Lesson 1. A sound skeleton comes before flashy finishes

The unfinished 156-year-old barn had so much potential — big, open space and those cool rustic beams

But it also had issues, like a rotting floor and a sill you could stab through with a butter knife. So before the animal shelter could be made ready for people, the TOH crew — including host Kevin O'Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, and master carpenter Norm Abram — needed to jack it up.

They replaced the dodgy beams with hearty laminated ones, and built a new floor that would last at least the next 150 years.

Lesson 2. Low ceilings create cozy spaces

The barn's soaring ceiling fills the great room with light and air, but sometimes you want an intimate little corner where the family can curl up and watch a good movie. An early plan enclosed the room's media center, which is located beneath two new upstairs bedrooms, as a separate room. But since the space had a 7 1/2-foot ceiling, it was already a natural for a cozy TV alcove — without the closed-in feeling that additional walls would create. Now when the screen is dark, the area also serves as a snug spot for reading or conversation, brightened by two-story windows in the adjoining high-ceilinged space.

Lesson 3. Structure can be beautiful

We liked the barn so much when we first saw the house, we knew it needed to be living space. Its worn posts and nail-studded beams had too much romance for it to be any other way. So as not to take away too much of that charm, Tom put 2x3 nailers and spray-foam insulation between the wall beams on the interior, then covered that with board and plaster, which left the massive timbers partially revealed. But as a tip of the hat to what was once there, he covered the exteriors of the walls flanking the fireplace with structural insulated panels (SIPs), which meant the interior could be exposed down to the great barn boards.

Materials

Fireplace: Chimney Savers/Charlie Allen Restorations
Firebox Lining: Vermont Soapstone
Television: Tweeter Home Entertainment
Custom Media Cabinet: Norm Abram
Engineered Beams: Georgia-Pacific
Foam Insulation: Icynene

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