Thinking Outside the Box with Barndominiums

The term “barndominium” might have originated out of Connecticut and the Northeast, but the concept is as Texas as Texas gets. Live-work spaces play out as lofts in Manhattan, but in Texas, barndominiums are the choice of those who work where they live.

To that end, every barndominium tends to have a unique flavor you’ll never see in another home. Whatever else you might think a barndominium entails, the personalization and capacity for customization is why they’re the rage for those looking to balance home life with work and other pursuits.

Those who think outside the box for home design tend to create compelling, inspiring barndominiums that we’d love to call home. In a perfect world, we’d all be as imaginative and innovative as those outside-the-box designers, but since that’s not the case, to get you started, here are some of the design concepts they use.

Think About the Light

When you’re designing your home, think of the direction it’ll face. Light makes an enormous difference in how you experience day-to-days at home. Bright sunlight can be great in some rooms while you might want more control over daylight in others, like in a home theatre. Either way, window size, placement, and style will dramatically impact your interior floor plan.

The trouble with light is, as photographers and artists know, that it’s a moving goalpost. Daily, the sun’s trajectory shifts by degrees. It can take over a year to really understand how light hits a property with how the sun moves across the sky. But, luckily, there are apps for that. Smartphone programs (like The Photographer’s Emeris) allow you to pinpoint your homestead and see the direction from which the sun and moon rise and set every day for the whole year – a big improvement over just betting on “southern exposure” when designing the space. This way, you can choose which rooms and windows are best suited where.

Many barndominiums are designed for tall, airy, open interiors, and a wall of windows could bathe the interior with light year-round. Gone are the days when windows meant breaking the bank on heating and air conditioning costs year-round, as window technology has exploded recently. Energy costs are manageable and sometimes even helped by having ample windows. For windows themselves, beyond the design of them, all sorts of options exist for the glass, like UV protection, additional glazing, tinting, and even solutions like solar shades can take up to 40% off annual energy costs.

But windows are good for the soul, especially if you work at home with any sort of creative or problem-solving career that involves staring out at the horizon while lost in contemplation on your project.

Think of the transformative power of features like roof windows (as opposed to skylights) and accordion glass doors. Those accordion glass doors, for instance, can be that “wall of light” but also can be opened wide to let the outdoors in during the summer. What a way to start a summer day!

Even modest-sized windows can make a big difference, depending on their angle and height. A small window high up near the peak of the roof can brighten the whole room while keeping your privacy, much like skylights do.

Light fixtures define the interior but can also add drama when seen from outside. Imagine driving up to the homestead and seeing a large rustic chandelier or attractive lighting shining out from your feature windows.

Think About Space

Barndominiums are the perfect interiors for celebrating design elements like vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, and all those other architectural details people swoon for in décor magazines. What you don’t add to the interior is just as important as what you do, when it comes to letting dramatic spaces speak.

Barndominium Interior

It’s a great time to look for large, imposing furniture that often take over average homes, but are perfect scale in a big, open rustic interior. Often, these pieces are downsized or sold off because they’re too big for the modern home, and you can get surprising bargains on them because their markets are dwindling.

Think About the Details

Customizing your barndominium might be intimidating, but rewards can be immense. Custom cabinetry, for example, can make a few feet of “wasted” space in a corner become invaluable for organization. Doing small things to capitalize on your home’s available space can be a game-changer for how useful and fulfilling your home is.

Here are some small projects that might add a few dollars to the budget but pay off like you wouldn’t believe:

Design a custom workspace or office at home. Why settle for a mass-produced desk instead of one that works for how you function, designed for the ergonomics of your body? If you’re left-handed, for instance, design your built-in desk oriented for left-hand use, under a window you love. If you add custom shelving built into the space, you’d be surprised how small a footprint an efficiently-designed workspace can have.

Cater to your inner-foodie. How about that walk-in kitchen pantry you’ve dreamt about for organizing preserves? What about a fermentation room for curing cheeses and sausages, or brewing wine or beer? Watch the movie Julie & Julia for inspiration, when Meryl Streep as Julia Child designs the kitchen she spends the rest of her life in, now on display at the Smithsonian Museum. It’s a great way to think about a kitchen that will cater to you and your food passions.

Indulge your (grand)children. The closet under the stairs on Privet Drive might have been the stuff of nightmares for Harry Potter, but an under-the-stairs playhouse or reading nook could be a dream come true for the little people in your life. It doesn’t need a lot, either. Bean bags, fairy lights, fun colors, some shelves or toy boxes, a curtain for privacy, and suddenly you’ve made unused space into a kid’s wonderland.

