Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Style Guide: Berkshires Barn Conversion

Careful renovations revive a late-18th-century farm building in western Massachusetts.

When architects Andrus Burr and Ann McCallum were called in by fellow architect Nicholas Ohly to complete the renovation of this converted New England barn, the team took great pains to retain its inherent warmth and loftiness.

The historic structure was first dismantled and cleaned, then clad in cedar clapboard, given a shingle roof, and finally repositioned near its original site, facing majestic Mount Greylock. A breezeway was added to connect the original barn with a newly constructed guesthouse.

Dividing walls--finished from vintage timbers and beaded board--were added to partition the spacious interior into three bays of nearly equal size. Multipaned windows clustered throughout the barn infuse interiors with light, air, and views.

As you tour the renovated barn, notice how the architects were able to create comfortable living quarters--each warm, intimate, and inviting, despite the open space and lofty heights of the structure itself.

Living Room

In the living room, a bank of awning windows and two sets of single-pane doors occupy a wall originally fitted with an oversized barn door. Since privacy isn't a concern, the single length of fabric swagged along the top of double doors and draped at either side is a decorative accent. It unites the room's color theme and provides a sense of normal ceiling height in the otherwise open air space.

The simple country cocktail table, plush roll arm sofa, and mismatched arm chairs--one fully upholstered, the other carved with French detailing--reflect the homeowner's preference for eclectic style. The fabrics and painted surfaces draw from a deep, rich color palette of rust and earthy greens. An oriental rug anchors the living room arrangement and offers a beautiful complement to the tongue-and-groove cherry floorboards, removed and re-installed from a local mill.

Dining Room

The dining room offers the same window configuration and drapery treatment as the living room, taking full advantage of the Berkshire mountain views and the abundance of natural light. Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, is visible most days in the distance.

Victorian oak side chairs purchased in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, surround a Shaker-style dining table. The table, bathed in glorious early morning light, is set for a casual breakfast with green enamelware place settings, decorative ceramic pitchers, and a country tin filled with fresh cut flowers.

Dining Room, Another View

From this view of the dining room, the lofty interior of the original barn structure is clearly visible. Chestnut framing and a dividing wall separate the dining room from the kitchen and adjacent family room. You can see how the minimal yet distinctive use of color, such as the painted dividing wall in gray/green and wainscoting trim in rust and green, highlights the earthy patina of the old timbers.

In the corner of the dining room, sculptures of an angler and his attentive companion, by New York artist Kay Ritter, not only add to the visual interest of the space but provide a unique conversation piece for dinner guests and visitors.

Wall Display

As any collector will attest, finding the proper showcase -- especially for a large collection of smaller items -- can pose special problems. Here a 1906 wall rack, originally used by a Kansas City barber for displaying his client's personal shaving mugs, offers the perfect solution. Positioned between two original barn timbers, the wall rack now showcases the homeowner's unusually large collection of new and old teacups with matching saucers.

A smaller collection of wood carved decoys fits comfortably in the space above the wall rack and below the cross beam timber. Tucked under the display is a sturdy trestle table made from rough hewn timbers. For those raised in the computer era, the item on the work table may be hard to recognize . . . it is a Corona typewriter from the early 20th century.


This freestanding wall unit/divider separates the family room from the kitchen and offers a practical solution for breakfast on the run and after-school snacking. In addition to the added storage offered by the three double-door base cabinets, the hollow side supports of the custom-made divider camouflage much of the kitchen's plumbing and electrical wiring.

A series of commemorative plates frame the open pass-through, revealing three mullioned kitchen windows, wall-mounted wood panel cabinets, and a suspended assortment of pots and pans. The unusual wood folding chairs are from the early 20th century and were originally used by line judges at tennis matches.


The master bedroom occupies the space once claimed by the hayloft and is accessible from the main floor via a sleek steel staircase and bridge, shown here. In addition to awning windows that illuminate the stairwell, a single mullioned window, top right, provides additional light from--and views into--the main barn interior. The two other mismatched window frames on the exterior bedroom wall are actually mirrors.

The bedroom itself is flooded with light from windows at the far end. The interior structure was left in its natural state with hand-hewn timber supports and cross beams, plank ceilings, and clapboard walls unchanged. A table desk with graceful cabriole legs is beautifully silhouetted against the brilliant light of day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like this house!!! Could you post a floor plan?