Practical Comfort

This well-planned Washington County barn houses cars and company in style.


 This addition to a Washington County home houses both out-of-town guests and the family’s collection of trucks and tractors.

Above, left: A large farmhouse-style island offers a welcoming gathering spot in the barn’s living quarters. Above, right: Neutral walls and wood accents mingle well with the warm-toned decor, providing an inviting space for visitors.

For one Washington County couple, having their 1880s farmhouse extended and remodeled came with a logical next step: An 8,000-square-foot barn to house vehicles and provide additional living space.

The duo reconnected with their previous design-build experts at Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource in Delafield, where project designer and coordinator Matt Retzak and interior designer Heather Scott teamed up to help define what the couple truly desired from the addition on their 90 acres.

For Retzak and Scott, working with the couple was an easy feat as they already knew their clients’ tastes and kept their interests and hobbies top of mind during the design phase.

“It started that he wanted a man cave,” Retzak notes. “He wanted tractors and trucks to fit in there. They do canning, and they have people from out of town stay. It was [intended] to be a nice supplement to the main house.”

And eventually, compromise between husband and wife won out.

“It turned out to be more neutral than a man-cave living space,” Scott says. “They figured out that not everyone who would stay there would want to see animal heads on the walls.”

Above: Stunning woodwork, created using the specialized method called timber framing, adds a warm rustic feel to a functional addition on this Washington County property. 

Left: Wood mirroring the floor and ceiling give this crisp, organized entryway a warm, welcoming feel.

The couple chose timber framing, a traditional and specialized process that joins all wooden pieces with wooden dowels instead of metal brackets or other fasteners. To complete the intricate process, Retzak turned to Glenville Timberwrights, a Baraboo company founded by Tom Holmes in the 1980s. Holmes previously partnered with Bartelt on multiple projects and agreed that timber frame was a fine fit for this traditional-meets-modern barn.

“Timber frame allows you to create over a large span without posts,” Holmes explains. “It works well here because this is the way barns have been built [for centuries].”

He also notes that timber frame is sustainable. After all, the process was used for buildings dating back to the Middle Ages — buildings that still stand sturdily across Europe and elsewhere. For this project, Holmes used second growth Douglas fir from the Pacific Northwest that was dried and readied 
for milling.


A traditional barn roofline, barn door and Fieldstone chimney add a rustic flair to this modern addition.

Retzak says he was glad to have Timberwrights’ expertise for this “challenging” project, especially given the structure’s position and scale. “We wanted it to fit with the property,” he explains. “It’s not too overscaled, and it’s just far enough away from the house and the detached garage to make the property feel complete.

The interior design’s intent, Scott says, was to create just the right balance with furnishings all selected by her client with an emphasis on comfort.

“Having worked with these clients before, I have a sense of her style, what she wanted for material and what color and textures would work,” Scott says of creating an intimate living space. She notes that the 18-foot-high vaulted ceiling in the living room added a challenging aspect, but nothing Scott couldn’t work with.

Scott’s focus was to make the space look authentic to the 1880s, but infused with today’s technology. The reclaimed wood that makes up the living space floors is heated. The kitchen sports both high-tech and period touches, blending an island that features rustic pendant lights and a distressed, clear-coat top with a Wolf range and Sub-Zero refrigerator.

Natural colors are mixed with exposed wood throughout the space, which also features subtle touches of industrial chic.

“There’s no drywall, only shiplap,” Scott says. A split-face, Fieldstone fireplace, that Scott notes looks as though it was always there, complements a leather sectional and accent area rugs.

Retzak and Scott agree that their favorite part of the barn is how beautifully it marries an abundance of garage space with a deceptively cozy living area, all just a stone’s throw from the main house. “It’s probably one of the most unique projects we have ever done,” Retzak says. MKE