Rustic charms roost in timber-framed homes that resemble barns. Rooted in American agrarian architecture, barn home designs have an expansive "cathedral" quality, says Kevin Durkin, president and founder of Heritage Restorations, based in Waco, Texas.
"Barn-style homes are popular for their large, open areas and classic farmhouse architectural style," Durkin says. "The beauty of the interior of a barn home is that it can be contemporary or rustic."
Cupolas, steep-pitched roofs, exposed timbers and expansive open interiors are some of the key architectural elements found in barn homes. Built using timber frame construction, barn homes are built strong with lengthy wood posts fashioned in a horizontal and vertical framework using wooden peg or mortise-and-tenon joinery techniques. This timber frame bears the entire weight of the structure, which makes load-bearing interior walls unnecessary and cathedral ceilings possible.
By contrast, most new home construction is "stick-built" using 2-by-4-inch or 2-by-6-inch boards. When nailed together, the boards make the studs, joists and rafters that distribute the weight load from the roof. This type of construction requires plaster or drywall to hide the inner workings of a home's studs, joists and load-bearing walls.
"From the 1700s, it used to be that every farm had a barn before American agriculture began becoming mechanized in the 19th century," Durkin says. "For 20 years, our company has been disassembling these old barns -- before they fall down -- and reassembling these old barns as someone's new home."
With other office sites in Connecticut and Montana, Heritage Restorations has rebuilt 340 barns into residences across the world. Other companies such as Barn Pros, based near Seattle; Yankee Barn Homes, in Grantham, New Hampshire; and Sand Creek Post & Beam in Wayne, Nebraska; also specialize in timber-frame construction, but use modern materials and have customized factory-built components, which eliminate the need to cut wood on the jobsite.
Durkin says his barn-building company believes in green building -- the construction of homes in a way that conserves natural resources and emphasizes energy efficiency. "Although these barn homes are expansive inside, they are really the 'anti-McMansion' in terms of sustainability," he says. "Not only are we reclaiming and repurposing these old barns, there's no replicating the patina of these old-growth, hand-hewn timbers."
Energy-efficient windows and the use of structural insulated panels (or SIPs) create a tight barn-building envelope. SIPs are a product that provides insulation, an interior finish and outside sheathing, while still allowing the timber framing to be admired from the inside.
The square-footage of a barn home doesn't have to be expansive and as "broad as a barn door" to be livable. Durkin says they've designed barn homes that range from 900 to 5,000 square feet, with an average size around 1,200 square feet.
"In its simplest form, a barn is a 'big box' that can be configured any number of ways to suit the homeowner," Durkin says. "Some people want a loft built for bedrooms and actual barn doors that open up to the outside." Construction costs average about $200 per square foot, but can be a barn-raising $400-plus per square foot, Durkin says.
A contemporary take on a barn home's classic "country" design has elements found in modern construction, including vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. Modern barn home designs should begin with solid craftsmanship, whether it requires repurposing an original barn or just bringing a bit of "old soul" using exposed wooden elements into a newly constructed home.
A modern barn-home style allows for the space to be both uncluttered and contemporary. Incorporating natural elements -- such as stone and wooden timbers -- into an airy atmosphere anchors the design and creates a warm and cozy feeling in the space.
Natural light is enhanced in the space with window treatments that are barely there, or just bare, so outdoor views are unobstructed. Large barn doors can lead to an outside deck, patio or porch for seamless entertaining.
In addition to a primary residence, a barn can be built for both work and play:
-- A barn home office can be a space that is both professional and productive, including an easy commute and large area to hold meetings.
-- A barn-style artist-in-residence studio can be a creative space flooded with natural light from windows, and expansive enough to work on large-scale artistic projects.
-- A guest barnhouse is a sweet suite for visiting friends and family, with enough space and privacy to accommodate loved ones.
-- A party barn is a social outbuilding for friends who are in for a good time.
"A barn really bespeaks of an age when people were tied to nature and made things by hand. When you are surrounded by a structure that harkens back to this time, it becomes easier to unplug and relax," Durkin says. "If people ask, 'Were you raised in a barn?' we like to take it as a compliment."
Farm Out for More Information:
-- Timber Framers Guild: TFGuild.org or 360-746-6571.
-- Heritage Restorations: HeritageBarns.com or 877-354-2276.
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)