What Would You Do With An Open Barn?

June 4, 2015

Just in case you didn’t know, or forgot, or because I hadn’t mentioned it recently, I wanted to remind you that I am living in my great grandparents’ former home. The house was built in 1920 … back before there were any real grocery stores around here… so a lot of homes also sported barns, for regular access to milk and eggs. This house has one of those barns. It looks like this.


One of my neighbors, who is possibly 70, remembers coming over to my now house to get their milk every week when he was a young person. And really that is so crazy because that wasn’t all that long ago. Now he can come over to my house and play NBA 2K15 on the Xbox. I mean, he doesn’t. But he totally could. Anyway, we have this giant structure that once had a use and now really doesn’t at all. But it’s there, in my backyard, and we have built a garden in front of it. It’s basically cute. But it’s a little old and needs some love.


What’s a little bit interesting about this barn is that after it housed farm animals, it became home to a giant George Washington head, a variety of Hindu gods, totem poles, monkey hands, and spaceships. You know, as things usually do.


As I wrote about (and Jenny wrote about) and wrote about again, after my great-grandparents lived here, my great uncle then lived here, and he had a float making business. That’s right. A business that made parade floats. And yes, there is a job for everything. (Check out this interview he did in 1978 on float-making)  It was quite a booming business, as parade float businesses go, and over the next five decades, he added five additional barns on the property to facilitate design, creation, construction and storage of large paper mache’ everything.


It took us about three years to parcel through, clean out, give away and sell the vast majority of the treasures to new lives, uses and homes. And for about five minutes a few of the barns set empty. Then we rented one out to a neighbor who owns and runs a variety of paint-your-own-pottery stores. Two became the home to our infamous barn sales. One became a garage. Another one currently holds lawnmowers and other outdoor tools and random equipment. One became a family storage spot for Christmas decorations and etc. And the other half of that one sat completely empty for a while.


But you know what they say about what happens when you clear space for something….get ready for what’s next.


And what’s next, when left thoughtlessly unattended, can easily become a big giant mess of random garbage.

Because open space tends to collect things, a human should really be extra mindful about what she lets into this open space.

I mean, at first it’s no big deal. A box here, an item there. After all, it’s just sitting there, open. For whatever.


But eventually, you’ll look up and find that beautiful open space is completely cluttered with random things from other people, items you scrambled to save from floods or fires or whatever was important for saving at the time, to the detriment of your own now-deranged space.


So having learned the lesson that all space is used space…and without specific intention, it’s most likely used for a bunch of crap… I would prefer to be mindful and thoughtful and specific about what this space will be used for next.

It will take about a day or a weekend to clean it out, so that’s not the big deal. It can easily be empty again, at least for a while.


But I would like to use it for something other than an old walkway. I want to use it for something specific. For something good, or cool or pretty. Something that has a purpose.

It will take some work for sure. The wood has rotted out in a number of places. There are spaces between the walls and roof, where light and ringtails and raccoons and God knows what else can get in.


So, work to be done. But oh the possibility!


The space itself is just a portion of the old, original red barn. The front door is the garden. And it runs about 36 feet long and about 12 to 14 feet across. At least, that’s the portion I would start with as I put energy (and time and money) into redoing it.


So what would you do with about 450 square feet of cool old barn space?


A long, straight, open space that is currently home to woodland creatures and random garden supplies.


Oh and it already has plumbing. And is set up for electricity. Sort of, well, it’s set up to be set up for electricity.


And it has a lot of history. I feel like this space could be used for something really good. And I have some ideas. A studio? An event space? What do you think? Harry is ready to make it into a basketball gym…and that’s not happening. This space is mine. It’s a gift I’m giving to myself. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. That’s really sums up everything, anything, life in general, doesn’t it?

What will I do? What would you do? Let’s make it something good.

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  • Reply Roxanna June 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

    My inlaws use their barn for events and as a game room. They have a ping pong table in there. They live in Austria, so basketball means nothing to them, but they’d be fine hanging a hoop in there. Their house used to be a rectory, so the barn is “decorated” with stuff from the church (most of it is over 100 years old). It’s a very special place and your barn with it’s history is begging to be loved!

  • Reply Barchbo June 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    The Hays County Coworking Collective! That may be a bigger commitment than you want (and it deserves a cooler, less Animal Farm kind of name.)
    Event space is good – or really, just a fabulous, LHM-style office/studio.

    Can’t wait to see what it becomes. My son still talks about the day he went to, “a barn filled with toys.” That is a magical place to him!

  • Reply zchamu June 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I really see you holding salons in there. Garden parties. Impromptu meetups. Cocktail hours.

  • Reply Judy June 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Harry’s my grandson and I love him deeply but there is another place for a basketball court. Jimmy has his garage and they both will eventually get their man cave SO ……. Laura should create a studio environment with a cool coffee bar. A work/lounge atmosphere with piped music. Yes?????

  • Reply Jenny, Bloggess June 4, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Writing retreat. I’ll come. I’ll bring booze. You bring ice.

    Also, that whole middle section talking about the clutter that collects is the perfect analogy for my brain right now.

    Love you.

  • Reply LauraL June 4, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I am dying over that headboard on the left. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I did just wipe some drool off my chin. It’s simply gorgeous.

  • Reply Shawna June 4, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    This would become my happy place. My safe haven and spot to sit up too late talking silly talk and giggles with friends. A reading space with super comfy seating. A home for things I like to collect that don’t get to see much light of day. Art space… oooh art space for sure too. It would perhaps be a place to check logic at the door and let the creative me free without the nagging other half of my brain. It has amazing potential, I can’t wait to see what it becomes for you.

