Timber Home Living Left Header Ad

Your Guide to Designing a Timber Frame Barn Home

Barn-style homes are having a big moment in the sun. Check out these tips and trends to help you achieve that look in your timber home.

Written by Allen Halcomb
Photography by Moss Creek

Few architectural styles are as instantly recognizable and iconic to America as a barn. Whether they’re sitting in a field, tucked in the woods or beside an equestrian riding ring, there’s something about their form that is unmistakable and deeply nostalgic. And now, they’re the darling of home design.

With the increasing popularity of barn-style houses and barn conversions, we decided to look at what makes a barn a barn (i.e., archetypal design and architectural details that give it its distinctive look), and how you can build a house that captures the barn essence while making it pleasant and comfortable to live in. From the structure itself to interior details, you can easily achieve that coveted barn-style timber home, starting with its shape.

Three silhouettes that immediately communicate “this is a barn” are the gambrel roof, the salt box and the Western-ranch shapes. Notice that each features a high center section. For a working barn, this design makes perfect sense, as it enables you to store oversized tractors and bales of hay with ease. It also creates dramatic, soaring ceilings, where the timber-framed structure within is on full display. The tall center section of a barn-style abode creates the same opportunity for drama that can include exposed timber-frame posts and beams, lofts, soaring fireplaces and high, dramatic windows.


See also New Life for Old Barns


After the shape of the roof (which is often topped off with a cupola — a truly iconic barn design detail), the next tell-tale feature is the wide, tall “barn door” for animals and farm equipment to pass through. Again, this is a design element born of necessity in a true working barn, but to create a real barn-style home, replicating (or at least imitating) a barn door with a large window and imagined doors goes a long way to conveying the correct feel. To take the look even further, incorporate actual or mock crossbuck (or “X-brace”) doors.

When designing a floor plan for a barn-style timber home, you quickly realize that the shape of the barn dictates much of the layout. Most often, barn houses are structured with open-concept public spaces in the center with the private rooms flanking that core living area to either side. A loft and additional sleeping space on a second story are common, as long as the upper level doesn’t eat into the open feeling.

In terms of interior decor, don’t abandon the barn at the front door. Stay true to the motif with design details and finishing materials throughout your timber home.


See also The Classic American Farmhouse


For example, drywall and plaster were not found in historic American barns. For authenticity, painted wood paneling and wainscoting on the walls will create a timeless look that’s right at home in the barn-house aesthetic. Gliding doors, reclaimed wood panels on ceilings, antique timbers, farmhouse sinks and black metal hardware combine to create a very appropriate atmosphere. And while hardwood floors reign supreme, stone or brick flooring is a perfect barn-style complement, especially in foyers and bathrooms.

Barn-style homes can be at once eternal and current. With its classic charm and flexible, open floor plan, it’s no wonder barn-inspired style is the hottest trend in timber home design.

Editor's Picks

All products featured are carefully reviewed and selected by our editors. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Subscribe Now + Get 2 Free Gifts!