A Rural 1800s Barn Becomes a Modern Home

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"The fireplace is based on a Finnish design and acts as a furnace to heat the entire main floor," Bill says. "The top oven is ideal for baking bread or stewing in cast iron."
After spending several years living within the concrete confines of Manhattan, designer Bill Hovard began to get the itch that befalls many a longterm New Yorker—the desire to uproot to greener, quieter pastures. In 2002, Bill began his search by drawing a 90-mile radius around the city and eventually followed the country’s siren call to the quiet town of South Kortright, NY. Nestled deep within the Catskills, South Kortright features breathtaking mountain views, hillsides filled with grazing livestock, and the zen-like comfort that can only be found when one travels beyond the realm of cellphone reception. Although Bill had originally envisioned settling in a Federal-style farmhouse, his path led him to a derelict, but charming, 19th century barn. Despite its disrepair, the structure was solid and featured hand-hewn, old-growth post and beam construction, a bluestone  foundation, and dazzling natural surroundings. “It was love at first sight,” Bill says.

Once he settled on the location for his country retreat, it was time to get to work. Over the course of eight years, Bill renovated the barn into a beautiful, comfortable, and fully-functional living space. “It was important to strike a balance between old new” Bill notes, “and no attempt was made to hide or mask renovations or additions. Ultimately, it was preserving the past and creating a dynamic space with 21st century amenities.” For Bill, this meant sourcing materials that were regional and appropriate to the home: locally quarried bluestone, repurposed oak fixtures salvaged from other structures, and milled cherrywood for the floors and cabinetry. Filled in with antique and Modernist furniture, the home is a balanced, timeless mixture of Bill’s tastes and regional flavor.

Today, Bill has vacated the city permanently to focus full-time on Hudson Made, a lifestyle brand that features artisanal wares from regional artists and makers. “In late August, the western field on the property is in full bloom with milkweed and offers nourishment to monarch butterfly on their migration South,” Bill says. “This is how the property was suitably named. ‘Milkweed Barn’ has subsequently gone from weekend retreat to full-time residence. It is now home.” —Max

  1. leenie says:

    This is beautiful! Do you have any info on the art shown in photo 13?

  2. tara says:

    Lovely space. I love that the fireplace had a stove above it.

  3. Laura says:

    This is a dream and so inspiring!

  4. What a cozy home. The fireplace/furnace is amazing, and everything feels so natural and soothing. A perfect place to escape from it all.

  5. Carla says:

    So cozy and warm. I absolutely love it.

  6. Kristen says:

    This place is amazing and so serenely beautiful. I LOVE the staircase. Thanks for showcasing this, Max! The photos are wonderful.

  7. jenn says:

    Is anyone else that is using the mobile site not viewing the whole slideshow. I noticed on this page that I only went up to 5 and someone was referencing photo 13. I think it’s happening with other slideshows as well. Need my design sponge fix for the day!!!

  8. Carlyn says:

    I love reading about barn conversions. Now that place has life.

  9. Jenna says:

    I’m having the same issue where I can’t always view the whole slideshow in the mobile version

  10. Jo says:

    Absolutely stunning. If I could envisage my dream home it would look something like this. I love it!

  11. Susansa says:

    Oh, so beautiful! And hello neighbor, I border on S.K. Also, interesting objects and ambitions at Hudson Made!

  12. Mj says:

    Is it super cold/expensive to heat in winter?

  13. Yoda123 says:

    Yeah, I also can’t see past slide 5 while on my iPhone. This has happened with two other (but not all) slideshows.

  14. Haafner says:

    What a wonderful job he did. It’s a lovely home. (That fireplace!)
    Great pictures too, thanks!

  15. Martha says:

    We lived in a converted barn once on an island in the Thousand Islands region of Canada/upstate New York. Ever since, converting a barn has been one of my dreams! This is absolutely a dream home for me. I enjoyed it so much, thank you for haring your home with us!

  16. Dalitvic says:

    I absolutely loved every corner of this barn but I must say the photos are perfect, tones of inspiration for my dream Cretan house

  17. hyzen says:

    Everything in this home is so gorgeous, peaceful, and well-edited, but my heart literally started racing (not in a good way) when I saw the stairs. These people must be much less accident prone than I am to have a tall staircase with no safety rail to prevent someone (sleepy or rushing homeowner, visiting guest or child, rambunctious dog, etc.) from falling off the one side. Eeep! But I love everything else they’ve done here.

  18. priti says:

    This is a labour of love…the bones were there but there was much needed to convert from a neglected space to a warm, architecturally profound home. Bill made it seem easy, but I tell you it was not. Everything worthwhile—including love— needs, determination, overcoming fear sprinkled with lots of commitment.

  19. Those eight years were well spent. The fireplace in the entrance with the cast iron stove is stunning, as well as all of the exposed beams. Amazing work.

  20. What a restful place. I love the rugs used in the home as well as the main living space and master furnishings.

  21. Stephanie Jane says:

    It looks like the perfect place to spend a winter weekend! So cozy!

  22. Teresa says:

    What an incredibly beautiful place and space. I’m glad to hear it was 8 years in the making – I’m always puzzled how people can apparently furnish their homes to perfection within months. This one looks so beautifully and carefully grown, you can almost feel the calm sitting in front of that amazing fireplace. I hope he really bakes bread or makes stew in there, it sounds wonderful!

  23. Lulu says:

    Going forward, could you include an exterior shot for all home tours. I find that bit of context is missing.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Lulu

      Not all home owners feel comfortable with exterior shots because they wish to remain more private. Some homes, especially in smaller towns, are easy to find if the exterior or house number is shown, so we often leave them out at home owner’s requests for privacy and safety.


  24. lael says:

    This is so amazing! Just bought a house with a very old 1800s barn that we eventually would love to renovate some day. This is just what I would want to do!

  25. Heidi says:

    Can we get any more information on the fireplace? Was it custom built? If so, by whom?

  26. Alexis says:

    Can you let me know the source on the light in image 14? It’s gorgeous!

  27. Modelleri says:

    Great pictures too, thanks!

  28. Amie says:

    I love the fireplace set up. This seems to make so much sense to me. Could I get some information on the fireplace. What are the inner workings? Thanks

  29. Abiye Elbise says:

    My dream home it would look something like this. I love it!

  30. hobi says:

    This is so amazing! Just bought a house with a very old 1800s barn that we eventually would love to renovate some day. This is just what I would want to do!

  31. It looks like the perfect


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