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At Home with Glassmaker Simon Pearce

As a glass-making business flourishes, so does a family with four rumble-tumble boys in a barn-turned-home in the rolling Vermont countryside 

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Michael Partenio

    A rope swing hanging from the rafters in Simon and Pia Pearce’s main living area speaks volumes about their approach to life. The couple raised four boys in a barn-turned-home with the attitude that stability and adventure are perfect partners. “Our home is where we wish to provide a sense of warmth, comfort, and stability, as well as a place for our family to be creative and imaginative,” Pia says.

    About 35 years ago, Simon and Pia started their own adventure. The young couple moved from Ireland to little Quechee, Vermont, where they established the Simon Pearce company, now one of the last large-scale glass operations in the United States making clear utilitarian glassware by hand, one piece at a time.

    Simon, born in London and raised on the southern coast of Ireland, came from a pottery-making family and learned glass-making at the Royal College of Art in London and by working with artisans around the world. He and Pia, who grew up in rural New Jersey, ran a highly successful glass business in Ireland before relocating to the United States in the late 1970s. He produced the glassware, and she spearheaded the retail side of the operation.

    While business in Ireland was good, Simon and Pia saw greater opportunities for growth in the United States. “When we came here, we were looking for a beautiful place where we could raise a family, a factory location where there would be alternative sources of power, and enough room for a retail store,” Simon says.

    The Pearce's new brick wing created space for a sitting area that opens to the porch. Above the fireplace is a painting by Irish artist Patrick Scott, Simon Pearce’s godfather. 

    Photography: Michael Partenio
    Produced by Stacy Kunstel

    Architectural and interior designers: Simon and Pia Pearce

    Art above fireplace (by Patrick Scott); area rug (silk); cofee table: owner’s collection.
    Sofas: Restoration Hardware, rh.com.
    Vase holding flowers (“PURE Crystalline Newfane Vase” #5896): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.
    Large wooden bowl (by Keith Mosse): Keith Mosse Bespoke Furniture, 011 353 056 772 7948.
    Turned wood floor lamps; alpaca throw: discontinued.

  • Michael Partenio

    Old and New

    In 1980, Simon and Pia found everything they were looking for in a 200-year-old former woolen mill on the Ottauquechee River in rural Vermont. Simon renovated the building, installed a hydroelectric turbine, built a glass furnace, and began making glass.

    The couple renovated the mill’s upper level for an apartment, where they lived for four years. As the business grew, so did their family. After the arrival of sons Andrew and Adam (two more sons, David and Kevin, would follow), Simon and Pia found farm property near the mill surrounded by fields and forests to build their new home. Well, not exactly new. “Simon wanted something that had real character,” recalls Pia, so they bought an old New Hampshire barn and had it taken down and rebuilt on their site.

    Respectful of the trees and land, Simon carefully sited the house so it settles gently into the slope of the property and slowly reveals itself on the drive down their lane.

    After several years of living with four boys in the reconstructed barn, the Pearces built a two-level brick addition that gave them a living room, two offices, and upstairs bedrooms and baths. With gables, a porch, and granite windowsills and headers, the expansion gives the house the look and feel of an Irish country home.

    A covered porch spans the brick addition to the converted barn. 

  • Michael Partenio

    Great Room

    In the house, family living is centered in one large, comfortable room, anchored by a stone fireplace, that serves as kitchen, dining room, and sitting area. “Simon and I made a conscious decision to make the first floor into one big room so that our entire family could essentially always be together,” Pia says. The bedrooms are on the second floor. The knotted rope swing hangs from the rafters near an upstairs loft—once the playroom of their now-adult sons and now enjoyed by grandkids—that overlooks the living area.

    Heavy blue-and-white windowpane-check wool curtains that provide warmth in cold Vermont winters have a family connection. In Ireland, Simon’s mother made curtains for the family home from a similar fabric, which was originally intended for horse blankets. Enchanted with the look and function, Pia did the same, ordering fabric from Ireland and having it fashioned into curtains for her own home. 

