Back in the day, the many charming barns dotting the Hudson Valley landscape were simple working buildings, used to house animals and their feed or maybe heavy equipment like tractors. How times change.
Over a distinguished 30-year career, Poughkeepsie architect Dan Contelmo has completely reimagined and redesigned “at least a couple of dozen” barns in the region. As a seasoned design pro with over 50 regional and national industry awards to his name, Contelmo channels the connection between his clients’ personalities and emotions, and how they want to live in their physical spaces. He’s seen two waves of noticeably heightened interest in barn renos, the first after 9/11 and again much more recently, after the pandemic took hold. People not only wanted spaces where they would be comfortable, but also where they could feel safe despite all the scariness in the world, according to Contelmo. So while some rehabbed barns are intended to be rented out as Airbnbs or Vrbos, many more are refreshed to be well-loved and frequently used by their owners. Think hangout space, a home office or creative studio, perhaps a bar or a peaceful place to do yoga. “Or maybe even all of those things, with a smart design,” says Contelmo.
This reboot of a 100-year-old barn in Pleasant Valley presented a couple of noteworthy challenges, the first being that when Contelmo began working with the homeowners, renovation was already under way and the contractor was hustling to get as much done as possible before frigid winter weather set in. The second hitch was that a significant section of the original barn floor was sagging nearly 7 inches. “I didn’t even want to walk on it,” recalls Contelmo with a laugh. Yet somehow, through a combination of laser-like focus, flexible thinking and creativity, the project came together in a little under a year.
Obviously, the existing floor had to be completely restructured. Installing a new roof was also a must, with a dormer added to flood the space with light. In the dormer itself, Contelmo envisioned a window seat to double as a bed with a trundle below. A generously proportioned sleeping space for guests, which includes four custom bunk beds, filled out the original footprint.
Thanks to a two-story addition, the barn more than doubled in size, accommodating a bar, kitchen, pool table and family room, separated from the sleeping quarters by sliding doors. The first floor features a bathroom, a home gym sized to hold a full range of professional-grade workout equipment plus another kitchen, positioned there primarily for serving food and drinks around the pool. The upper level includes another bathroom and a comfortable home office. The lower level boasts a garage that can easily accommodate five cars.
As for the outside, the goal was to retain the overall look of a traditional barn, but with an upgraded, more modern feel. A thoughtful combination of stone veneer at the base of the building, plus board and batten siding and a standing seam roof, hits the nail on the head.
The result was so stunning that a couple out taking a Sunday drive saw the barn from the road and stopped to knock on the door to ask for the name of the architect. Seems like it’s only a matter of time before another old barn is new again.