13 Brilliant Barn Conversions That Merge Past and Present

Despite their humble origins, these modern converted barns are anything but ordinary.
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Here at Dwell, we geek out over adaptive reuse projects that reclaim old buildings and transform them into something that better suits the modern world. Not only are these projects often sustainable in their repurposing of buildings and various architectural and structural elements, but they also have a patina and history that makes them hugely evocative. Read on as we go through some of our favorite barn conversion projects.

A New England Farm Reborn as a Community Hub by ZeroEnergy Design

In Dover, Massachusetts, a former farm and barn complex is transformed into a local model of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, which provides more than 300 member families with locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables. The Powisset barn’s state-of-the-art learning kitchen hosts public classes on everything from jam-making to food security. Its aged floors and ceilings are packed with cellulose insulation. "We were motivated by the challenge of making energy-efficiency beautiful," says architect Stephanie Horowitz.

On the southern shore of Nova Scotia, near the port town of Lunenburg, architect Brian MacKay-Lyons and his wife Marilyn happened on the ruins of an abandoned fishing village that included a 19-century barn. The Troop barn was slated for demolition in the Annapolis Valley, but was relocated to Shobac, Nova Scotia for restoration. The post-and-beam structure boasts a 35-foot cathedral ceiling, and today is a rental venue and home to local design lectures, and the adjacent weathered steel building acts as a modern juxtaposition.

Wynants grew up sailing, and he created the piece to suggest "a moment of togetherness...the way one might gather at the back of the boat, to talk and drink." A side view of the house captures a glimpse of what he calls "the monolith."

This beautiful property located in West Flanders, Belgium has an impressively rich history. Built in 1839, the buildings were used as a fort, barn, watch point and jail house, while some brick and concrete bunkers on the property date back to WWI. Today, it serves as a guesthouse.

The Old Barn at Worton Farm is a marriage of old and new, incorporating an 18th-century barn which appears in the Domesday Book into the design of a new, two-story house. As with any project where existing and new structures are combined, there were a number of engineering challenges to be overcome in order to create a building which met modern-day requirements while being sympathetic to the building’s history.

Designers Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon kept many of the architectural details of the 300-year-old cow barn they turned into a second home, including its terra-cotta roof tiles. The primary structural change took place on the front facade, which they tore down and rebuilt, opening space for a traditional oeil-de-boeuf window. In addition to designing furniture, the couple also create interiors for select clients. Paired with a lime rendered staircase, a gray Moreau sofa by Pinch and vintage yellow side tables offer bright contrast to the living room’s limestone walls and timber frame. The couple laid some 20,000 pieces of reclaimed oak to create the floor’s herringbone pattern.

This adaptive reuse project called for the relocation and transformation an empty barn for contemporary art collectors and philanthropists Cindy and Howard Rachofsky. They were taken with the barn’s history and wanted to use the structure as an entertainment space and gym. Matthew Millman

In an area of rural Slovenia that is dotted by dilapidated farmhouses and barns, the Alpine Barn Apartment is an homage to these traditional structures, saving the original exterior of a vernacular barn and transforming it into a modern loft. The home’s rustic origins were not lost in the modern adaptation of the interior space. Raw wooden floors and walls pair well with minimal furniture of the same hue, towered over by the original rafters that span the high-ceilings. © Tomaz Gregoric

Comprised of farm buildings laid out in a cruciform plan with a courtyard in the middle, this converted barn with cathedral-like proportions brings the bucolic spirit of the English countryside to life. Originally the farm of a nearby estate, which fell victim to a fire in the 1950s, the abandoned barn was transformed into a contemporary home by David Nossiter Architects, complete with exposed brick walls and wood rafters, and a sleek, minimalist kitchen. The cruciform plan of the barn, in concert with its cathedral-like proportions, create a grand, evocative space.

Subverting the traditional, conservatively cozy British barn conversion, Carl Turner created a getaway in rural Norfolk for himself and his friends to visit, repose, and consider the beauty of agrarian minimalism. Turner reclaimed most of the timber used for the flooring as he renovated buildings in London. He thought his stockpile was big enough for the Ochre Barn, but the scale of the place defeated him. The solution, surprisingly, was eBay, turning up an old mill’s worth of boards.

The location for a new restaurant, Farmstead, was a barn on the ranch that had been used as a plant nursery. "It wasn't an incredibly old barn," Johanson says. "It was built around the 1970s, but it was built with a very agricultural look." To stay true to its form, EDG Interior Architecture and Design decided to leave as much of the structure intact as possible, playing up the post-and-beam system and revealing the shape of the roof on the interior.

Architect Preston Scott Cohen resurrected an early 1800s barn as a vacation home for a literary couple and their family, calling to mind both the agrarian spaciousness of the structure’s former life and the vernacular of its new function as a house. In keeping with the Goodmans' desire for just enough subdivision for rooms to sleep and work in, Cohen inserted a two-story volume into one of the barn frame's side aisles. An additional small mezzanine over the kitchen serves as a play area for the grandchildren.

Located in the eastern foothills of the cascades, this renovation converted a turn of the century working barn into a three-bedroom retreat from the city. The building was restored with the intention of creating a comfortable home while retaining much of its original form, character, and history. Siding, paneling, flooring, even fixtures and doors were sourced from either the original building or salvage yards. 


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