A 19th-century barn is converted into a stylish guest house.By Lenore Cullen Barnes | Photography by Dan Cutrona
There was more than a little karma involved when Krista Sigren found her new home in Sandwich. It was only the third property she’d viewed, but when she saw the 1800s main house, with a barn just ripe for remodeling and a creek flowing behind, Krista turned to her daughter and said, “Sigrid, I think we’ve found it.” A special place
What she found is both a Cape Cod oasis and a link to her father, extended family and Swedish heritage. “It’s come full circle for me,” says Krista. “When I think of my happiest memories, they are of picking blueberries and clambakes on the beach when visiting my aunt in Provincetown. That’s why I chose the Cape. And the creek is why I bought this property. We call it Kedron Kreek, after the name of my father’s pottery business.”
The barn renovation was also done in homage to her father, Vincent Sigren. He completed a similar remodel to give his family a Swedish-style summer house in Michigan when Krista was a child. “I spent hours out there with him talking,” Krista says. “So now we call this the Sigren Summer House.”
The good karma continued when she met Kevin Boyar of B & D Custom Builders, Inc., and a mutually appreciative collaboration ensued. “Krista is very dynamic and a tremendous amount of fun,” says Boyar. “She was great to work with.”
Krista had a clear vision for the barn remodel based on “instant age.” She wanted rustic materials and a sense of bringing the outdoors in to achieve an authentic Swedish-country aesthetic. “This project was unlike anything we’ve done before,” says Boyar. “We typically do very crisp, meticulous detail. This was truly an organic experience. It changed and grew as it developed. There were no finish details at all. We just made it up as we went along. We had a ball.”
Setting the Space
The project began with clearing the structure, which was packed to the rafters with debris, and separating the first floor into a large studio space, a mudroom/entryway, and bathroom featuring slightly sloping concrete floor and a zero-entry shower. The sauna can be accessed from the exterior.
An open stairway built with virtually indestructible treads of three-inch-thick heart pine leads to the second floor, where an expansive loft-like living space includes a full kitchen, dining space and cozy living and sleeping areas. A removable library ladder on wheels accesses a bunk loft, perfect for grandsons Gustav and Magnus.
Boyar moved the original staircase to gain more square footage and cut back the loft to allow enough space for a sleeping area while opening up the living space below. The lower ceiling now defines the kitchen and dining areas.
The unorthodox nature of the project is reflected in the antique heart pine floors that were installed first, before framing, so they would become “beat up” as the team worked. Boyar further distressed the wood, cutting out “a few random chunks,” and filling those spaces in with other boards. Krista instructed the crew, “When you think they’re done (being distressed), do it again.” She added, “I wanted the floors to look like they’ve been there forever and the chickens have been up there roosting for years. I knew what I wanted. I could communicate that to Kevin and he took it and ran with it. I knew the look I wanted on the boards (on the walls and ceiling) and Kevin materialized it.”
Boyar brought that vision to life by individually installing each v-groove board, after it was stained black, whitewashed, then sanded to let the black show through. “Because of the materials we used, installing the boards was a painstaking effort,” says Boyar, noting that his son Andreas “spearheaded the physical activity, installing the floors and completing all the finish work on the ceilings and floors. “The boards were warped, so we’d nail down one end, then bend them to line up, sometimes working in ten-inch increments,” he says. “When boards had holes in them, we’d insert black painted boards behind them, so the insulation wouldn’t show through. It was a lot of work, but it really came together and adds to the character tremendously.”
A custom kitchen
In the kitchen, Boyar built the base cabinets, including the island base, out of old rough-sawn beams, which were further distressed. The shelves below the island are individual slats like Krista remembers her father having. She chose white Corian for the countertops, but went with a marigold hue for the island.
“That was a last minute decision,” Krista said. “It was either going to be brilliant or a disaster.”
The warm splash of color showcases perfectly a pitcher crafted by her father. A colorful tablecloth hand-stitched by her grandmother and paper quilts by daughter Sigrid further personalize and enrich the space. Daughter Amelia served as a “consultant” throughout the process and did most of the shopping for furniture and Swedish dishware and cutlery.
“When you come up here, you just exhale,” says Krista. “It’s like a little piece of heaven on earth, Swedish-style.”