Before and After: A Run-Down Barn Was Transformed into a Gorgeous Studio Apartment and Art Studio

published Sep 17, 2021
transformation month

Before and After: A Run-Down Barn Was Transformed into a Gorgeous Studio Apartment and Art Studio

published Sep 17, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Square feet
Sq ft

September is Transformation Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about home transformations — from big renovations to tiny tweaks — all month. Head over here to see them all!

House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

Name: Lizzie Gill and Tom Pillar
Location: Sharon, Connecticut
Size: 1,400 square feet
Type of Home: A live/work accessory dwelling unit. It’s a studio apartment above an art studio.
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

Mixed media artist Lizzie Gill and her husband, Tom Pillar, were initially just on the hunt for a country getaway. “Like any New Yorker, we initially drew a two hour radius around the city to find our perfect weekend escape,” she writes. “Our journey led us to the town of Sharon, in Northwest Connecticut. With rolling farmland hills and bucolic vistas it was also conveniently ten minutes from Wassaic, the last stop on the Metro North Train line.”

What the couple found on their home hunt was a bank-owned lot with gorgeous natural settings, a derelict 1860s-era farmhouse, and 1990s-era run-down barn. The farmhouse on the property would need A LOT of work… so the couple decided to tackle the 1990s barn and transform it into a live/work space now, while the farmhouse would be a long-term remodeling project. And what was supposed to be a just an occasional country retreat for the couple? It became their full-time home with the completion of the barn remodel.

The old red barn is now a modern black structure with a light-filled art studio and office on the ground floor, and an open-plan studio apartment on the second floor. Cathedral ceilings make the upper floor’s studio apartment feel much larger than it is. The built-in shelves act as a room divider for the bedroom as well as a display for the couple’s collections, without blocking light or feeling visually heavy. Since the space had no closets, Lizzie incorporated floating cabinets to span the wall along the living room and bedroom, adding storage and a touch of color. To save money, they ripped out the old kitchen to update it but kept the same footprint. And a compact fireplace makes the the living area feel so cozy.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic minimalist. Incorporating and displaying objects, art and heirlooms in a minimal space so it has a layered feel in both texture and history.

Inspiration: The objet d’art I collect and treasures my parents have passed down to me.

Favorite Element: My favorite thing about my home is the sense of space and light. We didn’t put in any dividing walls so it would always feel airy and bright, the space gets such great light throughout the day. I also absolutely love our bookshelf room divider; the shelves can change levels as our collection evolves, which brings an added warmth to the room.

Biggest Challenge: Our project was put on pause (for good reason) during Covid. It actually allowed us to take more time with the design process and come up with interesting ways to make an open plan space work more efficiently.

Proudest DIY: Proudest DIY is the wall-to-wall floating console that consists of IKEA kitchen cabinets and semihandmade fronts. The space had no closets, so I had to come up with a creative storage solution that floated above the baseboard and acted as both a console and dresser in the living room and sleeping alcove.

Biggest Indulgence: Windows and yes! Bringing in more light is always worth it, especially in the long run and it brings added value to the space.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? My art studio was previously a horse stable with a dirt floor. The space had good bones for a workshop, so we had a concrete floor poured and insulated the space. I love that it has that history and is now where I do my creative work.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I absolutely love our Breville coffee maker. We had to get more serious about our coffee creations as we can no longer walk to a coffee shop. As someone who has always worked remotely, it’s a big upgrade! I’m not onto latte art yet, but there’s still time.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My decorating advice is to buy things vintage and at auction. There are so many great regional auction houses with interesting estate sales. If you can’t go on the estate sale hunt in person, I highly suggest — it aggregates the auction sales so you can search more locally. You can find interesting furniture and works of art and they have a history to them that warms a space.



  • Exterior — “Soot” by Benjamin Moore (solid stain)
  • Walls — “Simply White” by Benjamin Moore
  • Kitchen cabinets — “Soot” by Benjamin Moore
  • Floating console — “Knoxville Gray” by Benjamin Moore


  • TV — Frame by Samsung
  • Coffee Table — Vintage 1960s, bought at auction
    stove — Jotul
  • Artwork — Rosson Crow
  • Console — IKEA / Semihandmade


  • Dining room table — ​Vintage Adrian Pearsall table
  • Chairs West Elm


  • Cabinets — IKEA (Sektion)
  • Cabinet Faces — DIY semihandmade (Shaker)
  • Fridge — Fisher Paykel
  • Stove — KitchenAid
  • Dishwasher — Bosch
  • Toaster — Dualit
  • Sodastream — AARKE



Thanks Lizzie!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.