My Thoughts on Barn Interiors


Over the years our style has evolved as I’ve struggled to discover what exactly defines “us at home”.

I’ve always felt that the interior style of our home ought to jive somewhat with the exterior, and I’ve always been heavily influenced by decorators like Laura Ashley and Colefax and Fowler: early forerunners (from my perception at least) of the classic English Country look.

Our first home was the (now standard) European cottage style which lent itself very well to English Country.

Our First Home

When we moved to our vintage colonial revival home built in 1937…

Our Second Home

I took my English Country accessories with me but I also tweaked things a bit to give them a vintage take on Early American.

Now we’re moving to a barn.

And I’m struggling with this one.

In the first place, country, unless it is English Country, has never really been my thing.  It calls to mind images of the ‘80s: geese, black and white cows, powder blue wallpaper with a pink floral border, dried flowers hot glued to a straw hat hung on the wall.

No can do.

Then I began to explore the many pinterest pinboards featuring a chic, modern country style: tan and white monochromatic color schemes, sliding barn doors, Mason jars, burlap, and walls covered with reclaimed wooden pallets.

This….I might be able to pull this off.

So I began to window shop the internet.

And I discovered that trying to make the inside of a home look like an old barn, a dusty place where one houses cows, sheep and pigs: is very expensive.

Sliding barn doors made of reclaimed barn wood?  Recycled, right? Taken from something no one else currently wants, right?  So they ought to be cheap, right?


Utilitarian barn lighting?

A small fortune.

Furniture that looks like it has been built of scrap lumber and left out in the rain?

Six months’ wages.

So, I’m currently trying to figure out a way to:

1. stay within a small budget while…

2. creating an interior space that blends with the weather vane on the roof while…

3. trying to incorporate much of what we already have

all the while trying *not* to end up with something that looks like a “Down on the Farm” exhibit at a theme park.

It’s a challenge.

But I’ve had some thoughts (I’d welcome yours), and I’ve started to take some steps to assemble some ideas that I hope will result in something warm and homey:

*Quilt fabrics.  Not the cutesy kind, but reproduction vintage and antique prints (or those pretty closely resembling repros).  I’ve decided to use these in lieu of decorator fabrics. Still working on the color palette…

*Kerosene lamps.  I wanted these when we had our first home, but couldn’t pull it off.  They just didn’t fit.  Here, I won’t have to worry about that.

*Mason jars.  They’re cheap and I already have some.  Now, I’m not going to create a chandelier out of them, I just plan to use them gently, as small accessories here and there; like a vase for flowers or as a soap dispenser.

*A lovely porcelain rooster….mmmaybe.  I’m trying to downsize as we pack things up.  As a newlywed, I went nuts with accessory items and dusting day is a nightmare.  But I do love roosters.  And chickens.  And small birds. And feathers.  And eggs….

*Burlap.  Again, as with the mason jars, used in moderation which is difficult because it is so inexpensive and at the moment: very much in vogue.

In addition to the above we’ve decided on stained concrete for the flooring throughout.  I have allowed for a doorway between the dining and living room ~ someday we’d love to have one of those sliding doors.

Yes, I’ve seen where one can make them.  I pinned it.

I do have some things that, for sentimental reasons, I can’t part with, need to use, but can’t see in a barn.  Things like a Victorian style mirror, a set of Staffordshire dogs, some framed Bouguereau prints, a Chippendale dining table, and some Duncan Phyffe pieces.  Hopefully we’ll be able to blend those in with the rest, and hopefully, as one comes up the sweeping drive lined with barbed wire and through the front door, the contrast won’t be too jarring.

In the words of Tim Gunn we’ll just “make it work”.

What are your suggestions for decorating on a budget?

How would you define your current style?