Embrace built-in possibilities. A custom-built breakfast nook can be fancy with lots of upholstery, or just rustic benches snug in a cozy corner with a table that fits just right. Investing more money and time can be helpful, though, if the seating becomes storage boxes for stuffing away things you won’t need often, like the Christmas punchbowl or Halloween decorations. Think about built-in window seats or corner shelves throughout the home, custom-made for storage and displaying knick-knacks or photos.

Go big, if you can. Using barn doors or old-school garage or hangar doors could allow you to open entire areas of your home on summer days. A barn door in the kitchen could open to a BBQ patio with a firepit. Porches add on a lot of value and outdoor living space too, since the best part of having a countryside home is enjoying it from all sides.

Have focal points and featured pieces. Big reader? Design a reading corner with a lavish chaise for sprawling out with the latest page-turner. Music lovers can design a space for a baby grand piano and other instruments that might sound incredible with the open concept acoustics. Avid plant-lovers have the perfect interior for large tropical plants like majestic palms and banana leaf plants. Art-lovers have the dramatic, high walls perfect for murals and large art installations.

With all this space, what’s your passion you’d like on display?

Barndominium with Patio

Think “Best Use” Design

Build to what you think you’ll need in 5 to 10 years, so you don’t grow out of your home just after building it. Build it for the family and friends you’ll entertain in years to come. Create space for the future you aspire for.

Whatever your home business dreams are, build for that future today. Create a footprint for your mechanic’s business, or painter’s studio, or seamstress’s craft room.

Pouring a larger slab and adding the extra few hundred square feet today is far cheaper than changing things later. Leave it open now and adapt for walls later if you feel they’re ever needed.

More open floorspace doesn’t mean it all needs to be filled today – or ever. But it’s easier to reach dreams when you have the space to welcome them.

Of course, you may already have a growing home business, so think about its potential over the next decade, and design for that – so you don’t later wish you’d added more workspace.

This is truly the time to “dream big.”

Start Planning Your Barndominium

Begin by asking yourself what your home needs for you to be happy for years to come. It doesn’t need to be big, fancy conveniences. Utility is important too, like a laundry room with organization and lots of space for ironing, for instance.

Flow and orientation matter as well, like sequestering the main TV room far from where you’d like to read in the afternoon light, so others in the household don’t interrupt your latest mystery novel. Really think of how you live and design the home to cater to that lifestyle.

So, the question is, what do you need, and where should you put it? Floorplan, use, the flow, placement, and purposes are all for you to decide.

A pantry, an outdoor kitchen, an art studio, reading nooks, music area, mechanic’s garage, outdoor enthusiast’s ‘wall of adventure’ with kayak and bike storage – these are things to design for.

What’s your life about? Your home should reflect you and your interests. List everything that fulfills you – from hobbies and sports and past-times – and include those in your home.

Then, use the internet for research. Search for, say, “design ideas for laundry rooms.” Or maybe “ideas for small home gyms,” or “built-in office desk ideas.” See what online magazines, bloggers, and others might have done in their designs.

Instagram and Pinterest are also treasure troves of design ideas and you can ‘save’ posts you’re enamored by. Use hashtag searches, like #bedroomideasforgirls and you’ll be surprised what you find. As I write this, #bedroomideas on Instagram has over 896,000 posts to scroll through. Others, like #mypantry, might only have 1,000 posts, give or take, but how many inspiring photos do you need?

Relax, It’s A Work in Progress

But as much as you plan for today, the reality is that personal home design is often an organic process that unfolds over years.

The important part now is to create the space for that future to be possible in this home. There’s no need to make custom-built features right away, but having room or even a plan for them later, that’s invaluable.

Don’t rush the design process. Allow time to think of everything. Create a vision board of spaces that inspire you – different bathroom looks, different porch elements, even window styles you love. As time passes, some ideas will speak louder than others, and you can design accordingly.

Ultimately, the steel frame construction of our barndominium kits offer the framework for your future home dreams to come true. They’re adaptable. If you start with steel-framed walls now but want to frame out a single new wall in wood later, you can. Dream of a timber-cladded home? A steel-framed barndominium can be clad any way you like.

We don’t just sell “cookie-cutter” kits – we manufacture kits to your specs, too, from 100% American steel. We can custom-build just about any barndominium design you conjure.

Read more here to learn about the safety and economy of building a barndominium kit from Absolute Steel.

If you still have questions, talk to us. We’re always happy to have a no-obligation conversation about the possibilities and pricing for barndominiums.