A Restored Timber Barn Exudes Sustainability

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s the triumvirate of sustainability, and this restored timber barn built from the reclaimed wood of older structures performs a green hat trick.

Written by Reed Karaim
Photography by Heidi Long

Is the Martin family’s striking timber frame “rec barn” built near the Swan Mountain Range in Montana a new structure or an old one? The correct answer is probably both. The barn was built just a few years ago and incorporates state-of-the-art mechanical features, but it was built almost completely out of reclaimed wood from barns, sawmills and other buildings in rural Montana, all of it decades old.     Indeed, the weathered, cinnamon-colored wood gives the home such a feeling of age and belonging it’s hard not to believe that it isn’t a remodel of an existing structure. “We wanted this particular building to have a sense of history,” says owner Roger Martin. “As much as possible, we wanted it to feel like an old barn that’s been on that spot for a long, long time.” The family was building a primary residence nearby, but wanted a separate structure for entertaining and recreational activities down by the spring-fed lake.

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It’s only 850 square feet inside and has no bedrooms, but the simple design has room for a small kitchen, a bar, a gathering area centered around a majestic fireplace, a pool and foosball table, and, in the loft, a long shuffleboard table. Paul Miller, partner at RMT Architects in Avon, Colorado, designed the building with the classic proportions of an old barn, a screened-in porch cleverly substituting for one of the wings.

It even includes sliding barn doors on both sides that can be opened to a stunning, through-the-building view of the lake. Timber framing was essential to the structure. “I love the history and romance of Montana, and that goes hand in hand with the architectural heritage of the state,” Miller says. “To me, the timber-frame design is really a part of that.”   The reclaimed wood was the other critical element. It’s become increasingly popular in Montana construction, says J.L. Halverstadt of Wild Wood Eccentrics in Whitefish, Montana, which provided the Douglas fir and ponderosa pine planks and beams that came from old buildings. The wood is prized both for its rustic look and for being an environmentally responsible choice.

“People who feel a commitment to the green movement like the fact that you’re reusing something instead of cutting down more trees,” Halverstadt explains. The Martin family took that commitment farther than most. “You usually see reclaimed wood used more as a decorative element, but probably 90 percent of this project was done with recycled material,” says Brad Reedstrom, co-owner with Andy Fischer of Bigfork Builders in Bigfork, Montana. “That’s really an incredible amount.”

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The most challenging aspect of the Martin home, Reedstrom says, was the structural timber frame that supports the building. “Because we were working with reclaimed timbers that had joinery and mortises and notches in them,” he explains, “you had to take real care in selecting the appropriate piece of wood.” The result, however, is just as the Martins hoped — a family friendly modern barn that’s true to Montana’s history and heritage.

Tour the Restored Timber Barn