Rustic Retreat

Photography by RICHARD LEO JOHNSON

An old barn’s new life in Richmond Hill

Photography by RICHARD LEO JOHNSON

WHAT STARTED as a one-bedroom barn with limited livable space is now a haven of laid-back coastal living, with a blend of rustic and modern features fit for entertaining. If you look closely, though, says designer Laura Lee Samford of LLS Designs, the property’s past is still on display.

“We left a lot of that beautiful barnwood,” Samford explains, noting she didn’t want to “gild the lily too much” by painting it. “We left beams exposed and kept some things the same.”

A one- bedroom barn was transformed into a coastal oasis surrounded by live oak trees. Old, ancestral lumber was added to the ceiling to introduce the continuation of the old with the modern space.

The original home was small, with a tiny den area, kitchen, bedroom with sliding stall doors and bathroom. The homeowner wanted a larger, more functional dwelling where he could spend months at a time, and that’s where Samford stepped in. To help achieve the bright, inviting personality of the space, Samford and the client decided to knock out an exterior wall. She also exposed the large-scale tabby chimney and painted the walls white to serve as a neutral, sleek color against the darker barnwood, and to reflect light.

For Samford, textures can substitute for color, so although the walls are white, they are alternatingly composed of bricks, horizontal nickel-gap paneling and oyster shell tabby along the chimney. Samford even painted and planed old, ancestral lumber from her own home and added it to the ceiling of her client’s foyer, introducing the continuation of the old with the modern space. White oak floors with a gray stain set the foundation from the ground up and complement the home’s cabinetry.

Textures such as horizontal nickel-gap paneling can substitute for color.
Guests can enjoy the view of live oaks from the original balcony and apartment space.

The interior architecture was sculpted to make use of the home’s layout — and was Samford’s favorite part of the project. Samford designed the cabinetry and several pieces of furniture, including the dining table and end tables, to create more function when needed. These same pieces can easily be put away and made flush with the existing furniture to create more space. For example, the butler’s pantry, along with concealed trash can, dishwasher and refrigerator drawers are useful, but not dominating forces (or even noticeable ones) in the home’s design.

The guest quarters include a clever work-from-home space with a low-profile desk and collapsible, wall-mounted side table.

“They didn’t have these luxuries before because it was the tiniest house. Now, it’s sort of grown up into this unique, one-off enigma in a way,” Samford says. “The home technically remains a one-bedroom, but now there’s a guest house and garage with stairs that lead to a guest space with twin queen beds.”

Prior to the home’s most recent renovation and redesign, Savannah-based firm Barnard Architects added a two-story living room space to the backside of the cottage and opened the apartment space above. The farmhouse also offers home-office space, including an apartment pied-à-terre. 


“It’s sort of grown up into this unique, one-off enigma in a way. The home technically remains a one-bedroom, but now there’s a guest house and garage with stairs that lead to a guest space with twin beds.”
Laura Lee Samford


The resulting design is happily rooted in its context, according to Samford. She and the client nicknamed the big, two-story space the Oak Room because, “when you look out from these wonderful windows with lots of exposure to the north, there’s a whole wooded area of live oak trees.” Guests can also enjoy the view from the original balcony and apartment space. The Oak Room also features an overscale, abstract art piece that the homeowner relocated from another property in New York. Eventually, Samford says, the cabinetry will be modified to accommodate the homeowner’s glassware and extensive collection, giving the space a library-like aesthetic.

ABOVE: The open, two-story Oak Room features an overscale, abstract art piece that the homeowner relocated from another property in New York.

LEFT: The farmhouse also offers home- office space.

But that can wait. For now, the homeowner is content to delight in the barn’s major upgrade and admire its coastal forest views.

“I feel like he has some ownership in [the design], and it’s something he’s really pleased with,” Samford says. “We worked well together.” 


DETAILS

Year built: About 2000; addition and renovation completed in 2020–2021
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 1 bedroom, 2 bathrooms
Time to complete renovation/remodel: About 1 year
Architects/planners: Robert Portman, Barnard Architects
Contractor/builder: Brooks Construction

Kitchen design: LLS Design, LLC
Bath design: LLS Design, LLC
Landscape design: Witmer Jones Keefer
Lighting design: LLS Design, LLC
Electrician: Crout Electric
Audio/visual: Sight and Sound Technologies
Furniture: Custom dining table and end tables at living room by Laura Lee Samford


All resources supplied by interior designer.

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