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Friday, January 7, 2011

Phase II

For the last two months we've been slowly working on Phase II of the farmhouse renovation...
the barn!
During Phase I we added a three-car garage in what is basically the 'basement' of the barn. In Phase I.V (!) we added several windows and a pair of french doors in the barn room, stained the exterior gray, and added an exterior "overhang" above the garage doors.

In this current Phase II we are turning the original, attached barn (it attaches to the farmhouse via the kitchen) into living space... a great room to be specific, or as we have dubbed it-
the barn room!
We are also adding a mud room on the main floor of the barn that connects to the garage below via a new staircase. We are turning the original milking room into a small storage room on the main floor (anyone who has ever lived in an antique house knows that storage space is a rare commodity!) And, we are making an enclosed loft (think office) that sits above the storage and mud rooms.
Phase II is a big project, so I have decided to break it down into several posts to show you what we are working on.
This first post regards the exterior of the barn.

In this Phase II we have added new windows on the
West facing wall that are exact replacements of the original windows and the small-square livestock stall windows! We are moving an antique stone wall to create a graveled terrace accessible from the french doors in the barn room. And, a chimney for the barn room fireplace is being constructed on the east side of the barn between the french doors.
While these exterior projects might sound a bit mundane, to us they are any thing but... for several reasons - The first being that in the middle of winter in New England we are working on exterior projects!! That, in and of itself, is an anomaly! We have had only one minor snowfall (6 inches) so far this year, which has almost all melted away. My excavator and my stonemason do not generally work this time of year....the ground is usually frozen rock-solid by now, but because of the weather we have been able to start both of these exterior projects! We are so thrilled that these projects are being worked on now, instead of having to wait until Spring!

Another reason that makes one of these projects so special, is that the moving of the wall to make the terrace off of the barn room is one of my original visions that I had for this property some four years ago; before we even owned the house! After finding this farmhouse I sat in Dallas for months, as we tried to sell our house, and renovated and remodeled this house over and over in my mind! One of my first thoughts was... "The barn can be a great room and we'll just move that antique stone wall over to the edge of the barn to make a great big terrace." (said in an 'pie in the sky' voice!)
It sounded so simple and easy when I was sitting in Dallas!!
While we have gone through many design ideas with our new (highly recommended, and above board) contractor and his subs- one being a "bunker" for Big Blue built underneath the graveled terrace and accessible from the garage parking pad via antique carriage doors... doable, but out of budget, in the end my original idea plus one amazingly talented, nice (he brings dog cookies to Ella every day) excavator proved to be the best, and most cost-effective solution! To watch this wall being moved stone by stone, and then to see the 'work of art' stone wall being re-constructed is absolutely amazing! Being able to see my 'vision' become reality is a gift beyond measure- for me and this farmhouse, as this wall will certainly stand for hundreds of years to come!

(all photos enlarge when double-clicked; click again to super enlarge)

I thought we would start at the beginning, so you could see the transformation of the barn from the beginning.
This photo was taken on one of first (there were many) visits to the property. The freshly stained barn exterior belies what we found inside!

We have kept the original barn door, and it is going to be placed on a wall inside the barn room as a 'work of art.' This photo shows the stone wall that needs to be moved to the corner of the barn to make the barn room terrace.

This photo shows the original North side of the barn. The gravel path leading to the opened door is the livestock entrance. The two windows on the very bottom are where the garage doors will go... after much digging.

The framed garage doors. Note the level of the dirt on the ground inside the barn that needed to be removed to make it a garage. The grade was lowered two feet.

New garage carriage doors

The framing for the overhang. The overhang was Dan's idea. He wanted it to deflect the rain and snow from the garage doors, and it provides a nice architectural relief to what otherwise is a very large flat plane.

The overhang- mid construction.

The completed overhang.

The house and barn prior to painting and staining, respectively.

The barn room french doors and one North facing window installed. The two square windows above the french doors are our master closet windows. (here)

The second barn room window installed.

The barn being stained gray.

The freshly painted house, and stained barn. In this photo you see the stone wall that will be moved and reconstructed at the corner of the garage/barn to make the barn room terrace.

New windows being installed on the West side of the barn. The top window is the original two over two, and the bottom left is new.

Frames built on-site being added to the new windows.

The beautiful (and energy saving) result!
So that we didn't have to look at raw shingles until we could paint outside in the Spring, the carpenters pre-primed and stained the replacement shingles.

Standing at the barn room french door. The stone wall moments before it is deconstructed- you can see the yellow claw of the excavator in the left side of the door.

Bob, the excavator operator gently lifts this one-ton stone with the ease and grace of an artful surgeon.

Where the wall used to be.

Andre, the stonemason. These granite stones go directly into the barn foundation (now the garage), so they can not be removed and must be cut. Unfortunately for Andre, this is where the chimney will be built!

