Saturday, September 16, 2000

Couple shares dream barn

Rescued structure becomes perfect country home

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On the outer reaches of the shrinking countryside are forgotten testaments, weather-worn houses and barns leaning on the shoulders of time, silently weary from years of productive utility.

[photo] The abandoned 1815 cattle barn as it appeared.
[photo] The finished converted home.
(Enquirer photo)
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        Sometimes gravity serves as a natural bulldozer, bringing the handmade shelters crashing to the landscape. Sometimes man brings in his bulldozer to erase an ancestor's hard work in the name of progress.

        And sometimes these structures are righted by a dream, brought back proudly to their majesty because someone saw potential among the ruins. In Maineville, potential evolved from a dream into the remarkable home of Armand and Joyce Re.

        When a friend told the Res about the orphaned wheat and cattle barn built in 1815 by Quakers, they knew they had struck gold.

  What a great house!
  Maybe it's the cottage belying its 100-plus years. Or the opulent turn-of-the-century mansion built high on the hill. It could be a new house, wired for the latest in electronic wizardry. Or a contemporary home showcasing tomorrow's design trends.
  It's the house that makes you look twice, the house that starts the imagination churning about what's inside.
  If you have a favorite special house in Greater Cincinnati, let us know. Suggestions to Shauna Scott Rhone, Tempo, Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax: 768-8330.

        “I had converted a barn like this for my previous employer,” says Mr. Re, a former industrial designer.

        That experience gave Mr. Re the desire to recreate the magic for his own home. While Mr. Re was gung-ho to get the project started, his wife was less enthusiastic.

        “When Armand told me we would have to move into a double-wide (trailer) next to the barn during construction, I thought he was crazy,” she says. “A week later, we were moved in.”

        Being that close during the conversion turned out to be a good thing; the workers managed to make a few mistakes. Like the miscalculated doorway the Res had to step over to get from room to room.

        “We wanted something right here,” Mrs. Re says, gesturing at the revised doorway, “to let more sun in the family room, not less. They practically sealed it off.”

        The electrician ruined several drill bits trying to bore through the old oak and walnut beams.

        Ingenuity eventually transformed the barn into a bi-century split-level, complete with two screened sunrooms and two unusual parking spots, one beneath and one inside the second floor. The best way to describe it is to say that Mr. Re's blueprint mimics opening a roof, dropping inside all the things you've always wanted in a home and closing the roof to cover the surprise.

[photo] A modern kitchen in white and chrome sits underneath the barn's original wooden open-thatched thresher.
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        “We didn't want to turn the whole thing into a just a house,” Mr. Re says, “so we kind of dropped the things we liked into the barn and created our dream house.

        “I guess because we've lived here for 20 years, we forget how nice it is. I still love it, but I guess we're more used to it now.”

        Most of the original barn doors are creatively integrated into the home's design. For example, the largest door does double duty as a room divider and photo gallery for pictures of the Res' family and friends. This feature greets visitors as they enter the house.

        Two huge diamond-shaped openings in the original barn wall open to the surrounding woodlands. Outside, one storage shed remains and a rustically proud silo reminds all of the property's heritage.

        “This farm was part of the Underground Railroad,” Mrs. Re says. “We tore down the rear of the barn and the trees now shield the view, but you can see the Little Miami River from here,” one of many liquid landmarks runaway slaves used to follow the path to freedom.

[photo] Armand and Joyce Re of Maineville
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        The intimate family room is made stately with stark white walls and casual dark furnishings.

        “The white and wood combination reminds me of a Japanese influence,” Mr. Re says.

        The family room leads to a modern kitchen in white and chrome, one of the many culture clashes that work in this old-time-meets-new-wave home.

        In the kitchen, a quick look upward takes you back in time. The barn's original wooden open-thatched thresher lies in wait for the next batch of wheat to arrive. Modern safety concerns required the Res to install Plexiglas over the thresher area.

        The sleeping quarters and studies for the couple are upstairs. Her study reflects her love of fashion, a carryover from her earlier career as a model and later in merchandising. His study reflects his love of reading and design and surrounds him with his past. Trinkets and shells are sprinkled around the room almost to the point of clutter, but because the space is open, overlooking the living room, it retains an airy feeling.

[photo] The dining room opens out to a porch
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        There are signposts from the Res' life together and before the high school cheerleader fell for the star football player. For example, a prime spot is shared by his father's accordion and her father's banjo. They rest on the stairway landing to greet the couple each morning.

        The living room is the most representative of how well their marriage has worked. Gourds and bird carvings sit prominently as markers of their many trips together. Each has contributed statues and books.

        Mr. Re's artistic talent is strongly present with several colorful murals. There also is a charcoal portrait of his wife and several majestic wood sculptures.


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