Somewhere, our Hamptons farming forebears are chuckling. One of the most popular home styles around today is the barn, whether it be an old barn repurposed into a gorgeous space or a new, strictly modern building that echoes the shape of a barn.
“Barns are, in their own funny way, like modern architecture. They’re the ultimate expression of form follows function,” says Frank Newbold, an agent with Sotheby’s in East Hampton, who has the listing for an 1880 Sagaponack barn on a property made up of vintage farm buildings. “People like high ceilings, big spaces and lots of light–that’s what barn living is all about.”
The barn includes antique hewn beams, a vintage brick floor and gorgeous (and trendy) old barn doors. You can’t touch the kind of character and authenticity that comes with an old barn like that, and they’re especially appropriate in a community like Sagaponack that’s still close to its farm roots.
Of course, the idea of living in an actual barn may be more appealing to some buyers than the reality. Debra Simon, a Water Mill boutique builder, believes “people love to drive past them but not actually live in them. Over the years, [I’ve found] the old barns with great beams and quirky spaces–which are also very appealing–are not at all appreciated by today’s buyers. People want new, new, new and open happy spaces, not gloomy barns with tiny limited windows. Even the old flooring/siding and beams are no longer trending. Most buyers and builders don’t find rotting, moldy, termite-infested wood anything they want to deal with. The cost to attempt to clean it up–refurbish, get rid of mold and termites–is too time-consuming and cost prohibitive. Every time I build, I promise myself the next one will have a big sloped roof, like the barns I loved when I lived on Nantucket. But codes, setbacks and what the buyer wants always prevails.”
For those who want new, modern-style barns are a popular choice. Plum Builders began designing the Modern Barn in 2006. Mary Giaquinto, chairwoman of Plum Builders, explains its appeal.
“The Modern Barn is designed with much more glass than the average house,” Giaquinto says. “Oversized glass sliders and oversized windows with large planes of glass allow natural sunlight to come through. We cannot help but be uplifted by the good light–it affects our moods positively. The other piece of the attraction has to do with the large spans of empty space we call breathing room. The views of nature outside gives us a connection to our natural surroundings–a good feeling. Without walls, the positive influences of nature and sunlight reach us no matter where we are in the house.”
For homebuyers tired of shingled traditionals, enormous boring McMansions, or soulless glass boxes, the emotional appeal of a barn, whether ancient or modern, just can’t be beat. Maybe our farming forebears should stop chuckling.