The Versatile Barn Idea

By Dan Gregory

Vintage barn deftly adapted as an elegant home by Northworks Architects.

I recently attended a wedding in a restored hay barn. The spare interior consisted of a long, central, nave-like space flanked by side aisles where the feeding troughs would have been. It was a very moving event and demonstrated the form’s versatility, not to mention the barn’s use throughout history for both secular and sacred purposes.

The barn form is said to derive from the Roman basilica or law court (although it isn’t exactly clear which came first, barn or basilica). The building type that originally served Romans as a public, commercial, or governmental meeting place then became a popular church plan, with its strong central axis and simple gable roof.

Such forms are perfect starting points for anyone dreaming about a new home, whether as an adaptive reuse project, like one by Northworks Architects & Planners, or as a a ground-up custom home. In the case of the vintage barn, the warmth of the restored wood and the new tall window wall accentuating the soaring interior make this a very compelling living space (photo courtesy Northworks Architects and Planners).

Ranch house designer and popularizer Cliff May once said “You never see a bad barn. But you see all kinds of ugly houses; that’s because they’re built without considering function. A barn is made to spend not a nickel more than you need to house the horse or the cow or the feed.” The point is that a barn’s simple outline and straightforward yet noble spaces provide a remarkable springboard for the imagination. And they always have.



Originally Published in Eye On Design

08/05/2013