Home to roost: A Bridgewater barn goes from chicken house to stylish business

Fall House Hunt Style
AFTER: A round sisal rug in natural tones defines the conference area in the loft without hiding the wood floorboards. Parkinson chose a Saarinen dining table and lightweight metal chairs with an industrial twist from RH. “Farmhouse furniture would have been overkill,” Parkinson said. “Modern lines create an interesting tension.” —Tamara Flanagan

Jason Hoffman’s barn once housed 2,000 chickens.

“In the 1950s, the owner used the barn as a chicken house,’’ Hoffman said. “I bleached it twice, hand-scraped the feces, then treated it again.’’ Today, the stench is gone and the structure has been reborn as the workshop (downstairs), office (in the loft), and all-around showpiece for his company, J.P. Hoffman Design Build. “It’s a nod to my personality and what we do,’’ he said.

The barn, initially built as a carriage house for a horse and buggy, was part of the 2-acre property in Bridgewater that Hoffman purchased 16 years ago. The main attraction was the 1882 Gothic Revival farmhouse, but it was the whole kit and caboodle that drew him. “The listing said ‘farmhouse with barn and two acres,’ ’’ Hoffman recalled. “That’s all I needed to know.’’

Spurred by his expanding business and the barn’s growing disrepair —frost had recently caused its foundation to crack — Hoffman decided to renovate. He stripped it to the shell. Everything needed updating, from the compromised foundation to the rickety roof. Hoffman shored up the structure, built an entry addition to accommodate a new stairway to the loft, installed a new standing-seam metal roof, and pulled off old Cape Cod-style shingles in favor of clapboard siding similar to the original exterior cladding.

Hoffman also reinstated a pair of boarded-up windows after seeing a copy of a hand-drawn map from 1890 that included his property. “It showed windows on either side of the barn door, which weren’t there when I bought it,’’ he said. To top it, Hoffman designed a cupola with glass on all four sides, which he mounted on the roof at 45 degrees. “It reflects my style of looking at things from a different perspective,’’ he said. “It also shows we can do difficult things that require lots of math.’’

Inside, Hoffman infused a fresh take on the barn’s antiquity while preserving its original character. “I didn’t want to lose the look of the 140-year-old raw, brown wood,’’ he said. Still, the building needed to be insulated. The solution? Hoffman insulated the underside of the roof with closed-cell foam, then enclosed it with rough-sawn pine that he stained to look old. “I came up with my own special sauce to antique it,’’ he said. His method involved applying the stain with rollers, as well as hand-rubbing it with rags — some before the boards were installed and some afterward. He also antiqued the new rafters and collar ties needed to ensure stability. “It’s respectably close to the existing wood,’’ Hoffman said.

For the walls, Hoffman reused the original pine sheathing boards he had pulled off the exterior. This is supplemented with rough-sawn shiplap sourced at Gurney’s Sawmill Inc., a sixth-generation-run mill in Freetown. “It adds a small-town touch to this renovation story,’’ Hoffman said.

Although he’s generally of the “you don’t paint old wood’’ mind-set, interior designer Tracy Parkinson of Nest + Co., whom Hoffman engaged to help with the interior furnishings and finishes, advised him to paint some of the shiplap in the loft white. “Light bounces off the wall now and really brightens the office area,’’ Parkinson said.

Parkinson also persuaded him to put up a bit of wallpaper. “I just couldn’t envision it,’’ Hoffman said. “Wallpaper doesn’t belong in a barn.’’ But when she showed him her pick — a pattern with barn blueprints by Chip and Joanna Gaines’ company, Magnolia Home — he acquiesced. “It was so appropriate; how could I say no?’’

The tile in the entryway was another curveball. Instead of the classic bluestone pavers Hoffman expected, Parkinson proposed patterned ceramic tiles inspired by on-trend cement ones in order to capture his clients’ attention the second they walk through the door. “People have expectations walking into a barn, but I wanted the element of surprise,’’ Parkinson said.

Hoffman reports that clients respond to this modern interpretation of the old barn just the way he’d hoped.

“They understand that old and new can live side by side, seamlessly,’’ he said. “It’s an ode to a job well done.’’

See before-and-after photos of the property below:

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at