In California wine country, north of San Francisco, Faulkner Architects repurposed a 1950s tack barn as part of a Glen Ellen retreat for a family of four. In addition to salvaging original construction materials and retaining the shape and atmosphere of the agricultural building, the architects minimized the accessory dwelling’s energy footprint with the optimization of cross ventilation as well as with the installation of a new radiant concrete slab for heating, which is complemented with a 10,000 BTU propane-fired boiler.

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wood home with gabled, rust-colored roof

Inspired by Glen Ellen’s strong agricultural roots and beautiful rural views, the clients sought a weekend retreat from the city that would pay homage to the landscape’s history. The family’s multi-acre property includes a main residence, a lawn, a pool, a car shed and the repurposed barn that sits close to the main road. The original tack barn had comprised a single interior tool and workspace with a crushed gravel floor in addition to an upper-level sleeping attic and a lean-to shed roof for horses.

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gray beds facing large windows in wood room
low metal hanging lights in wood room with pitched ceilings

In repurposing the barn into a habitable space, the architects retained the original wood frame structure and removed the attic to maximize usable interior space while staying within the 850-square-foot permitted size for accessory dwellings. The minimalist interior includes an open-plan kitchen, living room and dining area that opens up to a new terrace on the west side. Meanwhile, the existing stable was turned into an unconditioned porch to house four beds, bump up the usable area to 1,530 square feet and take advantage of prevailing southwest winds.

trees in front of old wood tack barn
old wood tack barn with several large windows

Along with the preserved Douglas fir elements of the barn, an insulated, locally reclaimed redwood rain screen was added to the exterior. “The reuse of an old barn to house people on weekend getaways from urban life presents a conflict in identity for the built form,” the architects noted. “Uses change over time; the intention here was to maintain and use the embodied energy of the familiar barn in the neighborhood while allowing the signs of human inhabitation to be subtle, but evident.”

+ Faulkner Architects

Photography by Joe Fletcher Photography via Faulkner Architects