Andre splitting the granite blocks using a centuries-old technique with tools called "feathers and wedges." It only took him several hours to split these huge stones, so they can be removed- if you can believe that!

Granite stones are now flush with the wall.

Footing is prepared for the base of the chimney.

The concrete being poured into the chimney base.

Smoothing the concrete as the 'peanut gallery' looks on!

Thermal blanket used to protect the freshly poured concrete from the freezing temperatures.

The chimney has arrived! Well, the concrete blocks that will be used to form the housing of the chimney have arrived!

The "cornerstone" of the new stone wall being rebuilt.

The wall will have two tiers and in the end will be slightly over 12 feet tall .

Second course mid-construction (this is only day two and a half of contruction!) When this course of stones is complete it will be the end of the wall project until Spring. Construction of the chimney will continue until complete.

So, that's the barn exterior Phase II! I leave you with a couple of "pretty" pictures!
The house in snow.

Maple shadows on the house.


  1. Hi Joan, Dan, and Ella: Another great post! By now, you know how much I enjoy reading your blog, but I don't know if I have said how much I admire that you are restoring an antique home. This home is very fortunate to have you as the care taker. Cindy

  2. Ok, WOW!!!
    I never realized there was a barn, a huge barn, attached to the house! Honest to gosh Joan, it's all amazing. I'm so happy for you that your dream designing is coming true. I LOVE the stain color and that you chose to do a different color from the main house. I'm almost at a loss for's beautiful.
    You are two brave and ambitious souls that's for sure. How about I come up and live in the barn. :)

    did the barn have heat and elec or was that added as an earlier phase?

  3. Wow, I felt the earth move under my feet! What a huge project. This is going to be amazing. I don't know that I would have ever had the vision to move earth and granite walls to make it better. The way they cut away those granite slabs from the foundation was pretty cool.

    Also love the overhang and the punctuation of those three little square windows on, I guess it's the west side.

    Somewhere I saw a patio/seating area that was created inside the metal support structure of an old silo. That would so cool out there.

    Can't wait to see how the inside progresses!

  4. Cindy- Hi!! Thank you, you are so very sweet to say so!
    Sarah- Actually there is still no electrical or heat in the barn room.... yet! The electrician comes next week! We do have electrical in the garage which was added in Phase I. The garage floor also has radiant heat, which is pretty nifty in these NH winters!
    Steve- we love our stones and granite so it has been a real treat to watch the mason work! I will show a photo that has that West side of the house and barn together... there is this wonderful symetry between the two that is really charming- and not by accident.
    Wonder if Art could get me a silo ?!!

  5. hi joan,

    this is a massive project to say the least and wow is it gonna be gorgeous. i LOVE cut stone walls. i'm obsessed with them actually. the park across the street is lined in them and they are fascinating. they need repairs now and again and i always stop and talk to the stonemason who works on them. it is a dying art.

    i cannot wait to see the gorgeousness of what you are going to do inside.



  6. wow is the word!

    It is a pleasure to see such beautiful work.

  7. Oh MY Gosh Joan....what an achievement! The work you and your husband have had done to this beautiful old farmhouse and barn is incredible. You both should be very proud of yourselves. I can't wait to show my husband. It's certainly been a busy time for you and I'm sure you can't wait until it's all done. I will be anxiously waiting to see what you do to the interior. THANK YOU for sharing this journey with us. Take care.
    Maura :)

  8. WOW! Just, WOW!! WOW! Amazing vision and superb quality work, Joan! I can't wait to see the finished product.

  9. Fun seeing your barn progress Joan and I can't wait to see the finished results of your hard won terrace.Love the deep gray of your barn, stunning.I can't wait to see the barn door art in your new room, that's going to look amazing! I hope Ella is back to good health. Thanks for your kind note too!


  10. Thank you SO much for sharing. I just love it.

  11. I am longing for a barn house. I also did not realize you had a barn connected to the house. What an amazing post. Visit my friend's barn at our post of "The Best Farm Ever." I love what she did with it.

  12. I just found your wonderful blog through Lilac Lane Cottage. I have been reading away and loving everything. This is an amazing house and you all are making it even more “amazing.” The bard re-do--oh my. I love it and love that you are saving the old barn door for art. Can’t wait to see that completed. I love the grey you chose for the exterior as well and that you are restoring the stone wall. I love it all!! Can’t wait to see more :)
    Amy at Verde Farm

  13. Joan,

    I so enjoy watching how your rennovation has progressed and like everyone else I am in awe of everything you and Dan are doing especially the vision that the two of you had. It is all so amazing and I look forward to each and every post as it progresses.


