Expanding the View

Another measure Cratsley took to make the cozy cottage feel more expansive was to create a window plan that brings the outdoors in. New larger, energy-efficient windows brighten the space on the front and sides of the house, replacing small awning windows. Small windows were common in old barns because windows were expensive, caused drafts, and could injure animals if broken. Cratsley also brought more light into the house with architecturally appropriate dormers on the front and back, and a skylight hidden on the back roof where it can't easily be noticed.

But to keep the barn's charm intact — an important consideration for Cratsley and the homeowners in blending the cottage into the neighborhood — some of the new windows are be the same small size as the original awning windows, mainly in bathrooms and utility spaces. In addition, TOH general contractor Tom Silva's crew duplicated the original exterior window trim details, such as the whimsical scroll brackets that support the header caps.

Such details give old barns their identity, says TOH master carpenter Norm Abram. "A good conversion will give a barn new life but also retain its character," he says. In Concord that includes the original sliding barn door, which went back on the gable end (albeit as ornamentation) with two new windows cut in to bring in more light. Initially Norm thought he'd have to build a facsimile in his shop, but on closer examination he was impressed by the original door's sturdy mortise-and-tenon construction. "It's well made and needs nothing more than light sanding and a coat of paint," he says. "Why try to duplicate it?""

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