Solutions At Home, April, 2008.
Reprinted with permission.
Renovating the Nest
By Leda Kopach
Breathing new life into a converted barn in Eagle, a newly blended family achieves a sense of togetherness.
One week before their wedding day, Steve and Kellyanne Patterson still didn’t have a home to call their own. Kellyanne and her son had a house, and Steve shared his abode with his two teenagers. The couple wanted a new home to create a sense of belonging for all the members of their blended family, plus enough storage to accommodate Steve’s “toys” — an assortment of motorcycles, boats and cars. Fortunately, just days before the wedding, on a relaxing motorcycle ride through the country, Steve spotted the house they needed — a large, converted barn in Eagle, near Downington.
“Steve was so excited when he stumbled upon it,” Kellyanne recalls. “When we saw the interior, his whole face lit up. We bought the home, got married, moved in and started settling in — all in less than a week. It was quite a whirlwind. We knew that the house needed a lot of work but thought it was a project we could do together as a family.”
Originally built in the 1850s, the renovated barn currently boasts about 5,500 square feet, which includes the lower level, five bedrooms, three and a half baths and a duo of two-car garages, one on the main floor and the other on a lower level. Two other buildings sit on the property: a spring house and a former corn crib that the Pattersons cleaned and refurbished as yet another garage. Adding to the character of the property, a silo remains attached to the barn’s exterior and provides a reminder of the home’s history.
From the start, the house was a work in progress. The main floor and second floor/loft area of the barn had been renovated but not updated, and the lower level, the barn’s former stanchion area (where farm animals were corralled and kept), was “bare bones.” Concrete floors had been poured, and the area was insulated, but earlier renovations had ended there. Even the stairs were missing. Access to the lower level from above required a walk outdoors and around the house. In short order, Steve cut through the flooring in the large laundry room to install a wrought iron and wood stairwell.
The entire renovation process lasted almost three years, and the Pattersons relied heavily on their friends and family for assistance, hiring professionals only when they didn’t have the expertise for a particular task. Addressing structural issues and replacing windows and exterior doors in the kitchen, they upgraded the countertops to granite, installed modern fixtures and added stainless steel appliances. They warmed the 34-foot walls by applying a spicy cinnamon paint with a stippling technique and adding a tall antique cabinet to display crystal, pottery and books. For a sentimental touch, they used heirlooms such as Steve’s great grandfather’s high chair and his grandmother’s caned chairs, placing them as decorative elements above the cabinets and on the many beams throughout the kitchen.
In other areas, decorating proved more of a challenge. “The kitchen, living room, family room and foyer are all one room, essentially,” Kellyanne explains. The design issue involved the proper mix of Steve’s “bulky bachelor furniture” and her petite, Oriental-inspired pieces, but it worked out with help from some new pieces bought on a shopping trip to North Carolina. A black lacquer, high gloss table in the dining room provides an interesting juxtaposition to the space’s rough, naturally distressed pine floors and overhead beams. “I like the different textures,” Kellyanne notes. “It makes the house unique. I don’t like everything to be ‘matchy.’”
Energy efficiency is a theme the couple pursued, and with the radiant heated floors and many skylights, the home stays remarkably warm in the winter. In the adjacent den, a wood burning stove serves as a functional focal point for the cozy reading area.
Similarly, a slate wall fountain captures attention in the living room with a rounded couch, overstuffed chairs and extra large urns placed on a “mantel” that Steve built from wood found on the property. Under the stairwell, the first floor master suite offers views of the silo. The double sliding doors leading from the master bedroom to the bath were repurposed from barn doors discovered on site and hung with hardware from the horse paddocks. To gain privacy, Kellyanne spray painted the glass with a frosting application.
The bath’s double-sink vanity and sunken tub were updated with a random mosaic tile technique to go with glass tile blocks that add contemporary flair and a spa-like ambiance. Walls were painted off white using a stippling technique, and for an artistic touch and interesting texture, a fern pattern was applied with a glaze and plaster technique.
“Structurally, we didn’t change much in any of the bathrooms,” Kellyanne says. “We basically updated materials and decorated to create a more tranquil feeling.”
Rounding out the main floor are the laundry room area, a guest room/office and a powder room. The second floor loft includes the kids’ rooms, a shared bathroom and a long, L-shaped balcony overlooking the entire main floor.
Although renovations in the main areas and loft were relatively minor, the lower level was a different story. For six months, Steve and a friend jack-hammered the floors daily to remove the concrete in order to install the radiant heating. The new concrete was then poured, stained and stamped with various patterns. “The lower level was really about our teenagers having a place to hang out with their friends and each other and to be able to get away from Mom and Dad,” Kellyanne says.
Popular supplemental spaces include a pool table room and home gym, and throughout the level, modern furnishings and details mix with “farm” antiques like milking tools and various hardware to give the area an eclectic look.
With their renovations complete and their children growing up, the Pattersons say they’ve finally reached the stage of being able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors. “We were just learning how to blend as a family when this all started,” Kellyanne explains. “But renovating this home really brought us together. Everyone helped in some part, and we all feel good about what we accomplished.”