Robin’s Gorgeously Green Artist Barn
Name: Robin Luciano Beaty
Location: Byfield, Massachusetts
Size: 800 square feet
Years worked in: 1½ years
It was love at first site when I parked my car across the street from Robin’s art studio in Byfield. Her barn — set on an angle 50 feet from the road — is loosely landscaped with natural rock and wild flowers. A vintage blue Vespa sits out front adding to the warm, countryside feel. The backyard is equally charming with a small farmer’s porch and a chicken coop that houses three friendly chickens.
Robin and her husband Rick, have owned this land (and their home next door) for the past eight years. Robin is a fine artist primarily working in the medium of encaustic painting which can be described as a more physical, 3-dimensional exploration of painting, involving scraping and rebuilding each birch panel with pigmented wax. She had been working in their cramped, less than well-ventilated basement for 7 years which limited her to smaller scale works.
Two years ago she began researching outbuilding options to create a larger work space and through that research discovered George Abetti in Vermont whose company Geobarns specializes in custom barn building. As a way to keep costs down and because Robin is a tackle-everything, DIY kind of gal, Robin became George’s assistant and in fact, his only crew member. George and Robin built the entire structure of the barn in 19 short days using hemlock posts and salt soaked green pine. The most grueling part of the process was manually raising the hemlock beams which are some 25 feet tall and hundreds of pounds each.
The process of salt soaking the pine weatherproofs the wood without using chemicals and is an alternative to the more commonly used pressure-treated variety. The structure of the barn was built using angled supports rather than vertical supports which allows for the conservation of wood and a more durable structure. No wood went to waste in this project as they used nearly every last scrap to furnish the studio and make an outhouse. And from what Robin says, George is a mathematical genius and master of precision wood cutting and putting together this complex puzzle that is building.
Another green choice they made was to use blown-in cellulose insulation rather than standard fiberglass. Cellulose insulation is made from up to 75% recycled newsprint and paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill causing greenhouse gases as it decomposes. Cellulose and fiberglass share the same R-value (measure of thermal resistance) but cellulose is said to be a greater insulator in cold climates, therefore being a better choice for New England.
It took Robin about a year from start to finish to create her dream art studio and the result is stunning. The space is light-filled, airy and spacious and houses beautiful collections of antiques and a few classic contemporary pieces. She has organized the open space to host guests, to paint, to work with the wax, to sleep and to do office work. Each space has it’s own function, yet all of the furniture is on wheels to accommodate change. Some days when she spends long hours in the studio she will nap upstairs on the daybed, but mostly it’s used for guests. The ladder leads to a windowed cupola where she plans to build an upholstered bench for lazy afternoon reading with the best views.
Robin’s art studio shines with the loveliest calm and cohesive energy and is a true reflection of her creatively vibrant spirit.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style? Modern Rustic inspired strongly by art and all things vintage
What is your greatest inspiration? In terms of ‘decorating the space,’ functionality is of the utmost importance. The decor is strongly inspired by my art and the materials I use to create it which are all very personal to me.
Favorite Element: The large, airy, open space. The second floor is recessed from the walls which we designed to flood the lower level with natural light while still allowing as much wall/work space as possible.
Biggest Challenge: The size of the yard and the maintenance that comes along with it can be extremely overwhelming. Weeds!
What Friends Say: “It’s their vacation home”
Biggest Embarrassment: No running water or plumbing. Also, I do all of the landscaping myself and don’t always have the time to do everything I’d like to.
Biggest Indulgence: ART! Art Supplies (lots of wax!) and my computers. I have a sick obsession with Apple products.
Best Advice: Be creative! Up-cycle!! Make the old new again. Use items from your personal history.
Dream Source: Other artists’ studios
Other Inspiration: Anthropologie, antique stores and fairs, museums, my creative friends and family
• Antique stores
• Couch: Crate & Barrel
• Chairs: Pier 1
• Vintage painting tables from antique fairs
• Main painting table: IKEA
• Bed: DIY from windows and doors of childhood home
• Coffee table: made from leftover hemlock beams from the construction of the studio with a butcher block top
• Office: IKEA
• Todd Farm Antique Fair in Rowley Massachusetts
• Pieces passed down from family
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