The Party Barn

A sym­bol of Amer­i­can tra­di­tion, back­yard barns have be­come the place to be for good old-fash­ioned fun! Here’s what you need to know to plan your own party barn.

Timber Home Living - - Contents - BY SARA BROWN

A sym­bol of Amer­i­can tra­di­tion, back­yard barns have be­come the place to be for good old-fash­ioned fun! Here’s what you need to know to plan your own party barn.

In her 2017 book, Barn: Form and Func­tion of an Amer­i­can Icon, author Su­san Carol Hauser takes read­ers on a tour of some of the coun­try’s most beloved barns, fo­cus­ing on how these clas­sic struc­tures have changed over the years and evolved with the needs of their own­ers.

This evo­lu­tion is the topic of many barn books, with some writ­ers and his­to­ri­ans shed­ding light on the idea that these util­i­tar­ian build­ings seem to be all but dis­ap­pear­ing from the Amer­i­can land­scape. But take a glimpse into the back yards of some of to­day’s homes, and you’ll find that barn struc­tures are alive and well — they just have a new fo­cus on fun over func­tion.


Dubbed “party barns” for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, back­yard barns are pop­ping up every­where in the form of multi-use struc­tures that can host large events (think wed­ding re­cep­tions and birth­day cel­e­bra­tions) or serve as ca­sual recre­ational spa­ces, com­plete with game rooms, TV-view­ing ar­eas and full-ser­vice bars and kitchens.

“What draws peo­ple to the idea of a party barn is un­doubt­edly the com­fort level that comes nat­u­rally with the barn theme,” ex­plains Casey Rog­ness, lead de­signer at DC Builders, a cus­tomde­sign com­pany in Da­m­as­cus, Ore­gon, that spe­cial­izes in barn-style struc­tures. “Whether the space is laid-back or more for­mal, they want some­thing that’s go­ing to feel re­laxed and com­fort­able, serv­ing as the per­fect back­drop for some of the best days of their lives.”

Ac­cord­ing to Casey, they also want to make sure the build­ing looks at home on their prop­erty, ex­plain­ing that goes for both in­doors and out: “A big trend in these barns is de­sign­ing them in a way that brings the out­side in, mak­ing them feel like a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of the main house. Im­pres­sive in­te­rior fea­tures, whether it’s heavy tim­bers or man­u­fac­tured trusses, are al­most al­ways in­cluded and serve as in­stant fo­cal points. Many party barns also fea­ture large walls of win­dows for bring­ing in lots of nat­u­ral light, and barn- or garage-style doors for cre­at­ing

seam­less tran­si­tions be­tween the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior spa­ces.”


While many peo­ple build a party barn to serve as a multi-pur­pose recre­ational space, some have more spe­cific uses in mind, from a back­yard of­fice to a wood­work­ing shop or a yoga stu­dio. “We’ve even had clients build a party barn as part of a win­ery or brew­ery setup, where the barn serves as a tast­ing room and in­cludes bar­rel and vat stor­age for wine or beer,” Casey says.

Oth­ers have big­ger plans for their party barn. “Barns have be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar event venues for re­cep­tions and par­ties,” ex­plains Casey, adding that these types of struc­tures have more spe­cific de­sign elements to in­cor­po­rate, such as a ded­i­cated cer­e­mony space, room for a dance floor, and eat­ing and min­gling ar­eas. “A dra­matic wall of win­dows can cre­ate a strik­ing setting for a cer­e­mony, while a large fire­place can an­chor a cozy seat­ing space. Of course, the wide-open lay­out that comes with most barns also lends it­self per­fectly to ac­com­mo­dat­ing din­ing ta­bles and dance space.”

There are tech­ni­cal elements to con­sider in party barns, as well:


“Bath­rooms are a big con­sid­er­a­tion, in both back­yard barns and event spa­ces,” Casey says. “Try to

keep them set away from the main ar­eas for pri­vacy.” Plac­ing bath­rooms near the kitchen or bar will rel­e­gate the plumb­ing needs to the same por­tion of the build­ing, sim­pli­fy­ing the de­sign and sav­ing you money.


There are a lot of me­chan­i­cal de­ci­sions to make, ac­cord­ing to Casey. “Do you want ex­posed duct work, or do you want ev­ery­thing to be con­cealed? Ei­ther way, we rec­om­mend hir­ing a me­chan­i­cal engineer early on to ad­dress things like proper air move­ment, heat­ing and cool­ing,” he says.


“We ask our clients to bring spe­cific photos and inspiration when we’re de­sign­ing their barns, and this es­pe­cially goes for light­ing ideas,” Casey says. Light­ing needs to be de­ter­mined early on in the de­sign phase. If you want sev­eral large chan­de­liers, you’ll need to think about how to hang them ap­pro­pri­ately. Will you want to ac­cent struc­tural de­tails that are up in the roof sys­tem? You’ll need up­light­ing for that. Will you have a bar or kitchen that needs ex­tra task light­ing? Plan­ning for each type of light­ing sce­nario will af­fect your mas­ter de­sign.


As these barns grow larger and house more and more sup­plies, stor­age needs to be worked into the de­sign equa­tion. “In most of these struc­tures, they have the main por­tion that’s vaulted and very tall, and then there’s a shed roof where we put the bath­rooms, me­chan­i­cal clos­ets and stor­age space,” says Casey. “If there’s a sec­ond story or a loft, we can use that for added stor­age as well.”

OP­PO­SITE: The party-barn con­cept is very ver­sa­tile. From large gather­ings or in­ti­mate soirees; game night or a back­yard BBQ, plan a party barn that will feel like a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of its en­vi­ron­ment.

THIS PAGE: There are two keys to a suc­cess­ful party barn: wide-open in­te­ri­ors and blur­ring the lines be­tween in­doors and out.

Party barns are multi-use struc­tures in­tended to hold ev­ery­thing from book club dis­cus­sions to wed­ding re­cep­tions. The way you scale, de­sign and fin­ish your tim­ber frame can in­flu­ence the mood the space sets.

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