This Old House Modern Barn House Rehab By Amy Matthews - (2024)

If you are in love with barndominiums, you won’t want to miss out on the This Old House 2021 Annual Idea House. This post is going to take you on a tour of the Modern Barnhouse Rehab by Amy Matthews.

The Modern Barnhouse is the 2021 Idea House on This Old House

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For those not in the know, This Old House has been presenting Idea Houses annually for eight years now. As you might guess, the goal of the Idea House campaign is to present ideas for architecture and design to people who are thinking of building their own homes. The Idea House projects also help promote products and services that may come in handy for your own construction and decorating.

The Idea House for 2021 is located in the St. Croix River Valley in St. Paul, Minnesota. Amy Mathews came up with the design in conjunction with Colin Oglesbay at D/O Architects. Hartman Homes took care of construction.

Who is Amy Matthews?

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If you regularly watch This New House, then you may know Amy Matthews, since she used to be a co-host. She also used to host Renovation Raiders on HGTV. Additionally, she is a licensed contractor. So, she was more than up to the task of designing her own home.

Site and Inspiration

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While we often see this project presented as a “rehab,” it is the site and supporting buildings that were rehabilitated, rather than the home itself, which was built from the ground up.

The location of the home is an old dairy farm dating back to the 19th century. On the site were an old red barn, a workshop, and a milk house.

Amy wanted to preserve the site and its existing buildings as best she could while creating a modern complement to their traditional rural charm.

In this video, Amy explains more about the inspiration for her home.

She says the project is “also steeped in my own Scandinavian heritage. And when I say it’s a Scandinavian-inspired barn house, it isn’t about just interior décor at all. It’s about building principles that people utilize in areas where there are four extremely strong climates and you’ve got to get light and warmth into the space.”

This Old House Modern Barnhouse Exterior

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When you look at the exterior of the home or a floor plan, you will notice that it has a long design with a lot of windows that face both sides. The layout and directional configuration of the home maximize the natural light inside during the winter when the sun is low in the sky. There are also skylights that are powered using solar energy.

The look of the exterior is of course inspired by a traditional barn, in keeping with the theme of the property. But the standing seam metal roof and the gray and black cedar siding pair with clean lines to provide an appearance that is unmistakeably modern. You could easily miss the garage door entirely since it blends in with the window panels.

If you move around to the chimney end of the home, you will discover that aside from the chimney itself, the walls are otherwise almost entirely glass.

On such a beautiful property, it makes sense to make the best possible use of outdoor space, which is exactly what Amy’s barndo does. A spacious patio features modern furnishings and a rectangular fire pit, with additional seating around a more rustic fire pit beyond.

You will also notice that there is a section of the house on the lower floor projecting toward the patio. That is the dining room. An outdoor kitchen on the patio bridges the two spaces perfectly. You’ll notice this is one of two extensions with flat roofs; both of them are surrounded in windows. Amy says that a snow globe inspired this idea (keep in mind that this is exactly the kind of weather you can expect in this part of the world).

This Old House Modern Barnhouse Interior

© Chad Holder
© Chad Holder
© Chad Holder
© Chad Holder

You have now had a chance to take a look at the modern exterior of this Scandinavian barn house design. But what is the interior of Amy’s barndominium like?

At 3,700 square feet, the Modern Barnhouse is a spacious haven of modern living. Describing it, This Old House writes that it features a “modern, minimalist aesthetic; rich, neutral palette of natural materials (cedar, cement, stone, and metal) accented with walls of glass that invite the outdoors inside.”


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In this video from Episode 5, Amy says, “The inspiration for the design was rooted in the desire to create an experience where it was a seamless flow between the modern interiors and the wooded oasis outside and that experience needed to happen as soon as you walked in the front door.” She continues, “One of the ways we accomplished that was by pulling the exterior cedar siding into the entryway. And by adding the nine foot doors and windows, we kept the space flooded with light.”

A focal point you will immediately notice on the ground floor is the staircase that leads up to the second floor. It has a floating design with a glass railing topped with wood supports, giving the illusion of weightless suspension in space. The glass also leaves the space as visually unobstructed as possible. The light pouring down from the skylights not only illuminates the space, but also helps draw the eyes upward.

The kitchen features white countertops and white oak cabinets. The reason for these colors is because they reflect the light streaming in through the windows. That helps to brighten the entire kitchen, which might otherwise be a bit dim due to its location in the house.

Another cool feature in the kitchen is a hidden door that opens up to a huge working pantry. The idea is to hide a lot of the kitchen clutter in here so that the main space is clutter-free. The kitchen also features a full-size wine bar.

You’ll notice the polished cement floor of the kitchen flows right into the living room, which is fully integrated into the same wide-open space. Those floors may look cold, but they’re not, thanks to the heating installed beneath them. The focal point of the living room is a cypress coffee table and a stunning fireplace with dark panelling that mimics those outside.


You probably noticed when we were looking at the outside of the barndo that it has a split design, with one larger section and one smaller section. When you head upstairs, the master bedroom is in that smaller section, set a little bit apart from the main living spaces. This gives it a tranquil, secluded feel.

Amy says, “The only things that connect the main house and the owner’s suite are a concrete slab, the floor trusses, and this flat roof.”

So, you literally go outdoors to get to the suite, taking in the fresh air and views as you cross. To either side is a glass railing that matches those on the interior stairs.

She says, “You’re literally walking through nature without ever leaving the house.” What a cool way to connect everyday life with the outdoors!

The suite itself has a simple, minimalist decorative scheme that keeps the eye focused primarily on the architecture. A private balcony offers yet another opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as do the astonishing views through the windows in the bathroom. Also upstairs are additional bedrooms and a lovely home office.

The Modern Barnhouse is a Beautiful Home that Unifies Indoor and Outdoor Living

We hope that you enjoyed exploring Amy Matthews’ Modern Barnhouse, and that it gave you some ideas for your own barndominium home. It truly is a masterpiece of architecture, complementing the grounds while allowing its occupants to fully appreciate the outdoor spaces from within the house.

For more videos and info please visit the This Old House showcase.
This Old House Modern Barn House Rehab By Amy Matthews - (2024)
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