Finding a home in a dairy barn

Updating a prior renovation brought out the best in this building.

Much of the furnishings in the dining and family rooms were pieces that Jaye Carr repainted or repurposed. Woodworker Buddy Stuart crafted panels to lengthen the dining room table; the sideboard is a former printer’s cabinet.

There’s nothing like a renovation to bring friends together.

That’s not a statement you hear often. But the Carr home in Exeter wasn’t your typical home renovation. Formerly a nineteenth-century dairy barn, the 6,500-square-foot house sits on three wooded, gently sloping acres. Its renovation came together smoothly, thanks to owner Jaye Carr; longtime friend and designer Renee Carman of Mandeville Canyon Designs in Exeter; and builder Brian Fraser of Fraser’s Home Services in Exeter. Jaye is also owner of J.L Carr Design & Renovations in Exeter.

“I had the vision, and Renee and Brian helped me get there,” says Jaye; who enjoys the challenges of home renovation. For her part, Carman says of Jaye: “Our kids have grown up together, and it seems like we’ve always known each other. We share a similar design philosophy.” The two have worked together on other renovation projects and are collaborators on the Exeter Area Holiday House Tour this December.

The barn was transformed into a three-story home in the 1990s, with six bedrooms and four bathrooms. It’s a perfect fit for the Carrs, a busy family that includes Jaye, husband Kelley, and sons Buddy, Jack and Wyatt. But a renovated barn has quirks: all the walls were white, making interior spaces appear cavernous (especially the spacious, two-story primary living space); bathrooms were dated; and the kitchen was in an awkward spot. “It looked unfinished, like a warehouse,” Carman says. “We wanted to make it more intimate.”

Making a barn a home

The Carrs have a relaxed style, so Carman echoed that in her choices of colors, materials and furnishings. Playing off the barn’s original wooden beams and framing, Carman used a variety of natural woods in the home as design elements—from wooden planks on the walls of the family living space to reclaimed barn doors in different rooms and in the trim for the kitchen. She also selected wall colors—browns, sandy grays and blues—that added richness and depth to the interiors. Each room features colors from the same palette. “Using colors from the same color card allows you to create depth in a room without committing to a new color palette,” Carman says.

The barn is well built, which presented an unanticipated challenge for Fraser and his crew: tearing up floorboards and bathroom tiles that were so well installed, they were difficult to remove. “There’s a saying among builders: ‘I feel bad about who has to take this apart,’” Fraser says. “The quality of the house was great, but we had to take things apart to update spaces like the bathrooms. It was the most difficult demolition we’ve ever done.”

The Carrs’ spacious living area evokes the building’s origin as a nineteenth-century dairy barn while incorporating modern accents.

White pine floors throughout the house were all nailed and glued to two layers of plywood sub-flooring; tile in the bathrooms was similarly glued to the sub-floor. It took Fraser and two other men three days to remove the tile. The layers of flooring also forced Fraser to relocate plumbing and electrical wires through ceilings of rooms on the first floor.

The kitchen combines rustic and industrial styles. Originally located in a space that was a chicken coop (now a family game room), the kitchen helps anchor the home’s primary living space, creating a new area for entertaining, with top-of-the-line appliances and a soapstone-topped island.

Lighting the space was challenging because of the sloped ceilings; so Carman installed track lighting over the sink and stovetop, and pendant lighting over the island. She also framed the refrigerator with a piece of barn board and rope lighting. Jaye’s brother—James Crawford of Crawford Wood Company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—helped with the kitchen design and created the faces of the kitchen cabinets, which were built by Buddy Stuart in Milton.

Off the kitchen is a family room and dining area furnished with pieces that Jaye has restored and painted. An avid collector of antiques as well as barn board and other architectural salvage finds, she was thrilled to have room for it all. Treasures include a wooden cupboard and sideboard purchased from a local restaurant that was going out of business as well as a typesetter’s cabinet. Anchoring the room is a focal wall hung with unfinished wood planks that display family photos. An oak railing along the stairway to the second floor was replaced with a cable railing that further lightens the space.

The bright kitchen combines rustic and industrial styles with barn-board accents, stainless-steel appliances and sleek cabinetry; the Carrs’ Goldendoodle, Teagan, enjoys sunbaths here. The soapstone-topped island is from Sibco NH, Inc. of Stratham.

Upstairs Carman created an understated and comfortable master bedroom suite. The airy bedroom—painted soft gray with a warm orange accent wall—has exposed wood beams, high ceilings and windows overlooking the back yard. The master bath reflects Jaye’s love of the outdoors. After getting rid of a large hot tub—which required removing a portion of railing along the second-floor landing and sliding the tub to the ground using planks—a large, new shower was installed. Fraser used birch branches as trim along the shower stall walls. Porcelain tile with a wood-grain design lines the shower walls, and birch tree stumps support the cabinet sink. There’s even a tree stump in the shower to hold toiletries. An old bathtub with claw feet, from the prior owner, sits nearby.

Jaye, Carman and Fraser continue to work together on other projects. “It was a pleasure to work on this together,” Carman says. “As a designer, you have to work to see through the eyes of your client. With Jaye, it was easy—we see things the same!”  


Crawford Wood Company
(954) 791-2136

Fraser’s Home Services 
(603) 608-8459

J.L. Carr Design & Renovations 
(603) 531-3803

Mandeville Canyon Designs 
(603) 321-0650

Sibco NH, Inc. 
(603) 778-7075

Buddy Stuart 
(603) 859-4743

The Company Store

Viewed from the second floor, the barn’s original, rustic wood beams help frame the space. Replacing the original, heavy oak railings with steel cable brings light and views to the  second-floor landing.

The sunny master bedroom is comfortable and warm. Barn board creates visual interest at the head of the bed with bedding is by The Company Store.

Categories: Architecture and Interiors