For the first 15 years that we were together, Christopher’s dream was to one day convert a barn on the farm into a house. The barn project took priority over everything – we were always saving money by not renovating our New York apartment or our Long Island summer house, and were spending money on surveys and plans for the barn that we had no immediate plans to live in other than the sum total of one month of the year we spent in England. As inspiring a building as it is, the whole thing made no sense to me. But then we moved to England. One of the fantasies we had in coming to that decision was that Christopher would finally have the chance to build the barn, and that would finally make sense if it were to be our primary dwelling.
So four years ago we arrived here, and the entire first year or two was focused on settling in, making the most of what we already had, and making life here sustainable for us. We updated our cottage (which is the most charming little house ever despite it being smaller than our New York apartment) with larger closet space and fresh linens, and we renovated two bathrooms, built a pantry, and replaced tired carpeting. Also, Christopher made a painting studio in an old piggery, and I got an office inside a garden shed. Once that was done, I brought up the subject of the barn. “You know,” Christopher said after a long pause, “I’m really enjoying the simplicity of our lives here, having the time to ride and garden and cook. I’m not sure I want to take on a big new project right now.” I was surprised, but know my husband well enough to have accepted those feelings for the time being and did not push it. For a year we just didn’t really talk about the barn at all.
The next time I brought it up, I was more pressing on the topic. I emphasized the desire to be able to host both our extended families at holidays, to have a place for the kids to bring their friends home to on holidays from boarding school and eventually college, and most importantly to be able to accommodate a larger family once our kids have kids. Hearing my wishes, Christopher gave me a challenge. “If you can sell Southold (referring to our Long Island beach house we hardly use anymore), we’ll build the barn.”
“Deal, ” I responded.
Last summer that was my mission, to sell our summer house. I thought I would put it on the market in August and hope to sell it sometime in the autumn or following spring. We had put it on the market once before with very little luck (albeit in a bad economy) so my expectations were low. Then I had the idea that I would just put it on Instagram for a week before officially listing it. Who knew if it would turn anything up, but why not try? Well the response was overwhelming, and I sold the house for the full asking price 10 days later, with no brokers fee. I even had two backup offers! Christopher was so shocked and impressed that he had no choice but to stick to his end of the bargain.
So here we are! We have started to clear out the barn – removing old grain storage units and making tidy piles of Christopher’s massive collection of reclaimed wood and passed-down furniture. Just seeing the raw, empty-ish space with so much new potential is inspiring me. I’ve made Pinterest boards, done loads of research, and finally this past week we had our first design meeting with our architect. I was so nervous that after twenty years of thinking about this project Christopher wouldn’t be able to take direction from someone else, but he was receptive and positive and was very happy with the initial ideas presented to us.
Will keep you updated as we make progress but all very exciting to be moving ahead, and to have Christopher’s enthusiasm return to match mine.