The new rustic: In Keswick, a traditional barn structure reimagined—inside and out

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Photo: Ron Blunt Photo: Ron Blunt

There are upsides and downsides to having a barn as the starting point for a house. Upside: that great barn shape. In the case of the Red Barn project, on the grounds of Castle Hill Cidery in Keswick, that form makes for an iconic and historic statement in the landscape. Downside: Iconic and historic barns are a bit short on windows.

“Inherently, there’s not a tremendous amount of light that penetrates the core of the building,” says Jay Jenkins, whose firm, Jenkins Baer Associates, handled interior design for the project. The task, then, was to choose materials and furnishings that would max out the daylight that did exist.

Within the relatively small space, each room has its own personality—from the vertically expansive dining room and kitchen area, to a cozy living room nearby. Photo: Ron Blunt

Before those decisions could be made, though, architect John Rhett and construction firm Ilex had to reimagine the structure, originally built in the early 19th century to house hogs, as a sophisticated three-story weekend residence. Ilex elevated the barn to demolish and rebuild its foundation. Rhett designed rooms to feature existing beams, with the dining room having a high vaulted ceiling that takes in the full spaciousness of the barn’s peaked roof.

He also specified a stone chimney in the center of the building—a new feature that looks as though it could be original, and is, in a sense: The stone was mined on-site. This edifice anchors many of the spaces, from bedrooms to the main-level open kitchen/dining room.

These natural materials—stone and wood—set the tone. As a weekend home for clients with a rather formal main residence, says Jenkins, the Red Barn needed to stay “on the simple side. This being a compact little dwelling, everything needed to be as neutral as possible.”

Photo: Ron Blunt
Photo: Ron Blunt

Neutral, but not without character. The design team settled on horizontal planks of limed knotty cedar as a wall surface throughout the dwelling. “It fit the whole barn aesthetic,” says Jenkins. Kitchen and bathroom cabinet facings are made from the same material, allowing them to blend with the surrounding spaces and increase the sense of cohesion throughout.

Floors are made of dark walnut-toned reclaimed wood, while ceilings are Japanese plaster—“another simple texture, not just painted drywall,” says Jenkins. “It also has great acoustical properties.”

Photo: Ron Blunt
Photo: Ron Blunt

Aesthetic coherence aside, within a relatively small footprint, the Red Barn includes spaces of very different personalities. The dining room is vertically expansive, with dramatic roof framing and a large metal chandelier, while the nearby living room has a low ceiling under heavy exposed beams. The furnishings in this very enclosed space were chosen to feel cozy but not oppressive.

“We did a really beautiful rug in the living room,” says Jenkins, “with a warm ivory-colored design and a dark underground. The light color has reflectivity, but it’s not a busy rug.” This piece, from J.D. Staron, set a color palette of linen, camel and gray tones that, says Jenkins, allow “the artwork, which has great color to it, to really sing.”

Photo: Ron Blunt
Photo: Ron Blunt

Furnishings were chosen to create a feeling of tradition, without heaviness. “The intention was that they had a sense of age to them,” says Jenkins. Dennis & Leen and Rose Tarlow supplied key pieces of seating, while the clients’ antique mirror is a focal point in the dining room.

The kitchen, almost totally open to the dining room, had to coordinate perfectly while asserting its own identity. Three barstools and a row of pendant lights over the island help delineate the cooking zone.

Photo: Ron Blunt

Quartzite countertops “blend with the color of the cabinetry itself,” says Jenkins, which gets dressed up with white bronze hardware. Quartzite also forms the backsplash, while a mirror-finish stainless steel hood runs overhead—a “cool modern feature inside of this rustic, traditional-feeling building,” says Jenkins.

Custom built-in bathroom cabinetry, a wine cellar and a graceful modern bathtub are some of the details that add luxury and help to achieve just the right balance of contemporary and traditional touches in the interior.

Photo: Ron Blunt
Photo: Ron Blunt

Meanwhile, outside, things are kept blissfully simple. The barn’s deep red color, its mostly symmetrical windows and a circular pea-gravel parking area could hardly be more stripped-down and elemental. Within the rolling grounds of Castle Hill, the Red Barn makes for a stunning and time-honored landmark.


Architecture: John Rhett of Rhett Architects

Interior Design: Jay Jenkins of Jenkins Baer Associates


The breakdown

3,735 square feet

Structural system: Post and beam

Exterior material: Clapboard

Interior finishes: 1×8 cedar shiplap

Roof materials: Standing seam copper

Window system: Loewen casements

Mechanical systems: Geothermal heat pump

General contractor: Ilex Construction & Woodworking

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