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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the making of the barn mud room...

Before I show you the finished barn mud room (next post) I want to walk you through the process of how the room came to be. 

When we bought the farmhouse, the barn was a real (though in poor condition) livestock barn that was attached to the farmhouse via the "ell"- the ell is now the kitchen (on the first floor) and the master bath (on the second floor.)  The entire barn from the roof to the windows to the structural support needed work to ensure that it would stand for decades to come.
The luxury of having an attached barn  (many antique barns in New England are not attached) enabled the vision of using the space as a "great room"-  a space which was lacking in the farmhouse, to come to life.  Since the farmhouse didn't have a garage we also designed a three-car garage to be dug out and placed in what was the basement of the barn underneath the main floor.  We would use the majority of the main floor as a great room, a.k.a. -  our "barn room."
Opening up and using the entire barn (all three above-ground levels) as one huge barn room was very briefly contemplated early on in the design process.  I think scale and proportions are essential design elements which are often overlooked and using the entire barn for the "barn room" didn't fit with the rooms in the farmhouse.   By making the design decision to not use the entire barn as one giant great room we were able to get the biggest and best use of our real estate.... more, and interesting, and well-scaled rooms that work graciously with the main house.  

It was around this same time early in the design process that the possibility to use space from the third floor of the barn as the master closet became a reality and became our master closet.  (floor plan here)  Then, there was the need to get from the garage below up to the barn room/main floor, so a "mud room" was needed.  In deciding where stairs would go to the garage below and how to use the entire space of the barn to our best advantage we looked no further than the existing "rooms" that were already present in the barn.   By doing so we were able to get the following rooms under the one barn roof:  a large barn room, a mud room, a storage room, a loft and the master closet.
It was during Phase II of renovations that the whole barn was engineered, shored up and renovated to become living space. I wanted to remain true to the structure and the fact that it was and is indeed.... a barn.  Not one panel of sheet rock or a bit of plaster was used on the walls - instead an inordinate amount of wood was used to retain that original "barn" feel.

It was decided that the stairs from the garage below to this main floor would be placed in this small room in the southwest corner of the barn which we named the "mud room."  It originally had three stalls for livestock, each with its own individual small square window that we would later renovate to match.  The third stall is just to the right of the partition on the right.  The name "mud room" has become a bit of a misnomer.  My initial design for the mud room included a bench and an area for wet/muddy/snowy shoes and boots, but in reality (as you will see next post) we just didn't use the room as originally intended.  Instead, we leave dirty shoes in the garage below and take our coats up to the master closet since we have no formal coat closet on the main floor.

The third stall.  The wall on the right in this photo remains and will divide this room from the "storage room" behind it which was originally the milking parlor and had open ramp access from the exterior.

This photo gives a good overview for the use of the barn room's three floors (remember the garage will be underneath the barn.)  The photo was taken standing on the main floor in what will become the "barn room."  You can see the three square windows in the space that will become the "mud room", and the room to the right, on the same floor of the three windows will be the "storage room."  The space on the second floor above where you see the two large windows in the vaulted space will become the "loft." And, the floor at the top of the photo will become the floor for the "master closet."  Got that?!!

Same view, different perspective.  I'm standing in the "barn room" on the main floor taking the photo.  Dan is walking through the "mud room" and on the same floor, but behind the original barn door is the "storage room."  The space above and behind the barn door on the second floor will be the "loft" and the ceiling in this photo is the floor of the master closet.  See-  I knew you'd get it!!  (oh, and please note the antique posts leaning against the barn door that would later become the posts for the master headboard)

Before we got started in the barn mud room several layers of old flooring had to be removed down to the original planks.  Let the renovation begin!

The mud room, as seen through the doorway to the left of the original barn door, ready for demo after layers of floorboards have been removed.

Antique iron gates from Argentina testing out the location that will be their new home!

A doorway to the right of the windows has been cut through the wall to access the space that will be the storage room (a.k.a. the "treasure room"- I think you're going to like that room ;)

Stairwell opening cut for the stairs from the garage below.

The new garage-to-main floor stairs being laid out .

The right angle turn in the stairwell.

Meanwhile outside,  the barn is getting all new windows which exactly replicate the original two-over-two and small square windows.

The mud room with a fresh coat of blown-in closed-cell foam insulation (approximately R30 insulation value.)

