Sometimes the first idea is the best idea.

Eduard and Selina van der Geest knew from the beginning that they wanted to build a barn-style home, and there was no place more perfect for them than the Hudson Valley’s Dutchess County. Eduard had lived in the area for 20 years, and Selina was instantly charmed by the rolling hills and countryside so reminiscent of her native England. “We thought about how we like to live, which is eating and entertaining – very informally,” Selina says, “so we decided we wanted one big room.”

Dreaming aloud at the Caf é Flore in Paris, Eduard sketched plans for their house on a napkin, and Selina followed up by assembling a team of experienced builders and craftsmen to transform the sketch into a delightful country home. The budget was modest, which called for inventive sourcing of materials and flexible, hands-on management. But Selina was ready for anything – before moving to the States a few years ago, she’d run her own decorating business and often worked with property developers. In just six months, Merrow Down Barn, as Selina have dubbed their home, was up and running.

The couple have a passion for things with a past, so although they were building new, they searched for pieces to lend the barn old world character. Even before they located their property, the couple bought 19th century Chinese doors, figuring they would find a use for them. The doors now make an unexpected and striking front entrance. They open into a dining area, the center of the home’s great room- a 40 x 25-foot open space with a seating area at one end and a kitchen at the other. The dining area’s 14-foot-long table is positioned between the Chinese front doors and a pair of French doors that lead to a terrace.