A small horse barn was the basis for this art studio conversion, which provides a bright, functional, and inspiring workspace replete with reminders of its former life. The original building was the largest in a cluster of farm outbuildings, “Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear,” says architect Mark Hutker. He and project architect Gerrit Frase maintained the renovated building's orientation toward its partners, filling its wide barn-door opening with a set of custom Dutch doors that open onto a shared courtyard. Charged with maintaining the building's original character while adding insulation, plumbing, and electrical service, the project represents what Hutker calls “stealth architecture. We insulated the whole thing from the outside, so the ‘barniness' could remain.”

Inside, the building's exposed framing—complete with the teeth marks of horses gone by—creates an appropriate background for the owner's work, which relies strongly on geometry and pattern. Builders Paul Munafo and Eric Shenholm removed an existing loft floor and added a shed dormer, whose traditional barn-sash windows provide studio-quality daylighting. A step in floor elevation and a pair of fluted columns supplied by the owner mark the transition between work and office areas. Along with a coat of white paint, the columns reinforce “the cleanliness of it and the orderliness of it and how it fit into the ornery nature of the barn,” Hutker says. “That was a fun juxtaposition, and we played that up.” Our judges caught the drift. “Any family would die to have this,” declared one. “It's a really nice surprise, too, because it's so modest on the outside but it's so great on the inside.”

Project Credits
Hutker Architects Inc., Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Builder: Paul Munafo Fine Woodworking, Vineyard Haven
Living space: 600 square feet
Site: 5 acres
Construction cost: $350 a square foot
Photographer: Brian Vanden Brink

Resources: Lighting fixtures: Lightolier; Paints: Benjamin Moore; Windows: Marvin.