Surprising barndominiums have all the comforts of home—fabulous kitchens and room for the tractor!
By Sharon Selz
When Kayleen Nelson teasingly asks her two kids if they were raised in a barn, they just laugh. The Nelsons, from Fulshear, Texas, are among the many families that have discovered the benefits of living in a “barndominium.” The term refers to a flexible multipurpose building that includes both living quarters and a workshop, storage area or even horse stalls, all under one rural roof.
Barndominiums are going up across the country, but they’re especially popular in Texas. They come in all shapes, sizes and materials—from steel and sheet metal to wood—and include some high-end homes. Instead of hay bales and dirt floors, think granite countertops and wall-to-wall carpet.
Custom homebuilder Ryan Reichardt in Cat Spring, Texas, started specializing in barndos eight years ago. “We saw a unique niche that we could meet, and demand has continued to grow,” he says.
“They’re ideal for city people who own rural property and want a place where they can live comfortably, store equipment and entertain during weekend visits,” he says, and they’re popular with empty nesters and retirees looking to downsize as well.
“Typically, construction is quicker and more cost-effective than for traditional homes,” Ryan explains.
“Many people take what they save on building costs and use it to add features like a pool or open-air kitchen.”
Kayleen and Chet Nelson say their barndominium makes perfect horse sense. “We lived in a Houston suburb that didn’t allow large animals,” Kayleen says. “So when we got horses, we purchased land in the country. We initially planned to stay in our home and just visit the farm. But after a few months of enjoying steaks cooked over the fire pit under big oak trees, with the horses leaning over our shoulders, we wanted to stay here.
“When our home sold quickly, we needed a house and barn right away. We were lucky to find Joe Slivinski and his company, Barns and Buildings, to take on our project. We moved in just three months later.” The Nelsons chose a Western-style barn home with a raised center aisle and sheds on either side. “The shed on the house side includes the tack room and a tool room,” Kayleen says. “On the other side, there are four horse stalls and a storage bay. When we have a large gathering with family and friends, we put tables in the center aisle and use it for entertaining.”
Another plus is being able to keep close tabs on their animals, Kayleen adds. “There’s nothing like waking up and hearing horses nickering downstairs, waiting for their breakfast!”
Realizing Lofty Dreams
Homeowners have all sorts of reasons for choosing barndos. Mark and Julie Candela find theirs an ideal headquarters for their small business in Weimar, Texas. For years, they were weekenders, traveling 90 minutes to their rural property. On one trip, they passed a sign advertising barndominiums. “When we found out what they were, we decided to go for it,” Julie recalls.
Six years later, “we’ve left our jobs in corporate America and our home in the city to live here full time,” she says, adding that Mark turned his leatherworking hobby into a cowboy boot-making business. “Half of our barndominium is now his workshop.”
Bob and Marilyn Garber lived in their bright red barndo while renovating a farmhouse in Temple, Texas. “When we moved into our house, we couldn’t stand to see the barn house sit empty, so we turned it into a bed-and-breakfast,” Marilyn says. “Guests enjoy its rustic look and feel.”
Frequently, men and women have different opinions on what makes a barndominium appealing. When Lee and Craig Williams bought land near Columbus, Texas, an existing barndo was part of the package. Craig loved the huge garage with space for his ATV and sundry man toys. Lee, an avid decorator, saw the barndo as a challenge. She recalls driving up and feeling intimidated by her first look at an industrial-looking structure.
“I focused on bringing the outdoors inside by using natural materials,” she says. “A wall in our living room is made of log slices from trees in our area. “It turned out to be fun taking this big metal box and making it into a real home.”
Get the look! (above)
If you love the idea of a barndominium, but don’t plan to build one any time soon, you can still get that warm, rustic charm without breaking the bank. We asked Funky Junk Interiors blogger Donna Williams, who’s all about creative repurposing, for her ideas:
Get a look similar to the metal ceiling by attaching thin wood slats to a smooth ceiling, then paint everything the same color.
Create a faux wooden beam from reclaimed wood—it can be much less costly than the real thing. Create a small frame, then attach random wood slats, the more mismatched, the better!
Fake a brick wall look. Cut a sponge to brick size, dip into mixed tones of paint and stamp.
Collect twigs and heavier branches, then zigzag them into place on top of an existing, smaller-scaled rail. Paint or stain all the same color so the original disappears.
Cut branches with a miter saw and attach to the wall with wood glue.
Find antlers at thrift stores or estate sales; glue around the base of a pedestal table.
Donna Williams, a self-proclaimed junkaholic, has a passion for creating one-of-a-kind decor from salvaged finds. She says anyone can have a unique home for little money—all it takes is creativity! To check out her projects, visit funkyjunkinteriors.net.