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The Goats Have Left the Barn

Lauren Murrow | July 8, 2014 | Story Architecture

At this 160-acre ranch outside Petaluma, which had lain fallow for over 30 years, architect Eric Haesloop of Turnbull Griffin Haesloop was hired to build a barn house for a family of five. The agrarian nod, however, is largely conceptual—this so-called barn has very little in common with its down-and-dirty namesake. More of an urbanist’s farmhouse, it features a 45-foot pool, bunking for 20, and an outdoor kitchen. But though the family may not be what you’d call back-to-the-landers, the architect first had to reclaim the fields.

The site was overgrown with invasive plants, crisscrossed with dilapidated fences, and littered with discarded old bathtubs. (“You never know when you might need one?” ventures Haesloop.) The existing shed—“‘Barn’ may be too kind a word for it,” the architect notes—was on the verge of collapse. “I think a flock of goats had lived in it for a while,” he remembers.

After extensive pruning, Haesloop—along with associates Jule Tsai and Mark Hoffman—nestled the home into a dip near the Chileno Valley, framing the kitchen and bedrooms on either side with hills. “That classic barn structure was translated in very minimal terms,” Haesloop says, referring to the iconic pitched roof and white-painted wood facade. From within, too, it’s quickly apparent that this isn’t a typical ranch house. The sloped ceiling is trimmed in skylights, bathing the loft’s sleeping nooks in a natural glow. From the entryway, one can see right through the living room to the meadow beyond. Likewise, the floating staircase fades into the surrounding fields, which were formerly grazed by cattle.

Farmland lap pool aside, the owners did embrace elements of the land’s ranching history, planting vegetable plots off the kitchen with new farming equipment. They tend an almond orchard out front, and a former cattle trough was fashioned into a planter. The poolside deck chairs and massive communal dining tables—which seat 32—were salvaged from the fields as well, built from eucalyptus that previously crowded the site. “Our office has done a lot of barns over the years, but this was by far the most abstract,” says Haesloop. “We interpreted that traditional barn shape into something dramatically modern.”

Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco.

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