Did you grow up in a barn? No, seriously, we're wondering! (And don't worry, it isn't a bad thing!). Currently, we're seeing a number of former barns being converted into cute living spaces, and the results couldn't be more rustic chic. Whether you're planning on fixing up a barn of your own or just want to take a cue from some of these homes style-wise, we have ideas for you. We spoke to design experts, and we're sharing background on what a barn apartment is anyway, how to best utilize and style such a space, and how to recreate the look no matter your own circumstances.
Meet the Expert
- Holly Clark is the owner of The Barn Loft in Fayetteville, WV.
- Kris Lippi is a real estate broker and business owner. He is a member of the Forbes Real Estate Council.
What Is a Barn Apartment?
First things first, what exactly constitutes a barn apartment after all? Well, they're just what they sound like—traditional barns that have been converted into living quarters. "Barns hold an allure for many, be it from their picturesque stature as they sit stoic amidst a rolling pasture or from those childhood memories of sneaking into their haylofts," notes Holly Clark, owner of The Barn Loft in Fayetteville, West Virginia, pictured above. Clark converted the barn on her property into an outdoor sleep space, which is now available for rent on Airbnb.
How to Decorate a Barn Apartment
Because barn apartments are inherently small spaces, you'll want to select furnishings that serve double duty. In the above home by Loren Wood Builders, daybeds double as living room seating. The builders also constructed a loft space above the kitchen which sleeps additional guests.
One important element when furnishing a barn-turned-living space is being mindful of nature's elements—such as temperature and humidity, the presence of bugs, and pollen, to name a few, Clark shares. "When creating an outdoor space, there are a lot of factors that may come into play, particularly if you are designing a room in an uninsulated barn," she says. Clark advises keeping a heated blanket on hand during cooler months and equipping the space with large fans in the summer. Frequent cleaning is also key in a barn loft, she adds. "Don’t be surprised if you dust a surface one day and have to dust it again the next."
Even when selecting basic furnishings and appliances, you'll want to consider your barn's outdoor setting, Clark explains. Setting up a coffee maker? "It’s best to also have self-contained sweetener packets and creamer so ants don’t become an issue," she shares. And think about your floor situation. Adds Clark, "Rugs are a great way to reduce noise and catch dust."
How to Get Barn Apartment Vibes
Even if you don't have a barn apartment of your own, you can introduce the same types of materials—wood and leather, to name a few—into your space to recreate the look. And it's quite simple. Notes real estate broker Kris Lippi, "Get wooden chairs and tables, and install wooden cabinets to get a feel of the barn style."
When it comes to lighting, there's no need to replace overhead fixtures if this isn't a possibility in your space. String lights are incredibly easy to install (and remove, if you're renting) and will evoke a barn apartment-like feel—we see them aplenty in The Barn Loft. A classic canopy bed will also evoke rustic style and turn your sleep space into a relaxing retreat.
Willing to undertake a slightly larger project? Lippi shares a suggestion. "One of the simplest ways to incorporate the barn vibe into your house is to replace your door with a sliding barn door," she says. "If doing this for your main door is too much, you may try replacing your bathroom door to get the feel." The good news is that such an addition is more than just aesthetically pleasing. "A sliding door also saves space, so this is an excellent feature to have," Lippi adds.
Additionally, keeping clutter and accessories to a minimum is key. In true barn apartments, such as the space above, this tactic allows architectural details like high ceilings and wooden beams to truly shine and make a bold statement. Even if these features are absent in your own home, don't go overboard with decor. Pay homage to simpler times and let your furnishings speak for themselves.