-By Justin Coro Kaufman
When we moved our family out to the woods a couple years ago, one of the things I was the most excited about was the barn. It wasn't anything too special, a humble, empty outbuilding across the yard, BUT it had a water a sewage line running to it, lots of potential, and sits less than 100 feet from our place. Great opportunity for a studio conversion.
For pretty much the entire duration of my professional career, my home set up has been in the living room. Pre-kids, this set up made sense, as Ive always liked being in the center the house, where I could hang out with my better half, half-watch TV and work at the same time. This set up served me well for the better part of the past 16 years. Lately though, with two little dudes tearing through the house, its become more and more difficult to work like this. Don't get me wrong, LOVE the kids, but DON’T love it when they draw or paint on my stuff while I’m using the bathroom or grabbing something to drink. Want to encourage them to draw and paint (just maybe not on dad’s stuff). There’s now a real need for a space to keep things separate (and safe) now for everybody’s well-being.
Enter BARN! The possibility of fleshing an entire building out to accommodate all of my arting needs has been something I’ve fantasized about for years. Having no construction background whatsoever made it kind of a daunting task. There’s SO much that goes into a project like this. Being a complete amateur, I figured the best way to start would be to take measurements and fall back on my 3d skills to build out a 3d model that I could iterate proposed alterations into.
This proved to be valuable as we started the actual work, since we could refer back and also try things out virtually before committing to it physically. decided to make the downstairs the oil painting area, since the open bay and barn doors make it easy to bring large canvases in and out. the upstairs would be set up as the digital part of the operation, or MB north :) where I could put my computer stuff.
We started out with the plumbing, since the water and sewage came into the building at the opposite end from where we intended to put the bathroom. First step was to have a concrete cutter come in and basically cut almost the entire foundation in half. Once that was completed, the plumber came in and trenched the new lines. We also added in lines for a shop sink in the painting bay, as well as a sink for the upstairs office area as well.
The actual building began once the lines were all roughed in and in place. We’re fortunate that our neighbor is a contractor and custom home builder who agreed to take the barn on as a side project portfolio piece type thing. Im limited in terms of handiness, so it was nice to have an experienced hand to power through the more specialized tasks that required actual skill. I handled most of the low-skill grunt stuff like demolition, installing insulation, site cleaning, painting, grouting etc.
The entire downstairs was originally covered in cedar panels, which looked kind of cool, but wasn’t insulated and didn’t lend itself well for hanging stuff, so I tore it all out and stripped the walls down to the studs.
Then came the reframing and window replacement. the windows were initially single pane’s of glass nailed permanently into place. we kept most of the windows the same size, but replaced with them with double paned ones that open and close. we put in a couple of large picture windows toward the back of the building to introduce more light and create some better views of our yard :) The upstairs picture window as particularly difficult to put in since its about 300 pounds and had to be hoisted into position about 15 feet off the ground. It was a relief nobody was killed. Also added a couple of skylights and made the cupola operational to increase air flow upstairs.
We just finished grouting the bathroom, which ended up being a fairly involved task in and of itself. We tiled the whole room so its pretty much a gigantic shower that you can hose down. It'll be easy to keep clean and also to wash mastiffs in there :)
There's still a laundry list of stuff to finish up, but once some final electrical stuff is finished and the sinks/toilet/stove are installed I can move in and start making stuff. After about a year, we’re now weeks away. Its been a very education experience, but Im SO ready to get out there and get my hands dirty at this point. Beyond excited! Maybe now my next post can be about making actual art or something!!!