Barn homes have a vibe that is indescribably down-home comforting. They speak of simpler times when our ancestors labored with their hands to provide food and care for their families. So it makes sense that you’d want to live in one, right?
You’ll get all the comforts of home with high ceilings, open spaces and the many benefits of living in the building. Because when you’re converting one of these into your dream home, you’re starting from scratch.
When looking at barn-style homes, they have many factors that are distinctive architectural features. It can be true refurbished building or a modern version designed to look like they once were the real thing. In any case, not every home will have all of these barn-inspired elements but each one will have a few.
Post-and-beam and timber-frame construction
These two styles of framing are slightly different, however, both are found in barn homes. In both cases, unlike conventionally framed homes, the construction is exposed as a design feature. The difference comes in the kind of timbers in the beam construction.
In timber-frame construction, the wood lengths are flat on each side while those in post-and-beam homes are only flat on the side connected to the framing or joints.
Timber-frame homes have visible timbers on the inside but post-and-beam homes feature the heavy timbers on the exterior. In both cases, the timbers are joined in a special way.
A gabled roof is one of the more common silhouettes. It is essentially a triangle built on top of a rectangle. The steep angles were the norm among older buildings, but are still often found in today’s modern barn home.
A gambrel or gambrel roof generally has two sides, each with a different slope. This is sometimes called a Dutch roof. The upper sloped section has a shallow angle, but the lower section has a steeper slope. This type is considered most iconic among barn homes, especially in rural parts of the United States.
The cladding on most barn homes is vertical planks, most often board-and-batten or shiplap. The vertical kind is preferable over horizontal siding because it helps keep water from seeping in, allowing it to run straight down. Board-and-batten cladding is available in smooth and woodgrain finishes. This type has narrow strips of wood covering the joint of each pair of boards. On the other hand, shiplap is wood planks that have grooves, allowing the boards to be installed with tight joints that are flush.
Many barn homes have a decorative little done on top, called a cupola. These were originally for releasing heat from the upper area of the building. In today’s homes, they are merely decorative. The cupola can feature a range of different building materials, such as copper or wood or even glass.
Sliding doors are commonly found in residential construction these days, particularly in the modern farmhouse style. They actually originated as an alternative to swinging doors, which are heavy, putting a lot of stress on the upper joints. Sliding types are easier to handle and are made of wood panels hanging on metal rails.
Open Plan Space
Most barns are one big open living space, so these homes tend to have a large, open-plan living area on the main floor. These modern versions embrace the history and spirit of a traditional type and have loft-like second-floor areas.
Whereas old ones typically have no windows, modern barn-style homes often replace walls – or large sections of a wall – with massive ones.
Beautiful Barn Homes To Inspire From
Light-filled Napa Valley retreat
Nestled in the wilds of rural Napa, California wine country, this home sits on the existing footprint of a 1950s ranch. Faulkner Architects designed the 3,900-square-foot home, inspired by a horse barn that was renovated into a bunk building. The two-story home features an asymmetrical gabled roof.
Unlike traditional barn homes, this one has a fireplace and chimney, which is displaced from the structure with glazed joints. The upper areas of the main space have no windows and are reminiscent of a basic traditional one. The southeast gable end has a big vertical wood shutter that can open to let the breeze through the home. A steel bridge connects the upper sleeping level with the hillside.
Russian organic barn style home
Blending with the landscape, this rustic home in Russia blends traditional elements with innovative construction technologies. Nefa Architects designed this home with lots of reclaimed and historic building materials.
Located in Trubacheyevka, Russia, the 180-square-meter residence aims to blend in, not stand out. The exterior pays homage to the old Muscovite country village style, clad in century-old wood planks from northern Russia. At the same time, the construction technology is totally modern, using innovative developments like a roof membrane system for insulation and moisture management. Inside, terrazzo marble floors were installed along with a fireplace constructed from 150-year-old chamotte – also called firesand — bricks that were upcycled.
Sustainable Salvaged Barn Home in New York
Fox Hall Barn Home in upstate New York is actually a 19th-century structure that was salvaged and moved to a new site. Located in the town of Ancram, it uses passive principles and includes a photovoltaic array in the roof that powers the buildings on the property. The BarlisWedlick firm designed it to have a green-roofed garage with an energy monitoring system.
Small windows painted red contrast the black cladding. Inside, the open space main level has a loft with a fireman’s pole that leads to a studio apartment.
The site includes a 3-story 787 sq. ft. tower with a sauna, a cabin-style home and the state’s first natural swimming pool that uses gardens to handle all the filtration.
Everything You Should Know About Barn Homes
Barn living has been around for a long time. Back in early times, people were using a barn structure as a home and a stable at the same time. During the medieval period, barns began to evolve into purely storage-related buildings, whether for animals or crops. They were simple to build as a custom structure for family life.
In America, farmers took to the Low German House for inspiration, building the barns that we know and love today. Then, in the late 2oth century, it became popular to convert classic barns into homes. There are now many beautiful examples of converted barns that whisper of our past and nod to the future.
Exterior of the barn house
The easiest barn conversion projects are the ones when the barn is well built and sturdy. You can leave the classic barn shape intact while you insulate and weatherproof the outside. It saves on materials and gives you the most farmhouse-looking barn you could hope for.
Even if your barn is falling apart, that doesn’t make your case hopeless. Use scrap pieces as materials to create the new structure. When it’s built, paint it red for the classic look.
