This Former Horse Barn in Garrison Was Transformed Into a Stunning Home Office and Guest Quarters

The new office and guest digs features warm and natural materials, evoking a Scandinavian design


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By Annie Thornton, Houzz

Many of us dream of having a backyard shed or studio to spend time in. Annie Mennes’ backyard escape came in the form of a dilapidated horse barn on her property in New York’s Hudson Valley. “As an architect, I loved it,” she says. Mennes, who runs her own architecture firm from home, appreciated the barn’s history, and saw its potential as a site for office space and guest quarters.


Related: How to Make Your Guest Room Work as a Work or Reading Space


Though her plan to renovate the barn became a complete rebuild due to the building’s structural issues, Mennes was able to recreate what had attracted her to the barn in the first place. “It was such a charming size and shape,” she says. “We wanted to honor the vernacular that’s here on the site.”

 

Outbuilding at a Glance

What happens here: Annie Mennes of Garrison Foundry Architecture + Decor works full time out of this office; her husband, David Minkin, a publisher, sometimes works here; the couple, who have three children, also host guests here.
Location: Garrison, New York
Size: 400 square feet (37 square meters)

 

Mennes and her family moved to the Hudson Valley four years ago, about the same time she started an architecture firm. She ran her business out of their house for three years before deciding that she needed a dedicated workspace for her growing team that wouldn’t take her too far from home. She turned her attention to the barn. “When we purchased the house, I always envisioned this would be our future office,” she says.

Mennes and her husband had originally intended to renovate the 70-plus-year-old barn, which hadn’t been used for 30 years. But they soon discovered that the structure needed to be rebuilt. ”There wasn’t much holding it up,” Mennes says. She served as the project’s architect and supervised construction. After tearing the barn down to its concrete slab, they reinforced the existing slab and poured a new footing to enlarge the building by about 100 square feet (9 square meters). Then they got to work redesigning the space.

The new structure’s stucco siding, which was also used on the original barn exterior, nods to the past. Energy-efficient details and clean-lined interiors bring the building into the present. The building features warm, natural materials with simple details and clean lines, channeling a Scandinavian design. “The idea was to bridge this rustic-modern vibe,” Mennes says.

Door and trim paint: Pitch Black, Farrow & Ball; windows: Integrity, Marvin Windows & Doors
Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

Reclaimed barn wood lines the walls of the structure’s entry vestibule. An antique bench contributes to the room’s rustic design and gives visitors a place to rest or set their things. To the right of the entry are the main rooms of the new building; the bathroom is straight through the pocket door.

Bench: eBay
Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

The bathroom off the entry was added during the renovation. It contains a sink and a toilet, and ties into the home’s septic system. The couple had intended to add a shower as well, since this space was designed to sometimes act as a guesthouse. They ultimately left out the shower to save space and time getting necessary building permit approvals.

Painted planks envelop the bright, airy bathroom, whose porcelain tile floor resembles concrete. The flooring has electric radiant heating, as do all tiled portions of the building, which keeps the floors and rooms comfortably toasty. An integrated door with a knife-edge pull opens up to metal shelves that store most everything for the building.​

Porcelain tile floor: Stone Source
Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

Mennes’ office sits off the entry vestibule and next to the work den of her husband, David Minkin. On any given day, depending on the project and if there’s a meeting, two to four people might be working in her office.

Like the bathroom, the office walls and ceiling are white paneled wood. Mennes looked to East Coast farmhouses and Scandinavian style for design inspiration. “The office is simple and utilitarian,” she says. The wood, though it looks like V-groove paneling, is in fact planks of knotty pine. Mennes used the underside of the planking to form the visible joints, similar to those of V-groove. She primed the knots so that they wouldn’t show through, then painted everything white. “We got a lot of mileage out of this inexpensive material,” she says. She estimates that the wood probably cost about $1 per square foot.