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My Thoughts on Barn Interiors — 28 Comments

  1. I feel your pain! I too am figuring out how to turn a bachelor pad into a family home on a very skinny shoestring budget. :-) I’ve been doing a HEAP of recycling and investing in spray paint. Lots and lots of spray paint. :-) I love bohemian – but light, airy, colorful bohemian. So I’ve been scouring the dump shops (an Aussie tradition I LOVE!!!) for mismatched wooden chairs with great lines that I clean up and paint, bookshelves and tables that I clean up and stain or paint, and a marvelously motley selection of dishes and pottery and wrought iron. :-) Your ideas sound wonderful and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with them. :-)

    • I hope you post pictures Krista. I love the look of mismatched chairs. I’m not real good at spray painting. I haven’t got the patience to allow it to dry in between coats but Marco can get some really great looking results.

  2. ” ‘80s: geese, black and white cows, powder blue wallpaper with a pink floral border, dried flowers hot glued to a straw hat hung on the wall. ” You just described my first kitchen less the black and white cows!!! eeeeewwwww…..LOL BTW totally LOVE your barn house.

    • Thank you Amy! I was worried when we first started out that it wasn’t going to work but I’m really happy with it so far.

  3. Your description of 80s country is so apt. ;)
    Yes, you can totally add your own twist, make it YOUR style. I can totally envision the Staffordshire dogs. :)
    Do you have an Ikea? They have a light fixture I love that might fit your style. And it’s cheap. Wish I had a spot for it myself!
    I’m still not exactly sure what my style is called for this house…for my kitchen it’s farmhouse for sure. Don’t know what to call my bathroom other than Pottery Barn (pretty much took the idea right out of an old catalog). For my front room I want board and batten, medium blue walls, and a quatrefoil/trellis rug. I guess you could call it comfy modern traditional country?? And yet the outside of my house lends itself more to something more Spanish. :P

    • I love what you’ve done with your place. I always get so excited when you blog. Honestly, I’ve thought about making sunbonnets for my Staffordshire dogs. :P We don’t have an IKEA :( but I have gotten a lot of inspiration just from looking at their site. I love their kitchen ideas. My sis lives near one and has offered to pick anything up that I might need that they won’t ship.

  4. I have to limit my barn stuff, too. I really like all those vintage metal signs that have cows and milk and chicken and eggs motiffs. But so far I haven’t bought any because I’m afraid I’ll go crazy with them! One of my favorite farm things to do that was still classy was taking nice black and white 8×10 close up photos of my kids—each one of them with their favorite barn animal—and putting them in solid black frames on a display shelf. I did tuck in a large wrought iron chicken among the photos. It makes a nice display (I have 4 kids), it’s “farmy” but doesn’t overdo it. At least I hope it doesn’t!!!

    • I did go crazy once with those vintage signs and I still drool over them from time to time. I had to part with some and have kept just a few, telling myself that less is more. I love the idea of black and white photos. I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks for the suggestion. :D

  5. I think like you do. I think the style of a home’s interior should coincide with the exterior and the surroundings. I also love to decorate but need to keep costs down. I prefer a country style that has a rustic, chiseled look. I like to use weathered wood, so we keep a pile of wood scraps behind our shed and let it weather naturally. When we want to make something we go looking in the pile. (It’s ridiculous what you pay for recycled barn wood. We just make our own.) My husband and I make a lot of our own furniture out of pine. If you want to get some ideas, we have a page on our web blog:

    • That is a really good idea to keep a scrap pile that weathers naturally. Thanks for sharing the link to your page. I will definitely go take a look at that.

    • I have not seen those but I have seen something similar also from Lehman’s (which I love). They also have some jars with a wick that can be filled with something (??) and used as a candle.

    • Thanks. :) We’ve reached the point of no return and are just weeks away from actually moving in so it pretty much has to work at this point. :?

  6. I would suggestlooking into Home Goods (not sure if you have one around you…inexpensive stuff, but nice) and E-Bay (I purchased alot of our stuff for our first home from there…my style is a chic country). I also get e-mails on a daily basis from Joss & Main (some stuff is pricey and others aren’t that bad). Good luck and know that there are no rules (at least in my book), I prefer to go with what I like and mix and match stuff. Look forward to seeing pics when it is all done.

    • Thanks Jen. :) I don’t know that we have Home Goods but I did just this week hear about Joss & Main so I will take a look at what they have to offer. I agree it is good to just go with what you like.