Dan using the stairs for the first time!  Behind Dan, in the wall on the left, is the tubing for the radiant heat flooring in the garage which is indeed a luxury, but since the garage sits under living space it also helps to reduce the cost of heating the barn during our cold New England winters.

Framed doorway where the iron gates will go.  Temporary railing around the stairwell.  The carpenters in this photo are working up in the loft.

Finished rough cut pine wall boards stained to look aged, installed horizontally.  (My custom stain formula is on my sidebar.)   Electrical wires protrude from the wall where fixtures will be placed that will illuminate art and light the stairwell at the same time..

The ceiling joists (which support the loft floor above) are original and you can see  how low the ceiling is in this space.  It just barely met code.  The room was designed to be very utilitarian, but as the space came together it turned into a wonderful surprise as it is charming in its own right.  The feeling that you get walking through this room with its very low ceiling and then emerging into the expanse of the barn room is almost magical.  It is an effect that Bobby McAlpine talks about often in his book, The Home Within Us ; an effect that he intentionally designs in many of his homes because of its magical quality.  It wasn't until walking through this space one day that I finally understood what I had read in his book months before.

This vertical original post (on the left side of the photo) was removed from another location in the barn during renovation, and was sanctioned by the engineer to be used here as structural support instead of the ugly metal pole he had originally specified.  Thankfully the lead carpenter on our job was visionary and suggested this as a solution to an otherwise unsightly support pole.   Note the original tethering ring.   The wall immediately to the right of this structural beam will be cut open for the placement of the stairs to the loft.

here... . 
The small room to the left of the stairs is the storage room.

Stained finish wall boards going up.  You can just make out the tethering ring on the left of the photo for reference to the photo above.

And for a final view- looking from the mud room into the barn room as the very first floor board  running the east/west expanse of the entire barn goes down.

Wasn't that fun??!  See you next time with the finished space!



  1. All I can say is "WOW"!

    xo Dianne

  2. I lovvve all that old wood and stone. Looks like its going to be ready for another 100+ years!

  3. There is so much going on in those photographs! The interior architectural thought and spatial consideration you have given to the barn is fantastic. Overall organizing idea, understanding relationships and listening to what the barn was telling you in the context of a clear singular vision. BINGO on changing out the ally column for the wood post. You've got to love a good smart contractor!

    Can't wait to see the followup post!


  4. Joan,
    As a person that has difficulty visualizing space as it could be, did you and Dan have an architect to guide you or (and I suspect this is the answer) are you both just that talented? I love what you're doing to the barn but I just don't think I could have visualized the amazing use you are creating. Wow. Can't wait for the next post!

  5. It's always a challenge to get the lay of the land in blog houses. And I don't know why I have to figure them out. Am I correct that the stairs to the loft are in the mudroom?

  6. I just love to see these photos, I am blown away with 'your' vision for this space. Love your reuse of materials and your profound respect for this old building.

  7. John- Coming from you that is a very high compliment indeed- thank you!

    Karen- We did not use an architect, but did work with a very talented carpenter who was very helpful in turning the vision into a reality.

    Steve- I'm the same way as you know;) The stairs in the loft are accessed from the mud room, yes. But the stairs themselves are actually in the "storage room."

  8. what fun going through the "process" with you! seeing the original "rooms", floors, etc. brought back so many wonderful memories of yesteryear!! I could "smell" the hay from days gone by! How wonderful what you are creating! thanks for sharing and can't wait to see the finished product!!
    Pink Hugs,

  9. This is so exciting...I have loved watching for little snippets concerning this part of the house! the Barnroom I know is going to be gorgeous! Timing is great, like a spring awakening!!! And thanks for explaining the stairs to the loft, because I kept trying to figure out where they were. I walk through your house in my mind, so this is clear now.

  10. Joan, I have to tell you, your posts are captivating. My instant messages can reel in but be easily ignored while checking your latest progress.

    It's refreshing to see American exceptional-ism at work especially when so much of what is offered in the marketplaces of our country is a plethora of cheap China-made garbage.

    Keep up the good work. It's beautiful!

  11. Joan,
    What an amazing journey.
    We've done small conversions in our current home and it was almost overwhelming trying to get all the players involved on the same page and timeframe. I cannot imagine working on a project of this scale and working around the wheather too!!

    It's always a treat to open my reader and see a post from you. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Oh my FANTASTICALLY WONDERFUL! How fortunate to have a structure like that....I can't wait to see the final result!

