Historic farms dot the rolling hills of Connecticut’s scenic Litchfield County. But since the area no longer primarily supports agriculture, many of the beautiful old barns in the area are getting torn down. In an effort to fight that process, architect Charles Haver set out to salvage this 18th-century barn on a large farm that serves as a weekend retreat for a busy Manhattan family. The result of the preservation reflects the time period in a playful manner while ensuring that the structure will survive into the next century as a fun-loving entertainment center with pinball, skee ball and other games, as well as an old-style pub and a movie theater.
Like many other barns in this historic area, this one was neglected and run-down, having not been used for farming and agriculture in quite some time.
“The initial focus was upon stabilizing and preserving the structure,” architect Haver says. “This required extensive foundation work and structural reinforcement. Great care was taken to reuse original materials and to minimize the visual impact of any 21st-century improvements.”
To preserve the original building, the team, which included Churchill Building Co., reinforced the foundation to be structurally sound and made improvements to let the 18th-century details shine. This included replacing the asphalt roofing with more era-appropriate wood shingles.
They also swapped a modern skylight that had been added decades back with a cupola designed to better reflect the period.
Inside, the team converted a former stable wing into a pub. They retained the original rough pine and sheathing but swapped the old concrete floor for rustic Westchester bluestone pavers.
Guests can belly up to the bar, which was installed in the largest of all the stable stalls and what used to be the “birthing stall,” for a beer or glass of wine. Or they can keep walking down the hallway to the pinball arcade.
Old horse stalls house the pinball machines and other arcade games. The iron stall stanchions and decorative grates are original.
The team fashioned the sliding barn doors, which transition into other entertainment areas, from salvaged pine boards and decorative iron grates.
The main section of the original barn serves as the billiards room, where the family spend most of their time together. In restoring this space, the team preserved all the original hand-hewn timbers and rough ceiling sheathing. Walls were coated in rough unpainted imperial plaster for a rustic effect, while antique furnishings, colorful rugs and folk art round out the lodge-like feel.
The team bought many antique accessories locally and through Charles Haver Antiques, giving the room playful touches from carnival folk art to sleds hung on the wall.
The original hayloft overlooks the billiards room and was repurposed as a video arcade. Colorful 19th-century game boards grace the walls.
No entertainment center would be complete without a state-of-the-art theater, so the team found a space for one in the attic loft. A heavy horse-blanket plaid curtain seals off the space, while built-in banquettes provide what Haver calls “a cozy alternative to conventional theater seating.”
Speakers are concealed behind repurposed iron grates, while hidden computer keyboards control the entire building’s systems. Copper lanterns and other rustic accents maintain a barn-experience feel in this otherwise high-tech space.