    Drapery (traditional horse blanket wool): Kerry Woolen Mills, kerrywoolenmills.ie.
    Art above fireplace (by Patrick Scott); sofa; lounge chair; orange throw; chair in foreground (by Finn Juhl); pillow on chair: owner’s collection.
    Coffee table: antique.
    Hurricanes on mantel (“Revere Hurricane”/Large #4263 and Medium #1172); vase on table beside fireplace (“PURE Orleans Vase”/Medium #5916); lamp on table by fireplace (“Warren Lamp”/Large #5341 with Linen Barrel Shade in Natural #4983): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com

  • Michael Partenio

    Gorgeous Glass

    Simon displays his collection of handmade Georgian glass alongside his own present-day designs. “We wanted the room to feel old and at the same time contemporary,” Pia says. Pottery created by Simon’s brother, a potter in Ireland, as well as wooden bowls by their oldest son, Andrew, and works by other artisans and friends are displayed in cabinets and on the barn beams in the main living space.

    Buddha and “Kevin Pearce LoveYourBrain” bowl and candleholder are by Simon Pearce. The main living area is in a reconstructed barn.

    Coffee table: antique.
    Black vase on coffee table (“PURE Caledonia Slate Vase” #5595); small bowl (“Kevin Pearce Love Your Brain Bowl” #7594); hurricane (“Kevin Pearce Love Your Brain Hurricane” #6650); Buddha (“Glass Buddha”/Medium #6159): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.

  • Michael Partenio

    Farmhouse Kitchen

    Throughout the house, rugged wide-plank pine floors and hand-plastered walls add a sense of warmth and age. Country antiques—pine cupboards and chests from Ireland and New England—as well as contemporary furnishings and art fill the rooms. Some new pieces, including the dining table and chairs, were made by Charles Shackleton, a close friend of the Pearces who also came from Ireland and established his business in Vermont.

    Simon Pearce’s “Emerson Wide” glass pendants brighten the kitchen. Cabinets are painted a custom shade from Donald Kaufman Color.

    Hanging lights (“Emerson Wide Pendant” #5005): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.
    Black-and-white jug (Shanagarry Pottery by Philip Pearce): available through Stephen Pearce Pottery, stephenpearce.com.
    Range: Wolf, subzero-wolf.com.
    Cabinet paint (custom color): Donald Kaufman Color, donaldkaufmancolor.com.
    Spoons; jars in cabinet; crock with lid (by Richard Batterham); vase holding flowers (by Richard Batterham): owner’s collection.

  • Michael Partenio

    Pottery

    The black pitcher is from a pottery in Ireland started by Simon’s father, operated today by Simon’s brother Stephen. Other pieces are by Richard Batterham. 

    Crock with lid (by Richard Batterham); vase holding flowers (by Richard Batterham);  jars in cabinet: owner’s collection.
    Black-and-white jug (Shanagarry Pottery by Philip Pearce): available through Stephen Pearce Pottery, stephenpearce.com.

  • Michael Partenio

    Hanging Pretty

    The Pearces built their business on making utilitarian glassware by hand, such as these “Barre” goblets and wineglasses. In addition to glassware, Simon Pearce sells pottery, including the “Belmont Crackle” mugs in celadon and ivory. 

    Bowls (“Cavendish Petite Bowl” #1820); dinner plates (“Belmont Dinner Plate” #1796); side plates (“Cavendish Side Plate” #1806); wine glasses (“Barre White Wine” #1188); goblets (“Barre Goblet” #1191); mugs (“Belmont Crackle Celadon Mug” and “Belmont Crackle Ivory Mug” #1782): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.

  • Michael Partenio

    Lovely Dining Area

    The dining table and chairs crafted by the Pearces’ friend and furnituremaker Charles Shackleton are illuminated by a modernist pendant lamp. “Good design, natural materials, and timelessness are important to Simon and me,” says Pia. “The wooden chairs around the table possess quiet but sturdy personalities. Durability and comfort are critical; we like to linger at the table.” Glassware and pottery on shelves and in the antique hutch are a mix of antique pieces and new pieces made by Simon Pearce artisans. 

