I’ll admit to a senior moment, perhaps, as it just dawned on me that I failed to update the blog with final photos of our conversion of an old barn in Ohio into a guesthouse/party barn. My project manager and I enjoyed working with Ed Wurm at Classic Homes and all those involved with this conversion of a German-style barn, which involved stabilizing the dilapidated structure and picking it up (literally) to move to a different location on the site. And that was just getting started. You can view photos of the evolution of the project here, here, here, and here, but suffice it to say, it was a major transformation.
Along with the clients, our goal was to salvage the beauty of the barn and retain its character and charm. We reused lumber where possible and play with a mix of traditional details and modern amenities. And I have to say, I imagine there’s nothing more cozy than gathering around the huge fireplace, flickering with orange and red, with a drink in hand and a backdrop of the night sky. That might be a moment even an old guy like me couldn’t forget.
They’re rustic, lofty, and awe-inspiring. Supported by a sturdy skeleton of timber and a base of stone nestled into the land, its appeal is seemingly timeless. The structure effortlessly fits into its landscape, whether in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or across the ocean in the United Kingdom. The bank barn. A simple beauty of which I can’t get enough. (Not to mention dairy barns, vaulted barrel barns, Dutch barns, prairie barns….)
Maybe it’s the news I seek, but I feel as if there’s an influx of articles and project profiles about converting old barns into residences, guest houses, schools, theatres — even a basketball court/recreational wonderland. Bring it on, I say. Converting an old building to a new use never gets old to an architect like me.
There’s even a How to Guide (aptly titled, How to Take One Old Barn and Call it Home) from the team who can seemingly fix anything and everything: the experts at This Old House. Converting an old barn into a new home isn’t a task for the faint of heart, but big things can yield even bigger rewards, I like to think. The article touches on common issues you’ll face: structural (is it safe? how’s the foundation?), is it energy-efficient (you can bet it’s not — yet!) and water sealed (again — no way, no how), the pluses and minuses of such a large, open space, and more.
At Blackburn, we’re working to revive a metal pole barn currently used as a recreational lodge in North Carolina. While the barn isn’t centuries old, like many of the bank barns I admire, it’s an interesting challenge for my staff and me. The owner would like to expand the barn’s use so that it may host business events and entertainment functions. Our goal is to respect the barn’s form and the local context, while providing a renewed aesthetic and use. Design plans include replacing the metal cladding with a painted wood or composite siding to provide a more traditional look. We’ll also incorporate more natural light into the barn through an enclosed glass entrance, which will in turn make the space feel more inviting. The floor will be lowered to increase the space’s capacity and the hayloft area will become a conference center for up to 80 people. Heavy timber framing with steel plate connections will add to the rustic yet finished interior.
I’ll post updates about the project as the work progresses. In the meantime, how about some inspiration for your own conversion project? Here’s just a sample of what I’ve found lately. If you stumble upon a great adaptive reuse project (whether it’s a barn, an old warehouse, a church), I hope you’ll share it here. I can’t seem to get enough.
Inhabitat: Beautiful Bank Barn Conversion (OK, a shameless plug for a Blackburn project)
I thought I’d share some photos of the ongoing renovation of the bank barn project in Ohio. The last time I wrote, the barn–which is being converted into a guest house–had just been relocated to a new position on the site in order to maximize views. (An important feature considering the extensive porch/decking that will outfit the rear of the barn.)
Recently, the crew installed SIPS panels on the roof and walls to insulate the barn without compromising the old barn’s interior. The exterior of the SIPS were then clad in reclaimed barn wood to give the exterior the same “old barn” feel as the interior while still providing the owner with the modern comforts expected in today’s homes. The original slate shingle was carefully removed and replaced with SIPS attached to the original roof boards. We never anticipated reusing all of the original slate, for fear that too much of it would break, but I’m happy to report that– in the end– no new slate was needed.
A lot of care has gone into maintaining and restoring the original character of the barn including the replication of the original rafter tails and the thin profile of the roof overhang. The four louver windows on the front and rear of the building were replicated as well as the large (soon-to-be-louvered) windows at both gabled ends. The louvers at the front and rear are hinged like an old fashion shutter, concealing the operable, double hung low-e windows. The large barn doors at the front can close across the entire window wall and entrance for maximum privacy or security.
The next phase will complete the interior work (including the grand fireplace that is a centerpiece of the large open living area) and construct the porch and decking at the rear of the barn.