Barn Homes Combine Rustic Practicality and Comfort for Today’s Families
It wasn’t too long ago when barn conversions were left in the hands of restoration experts and renovation designers. While we all enjoy the sight of a barn as we drive down acres and acres of farm land, not too many of us have given much thought or entertained the idea of a barn as a living space. But much has changed since barn conversions first emerged on the scene.
Today, barn style homes have become part of the mainstream architectural landscape. Whether it’s an old building that has been repurposed or a completely new structure, the demand for barn conversions is on the rise across the country.
Why the Rekindled Interest?
As more people looked toward building a vacation home, a guest cottage within their property, or a quiet countryside retreat to get away from the stress and demands of city life, old barns with their charming and simple rustic exterior became inviting – and more economical options. After all, barns have been used as both homes for families and stables for farm animals.
So, why not repurpose an existing structure – that provides design and style possibilities suited to their location and lifestyles? Now architects and designers are stepping up to provide potential homeowners with blueprints that work for their families and their specific lifestyles.
Top: This intriguing 2-story barn style home with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths provides the rustic agricultural-inspired look with a difference: a lighthouse-inspired staircase, giving the home a coastal vibe as well. Bottom: Inside the barn style home is a foyer that leads to an open floor plan. Both the side and rear porches can be accessed from the Great Room. On the main floor is a utility room and a powder room. Go up the stairs for the master suite and master bathroom. Two bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom (Plan #116-1073).
In his book An Age of Barns, Eric Sloane, an American painter known for his landscapes and an author of illustrated works about cultural history, described barns as “the palaces of America” – harking back to Colonial times when farmers were kings of the land and homestead and built barns of all shapes, sizes, and styles.
But as new generations of farming families headed to the cities, they left these symbols of America’s past abandoned, empty, and sometimes in disrepair. Modern times bring different perspectives, however, and by the 1970s, barns – with their charm and huge open interior spaces – were back on the map.
Barn style homes can be one-story or two-story structures that provide all of the elements of space, comfort, warmth, and modern amenities for the family. Whether it’s one level or two levels, there are a variety of options for expansion – including basements and lofts.
Along with their very familiar exteriors and high ceilings, here are some features of barn style homes that make them so attractive:
1. Gambrel roof – specifically designed for barns – is a symmetrical two-sided roof with two different slopes that maximizes the space inside the barn home’s upper level, providing more room for the loft.
Top: Would you consider living in this barn style home? This attractive 2-story design - with space large enough for boat storage, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a 3-car garage - gives living over a garage a different look. Middle: The upper level has all the living, cooking, and dining spaces – plus the office and deck areas. Bottom: The main floor features the garage/shop area, storage space, a utility room, and storage room for a boat. Covered porches are located on both sides of the home (Plan #132-1694).
2. Gables provide variety to the roofline and exterior of barn homes.
3. Barn style doors and windows that open to the great natural landscape and allow a light into the space
4. Exposed wood/timber beams that focus attention on the high ceilings
5. Expansive open floor plans for that airy and breezy feel
6. Shiplap – either in the interiors or as siding
7. Wraparound or extended porches for relaxing moments – or for the enjoyment of outdoor meals
8. Lofts that were once used for hay storage have been redesigned as sleeping quarters, play areas or home offices.
Barn homes can also be customized to include features such as breakfast nooks and laundry/mudrooms. And most importantly, the interiors can be reconfigured in any style that works for the family and its needs. It’s not surprising to find homes that have farmhouse, country, Craftsman, rustic, and contemporary elements and accents.
Top: This 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath home with Farmhouse influences also has the look of a converted barn. It features perpendicular gables on the roofline both for additional charm and functionality – because these roofs easily shed water, snow, and debris. Bottom: Walk to the rear porch and enjoy the serene natural surroundings in the backyard. There are lots of large glass-paned windows that provide an abundance of light and great views (Plan #168-1129).
The Many Faces of Barn Style Homes
With the converted barn home revival slowly but steadily etching itself into the consciousness of Americans, enthusiasts and preservationists are on a quest to unearth original and/or historic structures to renovate. A number of these aficionados have even transported their remarkable discoveries to their properties to rebuild and design them into wonderful residences, vacation retreats, in-law or guest suites, and multi-purpose spaces that include living quarters and home offices.
If you’re ready to hop on the bandwagon, let’s take a look at some of these classic barns that continue to line the countryside – or, even city areas.
Color it red. These barn conversions are the easiest to identify because homeowners retain the original look and shape of the barn – complete with the gable roof and conventional red paint around the exterior.
As in most barn conversions, the interior space can designed according to the specifications, aesthetics, and sensibility of the owner.
