Barn Renovation Ideas: Converting A Barn To A Home

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The passion for renovating old barns has dramatically exploded in recent years. It’s not difficult to see why old barns are so desirable for living spaces. Barns with lofty volumes, high peaked timbers, and massive posts are the perfect choice for an addition to a house or a completely new repurposed living space with Americana history, mystery and charm.

Find The Right Barn

The most desirable barns will be those that have maintained the rough-hewn beams and posts of their 19th century origins. With a rich patina, through centuries of use, these historic barns provide a magnetic appeal that harkens back to our pioneer heritage. Decide what the project is going to be:

  • Will the barn structure be dismantled and moved to a new location?
  • Will the barn and surrounding property become the new family home?
  • Will the barn be re-sited on the new property for a better panoramic view and convenient access?

There are a considerable number of resources available for barn renovators. Look for architects and contractors who specialize in barn renovations. This is one specialty where experience counts! Experienced barn contractors and builders frequently have an extensive inventory of extra timbers and siding that is period specific for 19th century structures.

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Barn Renovation Interior Design Ideas

People are drawn to old barns because of the open and lofty spaces they offer, often dwarfing even the largest great rooms in conventional houses. Dividing the space to allow for the necessary rooms of a home becomes somewhat of a challenge. Consider what is needed in a typical modern home: kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, bedrooms, living room, recreation room, and more. Many barn renovation projects plan a great room at one end with a fireplace, bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, with kitchens and other common areas under the loft and staircase. The more successful layouts will allow about one third of the space for the great room or recreation room. Consider the option of using walls of glass to extend the open feeling of the first floor spaces. Add windows to the second story spaces that overlook the great room below.

Designing Office Space In A Renovated Barn

Barns provide an exciting opportunity for a large office. Whether the office will occupy one room, an entire wing, or a great room, you can let your imagination run wild. What would make the new space a dream office? Would the office space include a private working space for you, workstations for associates, private bathroom, conference room, and media viewing theater?

Anticipate any requirements for media connections, local area networks, Wi-Fi communications, intercom, audio systems, or video surveillance while the walls are open. It is a good idea to plan for future office growth at the planning stage also. Large areas of windows will make the office space seem larger and bring the outdoor vistas inside. Sliding barn doors can provide a dramatic separation between office and personal space within the barn, and keep with the rustic theme.

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Extended Living Space In Renovated Barns

Many barn renovators will choose to attach the barn to an existing house or structure to create a recreation room or a cathedral like family room with an impressive volume of space. Open timbers and exposed beams create a remarkable look by themselves, so your rooms can be as dramatic or laid back as you like. Design anything from an extra-large family room to a formal dining room or game room. Think about adding a floor to ceiling wall of windows to open up the space even more, if you plan to spend a lot of time in the barn and won’t want excessive artificial lighting. Hanging chandeliers at each end would provide dramatic interior lighting perfect for a shabby chic décor scheme, whereas basic overhead lighting would blend in to encourage the overall rural feel. Adding exterior lighting to illuminate the landscape would make the barn glow at night like a giant lantern. With this dramatically increased space, your family can now have room for additional activities all year round. Now you are free to plan family gatherings, reunions, special events and more.

Storing Your Car Collection In A Renovated Barn

For vintage car collectors, racecar mechanics, or car restorers, a barn can become the dream garage you have always wanted. Imagine having the additional space to create a showroom for your car collection, with dramatic lighting, and a turntable for the prize of your assemblage. Barns that offer high volumes of space can accommodate powered car lifts to increase the capacity of cars in the collection. Mechanics could now have the room to install a service area, showroom, and lounge areas. During the period when the walls are open, it would be an easy task to run compressed air lines, electrical, hot and cold water, and drain, waste and vent lines for a full service kitchen, bathroom with shower, parts washers, and air powered tools.

Renovating a barn is a great way to add living space to your home, design the perfect at-home office, or display your prized car collection. Incorporate the barn’s existing rustic style, or add large windows, modern detailing and contemporary style for an updated look.

Last Updated: March 6, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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