A backward glance

This converted barn has become a chronicle of its past, as well as providing a contemporary lifestyle
Story by: Camille Butler
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Before shot of the house and surronding area.

Readers of novels often find themselves imagining the thoughts and feelings of the author. The place where a good book was written may even be deemed magical by literary aficionados.

While not the exact setting where she wrote her books, this property was once part of an estate belonging to author Edith Wharton. It comprises three structures in a U-shaped arrangement: a barn, ice house and carriage house. When he set about renovating the barn to create the house pictured, architect Stephan Green was interested in retaining a significant amount of the original character.

"The southern and western sides of the building had been exposed to weathering, while the eastern and northern sides were relatively well preserved. Homeowners Annette and Michael Miller agreed to keep the country-style look of the sound faces, but wanted to modernise areas that needed refurbishment. As part of this process, we added more glazing, which was scarce not surprising in a barn," says Green.

Large windows were installed around the kitchen area, which is situated within the open-plan interior space. A clerestory window on the west face allows natural light into the building, while a large area of glazing gives a view from the kitchen to the garden. As well as reducing the need for reconstruction, the extra glazing has the benefit of making the house appear more contemporary on this side.

To help merge the old with the new, the shape of the new windows reflects the shape of the original barn doors on the northern face of the building, which were also converted into windows and doors.

"These large, arched openings look out over a cobbled courtyard area enclosed by a low shingle wall, which we recreated after looking at old photos," says Green.

One of the openings contains a door made from the old barn door, while the other has a more modern glass door, which opens in front of the dining table.

"Inside, the remaining barn doors are mounted to create a frame around this door, providing a reference to the building's history," says Green.


The floor plans of the house. angle, architecture, area, black and white, design, diagram, drawing, floor plan, font, line, plan, product design, schematic, structure, technical drawing, text, white
The floor plans of the house.

Where possible, the external shingles were salvaged, while new cedar shingles were used in the more dilapidated areas. In time, it is hoped that weathering will merge the old and new shingle siding. Also externally, the cupola was cleaned up, and lights were installed inside it to create atmosphere in the evening.

The carriage house and ice house were remodelled to become residences in the early 1980s. When the barn was converted, it was connected to the adjacent ice house via a glass walkway.

"This is another contemporary touch that gives the impression of walking into the outdoors. It also signifies a change in environment," says the architect.

Another aspect of the design that amalgamates the old with the new can be seen in the kitchen. Screened from the rest of the living space by a partial wall, the kitchen consists of contemporary Italian-designed recyclable red resin-panelled cabinetry and stainless steel hardware.

"To prevent the kitchen from looking out of place in what is predominantly a country-style house, it is wrapped in a wooden shell of cabinetry but inside, it has a very modern aesthetic," says Green.

On the outside of the island, cabinets are wooden with frosted-glass fronts. The glassware cabinets are accessed from both sides. On the kitchen side of the island, compartments provide ample storage.

In the rest of the living area, Green has created seating groupings to delineate spaces. Oversized, comfortable couches are arranged around a fireplace, which is made from locally quarried stone.

"This was one of the walls that needed to be refurbished due to deterioration. We created windows on either side of the fire, so the view can also be enjoyed."

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View of the front entrance way showing the windows and doors , furniture, flooring, paint and lighting.

Other seating areas include a breakfast table placed near the windows in the kitchen, and a space for reading, marked out by two comfortable chairs placed on a large Persian rug.

The walls of the interior make use of the barn framing. Plaster boards, painted a visually warm buttermilk yellow, are installed between the wooden frames. Flooring is pine, chosen to match the wooden bracework and also to fit with the character of the house.

"This is the largest one-bedroom house I have ever designed. The main area is a huge space, but the barn framing visually scales it down," says Green.

Landscape architect Walter Cudnohofsky was contracted to create the country-style gardens and courtyard surrounding the buildings. Green says that at times, the interior design was altered to co-ordinate with the plans for outdoors.

"The architecture of the house is based around taking full advantage of the variety provided by the surrounding landscape. Each opening leads to a very different environment," he says.

From the western side, the kitchen opens onto a deck that overlooks the original gardens on the property. Stepping stones lead down into this garden. The southern face, which contains the fireplace and large windows, steps down a level on the outside to view a swimming pool and pond beyond.

Jun 03, 2009

Credit list

Color consultant
Carl Black
Kitchen manufacturer
Valcucine
Structural engineer
Bill Barry, Barry Engineers and Constructors Inc
Doors and windows
Marvin and Duratherm
Lighting
Belfer; Lightolier; Artemide
Kitchen cabinetry
Valcucine
Taps
KWC
Cooktop
Viking
Dishwasher
Miele
Basin
Kohler Caxton
Flooring and wall tiles
Limestone
Kitchen designer
Elder Figueredo Duque
Builder
David Babcock
Siding
Cedar clapboard
Paints and varnishes
Liberty Paint
Blinds
MechoShade from Victor Rome Contract Furnishings
Benchtop
Costa Esmeralda granite from Adam Ross
Oven
Thermador
Refrigerator
Sub-Zero
Bath tub
Kohler Ironworks
Taps and shower fittings
Hansgrohe Axor Starck
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