  7. I lived in an apartment, built into a barn. I loved that apartment, the exposed barn beams, the high ceilings…
    I hope you share pictures once you are done decorating! :)

    • That sounds gorgeous! I love exposed beams. We’ll have to throw a virtual “open house” when we get settled in. :)

  8. Jenny — I went through the same thing with our farmhouse when we moved here some 10 years ago. By combining what we already had and browsing our local thrift stores, I found some real treasures that just needed a little elbow grease. Have you heard of the website, Funky Junk Interiors? It might lend you some inspiration. Good luck!

    • No I haven’t heard of Funky Junk ~ I’ll have to check that out. As of today we’re getting rid of things and may be in the market for some end tables. I’ll see what they have. Thanks! :D

  9. I had to laugh at your pin boards. They look so much like mine! I’m in an old farm house now we’re working on with an ancient barn. Glad I won’t be living in the barn! We’ve got an really eclectic style around here. Go with what you LOVE–and somehow it will all work.

  10. I like a lot of these ideas. My husband has always liked the country hurricane lamps (kerosene) and I have a couple of them in my kitchen. Pretty and functional!! When you start putting pictures up, you might make a point of getting some great shots from your property that show what you like about living in the country (beautiful sunsets, close-up shots of interesting things on your land, etc.)

    • The hurricane lamps have been fun and create a homey atmosphere. I have to remember to light them though at night. I have thought about the pictures ~ it is just one of those things that I’ve had on my agenda for some time and never really gotten around to but I should. We got some great shots of the building process and I have wanted to have them enlarged and framed.

  11. I’m TOTALLY violating the “thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house” commandment. I’m a fan of mid-century modern style and I think it would all look great in a barn. I vote head to your closest thrift store as often as possible and let your creative mind go wild!

  12. You had mentioned kerosene lamps. May I suggest electrified kerosene lamps. You may have already tried burning kerosene. If not, burning kerosene lamps inside your abode will awaken olfactory receptors you never knew you had. After a few days of moderate use, the odor of the fumes will permeate every crack and crevasse, your cloths, food, furniture, rugs, bed sheets, towels, curtains, even your skin, especially your skin. Nothing escapes. And then there is soot, Not at first. It will take some time, but just wait. Kerosene, like diesel, is a light weight, petroleum-based product refined from crude oil. As with any petroleum-based product, it does not burn 100% efficient. The fumes create a film, which given enough time and concentration will touch everything in your casa. Search the internet to find a good cleaning method to scrub down votre maison. Burning kerosene outside can be a good thing. It can add a nice bit of ambience and help keep the mosquitoes at bay. There is a reason country folk switched over to electricity as soon as the REA came through their area. This and the dangers of an open flame near a flammable material, is one or two of them.

    Regarding homesteading, YOU ARE LIVING THE DREAM, and give hope to us that would like to get back as soon as possible.

    Regarding the price of recycled lumber and rustic furniture, etc. I remain shocked and appalled at the prices people are asking for this motif. And what people will pay seems unlimited. I should know, I make it by the warehouse load. So, I’m very grateful also. Blame cable TV and internet blogs that old, broken, rusted items previously called junk (for good reason), which cost more to haul away than it’s worth, is now known as “shabby chic” and cost more than store bought new fine furniture.

    Recycled lumber is another matter. While still somewhat abundant, if you know where to look, the trend has caught on and now I pay folks to tear down and haul away their old barn, chicken coop or shed, plus restore the site to near original condition. Not the other way around. The old lumber is pure quality, through and through. In the hands of a craftsman, beauty will emerge. Cabinets and sideboards and headboards made of old barn siding, well it takes all kinds. God bless them all. If my now lengthy tome sounds just a smidge like cynical lecturing, I try not to. Good luck with your new lifestyle. It keeps getting better and better.

    • Not at all David! Your encouragement, advice and kind words are very much appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to give your input. We’ll look into the electric kerosene as you mentioned. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

  13. Prairie style…..just got the magazine. ….mixes country…farmhouse…..not cutesy either……