From Barn to Barndominium

Every year, the Oxford English Dictionary adds new words to reflect pop culture, slang, technical terms, etc. In 1989, a new word, “barndominium”, or “barndo” appeared. Connecticut developer Karl Nielsen coined the word “barndominium” to describe his intent of creating new communities planned around raising horses. He envisioned stables on the main floor surrounded by fenced paddocks for horses with living quarters above. Slowly, the idea of a home that had space for both animals and their humans began to evolve, although this concept was not really new.

Since pre-historic times, the word “transhumance” has been defined as herds of dairy cattle being moved from their winter homes in valleys to the upper Alpine areas during the warm months. The cattle feast on their daily diet of fresh grass, flowers, and water from pure mountain streams. At night, the cattle rest in a barn while the farmer sleeps in the loft after he makes cheese from the daily supply of milk.

While you may not be an equestrian or a dairy farmer, the idea of having space on the main floor for an RV, boat and/or cars, with living quarters above is appealing to many. This idea culminated in a segment of HGTV’s popular program “Fixer Upper,” that featured a 1980’s horse barn’s transformation into a family barndominium.

The “Fixer Upper” barn’s horse stalls had been converted into a garage and storage space and the upper loft was an apartment. The transformation began with turning the former center aisle of the horse barn into an indoor-outdoor room for family gatherings or entertaining. The remainder of the floor included a new staircase to the upper floor and two bedrooms and baths. The great thing about main floor bedrooms is that the doors can be incorporated into the design, instead of egress windows for emergency evacuation. The loft floor became a large kitchen and living room. After this HGTV segment, barndomania took off. Now there are both single story and two-story barndominiums all over the country.

One of them is a recently completed barndominium for Bohl Architects clients in the Hudson River Valley who caught the wave. They asked for our help in achieving their mother’s vision of a barndominium for herself on their property. The barndominium is sited at the crest of a hill with spectacular panoramic views of rolling hills against a backdrop of the Catskill Mountains, a landscape that has inspired painters since the Hudson River School American Art Movement began in the mid-19th century.

The existing barn was a story and a half barn with a pitched roof with a one-story single slope shed roofed addition. The barndominium was reclad in corten steel that will weather over time.

At the elevation overlooking the valley and the mountains, Bohl Architects added an outdoor room that spans the full length of the house, with both open and screened areas. Fir tree trunks have a new life as columns for the porches, rooting the barndominium to its site.

The rectangular floor plan is divided into two bays. One is a free-span bay that is an open plan living-dining-kitchen area with panoramic views from the side full height window walls through the open and screened porches.

For total transparency and maximum views of the surrounding landscape, the framing of the exterior windows and doors echoes the framing of the porches. The sills of the windows rest on low walls, with a stained wood cap-perfect for art, sculpture, potted plants, books, or a perch for the family pet.

The other bay contains the entry hall with closets on one side and doors to the core area of bathroom, laundry and walk-in closet for the bedroom and one wall of the kitchen cabinetry.

The bedroom and a library are located at each side exterior wall, with full height windows and transoms. The library’s tall grid of millwork has a rail to accommodate a ladder to access upper shelves. Sliding doors that stretch in height to just under the ceiling plane connect each room to the open plan living-dining -kitchen area. Off the entry hall is a one-car garage and a carport.

The low maintenance interior design features stained concrete floors with radiant heat, wall and ceiling planes of drywall, simple baseboard and trimless doors.

Whether you are building your first home, planning a vacation space, or downsizing your family home, the barndominium concept has great appeal. With its main floor bedrooms and bath and second floor open plan living-dining-kitchen area, the design maximizes the views of your site’s unique features. Barndominums are one of the quickest growing trends in home styles across the United States. We hope our barndominium design inspires you to think about collaborating with Bohl Architects!

If you’d like to share your comments, questions or just say hello, feel free to email Jennifer at

Doors – Your Home’s First Impression

Your Home’s First Impression

Of all the elements of a building, doors and other openings we walk through are the most important and symbolic of the structures we encounter in our daily lives. The door’s concept and application are simple, with ambivalent meanings since doors are used to either enter or exit a space and to provide safety or freedom.

