RJ Thornburg Modern House Renovation

House Tour: Making an Old House New Again

I'm excited to present a post from one of my favorite sites, ShelterPop!


Designer RJ Thornburg transforms a former pig farm into a modern retreat.

Old houses are full of charm and character, but that doesn't mean its interiors have to feel as antique. It can be surprisingly fresh to complement the classic bones of an old house with modern, retro, casual, or traditional decorating. 

RJ Thornburg, an interior designer at Bahdeebahdu, and his partner, lighting designer, Warren Muller, did just that with their 1865 country home in the Poconos. Aiming for high style on a low budget, they balanced dark and neutral tones, brought in hints of color, and used artwork to deliver modern decor. The mission was to make the home feel contemporary — without losing any of its charm.

In a space that fits a lot of furniture, fabrics, and finishes, like their living room (shown above), balance is key in keeping it from looking cluttered and stuffy. Thornburg retained the raw exposed beams to balance the more urban look of dark ebony floors and an animal-hide rug. 

"We also paired old rattan chairs with oversized and more delicate silk damask pillows, and the simple modern square shape of the fireplace is matched with a traditional hearth guard," he explained. Warren designed the modern light sculpture above the fireplace, which was made from a piece of old farm equipment.

Hallways are generally transitional spaces, but in this house they are interesting places to visit (see above). In the downstairs entryway (left), they paired an antique console with a substantial sculptural element, which creates a very traditional look. However, the vignette is modernized with modern artwork, which is bright, raw, and unexpected. 

Upstairs (right), Thornburg left the hall unfinished with unstained floors and beadboard on the ceiling, which they purchased from a big-box home store. Again, the country look is accented with a more urban look; the hall is punctuated with a modern light sculpture.

Keep reading for the rest of the house tour!

Decorating that doesn't take itself too seriously keeps a space from feeling stuffy. Thornburg kept the home from feeling too high brow by adding a sense of humor and color in the dining room and sunroom. "The dining room has some levity with punches of green and a creative light source complete with Dutch wooden shoe and all," he says. The sunroom (right) is pretty funky and eclectic, which isn't what you'd expect to see in this house. The wood paneled walls are painted gray, adding warmth to the original stone floors. A classic chair in an Asian red finish is a nice surprise of color.

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