How To Build A Horse Barn With Charm
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
A horse barn doesn’t have to be a boring rectangle with an A-line roof. Let’s face it, when you build a new horse barn you are most likely to spend much time viewing it from your house. It will either add beauty to your property or just stand there looking suitably agricultural in its nature.
There are many ways you can incorporate charm and a distinct personality into your new barn build and being creative doesn’t have to be expensive. It does take some thought. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Not only does an overhang provide much needed shade from the sun, and shelter from rain and snow for the stalls and their inmates, it also changes up the roofline of your building. The added dimension to the architectural profile of your structure immediately adds interest and also grounds the barn in its environment.
Overhangs are a relatively inexpensive way to increase space for storage, and increase the visual appeal of your horse barn. The exterior walls of the barn are also protected from harsh weather, which may increase longevity of the siding and improve drainage around the building.
The walls can also provide a great canvas to hang signage and decorations, and the overhang is perfect for hanging baskets of vegetables such as tomatoes or flowers, out of the reach of non-flying insects.
Dormers and Windows
A roofline devoid of dormers is quick and easy to build and to roof with shingles or metal roofing materials than one that incorporates dormers, and as a result will require less funding to complete. However, if you are going to the expense of adding a loft, this enclosed space will appear smaller and more confined than one with dormers and windows for incoming light. Windows can also be opened to ventilate the space and add an airy feel and the natural light that brightens the human spirit.
Mix Roof Heights and Angles
A uniform roof height will provide less interest than one that is staged or staggered.
For example, if you have an indoor with stables attached, you can drop the roof height on the stable block to provide a break on the roofline that will provide more appeal to the viewer.
The added benefit of placing buildings in juxtaposition such as at a right angle or boomerang shape can further enhance the charm of a building. The larger the building the more important consideration of its visual presence becomes. If the building is one unit, a footprint that encompasses shapes such as octagonal center spaced between rectangular lines of stalls with a center aisle is a fabulous way to add charm to the overall structure.
Texture Adds Dimension
Whatever building materials you choose for siding or roofing, highly textured materials and designs will add a third dimension to the overall picture. Traditional designs such as board and batten can add extra charm to your building as can mixing materials such as using wood siding with a metal roof.
Shutters and Windowboxes
Windows that are framed by shutters offer a traditional look that adds instant charm. The shutters may or may not be functional, but their textural quality lifts the siding of the barn and also gives the option of mixing the color palette when it comes to painting.
Windowboxes placed out of reach of horses’ inquiring snoots can add vibrant plant color and life to an otherwise mundane façade of siding. Aside from helping honeybees out by providing necessary pollen, plant presence out of the reach of pets, neighborhood feasting rabbits and curious childrens’ hands can be a boon to the inner gardener in all of us.
I once planted an array of imported tulip bulbs from Holland in front of one of our barns and they looked beautiful each year as they ushered in welcome Spring weather. Unfortunately one day while I was busy showing a horse to a prospective purchaser, their child who was duly enamored with the beauty of the tulips, picked every last one of them. On our return the lovely bouquet was presented to their Mom, who was horrified by what had happened fully realizing these bulbs would never return to flower. I could hardly be cross with a child for wishing to share the beauty of the garden with their parent, but did not replace those beds of bulbs. Lesson learned! The lady may not have bought the horse but she did go home with a lovely bunch of flowers to adorn her dining table. As I once inadvertently once mowed about half an acre of daffodils down in my parents orchard as a kid, before the flowers had the time to fully die off and their stems melt to the ground, I could quite appreciate how bad the little person felt when their Mom pointed out their mistake.
Flowers and plants added to the landscape of any property, will not only ground the building and mesh it to its environment, but also provide freshness to the air and life to the picture. Be careful to avoid any plantings that are toxic to horses or ones that will attract unwanted animal visitors.
Cupolas and Weathervanes
Cupolas fulfill two jobs, they beautify the profile of the building and can provide additional ventilation for the horses in the barn. When you top them with a weathervane and personalize the design to your taste, you really have made your mark atop the structure.
The Paint Job
Accentuate the architectural features with a different color trim paint to the siding colors, either complementary or contrasting to your taste. Two tone or contrasting colors on the siding with a darker color at the base will make a building appear less tall and this is very useful for large barns that will otherwise offer no visual engagement with a blank uniform color.
Areas inside the barn may also be painted. Crossbars on stall doors, tack rooms and storage rooms can all benefit from some additional coordinated color palette that adds harmony or contrast. If choosing colors is something you are not confident about simply utilize a color wheel. When you select neighboring colors from the wheel the color combination will create an atmosphere of harmony. When you select contrasting colors from the wheel, it will provide energy. Information is readily available online on how to use a color wheels correctly.
Views and Aspect
Our focus when building the barn is often on the exterior appeal of the building and its interior design for functionality. It is important not to overlook the interior of the building, as it is a blank canvas as far as design is concerned. Black or dark colored grills above stall walls, angled tongue and groove sheathing on walls, vaulted and cathedral ceilings and a treasure chest of other building details can add great effect and charm to the structure.
As you walk down a center aisle, your gaze will be drawn to the end of the aisle and the door that frames the view beyond. When selecting a site for your barn, you will have many factors to consider about drainage, blending to the environment, accessibility, prevailing winds, direction of the sun, and many more. It is a good idea to also consider the view that the exterior doors of the building will frame when you are inside the barn, especially where a long tunnel view such as a center aisle is concerned.
The framework of a window or doorway becomes a natural lens through which the view becomes framed as if looking through a camera. The vista is therefore heightened in its prominence and if it is possible to capture a good view versus a poor one without compromising on the other necessary factors for good barn placement such as sun and prevailing win, then why not take advantage of the fact.
If you take a leaf out of the book of the great Hudson River artist Frederick Church, you will seek to create a view that is pleasing to the eye of the beholder. When Church created his naturalistic landscape at his 250-acre Olana property in the Hudson Valley in the late 1800’s, he composed it as an intact work of art. At every turn of the roads the visitor is met with a carefully crafted scene that is framed by trees and shrubs. He famously wrote, “I am busy landscape architecturing!” in 1887.
While it is unlikely that you are crafting such an enormous scaled composition on your farm, it can bring much joy to incorporate the available scenic views or landscape compositions that you have available to add charm to the experience of utilizing the building. A simple line of trees planted to each side of a grassy lane that draws the eye to a distant gate or woodland view, or fence lines set to each side of the trees can enhance the charm of the building.
Both inside and out, the details of each item you add can either detract or add charm to the picture. Fixtures for lighting can be antique in style or modern, and careful placement of lighting fixtures that are practical for purpose but also add atmosphere to the view can enhance any building.
I have visited many famous and rather fancy horse barns and farms over my career, and the vision of crystal chandeliers hung high above aisleways or as features in an alcove, provide a magical quality to the visitor’s experience. From a practical standpoint the cleaning duties alone would give me pause before including such opulence in a horse barn, but to each their own. Simpler fixtures and décor are often best, but it is the attention to the detail of such items and their quality that provide an extra dose of charm for the users experience of the barn. Always bear in mind their proximity to the horse and their safety for use in an indoor/outdoor environment and follow local building codes as appropriate.
Planters placed at entranceways to barns can provide a welcome to guests. They may be filled with colorful flowers or planted with certain herbs such as rosemary, which will deter mosquitoes and other insects from the barn. Obviously ensure any plants used are non-toxic to horses or pets.
In conclusion there are many decisions to be made when purchasing a barn. Don’t be shy to ask the professionals in the barn building industry for their advice and for ideas. Even the addition of small personal touches can make all the difference. Enjoy the process!