Max & Emily’s Stone Farmhouse with an Artistic History

published Jul 19, 2015
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(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Name: Max Shay and Emily Billings
Location: Western Massachusetts
Size: 3,200 square feet
Years lived in: 9 months; Rented

Max and I moved to Western Massachusetts on a whim after deciding to close the book on our city-dwelling life in Boston. We stumbled upon the 1930s stone farmhouse set up on a steep hill through Craigslist. After hearing about the history of the property through the homeowners, we were sold. The space was originally an influential literary hand press and the Cummington School of the Arts, a summer residency that continued until the early 90s and housed artists like Diane Arbus, Willem de Kooning, and Helen Frankenthaler!

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The outdoor has a stone patio to grill on, acres of land for gardening, and wooded trails that lead to cow pastures. (Image credit: Emily Billings)
(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Our move was made possible thanks to Max’s ability to work remotely as a software engineer. I myself am an artist (and a new member of the Apartment Therapy team!) and wanted to live in a more rural setting, as my art is inspired by the bucolic hills of New England.

Beyond the creative vibes that linger on the property from the greats who preceded us, the space itself is a jaw-dropper. With a 20-foot vaulted ceiling in the great room and architectural details from the house’s 1800s predecessor, it was unlike any space we had seen.

Together, we’ve distilled our family stories into a distinct narrative of warm and inviting simplicity. Heirloom rugs, collected furniture, and a large collection of art punctuate the warm rooms filled with natural light. Combine that with the smell of the wood stove and views of the Berkshire hills and the 1800s barn for a distinctly New England farmhouse with an eclectic style.

Sadly, our home has recently been listed for sale but we are excited to pursue new adventures and the prospect of getting to fill a new space.

(Follow Emily on Instagram for a daily dose of rural farmhouse life.)

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Clean eclecticism.

Inspiration: We are drawn to items and spaces that have history, yet function in our everyday life — and all the beautiful homes featured on Apartment Therapy, of course!

Favorite Element: The massive windows in the great room that overlook mature maple trees that stood long before the house and the vegetation that makes everything have a green tint to it. It is a breath of fresh air from our Boston apartment that was on a treeless street facing brick walls.

Biggest Challenge: How cold it was in the winter. Such a big home requires A LOT of heat and we seemed to always be burning through it, whether it was wood or oil.

What Friends Say: “When do I move in?!”

Biggest Embarrassment: Our cats claimed the leather sectional as their own, scratching through the leather, foam, and down to the wooden frame. It’s a good thing they are cute because the couch is an eyesore now.

Proudest DIY: Max loves refinishing furniture and completely overhauled our Eames-style Plycraft chair after I read a DIY online. We are saving up for a real Eames, but until then, this one is a great cost-effective option.

Biggest Indulgence: We splurged on Cuddledown pillows. They are worth every penny.

Best Advice: If you are moving into an old house, be prepared for funky smells and lots of bugs: ants, ladybug infestations, moths, spiders, you name it! It adds character, right? 😉

Dream Sources: The Brimfield Antique Show and the ability to travel internationally and send home crates full of treasures.


(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Secretary: family heirloom
  • Watercolor landscape: Richard Wiggan Johnson
  • Rug: brought back from Europe by Max’s family
(Image credit: Emily Billings)


(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Jars: Ikea
  • Fish placemats and baskets: brought back from Bequia, West Indies
  • Chalkboard: family heirloom
  • Picnic basket: Little Byrd Vintage
(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Umanoff chairs: eBay
(Image credit: Emily Billings)


(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Bed: Ikea
  • Painting: Richard Wiggan Johnson
  • Side table: Ikea
  • Bureau: family hand-me-down
(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Light wood desk: Crate & Barrel
  • Shell chair: Industry West
  • Eames-style Plycraft chair: eBay
  • Dark wood desk: Craigslist
  • Rug: family heirloom
(Image credit: Emily Billings)


  • Bed: West Elm
  • Side tables: West Elm
  • Rugs: brought back from Europe by Max’s family
  • Wood burl lamp: Diamonds & Rust
  • Hamper: Crate & Barrel
  • Dresser: Craigslist
  • Figure painting: Emily Billings
  • Couch: Ikea
  • Chest: family heirloom
  • Basket: Nomad
  • Lamp: Retrocraft Design

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