All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine

04 May 2015

This circa-1870 carriage barn tucked in the rolling hills north of Philadelphia had been reincarnated several times by the time architect Richard Buchanan got ahold of it in 2011. Originally a stable on a large summer estate, it also served as a car garage during World War II and then, in 1957, became the home base for Show Hunter Hall of Fame hunter trainer Milton "Junie" Kulp's All Around Farm.

Five decades later, however, the barn had fallen into significant disrepair. That's when Richard Buchanan's clients, Johanna Walters and her husband Brian Sweeney, stepped in with the idea of buying and renovating the former showplace. Walters had actually boarded at and ridden out of the farm as a teenager, and she'd always hoped someone would restore it to its former glory

"It was always their dream to have their horses in their house," Buchanan said. "The timing was ideal that they were able to take it on at a moment when it was most in jeopardy of simply vanishing; a perfect match, as it were."

Though decrepit, the building was structurally sound, and it "had a grandeur about it already because of its relationship to a fine mansion," said Buchanan, who grew up in an equestrian family in Chester County, PA, and has designed homes for local Olympic eventers Bruce Davidson and Phillip Dutton. "Consequently there were robust forms and materials in place to work with and use as a starting point for the gestures we made."

One particularly exciting discovery during the clean-up process was that of a huge wooden mantelpiece buried under layers of straw and debris in the loft. Buchanan believes it had been taken out of the original great house on the estate, and he brought it back to life as a focal point of this new home.

"When you're fixing up an old house, the story is often a dialogue between old and new ways of living, materials, and systems,” he said. “And in a barn project, the story is about what the barn can express in terms of spaces, materials and scales. ‘Barn’ generally means a quality of space and textures of materials, but it’s not a pass for failure to perform as a house or lacking in comfort.”

Today the 9,750-square foot structure now contains stalls, wash racks, a tack room and garage space in its east and west wings, while the original carriage room in the center of the building serves as the epicenter of the living space. The residence includes four bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen and home office. It was even featured on HGTV’s show You Live In What?

“The project reflects the original stately quality of the barn from a time when it was a key element of a grander estate, and yet it speaks directly now to the way Brian and Johanna live in their home with their horses,” Buchanan said. “To see a really tired and derelict building with such potential lurking beneath the grime is naturally exciting—it’s what gets anyone with an affinity for the past excited about old buildings.”

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