  13. I loved seeing this process from the bloomers up. It is so interesting to understand the decisions you made and now I cannot wait to see the finished product.
    XO Victoria

  14. I am so excited to finally see the reveal! You both do truly think "outside the barn" and the result must be incredible. Just can't wait until tomorrow. Love the little touches, the tethering ring, etc. & the big ones...using the old barn doors, the old Argentina doors, drooling with anticipation.....

  15. Wow. I am enjoying all your detailed posts of your home. I love all the planning and attention to detail! I can't wait to see the final reveal...I've been anxiously awaiting. ;)

  16. What's most amazing (to me!) is the vision that you must have had in the first place. I image that if I were to have looked at your house when you first bought it, I *might* have thought of a studio or garage, but that would have been the limit of my imagination. You've done a wonderful job!

  17. I can see this was a true labor of love and having just gone through the construction phase myself have a true apprciation for all you have done. I cannot wait to see it all done up...know its going to be fabulous!

  18. <3 this !!!!

    I feel like a little kid, I can't WAIT to see it lol

    Kathy :)

  19. Gosh, you're such a tease! Can't wait to see the finished results. This sounds like it may be the kind of post I sit down w/ a good cup of coffee and, maybe cake?!

    Cindy Sue

  20. I have a list of blogs a mile long that I follow faithfully. Yours is my favorite. I soak up every word like a sponge and find myself staring at each and every picture for minutes on end. I can literally feel the magical peace and calm and tranquility in each of your rooms. And sometimes, I swear I can even smell it, too! ;)

    I do hope you are in the process or are considering turning this gorgeous blog into a book! Pleeeease. I have never wanted a book so badly as I want to hold your book in my hands. I adore Bunny's "An Affair with a House". I desperately need "For the Love of a House" to sit on my table next to my big leather reading chair.
    That's my wish. Thank you. ha.
    Georgi Dwyer

  21. Excited to see the progress of these rooms. Keep on posting!

  22. Always fun to see what you have been up to! Looking forward to seeing the after pictures as I am sure they will be wonderful.

  23. GAHHHHHHHH! The suspense is killing me!!!!!!!!! xoChristy

  24. Those New England guys really know their stuff, don't they!
    Great post, as always, but...what a tease!
    Can't wait to take the finished tour!
    xoxo, Chris

  25. Tapping my fingers patiently waiting for the big reveal. I can't wait!

  26. Oh, my goodness, This is so exciting - I can't wait to see tomorrow's post. What a labor of love - Thanks for sharing - the anticipation is killing me. Jalon

  27. Thank you! It's nice to know that my loft apartment has a separate entrance.

  28. Steve- you make me laugh!

    Y'all do know this is the "mud room" reveal that is the next post, yes?! And, who mentined it would be tomorrow?!!;) Anyone ever tell y'all you were a demanding bunch!!! :):) xxj.

  29. I love the sense of peace, contentment and gracious hospitality you have infused into your home. Somehow that always comes across to me as I look forward to each new post.

  30. Joan, Dan, and Ella: Amazing; from your vision, to the carpenters implementing, it is all so amazing. As someone else stated, you really should publish this process in a book. Cindy

  31. the unfolding of your renovation
    is mindnumbing, the detail
    and the execution perfection
    what will we done when you are
    quite done? love it all Joan.

  32. georgidwyer- that is just the sweetest. thank you so much!

  33. Dear Joan,
    I am beyond excited to see the reveal! I visit your blog all the time just to soak in all the details and to read your stories and descriptions. If it was a book or magazine it would be dog-eared!
    Cheers! Jean from Maine

  34. Hi Joan,
    I agree with Georgi Dwyer, my world stops when I recieve that email from you. It feels as if time stops until I having finished reading your post...and like Georgi, I try to take everything in. You and your husband are truly talented and passionate about your home. I too would love to see a book but was thrilled when your home appeared in Renovation Style magazine. Can't thank you enough for sharing this experience with us.


  35. The anticipation is nearly too much...I can't WAIT!!!

  36. ...oh joan! this is absolutley always i am amazed at the vision of you and dan...and so moved by your determination to protect the integrity of the house...and of course its first occupants...magical indeed...the whole journey has been magical...blessings laney

  37. Can't wait to see it finished. I so enjoy seeing these build shots, setting the stage for us. And now I also look forward to the treasure/storage room!

