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Co-Habitation

Dual-purpose barndominiums can be both gorgeous and functional. Here’s what you need to know before starting construction.

by Katie Navarra  

 Imagine waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee and walking down the hall to give your horse a good morning scratch. Or glancing out an upstairs window after a stressful day to see your horses grazing in their paddocks. If this sounds like paradise, then a barndominium might be for you. 

Home-and-barn combinations aren’t exactly new—large stables often offer loft apartments to barn staff as an employment benefit. In these combinations, the living areas are functional but they’re typically secondary to the barn. 

In contrast, a barndominiums living space is usually the primary focus of the layout, featuring elaborate, luxurious living areas for its human occupants, says Matthew Johnson, owner of Equine Facility Design in Portland, Oregon. 

“You’re not just working with a barn kit that comes with apartment quarters,” he said. “Our dual housebarns are custom designed to give owners more flexibility. You can access the living space however you’d like.” 

Equestrian facilities architect Lachlan Oldaker of Norman, Oklahoma, says house-and-barn combinations are growing in popularity because they offer a more sustainable tactic to structure design as open land becomes increasingly scarce. Bringing multiple functions under one roof limits the amount of land required.

Utilizing one location helps reduce the amount of infrastructure, such as driveways, on-site road circulation, utilities and site grading,” Lachlan said. “You only have to run the utilities to one location andcreate one pad for the building.” 

APHA lifetime member and world champion Stan Gralla is an architect also based in Norman; his firm helped design the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games’ equestrian venue. Stan says the term “barndominiums” can have various meanings—some people use it to refer to a metal or steel building that’s been converted or designed for residential use, while others—including Stan and Lachlan—say it can also refer to more traditional pole barn-style or traditional timber-frame construction. In most cases, though, projects are customized to the owner’s preferences. 

None of our designs are even close to being alike,” Stan said. “We built a very simple pole barn structure for my son, and weve had clients get as elaborate as a 6,000squarefoot residence that’s connected to a barn with three or four stalls. Some are new construction; others are renovated older barns.” 

Joe Martinolich of J. Martinolich Equine Architecture in Lexington, Kentucky, says several construction considerations should be taken into account before building your dream barndominium. For some horse owners, two separate structures joined by a covered breezeway might be more appealing that an all-in-one building. 

Putting a living area above the barn seems like a convenient and intuitive use of space, but there can be architectural limitations,” Joe explained. “It’s important to consider practical issues like where exits will be located and fire early on in the process.” 

Entry and exit planning are especially crucial for fire safety in shared spaces, and requirements that must be followed during construction vary by municipality. That might include having a firewall between the home and barn areas or guidelines for fire-sprinkler systems in shared-use buildings. And these added requirements, of course, can impact the cost of your project.

The key to designing a house-and-barn combination is knowing what features you want to emphasize, how much space you need and how local zoning regulations might affect your project. Consider these factors before diving in:

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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