Before & After: A Couple Turn a Bare-Bones Barn Into an Off-Grid Cabin – Dwell

When Katya Potkin and Bart Stein bought their 20-plus-acre property in Ancramdale, a small hamlet about two hours north of New York City, there wasn’t a lot going on with the barn. “When we moved in, it was wide open—nothing in it except for some dead mice,” recalls Katya. There was a rumor that it had been used as a pottery studio a few owners back, but only the empty structure remained. “It was very bare bones,” says Katya. “It didn’t have any insulation. It was basically wooden walls and a metal roof.” They left it alone while they settled into the nearby main house.
Before: The barn on the couple’s 20-acre property in New York is well-sited on a hill beyond the main house, so it feels tucked into its woodsy setting. The structure was bare bones, but solid.
Then when the pandemic hit in 2020, Katya and Bart started thinking about what they could do with the extra space. “This was before vaccines, and we thought it would be nice to have a place for my parents or family to stay,” says Katya.
They started researching local firms, and they were drawn to the portfolio of Barlis Wedlick Architects, who have offices in Hudson and New York City. “They were exactly what we were looking for, as our aesthetic is bring a little bit of city flair to country living,” says Katya. “Rustic, but not too on the nose about it.”
Barlis Wedlick helped the couple convert the barn into a self-sufficient guesthouse, complete with solar array and battery storage, which allow it to function off-grid.
Before: The firm incorporated many of the barn’s existing elements into the finished design, including the rolling doors, exterior siding, and roof.
The design team installed large windows and sliding-glass doors in key spots, and reinstalled the rolling barn doors to act as “shutters,” says architect Doug Huntington. The couple can close up the structure by sliding the doors across the glass openings.
Beyond the aesthetic, the couple needed the guesthouse to be flexible in use, and able to accommodate at least a couple, and optimally a few more. “We wanted to have more than just one bedroom,” says Katya, so that friends could bring their kids—or so the couple’s own children could have friends stay over. “We thought, decades from now, our kids might use it when they were coming home from college.” 
Architect Doug Huntington divided the 675-square-foot floor plan into a main room with a living area and kitchenette, and then clustered a bedroom and bathroom together on the other side. A combination mudroom/bunk room outfitted with custom storage and two beds sits adjacent to the main entrance, a door connects the space to the bathroom, which also opens to the bedroom. “It becomes this pretty unique little bunk/mudroom, but still allows flexibility for access to that bathroom from two directions,” says Huntington. 
Before: The design and build team reused the existing structure.
Reclaimed wood covers the ceiling in the living area and the bedroom. The large, white light fixture is from the barn’s previous incarnation, and the sectional is from Interior Define.
A dry-stacked rock hearth supports a Charnwood freestanding wood stove, which the design team carefully selected to fit the scale of its surroundings.
“It was important to us to maintain a sense of place with the project,” says Katya. To that end, the firm grounded the exterior palette in the building’s existing materials. “We were able to reuse 100 percent of what was there,” says Huntington. The design team removed the siding and roof to add insulation, then reinstalled everything and finished the interior. Then they slotted in sliding-glass doors and large windows, which can be covered by the existing sliding barn doors.
The kitchen’s contemporary custom oak cabinetry balances more rustic elements, like the ceiling and antique table-turned-kitchen island. The faucet is by Kingston Brass.
The stools at the antique island are by Wesley Walters and Salla Luhtasela for Nikari Wood. The wall sconces are by Early Electrics.
The oak cabinetry is “one of those balancing elements between the original wood structure and the ceiling,” says lead interior designer Tina Schnabel.
“One of our biggest goals was to achieve that perfectly rustic and refined balance,” says interior designer Tina Schnabel. They covered the ceiling in salvaged wood, and the floors in white oak. The large windows and doors punctuate cream-toned walls, which are sheathed in sheetrock and supported by the barn’s exposed structural framework. The custom oak cabinetry and bunks work with more rustic wood elements, but exude refinement in their precise detailing. 
The barn’s principle structural beams are left exposed and offset by white-painted drywall. Schnabel sourced a variety of antiques to mix in with contemporary furnishings, to maintain the desired balance.
The wood-paneled walls in the bunk/mudroom are painted Farrow & Ball Hardwick White No.5. Custom storage units sit to the left, and two custom white oak bunks are to the right.
In the bathroom, the vanity base is an early 20th-century English two-drawer side table, and storage is provided by a rustic brown-painted bucket bench shelf (circa 1930).
An antique claw-foot tub from Olde Good Things sits atop Belgian Blue Limestone flooring (the pieces were broken and fit together on-site)., The walls are finished with Moroccan tile from Cle Tile.
Since storms and high winds often knock out power in the area, Katya and Bart wanted the guesthouse to be “self-sufficient.” A rooftop solar array with an additional storage battery ensures off-grid capabilities.
Now, the barn welcomes guests of all kinds, and it’s also acted as an extra office in a pinch. Just recently, the couple relocated to the guesthouse for a day when the farmhouse lost electricity for several hours. “It’s served so many purposes,” says Katya. 
In the bedroom, a vintage pendant from Early Electrics hangs above a custom-fabricated bed from Interior Decorating by E&J with Kravet fabric. The Erosion Teak sculptures above the bed are by Andrianna Shamaris. Sconces by Long Made Co hang above 20th-Century Italian bedside tables. The Indian bedcover is from Hollywood at Home, and the bed is topped with a Filling Spaces pillow and a one-of-a-kind vintage pillow from Amber interiors.
Floor Plan of Southfield Farm Cabin by Barlis Wedlick Architects
More Before & After stories:
A Designer Fixes Up a Collapsing House on a Kentucky Horse Farm

A Ramshackle Barn in Northern California Becomes a Family’s Rural Retreat
A Country Home Blossoms in the Ruins of an Old Stone Barn

Project Credits:
Architect: Barlis Wedlick Architects / @barliswedlick
Builder: Bill Stratton Building Company
Structural Engineer: Taconic Engineering
Interior Design: BarlisWedlick Architects
Other: Hudson River Solar
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