  • Reply Don in Huaco June 4, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    You could be the next great location for house concerts. Hays County? Find Terri Hendrix for advice on what makes a good house concert. Invite 20-30 friends willing to pay, say, $20, and bring a dish for potluck. Provide food and shelter for the musician(s).

  • Reply Heather June 4, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Oooooo! 1) I’m all wistful for the barn of my childhood now and 2) event space! Event space!

    Lookie: http://www.jorgensen-farms.com

    Check out Val’s event barn – she hosts everything from weddings to “15 Mile Meals” and community gardening / composting classes.

    Her barn is simple and perfect.

    Perfectly simple. 😉

    Good luck to you!


  • Reply LeahBeah June 4, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t know, but if Jenny’s bringing booze, I bring cookies 🙂

  • Reply ats June 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    PLEASE give me that hippies sign!!!!! LOVE IT. What an exciting thing you could do. Let”s have a writing retreat.

  • Reply Kara June 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    You should make it the Room of Craftiness (which Jo Rowling left out of the Harry Potter books but it’s totally next to the Room of Requirement.) Artistic endeavors could occur there – painting, writing, the building of small things, general craftiness etc.

  • Reply Amy DeLacy June 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    My first thought is to rent it out to an animal rescue organization as a shelter. You could get animal therapy at home.

  • Reply Julie June 4, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    In my hometown there was a defunct chicken farm. An artist by the name of Roger Allen purchased it and converted the chicken coops into artist studios. Now it’s a cross between a hippie commune and artist retreat. They have a bed and breakfast, weekend workshops, live music and alcohol and art. Lots of art of all kinds. It’s still called the Chicken Farm, but it is so much beyond that.

    It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I go home. Ask Jenny, she may have heard of it. Sounds like you have makings of your own creative community in your backyard!

    • Reply Lea June 10, 2015 at 10:04 am

      I was totally thinking of this idea! Artist studios, artist-in-residence, writer-in-residence, chamber music concerts, garden parties, First Friday Artwalks, etc. What a fantastic place to play with. With lots of money in hand.

  • Reply Donna June 4, 2015 at 2:27 pm


    I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Paradise Gardens or Howard Finster but the link above will take you there. There is an artist in residence program here that is pretty cool. Maybe you could do something like this with the space.

  • Reply Di June 4, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    How about an escape place. Book shelves, comfortable loungers, maybe a hammock or two with places to set things on while you’re lounging, reading etc (like wine glasses, coffee or tea cups. A small area for making said coffee or tea or filling wine glasses. Music to read, talk to friends or nap by. Screens to keep Bugs out, ceiling fans to keep air circulating. Maybe a game table, luncheon table type area. In short a female retreat. And if you’re adventurous, a claw foot tub where you can take abubble bath, shop in wine and watch the flowers grow in your garden

  • Reply Mary June 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I have grand dreams and plans to put a photo studio in an old barn. That’s basically the top item on my “Dream House” list. I mean, I guuuuess I could make do with some new construction stand-alone studio on my property, but an old barn would be 1000% cooler.

  • Reply Susan June 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I would love to have the money to turn it into a home. Oh it could be so unique!!!

  • Reply SharonCville June 4, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t know about the rest of it, but a big open space like that demands a swing, I think…

  • Reply Marjory June 4, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    It would be my pottery studio. I am so jealous of all your barns.

  • Reply Shelley June 4, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    It would be my quilt studio.

  • Reply Kelly June 4, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Sounds like space for a bowling alley. Why not?

  • Reply crystal June 4, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    i would finish or refinish the “float” pieces like the rocket ship, then sell them. I would then turn it into a office and work space with an online store assembly unit with a packaging space.

  • Reply Kimberly June 4, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    If it were my space, I’d put in a dance floor….and make it my dance/yoga/pilates space. Then I’d probably move in and never want to leave.

  • Reply Jackie June 4, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Writer’s retreat.

  • Reply Heather June 5, 2015 at 7:25 am

    I see the furniture and think it should inspire the space. Give it some good insulation, a ceiling, and necessary repairs so it will last another 95 years. Then a bunch of random rugs! Set up a bed in there for midday naps. A place to write or visit friends and giant roosters, featuring some of those awesome chairs. Glass doors on some of the original shelves for towel overflow storage. (You have to see the rainbow, or its no fun.)

    What a beautiful piece of family history. Enjoy the journey to making it yours.

  • Reply tish June 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I would make a writer’s retreat space (there aren’t good ones near Austin) or, better yet, store my sister’s stuff because she lives in a small house with no barn. 🙂 (And that’s our bed in there I think).

  • Reply DogsDontPurr June 7, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    It depends on how much you want to have people in your personal space and in your yard, but that looks like it would make great artist studio space that you could rent out. If I lived in Texas, I would manage it for you (I’ve managed artist studio rentals almost my whole life), but, alas, I do not live in Texas.
    Good luck! It looks like an amazing space. I am jealous!

  • Reply Mama Leone June 22, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    If I had a barn like that it would be used to rescue dogs.

  • Reply Jayme June 23, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    My wedding reception was in a barn. The exposed beams wrapped in white Christmas lights, and an antique lantern on every table. It was beautiful. Rent it out like that!

  • Reply Bev Roossien June 24, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Writing workshop, taught by you or people of your choosing. People or teachers who want to develop their writing skills or their students’ skills.

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