Doors or other openings in walls are transition points leading to other rooms. A closed door signifies privacy or a dead end. An open door encourages entry and provides a vista to another space. Metaphorically, the door has long symbolized the entrance to the afterlife.

Doors first appeared in Ancient Egypt and temples in Pompeii as early as 79 AD. Throughout history, doors have been made from leaves, hides, paper, stone, metal, wood, glass, or a combination of materials and their functions ranged from swinging, sliding, folding, pivoting to rolling. Famous examples of carved bronze doors were the doors designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistery in Florence and the 24 foot tall doors of the Pantheon in Rome.

During the Renaissance, door design combined classical Greek motifs with realism. In the 17th century, a door design appeared that remains popular to this day; this Georgian style door had raised panels, usually six per door, with stiles and rails as the centerpiece of a symmetrical facade. Glazed doors also appeared in the 17th century. In the 20th century, sliding doors became popular and today we now have “smart glass” that can switch from transparent to translucent by clicking a switch.

At Bohl architects, we understand that entrance doors are an important part of your home for the choice of a front door’s style, design, texture, materials and color combine to make your home’s first impression. Red doors say “welcome”; in an early American tradition, tired travelers would understand a home with a red door would take them in for a night’s rest. White doors are universally associated with cleanliness. Black doors convey the authority and power of the Owner. Blue or teal doors exude a feeling of calm and serenity that evoke the pristine water of the Caribbean. Green doors symbolize ambition, since it is the color of money, or echoes the color of a surrounding landscape. If none of these colors appeal to you, the warmth and stability of stained wood is always a great choice.

Through the years, we have specified front doors for our modern art houses, historic preservation houses, renovations and new houses in a variety of styles. Here are some of our favorites from our website portfolio of houses:


Our “Storybook Getaway” house began its life as a three-bay Victorian cottage. The original two-paneled door has a top rectangular panel with chamfered edges and a bottom square panel with chamfered edges. The green door takes its cue from the surrounding landscape of green.

The “Magothy Modern” house has a modernist touch of a wood door fabricated from horizontal lengths, flanked by full height sidelights. We especially like the juxtaposition of the solid door with transparent sidelights. The mullions and other framing are stained a lighter color than the door for contrast and the sleek vertical hardware complete the look.

The “Bembe Beach” door is fabricated from dark metal with slender top and bottom rails and side stiles to maximize the glass area. The discrete lever hardware disappears into the side stiles to give a visitor a clear vista to the Chesapeake Bay beyond.

The “Severn River View” house has a front porch with a wooden door and threshold. The door is detailed with a top panel of three glass panes, two middle raised panels and an oversize bottom rail. The door is centered into a half stone wall in warm earth tones below windows painted white. The craftsman detailing begins with the post and beam framing, side benches instead of handrails and exposed rafters and decking, all in white to focus your eye on the door

The “Waterfront Shingle Style” house has the entry door at the side of the front porch. The door is next to two long windows and has a top glass panel above two recessed panels framed by wide rails and stiles. Period hardware, including the lockset, complete the period look.

The “Wye River House” has a wood front door detailed in three horizontal panels, with the two middle panels being the same height and the top panels one third the height. The door’s stained wood is a focal point for the foyer’s interior of white, with an accent of back in the pendant light fixture that resembles a Calder mobile.

The “Whitehall Creek Modern” entry foyer is part of a “hyphen” connecting two parts of the modern house. The foyer is detailed in grey brown mullions and framing with slim rails and stiles. As an accent, a vertical panel of wood is both an accent and the backdrop for the sleek modern hardware.

Whatever style, material or color you prefer, we can help you select the front door that is the perfect introduction to your home!

Want to keep reading?

Good choice. We have more articles from Jenn.

Doors – Your Home’s First Impression

Of all the elements of a building, doors and other openings we walk through are...

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