Bethany Bowyer Khan has been slowly curating her country-chic dream home for the past two years, after moving to Saratoga County from Brooklyn (by way of a 10-month stop at her family’s farmhouse in northeast Ohio). The details and authenticity with which she has created her family’s home have already caught the eye of Wiliams Sonoma Home and publications as far away as the UK—and now she’s representing upstate New York (and the spring season!) in an upcoming book on farmhouse living.
Escape to the Country is an aspirational coffee table book for the post-pandemic era, featuring the architecture, precious interiors and enviable garden designs of a dozen farmhouses and farmhouse-type homes across the country, with three representing each of the four seasons. The book’s author, Ben Ashby, himself a New York transplant who’s landed in Kentucky, is onto something—his FOLK Magazine Instagram account boasts more than 600,000 followers.
When Ashby visited Khan’s home—which she shares with husband Jamil; daughter Natalie, 3; and son Christopher, 1—he missed out on seeing it in full bloom. “He came during the deadest part of the year,” laughs Khan. “It was freezing cold but not winter anymore. But we talked about gardening and slowing down to think about what came before us and how we want to shape the home as an intentional environment.” Soon after, her yard came alive. “Perennials come back every year and are this special gift you give to the world,” she says. “I was pregnant during our first fall here, but I still planted 500 daffodil bulbs. We had more than 1,000 blooms our first year.”
Khan comes from a five-generation-long line of gardeners, and grew up in her grandparents’ former farmhouse, Bowyer Farm, in Ohio. “Gardening has always been a part of what I’ve done my whole life,” she says. “When I was in first grade, we moved into the house I grew up in after my grandfather passed away. We inherited all of my grandmother’s gardens. We had vegetable gardens, but the heirloom perennial flowers were what I loved the most.”
When Covid hit, Khan and her husband (he worked in the renewable energy sector, she in commercial real estate) were both working remotely in their 53-story apartment building right across the street from Brooklyn Hospital, taking care of then-infant Natalie and a dog. The location was so chaotic and heavy during those dark Covid times that they eventually jumped at the chance to spend some time at Khan’s 40-acre childhood home.
In Ohio, Khan’s mom watched Natalie while the ex-Brooklynites worked, giving Khan the chance to fall in love with farm life all over again. “I would work outside on the porch, gardening and tending to the blueberry bushes my grandmother planted 75 years ago,” she says. “Meanwhile, I’d be on a conference call talking about a return on investment on whatever energy upgrade. One day my dad’s tractor broke down, and I was on a call talking about budgets while steering the tractor back to the driveway and up to the barn.” She spent her evenings going through the attic, lovingly pulling out old recipes, photos and knick-knacks to take home—wherever that ended up being.
Then Saratoga County came calling. The couple found an 11-year-old, Greek Revival–style home that had farmhouse charm despite being so new. And off they moved to Wilton—determined to not lose the country charm of their sabbatical from city life. “I wanted to be intentional and make sure that every detail had meaning,” Khan says. “We custom-milled the moldings and baseboards of our kitchen island to match the old general store counter that was my kitchen island growing up.”
Various other antiques and vintage prints are dotted throughout the home, adding meaningful touches that remind Khan of her ancestry. And her husband, Jamil, isn’t left out either. “His late father was from Pakistan, and his mother grew up in Bolivia,” Khan says. “We have vases and rugs—neat things from their travels in the Middle East and India. I’m always thinking of textiles or how I can do something that is South American–inspired. It creates a sense of curiosity and learning on one hand and on the other there’s also this foundation of feeling open-minded and connecting to things that are not familiar to you but you make them familiar to you. It’s a way to create community and bring cultures together.”
As for spring, Khan will be doing her usual—finding creative ways to bring all of those flowers inside, including into her young daughter’s bedroom. Escape to the Country was originally scheduled for a March release but is now hitting bookstores June 22; Khan is starting work on her own book while she waits. Plus, this spring sees the launch of her own interior design business (arcadianrevival.com), for which her popular country-chic Instagram (@arcadianrevival) served as the springboard. Her business will include garden design and even have one-off floral designs for sale.
“I’m also in the middle of a huge construction project—my 1,500-square-foot basement,” she says. “It has a bunch of natural light so it doesn’t even feel like a basement; it feels like you’re stepping into the lower level of an old farmhouse, but with modern amenities. And I want to give my screened-in porch a facelift. I’ve fantasized about having a little woman’s dinner back there, with string lights and some good wine. I’ll make it so special.”
Escape to the Country: Living On The Farm, authored by Ben Ashby and published by Lannoo Publishers, is available now for pre-orders and will be released on June 22, 2023