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Here are five contemporary houses that are inspired by Western barns.

"You never see a bad barn," insisted noted ranch house designer Cliff May. "But you see all kinds of ugly houses; that's because they're built without considering function. A barn is made to spend not a nickel more than you need to house the horse or the cow or the feed."

May's comments are worth taking into account-especially if you're planning to build or remodel on a rural site. On these six pages, we show five contemporary Western houses that used the barn idea as a springboard for their own designs. Besides the shape, common characteristics include simplicity, directness, economical use of ordinary materials, open rafters and big volumes, functional and flexible space, and harmony with a rustic setting.

Distinctive twist on the dairy barn

To build a house that looked as if it truly belonged on its dramatic bluff site overlooking Tomales Bay, designer Jon Fernandez of Inverness, California, turned to vintage local dairy barns for inspiration. Fernandez' 1,900-square-foot house, shown at right, assumes a slightly abstract barn-like profile. The tall central volume contains entry, bathroom, and kitchen at ground level on a wood floor over standard concrete footings; the floor above holds two bedrooms and a bath. One side wing contains the garage, the other the living room; both are built on concrete slabs.

The house is oriented toward the view and away from neighboring houses and the full brunt of the wind. Because it's on the most public side, the north-facing entry wall is essentially closed; most windows are on the three other sides.

Fire-retardant medium shakes cover the roofs of the wings, galvanized sheet metal the gable. Usually, the fireplace alone is sufficient for heating, report owners Nan Haynes and Sue Conley. Construction cost was about $80 a square foot in 1988.

Honoring tradition in Vail, Arizona

A wilderness site on a working cattle ranch adjacent to Saguaro National Monument called for forms and materials common to an 1880s Southwest ranch.

Architect Lynn Harris and her husband, Michael, wanted their house (shown at left) to be easily maintained, efficient, informal, and open. They used the basic gable-and-shed shape; the side wing is a south-facing screen porch.

Ceiling fans and underground-ducted swamp coolers cool the house; two wood-stoves heat it. No windows face west, and on the other end exterior redwood sun shutters slide on-what else?-barn-door hardware.

The Harrises did most of the construction themselves. The roughly 1,500-square-foot house cost $30 a square foot, including site utilities and the road in-but not including their labor.

Cattle-country bunkhouse

The new owners of a hundred acres in the oak-studded cattle-ranching hills of eastern Napa County wanted to build a small, simple house that would respect and reflect the traditions of the region, the character of the land, the warm climate, and an informal, outdoor-oriented way of life.

San Francisco architect Olle Lundberg designed a 1,200-square-foot, two-story structure that looks, from the outside, like a typical Western bunkhouse: unpainted board-and-batten siding, barn-like profile, metal roof.

The surprise is inside, where Lundberg capitalized on a barn's potential for loftiness and light. The front door opens to a symmetrical, nave-like space combining living room, dining room, and kitchen. Opposite the front door and dividing the kitchen from the living-dining area is the room's most arresting composition: a woodstove flanked by open-framed stairs.

The house was built on a concrete slab which was ground and polished. Walls are covered in unpainted medium-textured plaster. Kitchen countertops are zinc. A bath and a bedroom lie behind the ground-floor kitchen. Construction cost was about $95 per square foot in 1989.

Two barns: one working, one remodeled

"Building a real barn was simply the most logical, economical solution," says Agoura Hills, California, architect Erik Kirk Evens of the vacation house he designed for his parents on a grassy slope in the Coast Range south of Paso Robles. The senior Evenses wanted a structure with space for vehicles and a workshop. The lower, "utility" level is an open 44- by 72-foot volume broken up only by the heavy-timber frame supporting the second floor and shed roofs-four rows of 6-by-12 posts set 12 feet apart. The 1,440-square-foot residential level-occupying what would be the loft area of an ordinary barn-is reached by an outside stair up to the deck at the front of the building.

For maximum construction efficiency, all plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems work from a service core; the kitchen and bathroom are back to back. Daylight enters through two rows of clerestories running the length of the house. At opposite ends of the house are the living-dining space and the bedroom. These two areas contain the structure's principal windows-floor-to-ceiling prows of glass that create dramatic frames for the view.

The simple form, efficient plan, and straightforward construction helped keep the building cost for the structure down to $35 per square foot in 1988.

Jeanne and Michael Skott wanted a house on their 4 acres of field and forest on Orcas Island in Washington's San Juans. Unsure that a new structure would fit into the natural landscape, and daunted by the expense, they decided to remodel an existing 70-year-old barn.

"You could see through the walls, and it had a dirt floor, but we thought it had potential," says Mrs. Skott. The result is a charming and efficient 600-square-foot farmhouse on a new foundation. it's essentially one big room; the bathroom is in the wing beside the new porch. Living, dining, and sleeping areas for the Skotts and their three-year-old son occupy the main space, which rises to the roof peak.

A 10-foot setback requirement on one side meant that the Skotts had to remove one of the barn's shed-roofed wings; in its place is an overhang sheltering a door to the living room and a new wall of outdoor storage cabinets. New fir board-and-batten siding echoes the original. Walls and ceiling were insulated, and walls covered with white-painted gypsum board. Total cost was about $25,000 in 1989.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1990
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