Dan McClurg's Historic Farmhouse Retreat
Dan McClurg, entrepreneur and founder of Elm & Iron home goods stores, first discovered the magic of Riverview Farm as a fourth-grader when visiting the idyllic Knox County property that belonged to family friends.
“I grew up riding dirt bikes and swimming here in the river,” he says, recalling trips there with Jonathan and Rob Twomley whose father, retired Worthington Foods CEO Dale Twomley and their mother Connie were owners of the property at the time.
Today, McClurg gestures to the winding Kokosing River just yards from his farmhouse’s front porch. Dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, a Quicksilver camo hat and Merrill boots with red laces, McClurg now embraces the farm life, even adopting @farmerdan1 as his Instagram handle.
“I never thought in my lifetime that I’d own a place like this,” says McClurg. “Now, I love to share it with others in the same way the Twomley family shared it with me.”
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Built by the Taggart family in 1870, the Victorian-style farmhouse sits on 180 rolling acres of woods and farmland just outside Howard, Ohio—a 35-minute scenic drive from McClurg’s primary residence in Powell. The farm also features an old red barn, an operational windmill and springhouse. The Taggart family retained the property for over a century until Dale Twomley and his family purchased it in 1987.
“The cool thing about it is I’m only the third owner,” says McClurg who bought the farm from the Twomleys in 2015 and remains their neighbors as they moved to another farm up the street.
When McClurg heard they were planning to put the farm on the market, he said, “Hold on, wait a second,” as he considered purchasing the farm where he had spent much of his childhood.
During the Twomleys’ 28 years at Riverview, they renovated the farmhouse, raised it on stilts to turn the cellar into a fully finished basement and built a new carriage house in which they invested in custom-milled corbels, exterior trim and interior finishes to carefully match the original farmhouse. They also added character to the driveway by lining it with foundation stones salvaged from a county bridge.
When McClurg bought the house, he primarily made cosmetic changes and personalized the interior spaces with antique finds and Elm & Iron furnishings.
“I didn’t want to lose the character of the farm,” he says.
The home’s kitchen was updated, and its cherry floors were refinished and stained in a darker shade to soften the wood’s natural orange tones. The home’s interior walls were painted a consistent color throughout.
“Every room had wallpaper,” says McClurg, who also owns Buckeye House Painting company. His crew removed wallpaper in the newer carriage house but chose to leave the older farmhouse’s wallpaper intact, covering it in an oil-based sealer instead of risking damage to the plaster walls, which could have occurred during removal. McClurg chose Sherwin Williams’ French Grey in a flat finish for the wall color and white for the trim. He also changed out all but one of the Victorian-style light fixtures and replaced them with modern farmhouse lights.
In the kitchen, he kept the existing footprint but gave the space a fresh look with a white subway-tile backsplash, a farmhouse sink and gray cabinets. A new industrial-style pendant light hangs above a bistro table that features a zinc top and black Windsor chairs.
To help furnish and accessorize the house, he turned to Elm & Iron’s store designer and merchandiser Aletha Yeisley, whom he recruited from Crate & Barrel soon after opening his first store in a former service station in Clintonville. Today, the company has three locations in Columbus and is looking for another in Cincinnati.
For the living room, McClurg explains how he chose a large, statement-making antique drawer unit, then leaned on Yeisley to complete furnishing the space.
“I like to source the antiques, then turn the styling over to Aletha,” says McClurg. “She’s the true genius and knows how to pull it all together.”
She outfitted the room with a saddle-toned, Chesterfield leather sofa and rustic coffee table made of reclaimed woods. A framed vintage American flag hangs above the fireplace while a “Riverview Farm” custom street sign (a signature store item) rests on a shelf. An old Ohio road atlas—McClurg’s favorite collectible—sits on the coffee table.
The nearby den features a wall of library bookcases with ladders and iron supports. An intimate seating area of four leather club chairs is playfully accented with a red vintage Farmall tractor grill and a set of wooden cigar molds, which are displayed on the walls.
The upstairs owner’s suite is furnished with an industrial style bed, a dresser and a tufted leather chaise, as well as handcrafted artwork featuring McClurg’s Great Danes. While the master bath features the original clawfoot tub, McClurg says, this summer, he’s been enjoying a newly installed outdoor shower.
The masculine farmhouse flair continues throughout the house from “THE FARM” spelled out in large metal letters on a basement wall to a collection of washboards in a carriage house bathroom and a wall display of metal tractor seats in the loft. The carriage house is ideally suited to host guests with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a large garage, which is now filled with McClurg’s dirt bikes, ATVs and utility vehicles to ride with friends on the property.
McClurg says the farm has been helpful this year during the pandemic. “I like to be outdoors, so I don’t know what I would have done without it,” he says.
Some weekends, he’s cutting trails with a bush hog or mowing around the pond. Other weekends, he’s entertaining his girlfriend, Shelby Martin, her three daughters and a mix of other friends with boating trips down the river, ATV rides through the woods, barbeques and bonfires. Some summers, they carry chairs to an island in the creek and end the night lighting fireworks.
“The place is all about sharing,” says McClurg. “The whole idea is to share.”
This Thanksgiving he will host an annual holiday gathering at the farm with Martin and her daughters, his brother, Dale and Connie Twomley who still live at the farm next door, their sons and other friends.
“Mrs. Twomley does all the cooking including an egg gravy and the best mock turkey loaf,” says McClurg. “And, Mr. Twomley bakes pumpkin pies from scratch, even the crust and whip cream.”
For years, the Thanksgiving group has gathered for a vegetarian feast, with entertainment provided by a day-long blazing fireplace, four-wheeler rides around the property and endless tales of farm memories. One bittersweet memory is when McClurg was 14 years old and visited the farm with his family to celebrate Thanksgiving—his father’s last. (His dad was very sick with pancreatic cancer and died six weeks later.) McClurg credits the Twomleys with rearing him during his teen years and teaching him important lessons at the farm.
“This place shaped my memories,” says McClurg, “and I love that another generation of kids are now here creating more memories.”
Dan McClurg on Current Trends
Elm & Iron owner Dan McClurg offers advice on refreshing your current home design:
Use black and white plus color. Classic whites and blacks are trend setting, with touches of colors, especially blues and greens, being added.
Add some vintage personality. Small vintage pieces warm your space and provide more character—something that room designs often lack.
Invest in a statement piece. Rather than assemble a mishmash of many small pieces, invest in one big statement piece for every room.
Add flexibility. The pandemic has emphasized designing multi-functional spaces in your home that can be used as an office, a room for at-home schooling, or even for watching TV. A den or a dining room makes a perfect, flexible space.
Express yourself. Decorate your space with furniture that fits your character. Personality definitely trumps trendiness when it comes to today’s design styles.