The Art of the Barn

While Pennsylvania’s cities might be known for many things — cheesesteaks, Hall and Oates, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and a lovable, googly-eyed, orange mascot among them — it’s countryside is associated with one thing above all others: it’s multitude of old, charming barns. So, it’s understandable that many homeowners come to us for guidance on what to do with an old barn sitting on their property or how to design a new one that looks like it’s always been there.

With the help of our project architects and resident barn experts, Brad Kline and Doug Mancuso, we are going to give you a brief introduction to the art of the barn and explain how to design a barn that fits your equestrian, agrarian or entertainment needs.

HORSE BARNS

“The design for horse barns is very modular, which forces a kind of rigidity in the design,” Doug says. The interior layout, in particular, will be determined by three things: the quantity and size of the stalls, the width of the center aisle, and the types of additional amenities like wash stalls and tack rooms. Unless a homeowner has a unique aisle size in mind, they are generally 16 feet wide. The stalls themselves usually measure 12 feet by 12 feet for a single horse and 14 feet by 14 feet for a mare and foal.

From there, “choices need to be made about details that will ensure horse safety and comfort,” says Brad. For example, a lot of times we’re asked to include metal angles on top of the stall partitions, to prevent horses from chewing on them, or use rubber pavers inside the barn, which provides more support to horses’ delicate legs and hooves than brick or concrete flooring.

Our focus for this new bank barn in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania was to create a beautiful but practical barn that prioritized the horses’ safety without sacrificing quality in the design.

No matter what an owner needs in their barn, our mission is to deliver a beautifully practical structure. “We keep the large details like the timber frame, stall doors, offices, and tack rooms well-crafted while ensuring every detail is functional for everyday use,” says Doug.

This 16,800-square-foot, two-story, timber-framed event center in Nappanee, Indiana was designed to accommodate a wide range of event styles from wedding receptions, community gatherings, business banquets, product shows, family reunions, and more.

EVENT BARNS

When we take stalls out of the equation, the design possibilities for a structure become limitless. When it comes to designing commercial event barns, our goal is to find a balance between creating large, open spaces while making sure it still feels warm and inviting.

When thinking about creating an event barn, the two questions you need to ask yourself are: how many people do you want to be able to fit inside, and what types of events do you want to host in the space? Much of the design will stem from the answer to these questions.

“A great example of a recent event barn that we designed is Sammlung Platz,” says Brad. “The owner wanted to utilize it for corporate meetings, wedding events, and as a community center. So we created a global design to suit all their needs.”

However you decide to utilize your event barn, many of these types of spaces will require larger mechanical HVAC systems, a multitude of bathrooms, and possibly elevators and commercial kitchens. While this might sound like a lot to keep in mind, these are all considerations we will guide you through before starting the design process for your project.

ENTERTAINMENT BARNS

Because we are based in Pennsylvania, many of our clients have old barns original to their property that they’d like to make better use of. Transforming these charming buildings from their original farm-oriented design to an entertainment barn allows homeowners to have a separate space to host guests in a variety of ways. “It’s a space where holidays happen, where you host your dinner parties. It’s an extension of the home,” Doug says.

The key to a successful entertainment barn is scale and proportion. “They are not meant to be grand spaces, they’re meant to be intimate,” says Brad. A typical size for an entertainment barn is three bays, or about 30 feet by 48 feet, which allows it to comfortably accommodate multiple seating groups. “Our focus is on not making them so big that they feel lonely. We want you to be able to use it even when you’re just a family of two or four,” says Doug.

This 1873 dairy barn in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania was used as a storage space for several years, but eventually the homeowners wanted to give it a breath of new life and purpose as an entertainment barn. We helped them reimagine this building so that it could once again be full life. It now includes a driving range, putting green, guest suite, full-service kitchen, commercial-grade bar, and ample, spacious seating areas.

Entertainment barns give you the most freedom to have fun with the design. Here are some ways that entertainment barns have been used in the past:

  • Overnight guesthouse
  • Detached office space
  • Workshop
  • Game room for adults
  • Playrooms for kids
  • “Classroom” space for artists and creatives
  • A place to host parent meetings, book clubs, or garden parties.

