A Barn Fixer-Upper in Ketchum, Idaho

There are fixer uppers, and then there are Fixer Uppers. An unkempt property with a rundown cabin and decrepit barn in the ski resort town of Ketchum, Idaho, wasn’t anyone’s idea of a dream home, but interior designer Jennifer Hoey Smith and her husband Cory saw potential in the shabby junkyard aesthetic of the distressed buildings. “The site was close to the river on a nice residential street in town, and it included a barn, historic cabin, smokehouse, shed and chicken coop,” Smith says.

Still, taking the financial plunge to purchase the property dictated a tiny budget for renovations—and the couple also happened to be expecting a baby. “When Cory said he’d tackle the majority of the work, I thought, ‘If he’s willing, let’s do it!’” says Smith. “Then we got resourceful.”

The barn before:

The couple decided to begin by expanding the 400-square-foot barn after making a fortuitous visit to a building supply thrift store in nearby Hailey. There they scored five Pella windows for a rock-bottom price. Smith drew up plans for a modest addition that utilized all the windows, increasing the living space to 700 square feet, including two new bedrooms and a bathroom. With energy efficiency in mind, Smith specified structural insulated panels (prefabricated building panels with superior thermal performance, also known as SIPs) for the new construction.

The barn’s unsightly exterior had to go, but expensive siding was out of the question. “Cory had noticed some rundown barns near Fairfield, Idaho, and said, ‘What if I go knock on some doors and see if we can buy someone’s unwanted relic?’” Smith recalls. “After successfully negotiating to take down a barn, he carefully dismantled the vintage fir boards and sealed them with natural linseed oil. We got our siding for about $800.”

Meanwhile, Smith went to work designing the interior space. “I wanted to create a modern barn feel, playing off the juxtaposition of old and new,” she explains. The original tongue-and-groove ceilings and new drywall were painted bright white to make the space feel larger. A custom sectional maximizes seating space in the main gathering room, with an adjacent dining area pairing transparent polycarbonate chairs with an antique trestle table. In the kitchen, Smith combined reclaimed fir floors with modern stainless-steel appliances and crisp white Ikea cabinets fitted with oil-rubbed bronze hardware from Restoration Hardware. The couple returned to the building supply thrift store and found a steal on a remnant of new 100-percent wool carpeting.

They also installed a new roof, energy-efficient appliances and a tankless water heater. “Our building process was very green, and we saved a ton of money along the way,” Smith says. “Someday we’ll tackle the main house and this cottage will become a guest house, but we’re not in any hurry to move. Because of the sweat equity we invested and the creative solutions we employed to meet our budget requirements, this home means a lot more to us and our family.” The Fixer Upper, it seems, had potential after all; it just needed the right family to recognize its well-hidden charm.


“We consciously tried to make green building decisions,” says Smith. “It helped our budget initially, and we’ll also save money over time in reduced energy bills.” Here, she offers helpful tips for creating an eco-friendly design for less:

SHOPPING  Building supply thrift stores, such as those operated by charities like Habitat for Humanity, can be gold mines for perfectly usable used or remnant materials at deeply discounted prices.
APPLIANCES  ENERGY STAR-rated appliances help reduce future energy expenses and are often no more expensive than standard models.
EFFICIENCY  Structural insulated panels (SIPS) are energy efficient because of their airtight, insulated core and can reduce construction labor costs because they are prefabricated at the factory.
design Simple design lends itself to do-it-yourself construction, like the open kitchen shelving Cory Smith built and installed.
WATER  A tankless water heater provides on-demand hot water, takes up less space and uses less energy than a conventional water heater.
REPURPOSE  Be creative about repurposing materials. When the Smiths needed exterior siding, Cory knocked on doors and offered to demolish old barns until he found a taker. The fir hardwood flooring is also reclaimed wood.


INTERIOR DESIGN Jennifer Hoey Smith, ASID, Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, Ketchum, ID, 208-726-1561, jenniferhoey.com MASTER BEDROOM CUSTOM BOLSTER PILLOWS by Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, upholstered in “Silk & Sexy” fabric by Great Plains, A Holly Hunt Collection, hollyhunt.com DUVET John Robshaw Textiles, johnrobshaw.com SILK QUILT Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com SCONCES Swing Arm Sconces by Robert Abbey, robertabbey.biz KITCHEN CABINETRY Ikea, ikea.com CABINETRY HARDWARE Deluth Pull and Knob by Restoration Hardware, restorationhardware.com COUNTERTOPS Calcutta Marble Slab APPLIANCES KitchenAid, kitchenaid.com; GE, geappliances.com; Bosch, bosch-home.com BACKSPLASH TILE “Glace” by Ann Sacks, annsacks.com BATHROOM VANITY MIRRORS Vintage find COUNTERTOP Beauharnais Limestone Slab PENDANTS “Meridian Pendant Lamp” by Sundance, sundancecatalog.com WALLCOVERING (In mirror reflection) “Pillemont Toile” by Sanderson, sanderson-uk.com LIVING ROOM ART Painting by Sjer Jacobs, Gallery DeNovo, gallerydenovo.com PILLOWS Custom design by Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, fabric by Victoria Hagan, victoriahaganhome.com SECTIONAL Custom design by Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, upholstered in “Liffey Chocolate” by Sanderson, sanderson-uk.com DINING TABLE French antique DINING CHAIRS “Louis Ghost” by Philippe Starck for Kartell, kartell.it KIDS TABLE & CHAIRS “Softy Table & Chairs” by Paul Frank, shop.paulfrank.com EXTERIOR SIDING Reclaimed fir from old barn in Fairfield, ID

Categories: Cabins