An 1860s Barn Relives Its Heyday

A dilapidated old barn was magically transformed into a guesthouse and entertaining space.

What do you do when the barn that goes with your early 19th-century farmhouse in Connecticut was sold years before and transformed into a neighboring house? Find a dilapidated old barn for sale in New York, take it apart and rebuild it on your site. At least that’s what architect Douglas VanderHorn did for his clients, who wanted a barn on their property to serve as their guesthouse and entertainment space.

Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


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Barn at a Glance

Who lives here: This is a guesthouse-entertainment space for a couple who lives in the adjacent farmhouse

Location: Greenwich, Connecticut

Size: 3,100 square feet (288 square meters); one bedroom, 1½ bathrooms

VanderHorn found this barn outside Albany, New York, online via Heritage Restorations, a firm that scouts barns in disrepair for rehabilitation and reuse. The timbers were already numbered and coded, as that was part of the original construction in the 1860s, when this barn was built. This made it easy to keep things organized during dismantling and rebuilding. The wood was tented and fumigated to get rid of any insects before builders began to put the barn back together.

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Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


Originally, Greenwich had many gentlemen’s farms owned by New Yorkers. This estate had been subdivided years ago, with the original barn sold off on its own lot and transformed into a house. The couple who live in the estate’s main house bought an adjacent lot as a site for their barn. VanderHorn had a new foundation poured and the barn rebuilt.


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Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


On the other side of the barn is this beautiful kitchen garden that looks like it’s straight out of Colonial Williamsburg. In the background, you can see the gracious farmhouse, the main residence on the property. The outbuilding serves as a garden shed, and the high brick wall keeps deer from devouring the plants.

As part of the renovations, they replaced the barn’s original siding with fir reclaimed from another barn that was in better shape, and repurposed it elsewhere in the project. A conservatory, chimney and cupola are new architectural additions. A new standing seam roof of lead-coated copper tops it off. The stone at the base of the conservatory is Connecticut granite.

Related: See More Stunning Sunrooms

Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


BEFORE: In its past life, the barn housed cattle and horses, and stored tractors and hay.


Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


Inside, VanderHorn used all the siding, timbers and floors original to the barn. He repurposed the original exterior siding to use as planks for the ceiling. The original floors are 2½ inches thick, and show their history through scratches and nicks. “You could still drive a tractor on them,” the architect says. The walls are covered in a rustic plaster treatment that has hay in it — a nod to the barn’s history.

On the top right side of the photo, a loft with a bedroom and full bathroom is illuminated by light from the new cupola. Pine trims the new custom windows. “We tried to design windows that were as simple as possible to match the era of the barn,” VanderHorn says.

The massive great room has plenty of space for large sitting and dining areas. The large Connecticut bluestone chimney is a new addition. Hand-carved into the mantel is the family’s crest.

The kitchen is open to the great room.


Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


The blue vent hood also is original to the farmhouse and received no refurbishment. VanderHorn designed the kitchen island to resemble an antique worktable. A large lantern overhead stands up to the large scale of the room and suits the style of the barn.

This custom cabinet of reclaimed wormy chestnut resembles a hutch but functions as a wet bar. A refrigerator hides in the bottom.

Also worth a squint in this photo is the wall over the vent hood — you can see the hay in the plaster.


Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


The new foundation included room for a wine cellar. “The rolling doors on the cabinet recall the original doors on the barn,” VanderHorn says. The wood is reclaimed from the barn.

Related: Outfit Your Home Bar With a Brand New Bar Cabinet

Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography, original photo on Houzz


Pocket doors open to the conservatory, which was made in England. The floor is grayish New York bluestone in extra-large custom pieces. The conservatory is heated and air-conditioned so that the owners can enjoy looking out at the property year-round.

Architecture: Douglas VanderHorn Architects
Interior design: Linda Shockley and Associates
Lighting: Patdo Light Studio

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