    Dining table and chairs (by Charles Shackleton): Shackleton Thomas, shackletonthomas.com.
    Hanging light (“PH Pendant Lamp”): Design Within Reach, dwr.com.
    Serving boards on table (“Andrew Pearce Black Walnut Wood Live Edge Board”/Large #4867 and “Andrew Pearce Cherry Wood Live Edge Board”/Large #4861); mug (“Norwich” #6827); footed server (“Westport” #6813); pitcher (“Canterbury Pitcher”/Small, discontinued); wine glass (“Barre White Wine” #1188); pitcher (“Belmont Pitcher”/Medium #2682); pitcher (“Barre Pitcher”/Large #1222); bowl (“Woodbury Bowl”/Large #1235); dinner plate (“Belmont Dinner Plate” #1796): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.

    China cabinet—
    China cabinet: antique.
    First row: Teapot: wood bowl; ceramic bowl; pitcher: owner’s collection.
    Second row: Glassware: Simon Pearce Glass/Research and Design: owner’s collection.
    Bud vases (“Barre Bud Vase,” discontinued; and “Barre Bud Vase includes gift box (#5505); posy vase (“Shelburne Posy Vase” #1325); large vase (“Barre Vase”/Large, discontinued): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.
    Third row: Glasses (Simon Pearce Glass/Research and Design): owner’s collection.
    Wine glasses (“Essex Wine” #1131): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.

    Wall cabinet: 
    Wall cabinet: owner’s collection. 
    Top row: White wine glasses (“Woodstock” #1088); red wine glasses (“Woodstock” #1136); second row: balloon wine glasses (“Woodstock” #1147); third row: goblet (“Barre” #1191); red wine glasses (“Barre” #1189); white wine glasses (Barre” #1188): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.  

  • Michael Partenio

    Lush Walkway

    The porch overlooks a large, lush garden landscaped with brick paths and old stone troughs shipped from Ireland. Beyond the garden are groves of ash trees, hayfields, and hills. On one side of the house, the yard slopes to a round swimming pool and pool house, a new stone cottage that looks plucked from the Irish countryside.  

  • Michael Partenio

    Pool House

    At the foot of a hill and backed by woods, the pool house was built to resemble an Irish stone cottage. The pool is encircled with stone and the interior was painted blue to blend with the natural setting. The cottage has a hot tub and a small kitchen.

    Furniture: owner’s collection.
    Hurricanes with pillar candle (“Woodbury” #1099);  round vase (“PURE Round Wrap Vase” #5316): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.

  • Michael Partenio

    Dining Alfresco

    Each evening, Simon and Pia enjoy relaxing on their porch, built with cast iron posts that came from an Irish salvage yard. They often linger there with friends around an antique refectory table, candlelight sparkling on the casual mix of glassware and pottery. “The house itself is unquestionably informal,” says Pia. “It reflects the casual manner in which we like to live.”

    An antique Irish refectory table is set for guests with Simon Pearce dinnerware and “Ascutney” vases—two with flowers and two with candles. The porch faces a flower and vegetable garden with groves of trees and hayfields beyond.

    Table: Irish antique.
    Dining chairs (“Paso Doble”): Herman Miller, hermanmiller.com.
    Dinner plates (“Marble Dinner Plate” #7521); bowls (“Marble Bowl”/Large #7041)
    ; vases (“Ascutney”/Large #6522);  glasses (“Norwich Beaker” #1184); flatware (“Woodstock 5-Piece Flatware Setting” #6997): Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com.
    Napkins: owner’s collection.

  • Michael Partenio

    Tabletop

    In Simon Pearce workshops, glassblowers work in teams of two to create individual items such as this vase. “This process gives each piece of glass its own distinctive character,” Simon says. The glass owes its brilliance to a special barium mixture. Visitors to the Quechee studio and restaurant may observe glassblowers at work. 

  • Michael Partenio

    Pearce Family

    Eldest son Andrew holds daughter Maddy, next to his wife, Christy, and son Oliver. Simon embraces Pia and son David. Behind them are Adam and his wife, Kyla. The Pearces’ youngest son, Kevin, is not pictured. He suffered a brain injury in a snowboarding accident when training for the 2010 Olympics. He has largely recovered and established Love Your Brain, a group that works to prevent injuries and help people who have suffered brain trauma. 

  • John Bessler and Jonathan Wallen

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