Understanding how a homeowner wants to use their space is integral to our architectural process because we design with your needs and dreams in mind. One of the first things we’ll do is explore your ideas and guide you through your options so that we can make a space that is tailored specifically to you.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP IN BUILDING YOUR BARN

When it comes to barn design, the believability of the structure is always our main focus. We accomplish this by continually looking to history to see how barns were originally designed. Then, we use history to inspire our own design process down to the smallest details. Building in a believable way, rooted in history, is how we successfully create unique buildings that are tailored to their homeowners but still exude a feeling of instant old.

When done well, a barn has the power to transcend time. And when people walk into our barns, their nostalgia recognizes all of the authentic details and they allow their imaginations, if only for a moment, to transport them to another world.

Kitchen design with hosting in mind

After each gathering, you may notice the kitchen is inevitably where most people end up during parties. While you may appreciate the company, if you’re a frequent host you know a kitchen that is not designed for hosting means you’re tripping over your best friend with a blazingly hot tray right out of the oven or almost slicing a crocheted flower right off grandma’s new sweater as you try to squeeze your cutting board onto an already cramped counter.

Hosting doesn’t always have to be a Tetris game of cramped spaces and close calls. If a kitchen is designed with hosting in mind, you can transform your hosting experience into one that has enough room to invite loved ones to comfortably pull up a chair while you work your hosting magic. Here are six ideas to consider if you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen space and your own hosting experience.

For extra counter space

Counter space is the critical factor when it comes to being able to host comfortably. One way to provide more counter space is by incorporating a kitchen island — or two. Kitchen islands give you the space to spread out and get organized which will make prepping, serving, and dining a breeze. And islands don’t just give you and your food space, it also gives your guests somewhere to sit comfortably, and safely, out of the way.

For a homeowner in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, a double-island in the kitchen was critical for keeping Kosher and non-Kosher food preparation separate. Having two kitchen islands also allows them to use their front island for serving and entertaining and their back island for prepping and cooking.

Traditionally, a butler’s pantry was used to store fine china, silver, linens, and family heirlooms. Now, in more recent times, butler’s pantries are not only used for this kind of valuable storage space but also as a particularly useful area while entertaining guests. Butler’s pantries, as well as wet bars, free critical kitchen counter space and are also the perfect area to stage a buffet or drink station that will keep guests from wandering into the kitchen.

Packed with storage space, we designed this butler’s pantry for a homeowner in Greenwich, Connecticut who wanted to create a natural flow between their kitchen and entertaining spaces.

TO HIDE THE MESS

A delicious meal has its own kind of magic and, sometimes, seeing the mess and stress that comes with preparing the meal diminishes it. Afterall, there’s a reason why you don’t see the kitchen in most upscale restaurants. If you’re looking to replicate a fine dining experience at home, then an auxiliary kitchen may help you create just the right ambiance. An auxiliary kitchen tucks the real mess around the corner from the party so you can host in your spotless main kitchen. And, when using caterers, an auxiliary kitchen allows them to work out of sight and keep guests’ imaginations going.

Tucked away from the main entertaining area, this auxiliary kitchen was designed for a Greenville, Delaware homeowner who didn’t want the mess of cooking to distract from their events.

Another way to conceal cooking messes and preserve the magic of a meal is with a pantry. While a pantry is conventionally used to add much needed storage near the kitchen, it can also be used to hide bulky appliances like ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers. When you need to tuck a mess out of sight, contain cooking odors, or separate these spaces, all you have to do is close the door.

The discreet pocket door to this pantry separates the kitchen workspace from the rest of the kitchen in this Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania home

FOR ADDED COMFOR AND CHARM

A kitchen fireplace was traditionally where you’d find pots filled with bubbling stews and soups, meat slowly roasting on a spit, and bake kettles covered in hot coal and slowly baking an assortment of cookies, cakes, and breads. While modern appliances allow us to prepare our food much more easily, having a fireplace in the kitchen is still a charming reminder of history that will make any guest feel at home.

The large kitchen fireplace in this Marshallton, Pennsylvania residence creates a cozy atmosphere and charming reminder of a time when food was cooked over a fire.

When you are hosting a small number of guests, the kitchen can be an excellent entertaining space. All you need is a soft seating area that will help set a welcoming and intimate tone. Whether you choose soft chairs or a padded breakfast nook, these touches add a layer of warmth that will envelop your guests like a comforting hug. The added benefit of hosting in the kitchen is that it is usually one of the brightest rooms in the house with lots of windows and wonderful views.