Top: Anyone can recognize this barn home from anywhere on the road or the neighborhood. The home is designed to retain the traditional recognizable barn shape and its signature red color. Of the total 3,099 sq. ft., 741 sq. ft. are devoted to the living space that includes a bedroom, full bath, eat-in kitchen, and living room. Bottom: The floor plan illustrates an open floor plan for the living quarters and – opposite – tack room, stalls, and storage. The second floor above the drive-through tractor/vehicle storage is devoted to a hay loft (Plan #141-1300).
Gambrel-Roof Barn Style
It’s time to let go of the image of a gambrel barn as a building for stables, horses, farm animals and storage for hay, feed and crops.
Today, a gambrel barn with its gambrel roof is one of the most versatile, upscale, eye-catching and fashionable of the barn home styles. No longer just a design for barns, the gambrel roof is also featured in Dutch Colonial and modern contemporary homes. For sheer roominess and flexible options, there’s nothing like a gambrel-roof barn home. Just think of all the state-of-the-art and spectacular features that homeowners can have in that expansive structure: gorgeous kitchens, bathrooms, master suites, vaulted high ceilings with trimmed wood, large windows and rustic sliding barn doors, mudrooms, walk-in pantries, and other amenities.
You can even expect that original hay loft to be rebuilt into a family room, an entertainment center/game room – or anything else that fits into a family’s lifestyle and preference.
Top: This delightful two-story gambrel-roofed barn style home with 4 bedrooms and 3 baths packs a lot of amazing exterior and interior features within 2,875 sq. ft. of space. Let’s start with the rock-stone facade with vinyl and wood siding, the asphalt shingles on the roof, and the covered front porch anchored by a pair of stone pedestals with white columns. Middle: Inside the home is an open floor concept with a main-level master suite featuring a good-sized bathroom with double sink vanities, a tub, shower, linen closet and walk-in closet. The spacious Great Room (living/dining areas and a kitchen) includes a wood-burning stove and a kitchen with an eat-in island and a walk-in pantry. There is an additional full bathroom, a mudroom and a utility room as well. Bottom: On the second floor are three more bedrooms, a full bathroom, linen closet, study, and an unfinished attic space that offers a lot of conversion options (Plan #132-1656).
Pole Barn Homes
If you can live comfortably and luxuriously in a gambrel-roof barn home, then you can certainly consider a pole barn home, which is just as versatile as the gambrel type.
What exactly is a pole barn home? As defined by building professionals, this is a structure that uses post-frame construction, where wood posts are the main vertical framing element. These posts are driven into the ground 4 to 6 feet deep to provide support.
Instead of walls supporting the roof as in traditional stud-wall homes, it’s the poles or posts that support the roof. This means that there are no load-bearing walls – making an open floor concept easy to implement and design ideas for the interior offer fascinating and “sky’s-the-limit” possibilities. You can go from a country feel to the rustic, cozy and warm, sleek and modern – and keep adding personal touches and accents to that canvas.
Ever imagine living in a pole barn home like this? The home is converted from a farmer's market building and retains all of the appearance design qualities of a barn in a traditional pole building (photo credit: Farmer's Market Building by Bkell947 under license CC BY-SA 3.0).
While pole barn homes may not be an established style choice for a majority of people, there are several benefits to consider:
Less expensive and quicker to build than conventional wood frame homes because there are no foundation costs – which can run 10-15 percent of overall costs
Safer and more resilient – They are built to last and can withstand both heavy snowfalls and powerful winds.
Wide open interior spaces that can be easily adapted to the design choices and needs of the owner
Energy-efficient because post-frames are easier to insulate and have fewer thermal breaks compared with more-traditional wood-frame or steel-frame buildings
So, can you – and would you – live in a pole barn home?
Barn Style Homes with Log/Timbered Accents
What about a barn-to-home-conversion in a log cabin/mountain home style? After all, the first barns built in this country originated from the English colonists who used timber-frame construction for their simple, open structures.
With timber framing, you can design a bucolic cabin in the mountains or a very modern architectural show-stopper. You can use log or timber not only for the exterior facade and siding, but throughout the entire house – especially exposed timber beams for a vaulted ceiling, stairs and railings, and cabinetry.
Top: This barn-inspired cabin cannot be lovelier! The charming 2-story, 2-bedroom, 2-bath vacation style home has 2033 sq. ft. of living space and features 2x6 exterior wall framing and wood siding, a wrap-around porch, and high-ceiling entry. Bottom: The vaulted-ceiling home provides this wonderful open loft space that is used as an extra bedroom – ideal for overnight or weekend guests. Take a look and the wood floors, posts, railings, and cabinetry (Plan #196-1013).
Whatever your style is, a barn home plan allows a variety of surprising designs that may just suit your fancy and budget. So, are you ready to live in a barn?