The one flaw of most barns is the lack of windows so as you make barn house plans, think about where you can strategically add them. It’s basically a big rectangle, so just think about what pattern looks best on the outside and how that relates to your interior plan.
If you want to maintain a large open living space, a large window is a better option than a small one. It maximizes the natural light and eliminates any dark corners by the ceiling.
Some people who convert barns prioritize maintaining all historical value. Rather than ditching those barn doors, consider using them to create sliding shutters over a window. It will be the crowning glory of your house.
A barn doesn’t have a porch so you may want to think about adding one. An easy option is to use one end of the barn foundation for your porch. If you prefer an open patio, pavers make a pretty space.
Don’t forget the garage! Barn houses are excellent places to add a garage. Just choose a corner to put your garage door or even build onto the original barn for a large rustic-looking space to park the car.
For drama, include the silo in your floor plan. Make the silo into an office or library or breakfast nook.
Barns come in many different shapes and sizes so don’t be afraid to work with what you have. A ranch style barn like the one above can make a great one-level home or if you have more vertical space, create multiple floors.
Barns don’t have to look like a barn to be one. While you’re converting a barn to a home, feel free to make it as modern as you like. Simple lines and rustic textures are perfect for a modern Scandinavian-style home.
Interior barn living space
Barn houses are known for their open floor plans and large living areas. If you want to maintain a perfect example of that barn feel for the interior, keep the classic barn supports.
If you want to live in a rustic home, a true converted barn is the way to go. Keep all that historic glamour by using the original barn supports as design elements. Whether they actually support or just look pretty, that raw rough wood will set the tone for the rest of it.
High ceilings are a quality feature in old homes. Even if your converted barn is new, you can get the same effect by leaving the ceiling open in the living area. Open rafters make a room seem rustic while a smooth ceiling keeps eyes down on the home around you. This is a perfect example of that.
All the vertical space a barn home provides makes it one of the easiest places to add a second story. If you do, leave some open to the room below. It will keep the feeling of open living while creating a more private area for the family.
Let’s talk windows. Your barn will most likely need a few more to make it feel like a home. Don’t be afraid to go for a few odd shapes. These provide a unique style to your barn and add a modern element to an otherwise rustic abode.
Need another place to put a window in your barn house? Just look up. Skylights can be a great option for a room where walls doesn’t allow for sufficient windows.
Lucky for you, shiplap is still the “in” material for rustic charm. Feel free to go crazy with it. Its clean lines will usher you into homemaking in your converted building.
Just as the exterior doesn’t have to be rustic, neither does the interior. Decorating with neutrals, seeking clean lines and smooth wood finishes can make your barn home into a quality, modern paradise for you and your family.
Beautiful barn home renovation ideas
There are many variations of barn-style homes that add all sorts of cool and interesting features. Check out these examples of a barn home project that has been customized to become the dream home that people seek
A modern barn house in New York
The exterior walls of this home have a fairly typical aesthetic, clad in salvaged wood with a dark color palette. On the inside, it’s a very stylish, minimal and bright with strong contemporary influences. The crisp white walls and ceilings set a nice backdrop for the dark wood furniture, the sophisticated light fixtures and the splashes of color.
An old barn turned into a stylish retreat in Washington
This charming retreat is in a beautiful area at the foothills of the Cascades mountains, in the Pacific Northwest. MW|Works Architecture + Design renovated the old turn-of-the-century for homeowners seeking a modern and inviting holiday dream home.
The 3,875 square foot barn became a beautiful 3-bedroom home on a site with magnificent views of the mountains. The exterior design has simple and raw materials maintaining its authenticity and original retro vibe. For the interior, a selection of warm and natural materials has a strong emphasis on wood. They include several unique quality features such as a wall unit from repurposed old crates or a staircase with metal railings.
A multipurpose barn home in Washington
Instead of completely and transforming this old building into a unique modern home, Studio SkB Architects made this a multi-purpose structure. It functions as a home but also as a working barn for a commercial fruit orchard and event venue in the Pacific Northwest.
The initial plan was for a traditional red metal barn that would store tractors and equipment. Instead, the architects created a more inviting aesthetic with a lowered roofline and big windows and sliding doors. The main level has a big entertainment area with a large kitchen and a big storage area for orchard equipment. The living quarters are upstairs. The basement level contains a wine cellar.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What is a barn house?
Barn homes can be one that is transformed into a home or one built to look like it was a barn.
What is a pole barn house?
A pole barn house uses post frame construction and a pole barn home can be cheaper to build than traditional types of homes. The pole barn method drives posts into the ground at the site or secures them above ground. These poles help the roof stay standing, compared to a traditional building where the walls support the roof. A pole barn can be converted into a home, or you can build a new pole barn home.
How much do barn home kits cost?
Barn home kits can be a great starting point for these types of projects. Generally, barn home kits will start with a cost around $75,000 for the basics. That said, the ultimate cost will depend on the size of the home, the quality of materials used, the region where it is being built and the local building codes. You can also explore a pole barn kit.
If your dream home has open-plan living spaces, a barn home may be just the type for you. Modern examples with minimalist flair or rustic transformations that preserve history — they’re all options for your next home! Whether you choose a real one or a home based on a pole barn, rest easy knowing that you’ll have stylishness, comfort and a unique place to call home.