John Patota
Drive out Youngs Road and it’s hard at times to not cross over the two-lane road between the scenes of beautiful horses grazing in well-tended fields and the singularly individual houses and barns that dot this path through Sandhills horse country. There is a particular point as you travel this esteemed road that leads out from Southern Pines when you come to a soft bend and your eye can’t help but stray to a tidy farmstead featuring a house-barn, an architectural term for a residence and a barn under the same roof. Built just shy of 10 years ago with a neutral gray Hardie board siding and a roof of a similar hue, the farmstead nestles so perfectly into its natural surroundings that it is impactful, a cameo of rustic beauty. It is also appropriately named — Segue Farm. Originally an Italian term in music meaning “it follows”, “segue” as it became adopted as an English word signifies a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption. And that is exactly what the farm owner Susan Wooten Gaines has done.
Gaines has been coming regularly to Southern Pines since she was a young rider, traveling U.S. 1 from her home in Raleigh. Her mother, Dr. Jane H. Wooten, a graduate of Duke University, was a well-respected pediatrician and her father Kenneth Wooten enjoyed a long career as an attorney. She began riding at Meredith College as a five-year-old. “They had a town student program then, and I rode American Saddlebreds,” Gaines remembers with a fond smile. “I had an instructor at Meredith — Lila Bozick — who said to me when I was around 10 or so, ‘You can come with us hunting (to Southern Pines)’, and I rode a lovely pony named Maytell.” The horse bug bit Gaines hard, and she has been a lifelong rider. Growing up she competed in both hunters and jumpers, beating a path to the Sandhills weekly for lessons and to be involved with a community that shares a similar passion for horses. And it is back to this coterie that she retired to, on a piece of property she bought in 2000 but that she only broke ground on in 2013, after a career at IBM as a networking specialist yet with a wonderful shared love of riding with her daughter who enjoyed a similar coming of age surrounded by the Southern Pines horse community as well.
“The farm was a smooth transition between my city/corporate life and retirement,” Gaines shares with a peaceful air, and maybe that is the intangible characteristic that is so magical about this horse farm in miniature.
There is a friendly decisiveness about Susan Gaines. Quick to laugh and tell a self-deprecating story about herself, she is also a person who knows what she likes and is willing to work alongside whomever to get a certain result. Having owned the acreage along Youngs Road for 13 years before building on it, she had a long time to think about the type of house and barn that would suit her as an empty-nester embracing a simpler life, thus the house that in Gaines’ words has “one of everything”. Working with Jim Secky Design & Build, the two collaborated on the house-barn in such a way that blends some larger home aspects into a downsizing residence, for example, Gaines insisted on having a foyer.
“I wanted a transition from the inside and outside of the house,” explains Gaines of the entrance off a cozy screened porch complete with a rope swing and seating area that connects to a well-thought-out tack room that leads to a four-stall barn that has a guest suite overhead. The foyer features a sideboard over which hangs a portrait of she and her daughter Kate on horseback painted by Claudia Coleman, an American artist from North Carolina who has specialized in champion horses and dogs for more than 50 years.
From this handsome passage you enter the open living room and kitchen that is filled with sunlight spilling in from well-placed windows, their wooden frames adding warmth to the clean look of the painted white walls. Note the high window that adds interest to the exterior look of the house and provides additional natural light inside Gaines’ one and only living room. It was Secky’s idea to frame each of the high windows in leftover flooring and the warm wood tones add a cozy dimension.
A home with all the essentials but no excess, Gaines wanted the stone fireplace to be built on an angle, and it was Secky’s suggestion to design a built-in across from it on an angle as well to hold her TV. “I needed to be able to see it from the kitchen,” she explains. The symmetry is pleasing to the eye as are the hardwood floors that were placed on an angle as well, a subtlety that creates an interesting patten in the space. Toy tractors and building blocks in the living room are evidence of Gaines’ happy grandmother status, as are the paintings of horses and a stuffed pillow of a fox reminders that both she and her daughter were both junior and remain senior members of the Moore County Hounds.
The kitchen beckons with its floor-to-ceiling pearl-toned cabinetry with the very top shelves featuring a diverse selection of books and cookbooks, adding a homey quality that immediately envelops a visitor with the sheer comfort of the shotgun space. The granite countertops with a leathered finish get a daily workout with the dining area at the end where a group of fox and hunt scene stools alternate as a perch for both mealtime and Gaines’ home office.
This home in miniature has only one bedroom, another sunny space with a fireplace, once again on an angle, its mantle full of family photos and a stuffed fox from childhood. Another painting of her daughter standing next to her horse provides a colorful scene of what Gaines holds dear. Next to the four-poster bed is a corner cupboard that adds a similar symmetry to the bedroom that the fireplace and built-in do in the living room. These thoughtful approaches to each space make such a difference as one beholds the overall effect of the purposeful construction and interior design.
There are two hallways to the one large bathroom. The hallway off the living room provides another wall space for artwork that leads a guest to the one-and-only powder room. The other hallway leads from Gaines’ bedside, featuring floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that flank her closet. The bath has a wonderful shower and sink area, complete with handsome built-ins, with light spilling in from another high window. The effect is one of serene simplicity.
Back outside are Gaines’ horses, her dog Lola running alongside as she strolls out to check on the day’s activities in the pastures. The sun is high overhead dappling through the pine trees that surround the fenced fields. At Segue Farm the countryside splendor is at hand every single day — what a magnificent transition.