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An Inspirational Barn Rescue

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Saving Grace: Reconstruction Rescues a Michigan Barn

 

Working-farm rustic goes stylishly modern, thanks to the loving reinvention efforts of a determined homeowner

Written by Bud Dietrich, AIA and Houzz Contributor

One of the first pieces I wrote for Houzz had to do with my love of barns. Barns are just wonderful structures. A renovated barn is old and full of character, simple and large in its form. It's capable of containing a range of spaces, and it's handmade and industrial -- as well as an antique that has had new life breathed into it.

So when I stumbled across Northworks' Michigan barn project, I instantly wanted to learn more. What I found out is that the owner's history with the property meant this barn had to be saved. It would have been less work and less costly to tear down the existing building, but we are all the better because the owner stuck it out to create something entirely new from something old and dilapidated.

The renovated barn is all white and new. White is a terrific color for this barn, as it sets the structure off against the green of the landscape and the blue of the sky.


Working barns need large openings to get animals and equipment into the barn. For renovated barns the openings are how the interior stays light and bright. Sliding barn doors, iconic features of such a structure, increase the visual size of the opening to respond to the scale of the barn's broad side.

And what's a barn without its stone foundation and base? This permanent and massive stone base provides just the right counternote to the seemingly transient wood frame structure above it.

Farmhouse Exterior by Northworks Architects and Planners

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The opposite broad side has another barn-door-size opening. Both openings are filled with steel-framed glass walls that visually fade away, letting the openings read as large rectangular voids in the larger solid rectangles of the barn's walls.

Farmhouse Exterior by Northworks Architects and Planners

Northworks Architects and Planners

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The barn's original silo was kept as a vestige of the structure's original purpose as part of a working farm. In this way the silo continues to connect the owners and others to the memory of the place.

Farmhouse Patio by Northworks Architects and Planners

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The deck along the side reminds us that this is a home for people now. This is now a place to warm oneself on a sunny Michigan day.

Rustic Living Room by Northworks Architects and Planners

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The renovated interior contains the original barn structure within rebuilt exterior walls. Given the scale and rhythm of this structure, it was smart to have the living area at one end of the barn, a two-story kitchen with bedrooms above at the other end and a large, two-story space in the middle.

Farmhouse Dining Room by Northworks Architects and Planners

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This two-story space in the center of the house is where the dining takes place. Oversize glass walls at both ends of this space keeps the interior bright and airy and connected to the outdoors.

Rustic Kitchen by Northworks Architects and Planners

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A simple kitchen below and loft space above anchor the opposite end of the interior.

In the kitchen, which is open to the interior, stainless steel finishes dominate. The slick, modern and shiny stainless provides a nice relief to all of the stained wood.

Farmhouse Family Room by Northworks Architects and Planners

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The loft is a nice perch from which to gaze out as one reads a book or takes a nap. And from this vantage point, the large openings in the barn's sides yield views to the exterior.

Farmhouse Pool by Northworks Architects and Planners

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Last, but not least, is this lap pool in the lower-level basement, used by the owner every day. The pool area was created by completely rebuilding the foundation of the barn, which was no small feat.

Before Photo

Contemporary by Northworks Architects and Planners

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Glimpses of the Work in Progress

In fact, the barn had to be temporarily supported and raised to construct the new foundation and lower level. While this kind of effort put into saving an old building is common in Europe, it's really rare in the U.S. The architect, Austin DePree of Northworks Architects and Planners, says that keeping the structure intact while lifting it and building the new foundation was the most challenging part of the project.

Before Photo

Contemporary by Northworks Architects and Planners

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The new foundation walls are reinforced concrete covered in stone. With this new foundation in place, work on the actual wooden barn structure started. First the wood siding was removed and saved for reuse.

Before Photo

Contemporary by Northworks Architects and Planners

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Removing the siding had to be done carefully to ensure that the barn didn't collapse. Temporary supports and bracing were installed to keep the structure from falling down into a pile of sticks.

Before Photo

Traditional by Northworks Architects and Planners

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Here's what the barn looked like right before the renovations started. While there are many who would have thought the structure was beyond repair, thankfully the owner and her team weren't among them.

 

 

 

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