I Love Lamp: Renovating the Barn Part One of..... Probably Many

Steven and I have this barn.

When we first moved here, every morning we'd take our coffee and walk around the property and wind up in it, giggling, saying, "Oh my god, we own a barn! How far from New York City life is that?!"

 On our very first morning living here.

On our very first morning living here.

Ok, maybe only I was doing the "giggling". But still! It seemed so wild to both of us.

The previous owners used it to store hay and house their oodles of goats. So far, we've mostly used it as a woodworking shop--

 Building what would become the bar

Building what would become the bar

Or a novel place to drink beers with visiting friends (and Waldo), even in the dead of winter.

 Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Originally we thought we might want to have the Front Desk and Bar in the barn, but we decided to wait on that. It would entail such a massive (and expensive!) renovation, we wanted to be 100% sure it was worth it. 

So we "temporarily" set up the Front Desk and Bar in Room One and it probably only took about three weeks for me to realize that that's how it should stay.

 Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

The barn is BIG, and as I've mentioned before, at our maximum capacity we hold only 20 guests, so even if every single overnight guest was at the bar in the barn, plus a handful of neighbors dropping in for a drink, it would still feel kinda empty. And I'll always take cozy over empty at a bar, especially in the cold months (of which we have oh so freakin many).

And, perhaps more importantly, I can offer much better customer service when I'm this close to the rooms.

 Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Running a Front Desk isn't just checking guests in and out and answering the phone. It's about reading people, anticipating their needs, making slight adjustments for someone who could be enjoying themselves even more.  And it's usually the "little things" that make a difference in a stay at a place as low key and casual as this. A quick reminder of where the trailhead is before you set off, a corkscrew to borrow for the wine you packed, a fresh towel after a swim, a flashlight for your nighttime BBQ-ing. Things that maybe a guest would decide weren't quiiiiite worth trekking all the way to the barn to take care of, but ultimately do make a difference in their overall comfort and fun.

So! In Room One the Front Desk and Bar shall remain. 

Which leaves the barn open to possibilities again!

We've learned A LOT about renovating since first moving here, so it's much easier for us to make a viable plan than when we first arrived. (Not "easy", but definitely "easier".) And after nearly two years in business, we now have a much better sense of what our guests want:

An events space.

We've hosted five weddings, four writers' retreats, two family reunions, and flea market to name a few. And when the weather is good, everyone can spread out comfortably around the property. But if it's raining, well, people are kind screwed. Room One is our only communal indoor space and it has a legal maximum capacity of only 13! So for events, we currently require that everyone rents a tent. Like this:

 Pic by Max Flatow photography

Pic by Max Flatow photography

Which totally works! But it would would be much more straight forward, not to mention fun, to have parties and retreats like these in a beautiful old barn. And beautiful it will be. It might not look like much on the outside right now, but it was built some time in the mid 1800s in the traditional Dutch method so the huge beams are hand hewn and it's peg construction without any nails!

spider webs.jpg

So. This is what we're working towards.

Back in April we had a new, metal roof installed because the old shingle one was beginning to leak and that was obviously bad news. It was a big cost, but definitely the most responsible first step towards rehabbing the place.

Our next step was to demo and remove whatever junk had accumulated and whatever interior new construction wasn't load bearing so we could have one big open, flexible space. So we ordered a dumpster and did as much as I think we're capable of in a day. Which was a lot! Literally an entire dumpster's worth:

Most of that is from one part of the barn had this drop ceiling installed:

Which as you can see took a beating from some weather sneaking its way in. It was also filled with wood shavings, so we'd been procrastinating taking care of what we knew was going to be an insanely messy job.

(Btw, I know. Wood shavings?! Mr. Peters, who owned the property before the Schwarzeneggers, was a woodworker, so this must have been his shop and he must have used the materials he had on hand (loads of wood shavings) to make himself more comfortable.)

Yes. It was a TOTAL mess.

Steven did most of the muscling-- having at the ceiling with a crowbar, with a saw. I spent several hours ferrying garbage cans of shavings to the dumpster right outside. Tedious, but worth it! And while we still need to remove the most stubborn bits and take a shop-vac to it all, we're one significant step closer!

Eventually the interior walls, the staircase, and all the loft structure will be removed so that it's one big open space, but we're leaving that to the professionals because there's some serious engineering that needs to be considered with all that.

In the mean time, we hung some cardboard Ikea lamps we'd originally bought for our temporary kitchen upgrade (they were too big for that space, but perfect for the barn) and made a grand "table" out of some of the last of our barn wood and some leftover table horses et voila!

Next up is talking to the professionals about the rest of the demo and some new siding but for now it feels so good be inching our way towards all the good times to be had here on site!

In the mean time, we'll be enjoying the occasional beer in there while still having a laugh at the fact that we own a barn. I know, it's been two and half a years since we moved up here but sometimes I still can't quite believe how much our lives have changed! From China to Mali to San Francisco to Morocco to Brooklyn to--

Here, five miles down a seven mile dead end road in the Catskills. 

 Pic by Nat Chitwood

Pic by Nat Chitwood

Yea, I'm ending this post on a glam shot. :)