It was a challenge to make old, sometimes unruly materials fit together. But the resulting unique, mostly recycled house was worth it.
TOM Hutter and Nancy Angerman have never lived in a conventional home.
So choosing to build a house by reconstructing an old barn and outfitting it with things like salvaged brick and torn-up sidewalks was hardly out of character for them – even 25 years ago, before reclaiming architectural salvage became trendy.
The couple’s home is a 19th-century barn that Hutter and a crew dismantled and moved from its former site in Sharon Township, Ohio. Refurbishing the barn has been Hutter’s passion, a project accomplished a bit at a time over more than two decades.
“You know, when you think back on it, it was quite an undertaking,” Hutter says in a recent interview. “But it was cool to be able to do.”
The three-level, 400sqm barn sits on 1ha of woodsy land. Its rustic elements are juxtaposed with an up-to-date, open layout and energy-efficient construction methods.
The majority of the building materials were recycled – so much, in fact, that Hutter joked it’s easier for him to tick off what was purchased new.
Walls and ceilings are sheathed in old wood from barns and mills. Kitchen counters were fashioned from blackboards once used in schools. Floors are covered in reclaimed brick, roofing slate and pieces of old flagstone sidewalks. “I ruined one truck schlepping that stuff,” he says of the sandstone.
The heavy structural timbers are exposed, giving the place a rustic charm. One bears the scars of buckshot. Some still display the metal tags that were affixed to them when the barn was dismantled, each with an identifying code written in marker that would ensure everything went back in the right place.
Hutter isn’t sure what sparked the desire to renovate a barn, but it was the last in a progression of unorthodox homes.
When they were first married, Hutter and Angerman rented an 1870s farmhouse on the outskirts of Hudson that had been remodelled into a Western ranch. Later he renovated two houses: a vacation cottage in Ravenna Township, Ohio, which he turned into a year-round home, and the historical 19th century C.A. Reed house in Ravenna, which he divided into four apartments. The Reed house is now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.
“After that he said, ‘OK, I think I need a new project,’” Angerman recalls.
Hutter heard about the barn from a tradesman he worked with on the Reed house. The barn, which he believes predates the American Civil War (1861-1865) and was reconstructed in 1878, stood in the way of a runway expansion at Medina Municipal Airport and needed to be moved.
Hutter served as the general contractor on the barn project, often working alongside the tradespeople he hired. He and a crew took the barn’s structural timbers apart, and then the timbers were trucked to the new site, pressure-washed and reconstructed to form the frame of the home.
He had the vision to turn the bare-bones structure into a home with a striking central staircase that leads from a lower entry level up to the main living area and on up to a top floor outfitted with bedrooms and a workout space. He hired an architect for some of the initial engineering work, but the design is mostly Hutter’s.
Cobbling together the land for the barn was another project. Hutter and Angerman bought five adjacent parcels and sold off part of one to avoid having an oddly shaped lot.
The project started in the late 1980s, but the house wasn’t ready for occupancy until March 1993. “We moved in way before it was finished. Way, way, way before,” says their daughter, Emma Taylor, who now lives in Kentucky.
The floors at that point were just painted plywood. Sheets stood in for interior doors.
But slowly, gradually, Hutter turned the shell into a home.
He built all the doors. He laid floors, once moving the family to the lower level and storing all the living and dining room furniture in the kitchen. He built shelves in the living room while Angerman was away for a week at a seminar.
“Every time I’d come back from college, there’d be a little piece more, more, more,” Taylor says with a laugh.
Angerman joked that her only contribution was putting the laundry room on the second floor. Well, that and her pay cheque, she says.
It helped that both Hutter and Angerman were special education teachers and had summers off. He is retired from the Ravenna schools and she from the Field, Ohio, school district.
Hutter’s use of recycled materials also made the project more affordable. He’d buy up things like reclaimed brick and old radiators and store them without knowing exactly where they’d go or, sometimes, even how they’d be used.
Still, it wasn’t until three years ago that he finished the last big project, the heartwood pine floors on the upper level.
Hutter supposes all those disruptions were hardships at the time, but “they don’t seem anything now”, he says.
The barn is designed to be comfortable and efficient as well as handsome. Its shell was constructed from structural insulated panels, making the house airtight and well-insulated. The house faces south to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, and the lower level uses earth berms to reduce heat loss and moderate the indoor temperature. The house is heated by a boiler, which sends warm water to all those radiators Hutter collected.
The couple concedes the undertaking was enormous, but they’re pleased with the result.
“It was fun for me. ... And to be able to make old, sometimes unruly materials fit was a challenge,” Hutter says. “But it’s nice. It turned out nice.” – Akron Beacon Journal/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services