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Artist’s loft in barn restoration

The barn and art studio

My clients bought a wonderful pre-civil war Colonial farmhouse and barn in Westchester County, New York. It was a bargain due to the overall poor condition of the buildings, but the potential was obvious. It sat well on the land, high and dry, just far enough back from the road, unique and proud in its history and stature. The main reason they bought the property was to convert the loft of the barn into an artist’s studio.

This is the art studio in the loft of the barn.

These are the east facing windows of the artist’s loft.

Turning a barn into an artist’s loft

This type of project is always net positive with creative input from all involved with artistic craftsmanship, and practical solutions.

We integrated the existing post and beam structure to allow for contemporary wiring/lighting standards and code compliance. We installed a large grouping of Marvin windows (divided light picture and double hung units) in the east-facing exposure, which provided abundant ambient light throughout the day.

The original worn floor remained untouched, to become an oil-speckled pallet of artist’s colors. To integrate the new entry, we designed an open tread 3’x12’ fir staircase with a turn on a landing midway from the lower barn stall area to the second floor loft. It is a total surprise to walk up the stairs to the upper landing and open the door to the studio area.

The center door is the entry to the loft.

The center door is the entry to the loft.

The loft had a 16’ peaked ceiling. During the course of construction, the artist would adjust and amplify the natural light by temporarily placing reused window sash high up on the west wall; she needed to see the light quality at various hours of the day to be assured that the degree of brightness and shadow suited her purpose.

Eventually, we added two large fixed skylights with shades. This posed a problem however, as they were so high up in the slanted ceiling that the conventional shade and pole from the manufacturer required too much force to use. A stepladder was difficult also. Ultimately, we replaced the shades with a custom-made, extremely lightweight foam board shutter system that moved effortlessly to adjust the daylight to any quality. Rings of dimmable low voltage halogen spotlights illuminate the studio on darker days and at night.

Finally, when the budget allowed, we completed the previously framed bathroom with toilet, pedestal sink and a 5’x3’ shower stall. Because the main house septic was too far away from the barn to connect to, we built a small, dedicated tank and field for this new bath. The artist’s models are certainly thankful that they no longer have to walk to the bath in the main house on a cold winter’s day!

You can read more on this project and see more photos in the Projects section called “Historical Restoration – The Devil is in the Details.”


  1. This was a great project to work on over the years…

    March 23, 2012

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