Through the worst winter in memory, in Vermont, what's the best thing to do?
Build a barn, of course.
This barn has been a long time coming. Our place has been conspicuously barnless since we moved up here, as the house was built for one-person weekends out of the city. The original owner didn't see the need for a hulking storage building, instead lavishing attention on her perennial and formal gardens.
We had (multiple) cars, and other storable things, which had nowhere to go. As we are loathe to give up on cars, more and more of them had to sit outside, waiting. Some cars gave up waiting, and had to go.
I began to think about a barn in terms of car storage:
Understandable, really. But don't forget a tractor, a snowblower, and lots of firewood. So we needed a wide overhang to cover the almost-outdoor stuff.
On the opposite side, how about a cool sliding barn door to access the rear part of the building?
With that settled, there was the matter of siting. Where would be the least-wet, most attractive and useful spot for the barn? About twenty places were considered, but finally the barn found its natural home, nestled up next to our sugar house (actually a little guest cottage).
Let's skip over the part where we talked to every concrete guy and every local carpenter who had decided to go out on his own.... and the teenage kid who brought his dad along to make sure he did the bid right.
And the local architect whose work I had admired, who consulted for an hour and seemed embarassed to take his fee. And the lady builder, who took over the business after her husband died (she was good). And the reputable contracting company who build multimillion-dollar places on the ski hill.
"Can you give me a drawing, or a sketch of what you would do?"
Actually the lady builder produced a good drawing, but there was a post in the middle; and one carpenter had a crumpled picture of a truss that he wanted to use for the roof. Almost a good idea, but only Gollum would have been able to walk around on the second floor, to admire the forest of trusses.
And so we went with George Abetti of Geobarns, who produced a terrific picture almost on the spot, and almost couldn't contain his enthusiasm for the project. (www.geobarns.com) He has an interesting approach of laying up the studs on the diagonal, to give strength and save material. George has style.
If you remember December 13, that is when the concrete was poured.
Then there were a couple of months of.... suspended animation in deepspace, waiting for:
Picking a paint color became the priority, and so we visited one of George's recent projects to have a look: The Silo Vodka Company over in Windsor, Vermont. This is a very large barn, with an interesting faux silo on the end, which has a little vodka tasting room inside. Wonderful people, great vodka (this on another post)....
And a great shade of Red:
But it was a special paint, that isn't made any more, we're told. And so we went with my old favorite, Cabot OVT Solid Oil Stain in Indian Corn (the Barn Red was too dark and dull). My concept was to have the carpenter, Andrew, paint the cupola before building the rest of the barn, because I can't figure out how it would get painted any other way. Perhaps by helicopter.
And that brings us up to the present, except that today the cupola has red siding, very handsome.
This barn will be here long after we're gone; in 50 years the new owners will go upstairs, look at the 10-foot ceilings and wonder. Going over to the South wall, they'll only have to bend over a little to look out the pretty transom windows over the perennial gardens and lawn, down to the house and formal garden.