Built-ins and organized storage contribute to the clean, functional look. A local builder designed and installed the 12-foot-long floating pine desk. The wall unit came from Custom Floating Shelves, a mail-order system that sells floating shelves. These are MDF shelves they painted to match the room. Plain white binders and boxes store materials and office supplies for the firm. A pegboard wall holds architectural tools, and white Bisley filing cabinets store more. “The idea was to hide everything in the white storage wall,” Mennes says. A leaning ladder with wire trays holds the materials and paperwork for the firm’s current project. 

Wall paint: Cloud White, Benjamin Moore; task chairs: Craigslist; ladder magazine rack: eBay
 Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

The vaulted ceiling is standard framed. Exposed reclaimed-oak beams throughout the shed provide some structural support, but they are mostly decorative. “We wanted to have an insulated roof but the look of exposed structure,” Mennes says.

The flooring is bleached oak from Mafi, an Austrian wood flooring company, and does not have radiant heating. “We do have a little Panasonic heat and AC unit in the main office. We tend to not need it,” Mennes says. The new shed’s tight envelope and the radiant heating in the other rooms keep the whole space comfortable.

The ceiling fixtures are by Rejuvenation, which Mennes also customized to fit the space. They came with clear cords that she replaced with black cloth cords from Grand Brass Lamp Parts. “Everything got a little embellished,” Mennes says. It’s a really easy thing to do, she adds.

Chair: Jens Risom, 1stdibs; ceramic bells: MQuan; wood beams: Southend Reclaimed
Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

The den, adjacent to the office, is where Minkin sometimes works and where guests stay when they visit. Designed to be a warm and cozy space, it has wood-paneled walls and soft textiles that contrast with Mennes’ starker office. The wall paneling is a mixture of purchased reclaimed planks and wood pieces salvaged from the demolished barn. The vaulted ceiling uses the same reclaimed beams seen throughout the barn.

The ceiling also appears to be reclaimed, but it is knotty pine that has been stained with tea, another of Mennes’ tricks with the inexpensive material. To get the look, she first painted the wood with a strong black English breakfast tea and let it dry. Then she painted the wood with vinegar in which steel wool had been soaking. The result is a natural stain that resembles aged barn wood. “It has this silvery-grayish hue to it,” Mennes says. She let the steel wool soak for an hour because she wanted a fairly light stain. The longer you soak it, the darker it gets. “You have to experiment with it,” she says.

Other amenities, including a cushy sofa that folds out, a plush Moroccan rug and a wall-mounted TV, make the den an inviting space for Minkin to work and for guests to relax. Two-inch thick hemlock pieces left over from the stable form the built-in floating wall shelf. Spacers a little more than 1 inch thick create mini cubbies for Minkin’s record collection, a mini fridge and other decor. Instead of a table, this built-in unit stays tight against the wall. “It’s a really efficient use of space,” Mennes says.

Sofa: Room & Board; lounge chair: eBay; rug: Beldi Rugs; coffee table: Gibson; sconces: WAC Lighting; chandelier: Etsy
Beatrice Pediconi, original photo on Houzz

Two doors in the den lead to the yard. A local landscaper built the sunken fire pit using granite pieces from the region.

The stucco siding mixes with clear cedar tongue-and-groove wood siding on the back of the barn. This little projection encloses the bathroom closet and the barn’s air-conditioning unit. They wrapped it in the wood siding since it “sticks out like a little thumb,” Mennes says.

The metal standing seam roof shows off solar-powered skylights that bring in natural light and ventilation but do not require electrical wiring. They can be manually opened and closed, but they also run on solar power to close during appropriate times, such as when it rains.

In designing and building this structure, Mennes satisfied herself as an architect and as the owner of a creative business. She designed and built a space from start to finish in which she could try new details, hardware and finishes for the first time. “It was a little incubator of ideas,” she says. And she was able to carve out a real office space. “Especially if you’re a creative person, it’s nice to have that special spot on your property you can go to.”

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