  38. Have I mentioned lately how much I adore each and every one of you?!! I thank you so much for all of your comments. I know many people just like to see the pretty picture reveal photos, but my motto is that it has to get messy and ugly before it can get pretty. So, thank you for enjoying looking back at the journey with me and looking at the messy and ugly;)

  39. Cannot wait to see it all finished! You are such an inspiration.

    ♥ sécia

  40. What a fabulous vision - can hardly wait for the reveal!!

  41. all i can say is wow!

    i cannot wait to see it all complete and i'm wondering what room you spend the most time in? i think i'd just walk around all day going from beautiful room to beautiful room. xo

  42. Do you need more gates ? we have more :)
    I am , of course, taking notes now. You never know when they will be needed.
    besitos. C

  43. I'm a complete sucker for old house renovations, especially if the word barn appears somewhere in there! I can't wait to see the finished room.

    Kat :)

  44. I just love your posts! I have you on my iPad flipboard and am so excited when a new post comes. I went to UNH in the very cold spring of 1982...remember fields of snow with loney farmhouses dotting the landscape...I often wonder if I past your home all those years ago. You remind me to be deliberate with decisions...the outcome is worth being patient.

  45. Oy...I need a ciggarette.

    ...and I don't even smoke.


  46. I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog several months ago. I'm addicted. Between your writing and photos, I feel like I'm there. Thank you for letting me in! From a (transplanted NYC) gal in Texas!

  47. When we went on a ghost tour while in new orleans,they told us in our photographs we might see spirits..that they would appear as globes of light or orbs...take a look at your photo 3--very interesting. I read your blog earlier but came back for another look and noticed them

  48. PurdaVida- While I love that story and have read similar accounts of people taking photographs in Savannah in our case it was just my camera going bad. The spots got consistently worse until I bought a new camera and then the spots stopped showing up in photos.

  49. I love to watch your home unfold into the beauty she is! I can't wait to see the mud room complete, as everything you touch is golden! I am remodeling my kitchen and your kitchen has been my inspiration. Out of thousands of kitchens blog wide, at Houzz, and Pinterest, yours is at the top of my list. I used one of your photos, with credit back here in my post about the remodel.

    Thank you for sharing your home with all of us. It is a privilege to peak in to this little slice of heaven! Christie

  50. Oh Joan, this is so exciting. I can't wait for the reveal.

  51. it's starting to shape up! I can't wait to see the revel!

    Frank Lyold Wright practiced that technique you were talking about with small confined spaces then walking into a larger expanse of a space to have that wow feeling. I thought it was very interesting when teh docent talked about that at Tailsen West.


  52. Hi Joan
    Once again a great post. I think I get it! I've been playing with my blog the last couple of days. I can really appreciate the fabulous effort you put into your blog.
    Kind Regards
    PS Can't wait for the reveal

  53. love the process - i was curious about the dugout garage. was it already a hole or did yous guys dig it out? is so, how? with all that stone? lisa from japan

  54. I am so excited and can not wait for the big reveal.....I know it will be worth the wait :)

  55. I am SO hoping the Treasure Room is going to be a new antique shop you will open to customers! Or at least your workspace, from which you will run a consulting business for other renovators!

  56. Lisa from Japan- (so sorry it has taken me so long to reply) The garage basement was already existing, but we had to did down an addition 6' to get below the frost line to pour a concrete floor. We incorporated the existing granite foundation into the garage. If you click "garage" under "topics of interest" on my sidebar you'll see some posts there, but you comment makes me realize a comprehensive "making of the garage" post is in order. Thank you!

    Catherine- you are sweet. The treasure room really is a storage room, but its a good one;);)

  57. Deidre- I've been thinking of your dear comment for days now- thank you!
    Janet- as of late we are spending a lot of time in the barn room, but honestly... I do walk the house a lot just looking at the rooms! What I love about the layout is that you have to walk through rooms or by rooms to get to others and I always look around!
    Virginia- we are in SW NH so probably not, but I love the romantic thought. It, in fact, reminds me of my own college days and is a post I am working on!
    Christie- Thank you so much! I am truly honored.

    xo to all of you! j.

  58. Wow! you really didn't mess about with this one did you? I'm impressed at the level of detail, such a great looking place. We did a similar gut job with a house we bought in rural Bedfordshire, needed a hell of a lot of work but it was worth it. The electricians in Bedford had a field day with the living and bedroom areas.

  59. a comprehensive "making of the garage" post is in order.
    Thank you!
    NO......THANK YOU!
    lisa from japan
    ps. loved the birthday party!


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