On the organic, family-run Ten Barn Farm in Ghent, NY, designer Meghan Valentine Gifford helped transform a rustic goat barn into a comfortable home for humans. Not only do people and animals live together here, but the homeowners get great joy from sitting in chairs watching the kids play outside. “It’s the country equivalent of reality television,” Meghan says, who would admittedly sneak treats to the goats on breaks from the job site. An aptly-named property with ten working barns (including an old farmhouse built in 1790, an enormous barn from 1789, a corn crib barn, a potting barn, a chicken coop barn, a garage barn, a garden and tractor barn, a smokehouse barn, a converted artist studio barn, an old outhouse barn, and lastly, the goat barn), the farm is run by Julie and Roby Harrington and their three adult children, Matthew, Peter, and Andrew. They have plenty of space in which everyone feels free to explore their various interests. Julie makes cheeses with the milk from her goats, while Roby has a large coop with free-range chickens to which he tends. Matthew and his mother started a bakery together, and Peter plants and grows organic vegetables and runs the farm’s CSA and farmer’s market stand. The two brothers reside in the 1790 farmhouse on the property. Andrew, the eldest son, is a fine wine specialist and hosts dinner events on the farm. His partner Meghan — the designer — was tapped by the elder Harringtons to oversee this barn renovation project three years ago, and she has been working on it ever since.
Meghan’s task was to create a residence for Julie and Roby in a barn above the goat habitation. The buildings at the farm are filled with history, and Meghan’s main goal was to reuse as much as she could from any demolition. She painstakingly salvaged and transformed every piece of wood and beam that was taken out into something that could be put back in. A hay door became a headboard, barrel rings became chandeliers, and beams became a bunk room. In addition to sorting through the demo debris, Meghan went to salvage yards, countless antique stores, and even abandoned buildings to find and create all the things that fill the three-story renovated barn home. Roby and Andrew share a passion for wine, and the old horse stalls on the first floor of the barn proved the perfect spot for a wine cellar, which is clad in 98% reused materials. Meghan spent countless hours removing thousands of old nails and screws, powerwashing, cleaning, and curing a mountain of wood for the room.
Despite some mishaps along the way — like the time Meghan’s hand-drawn design plans were devoured by a goat, or the utter lack of straight lines and 90-degree angles to be found anywhere in the building — she managed to create a space that is at once elegant and rugged. It is a working farm, after all, so utility is as important as beauty here. Meghan challenged herself to take old things and fashion new and meaningful details from them that will last a lifetime. The trust and support she had from the entire Harrington clan allowed her to create an appropriate home for a unique and remarkable family. —Annie