  14. YIKES - you are amazing - people should be gifted lunch with YOU on their birthdays

  15. WOW! What great work you are doing. I love that you are renovating such a beautiful old house. We are also renovating an old late Victorian/Edwardian house in Australia. The key difference is we are doing it ourselves - slowly! Too slowly for my impatience but fitted around work and school commitments and reflecting the money or lack of it as we go. To 'make it nice' as we go I spend a lot of time in my garden so we do not reach the end one day and still have the whole garden to do.
    I love seeing your progress and hearing of your adventures. Thank you!

  16. Hi there,
    I am reading your posts carefully as my husband & I are going to be resurrecting an old barn this spring. We took down our barn about 5 years ago & have it in storage. And we're actually "neighbors". We live in Milford. Thanks for all your posts.

  17. Ok...I was riveted with each succesive image. I Love the restored and perfectly matching windows you are adding. Especially those little square livestock ones! The carriage doors and overhang are perfect. And the idea of Big Blue behind antique carriage doors...stunning (altho..understand you are not doing that). The art of masonry is phenomenal. And to think how many centuries ago those original stones were cut and stacked!

    Did I tell you that we lived in a restored barn once? Outside of NYC. We had those same little livestock windows...and a loft which was a guestroom, up in the hay room!

    Your vision and work is bar none. But my most favorite, favorite part of this post is your recognition that this work will carry on for centuries.

    THAT is the legacy and privledge of living in an antique house for a season in it's life.


  18. just discovered your blog and had to take a moment to say that your home is lovely. what a project! you've done a beautiful job--cheers!

  19. Wow, that is one big project. It turned out gorgeous! What a dream! Thanks for sharing! I love coming across blogs like this! :)

  20. I love your vision and daring to undertake such a huge project! It is beautiful. I've always loved NH houses with the attached barn.

  21. You have a lovely house, I realy enjoyed your item and the pictures.

    Warm greetings from Holland,

  22. wow! what a huge project. but it is already so lovely!

    when the stone wall was about to be removed ... were you nervous? i probably would have been afraid the stones would be destroyed.

    my hat (or my apron? i'm much more likely to be wearing one of those) is off to you for tackling this huge renovation, and so happy a beautiful old house is being so lovingly saved.

  23. That's amazing! I have never seen anyone with "granite" as part of their foundation! You sure won't see that now a days! I love the changes you've made, you have quite the vision! I love the gray color you chose too! The stone wall is amazing and having handled a lot stone in my recent past- I know how much work it is...They've done a masterful job! What a wonderful home you've created!

  24. How exciting! Enjoying your big reno! What a pleasure to see an old building restored so carefully!

  25. I was really worried about your removing the stone retaining wall, but the mason is doing a good job with the replacement!

  26. Oh Joan thank you for your words of comfort. Your comment brought me right back into the now and reminded me that I am safe and with my boys. I managed to grab my Eckhart Power Of Now along with my clothes. I think that book is my only possession now! How amazing is that! A-M xx

  27. I love it Joan! I can't wait to see the way you decorate the 'barn room'!

  28. incredible. i can not wait to see inside the BARN!!!!!! what a feat it's been. but your kitchen. OMG - those pictures look like they came straight from a magazine. It's gorgeous. simply gorgeous. you must love it!!!! I would!
    my daughter's bf lives in NH - she met him at school in boca. small world.

  29. did my comment not go through?
    i loved this story about your barn and can't wait to see inside it. your kitchen looks like a magazine!!!!!!!!!! it;s fabulous!!!!!!

  30. Simply wonderful!!!! I love it all!


  31. WOW... you sure do have a lot going on. I cannot wait to see the end result.

  32. I'm making my way through your posts, and this one stopped me in my tracks!! Having gone through the restoration of my own barn a few years back, I understand the emotion that a barn has, and the difficulties of working with an existing old structure. I am totally envious of the fact that you get to use your barn as living space ... ours is a lawn ornament. Isn't it wonderful to see the pictures in your head translated into real life? This transformation of yours is miraculous!!

  33. I've read this post three times now! It's so good. You're so good! It's wonderful to be able to see the transformation. I love spending time at your home :)


  34. I'm a little sad that the dirt livestock ramp is gone. I know for the long-term use of the garages it had to go but I think of the farmer that used horse-drawn equipment and hand tools to build that ramp and the big one up to the barn door. I appreciate that you moved the big ramp wall over and recreated it but the demise of the little ramp is bittersweet. Can you imagine the pride of the original owner of the barn when he stood back and admired those tamped-dirt ramps and all the skill and muscle that went in to making them. tho I do love your home and vision.

  35. Everyone loves the grey stain, myself included! Can you share the brand and stain name with us? Thank you, Yvonne :)

    1. All my paint and stain colors can be found on the sidebar by clicking on the photo under "my paint and stain colors".


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive and read it. joan