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A doctor’s welcoming country home in East Aurora



The property borders part of what was once the enclosed, mile-long horseracing track created by Henry C. Jewett in the late 1800s. Chris Kerr needed to find a home for his chestnut mares.

Photos by Stephen Gabris

 

See gallery of photos here.

 

A modest white house on Jewett Holmwood Road in East Aurora sports a green metal roof and a sign: Providence Farm. It’s owned by Dr. Chris Kerr, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Hospice Buffalo, a fifth generation, Canada-born doctor. The story of how he came to live here is captivating.

 

In 1999, while visiting Hospice patients in East Aurora, Kerr got lost and, on a whim, rang the bell of this house with a “For Sale” sign out front. He spoke to the then-owner, a member of the prominent Cary family of Buffalo, whose relative, George Cary, was one of the famed architects of the Pan-Am Expo. “She interviewed me out in the barn, and we connected over horses; we learned that we both owned chestnut mares,” says Kerr. “I told her that I only had $500 in the bank and she said ‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll figure it out.’ She sold me the house, holding the papers, and said that when I could afford it, she would sell me the rest of the property. And she did.”

 

The property borders part of what was once the enclosed, mile-long horseracing track created by Henry C. Jewett (another prominent Buffalo family) in the late 1800s. East Aurora, Kerr notes, was one of the most popular places for horse racing in the country.

 

The two-story home has recently undergone a meticulous redesign after sustaining storm damage to its western-facing walls in 2014. Its aesthetic is both elegant and utilitarian (emphasis on working farm) and the result of three years of effort from Kerr, interior decorator Becky Doll, and her daughter/business partner, Grace. The home teems with furniture, artwork, and found objects attached to stories echoing the theme of chance.

 

The kitchen palette includes Dutch Tile Blue and Honed Soapstone from Sherwin-Williams.

 

“It’s farmhouse vintage eclectic,” says Doll, noting that the palette of soothing colors are from the Sherwin-Williams line and include Dutch Tile Blue in the window-lined family room and Honed Soapstone in the airy kitchen. “It was just a dumpy, awful kitchen with a screened-in porch when I first saw the house; I pushed for the mudroom and entryway. We tried to keep with the integrity of a farmhouse.”

 

The entryway features horse-centric artwork and lighting fixtures made partially of rope, found at Rachele Pfister’s shop, Head Over Heels. Just off the hallway is the first showstopper: the walk-in dog wash one foot off the ground to aid those doing the washing. It’s a shower base from Home Depot, surrounded with gray subway tile and a showerhead on a hose. “I take full credit for it,” Doll says. “Chris used to carry his dogs to a claw foot tub in the downstairs bathroom in a suit and tie and bathe them every day because they were covered in mud.”

 

 

The laundry completes the room’s clean theme; vinyl flooring keeps all waterproof and painted barn doors separate it from the foyer. “It really is a working farm so it’s not uncommon to come into the house with boots with horseshit on them,” Kerr says.

 

The kitchen has a central, live edge, forty-by-100-foot island made from a fallen black walnut tree on an Amish farm where Kerr was seeing a patient. “It is in the Cherry Creek area,” he says. “I’m there once a month, getting horse shavings, plus I’ve taken care of a number of Amish. I had to be creative to do things economically in the house; these hardwood floors were milled from trees on the property by the Amish.” Live edge shelving nearby, also black walnut, stores decorative pieces; an equestrian painting Kerr found digging through the Roycroft campus antique shop hangs above.

 

The open kitchen features an apron-front sink, soapstone countertops, and a new window overlooking the acreage behind the house. Some decorative flourishes, Doll says, are the repurposed farm pieces found at Patricia’s Back Barn antique store in North Tonawanda. The GE appliances are matte black slate, the ceiling is painted beadboard between coffering, the chandelier is from Pottery Barn, and the backsplash is white subway tile. It’s a look that is both contemporary and classic.

 

The master suite features a soaring cathedral ceiling and a porch overlooking the farmland.

 

Family room furniture is neutral and patterned upholstered pieces and tables from Pottery Barn, arranged on a natural fiber, neutral rug in front of a gas insert in a custom white wooden mantel. Eight windows line two walls face the acreage and a patio accessible through double doors. There is more casual seating in what Kerr calls his library, a room leading to a still-unfinished formal living room. These spaces are full of found pieces and family artifacts.

 

The formal dining room, one step up from the kitchen, is a blend of antiques and contemporary pieces. The floor is hickory and the walls are covered in grass cloth.

 

Under the Restoration Hardware dining room table with seating for eight is a rug from David Tiftickjian & Sons—“The only thing I splurged on,” says Kerr. A metal chandelier featuring glass circles, purchased at Shanor Lighting Supply, works well with a carved antique wooden European hutch with windows made from wine bottle bottoms; the hutch came from Kerr’s mother, who lives in a lovely and cozy cottage space designed in part of one of the property’s barns next door.

 

Paintings along the walls “are by Addison Winchell Price, from Canada. My dad was really into art and he commissioned Price to make these of us on our property in Algonquin Park,” Kerr says. And, in keeping with the providence/serendipity theme, Kerr talks about the antique half-circle side tables in the room: “It’s a fluky story. These tables are from the Kerr Estate, [but were] found by a friend of mine in Ohio, who gave them to me.”

 

The his and hers vanity was created by Amish craftsmen.

 

Other standout pieces include a mantel in the living room, acquired from Horsefeathers, and an antique church pew purchased from a farmer who had it in his barn outside of Houghton, New York. “I gave him fifty dollars and he gave me the pew,” says Kerr. “I deliberately didn’t stain it; it’s natural degeneration.”

 

In the basement is Kerr’s “cabin room,” a work of art created from the property’s trees that will become either a guest room or den–as yet undecided. Upstairs, the redesigned master suite now features a soaring cathedral ceiling and porch overlooking the farmland. The en suite has an enviable large antique tub, and a doorless shower built into an angular space from the roof’s slope. A cabinet made from reclaimed barn wood is across from the tub, and a long, live edge his and hers vanity—created by Amish craftsmen out of maple—completes the bathroom.

 

Providence Farm welcomes all to its outdoor spaces: if you find yourself meandering down Jewett Holmwood Road, stop by and say hello.

 

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