A Barn Reborn
BEFORE: An old and uninspired barn; AFTER: A rustic-chic family retreat
Jenny Elia Pfeiffer
Thomas Schaer, principal of Seattle-based Shed Architecture + Design, and homeowner Megan
Griswold tell us about the transformation of an old barn from near-ruin to natural beauty.
Mountain Living: What inspired you to turn a barn into a family home?
Megan Griswold: The barn is on the property where my mother lives in a small cottage. It was built in the 1970s and was under-utilized because it had no insulation and few windows. My mother, sister and I saw its potential as a guest house and place for family events. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to recycle as much of the exterior wood as possible and maintain the natural simplicity of its gorgeous setting.
ML: Was it challenging to salvage the barn’s original materials?
Thomas Schaer: When you’re trying to use recycled materials, you must carefully remove them from their original setting. We couldn’t tear the cedar siding off the exterior of the barn; it had to be removed slowly by hand. As it turned out, we were able to salvage about one-third of the siding, which we used in the barn’s interior. Some people think that using salvaged materials is a less expensive way to go, but it’s often more expensive because it’s labor intensive to salvage, clean up, store and install them.
ML: None of the new cedar siding is sealed. Nor is the steel. How will this affect wear and tear?
TS: The owner wanted the structure to weather naturally. And it’s doing just that. There’s really no downside to not sealing exterior wood if it’s properly installed so it can expand and contract. For many people, rust on steel is appealing. And practically speaking, the rust forms a protective coating. This barn is weathering beautifully and will never look frozen in time but rather organic to the setting.
ML: The interior design is simple, natural and perfectly at home in the wooded surroundings. What are your decorating secrets?
MG: The goal was to not feel a psychological shift from exterior to interior. We had some furnishings built from simple materials, and others were recycled from my mother’s cottage. An old iron bed became a couch, and we used old farm implements as accessories. The farm table that’s surrounded by modern Panton chairs was in the family. Most of the furniture is covered with heavy cotton slipcovers, which are very durable and easy to wash. Everything in the house is made of wood, steel or concrete, and nothing competes with the views.
ML: The house has several special features. Tell us about your favorites.
TS: The custom-built Dutch doors allow the homeowners to open the top half like a window while keeping critters out. I also like the indented bowl we made in the concrete kitchen counter. It adds a touch of whimsy but is also functional.
MG: I love the way the window lines up above the tub in the guest bathroom. Visually, it’s so striking. And I love the texture of the walls, which are coated with plaster mixed with coffee grounds. They look like they’ve been there forever.
ARCHITECTURE SHED Architecture + Design, Seattle, WA, 206-320-8700, shedbuilt.com LIVING ROOM TABLE & BENCHES Custom design using marine-grade plywood by SHED, shedbuilt.com DUTCH DOORS Custom-made using steel angles and car decking by SHED, shedbuilt.com WALLS Reclaimed barn siding DINING CHAIRS Panton Chair, available through Design Within Reach, dwr.com BATHROOM FAUCETS Chicago Faucets, chicagofaucets.com SINKS Ceco enameled cast iron, cecosinks.com