Before & After: Red Barn Renovation

Before & After: Red Barn Renovation

Johnny Williams
Oct 15, 2010

Oh, what change a year can bring! Last October, our barn was barren and bleak. Built in '44 as a hen house, the old outbuilding lacked lighting, heating and insulation. Needless to say, any egg-laying occupants flew the coop long ago — today, the two-story space is a workshop and gallery, warm and well-lit. Come take a beak, I mean peak, inside!

The dream of converting our barn into a workspace commenced long before the renovation. For months, I visited woodworkers in their workshops, sketched floor layouts, highlighted carpentry books and delved into design blogs. But it's tough to dream big on a tight budget. Guided by our contractor and a local architect, we honed in on a set of drawings that satisfied our inner dreamers…and our inner penny pinchers too.

In the dead of winter, after months of planning, hiring and cleaning, construction finally kicked off. Immediately, the team set to work reinforcing the sagging ceiling with beefy new beams and a pair of steel columns. Before the interior walls, insulation and electrical wiring were installed, I applied a couple coats of masonry sealant to the existing cinder block. Meanwhile, our builders installed a new staircase, windows and plywood subfloor — the space was beginning to take shape!

Next up, we insulated the walls with spray foam and installed the drywall. Outside, the rotten sheathing was replaced with fresh plywood and the barn was wrapped in Tyvek. Our new shiplapped pine siding was installed and stained with Cabot's Baked Brick semi-transparent wood stain. Just in time for the weather to warm up, we lay a herringbone hearth and setup our new energy-efficient wood burning stove. A buddy and I lay tongue and groove flooring upstairs and I built three reclaimed board and batten closet doors. After painting the walls, the stairs and the floor, we began to fill the space with our stuff!

Downstairs, my dream workshop is finally up and running, and like all workshops, it is an endless work in progress. Upstairs, my Mum is setting up a gallery for her interior design business, specializing in antique and vintage prints. But the barn is more than just a workspace — for us, it represents a new beginning, the launch of two new businesses and two new businesspeople. Thank you Duane, Steve, Clark, Shayn, Ben and Antonio for helping us out with the renovation!

On a final note, I should add that this is my last post for Apartment Therapy. WoodWise has been a blast but there's work to be done in the barn and not enough hours in the day! In my first column, I described the seasonal expansion and contraction of lumber. I wrote then that "wood moves," and guess what? People move too!

Images: Johnny Williams

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