The deep cushions of this breakfast nook create an intimate meeting nook with a beautiful view over a vineyard in this Marshallton, Pennsylvania home.

GOOD KITCHEN DESIGN GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND

While there is a certain amount of pressure that goes with hosting an event, you deserve to enjoy the experience just as much as your guests. And in order to comfortably enjoy hosting in your home, your kitchen needs to be designed accordingly. Adding even just one of these ideas to your kitchen can elevate your hosting abilities to a whole new level — and allow you to enjoy every moment of it.

Grand Opening in Doylestown

In April of 2021, Period Architectureproudly announced the opening of a second office location in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. With commissions in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and throughout the eastern seaboard, Period Architecture has remained a committed steward of the landscape and vernacular architecture since its founding in 2010. 

“Bucks County is a treasure of Pennsylvania. With a flourishing portfolio in Bucks County and the surrounding areas, it only made sense to open a second location in Doylestown, the heart of the region,” said Co-Founder and President Joseph Mackin.

Specializing in new homes, additions, renovations, barns, and buildings with enduring designs tailored to each distinct client, Period Architecture has grown from a three-person practice into an award-winning architectural firm with residential and commercial commissions along the east coast and beyond.

“Doylestown and the surrounding region of Bucks County has such a rich history and incredible community environment. We’re excited to begin our story here and look forward to engaging directly with local partners, craftsmen, and clients in the area,” says Co-Founder and Vice-President Jeffrey Dolan.

Located at 22 S. Main Street in historic downtown Doylestown, Period Architecture’s new office officially opened April 1st.

Contemporary Farmhouse Living Inspired by the Past

Nestled amidst rolling hills, babbling creeks, and a quilted tapestry of verdant farmland just west of Philadelphia sits Chester County, Pennsylvania, site of the American Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brandywine and the Valley Forge encampment. It’s an area that still boasts many eighteenth-century buildings and farmhouses that provide a look into the lifestyle and architectural vernacular of the country’s earliest days. 


Often that vernacular takes the shape of the American farmhouse. Designed to accommodate a lifestyle focused on putting down roots—both figuratively and literally—the farmhouse is utilitarian yet aesthetically pleasing, spacious yet cozy, classic yet endlessly fresh, and built to last while changing with the seasons.

It’s here in Greater Philadelphia that Period Architecture has dedicated itself to uniting architectural traditions of the past with contemporary lifestyles and technology. Throughout its decades of building and renovating period homes across the eastern U.S., several patterns have emerged as a roadmap for capturing the essence of farmhouse style. These six principles are the foundation upon which any home—old or new—can foster a timeless, authentic farmhouse aesthetic that takes its cue from history while rising to the demands of modern living.

PRINCIPLE ONE:  A SENSE OF PLACE AND HISTORY 

Authenticity is central to the farmhouse aesthetic. Every detail is carefully considered to ensure that it feels appropriate to the home’s history, environment, community, climate, and architectural language. It’s why Period architects look to precedent to inspire similar functionality and charm that apply today. First, the American farmhouse is intricately tied to its geographic region. A new farmhouse, much like its historic predecessors, should feel born from and carved into its surroundings to complement, rather than overwhelm, the landscape. One of the ways Period Architecture accomplishes this is by preserving as many of a property’s mature trees as possible. It’s also important to consider the harmony of the home and land as a whole. Take into consideration, for example, the curve of the drive as you enter the property; the angle at which you happen upon a small, stone spring house; or the relationship between a rustic barn looming in the distance and the grand main house.  

Establishing a sense of time is also key to authenticity. A farmhouse should tell a story by creating the impression that it was built in phases over time; historically, as a farming family succeeded and grew, their house grew too. Other methods for instilling history into a newer farmhouse are to use archetypal features like a farmhouse sink in period-inspired kitchens and bathrooms; use deep windowsills and interior walls to create the illusion of the thick, solid stone walls of yesteryear; select historically inspired paint colors; incorporate raised-panel and carriage-house-style doors; and incorporate natural materials indicative of the area and period in which the home might have been constructed.

PRINCIPLE TWO: ORGANIC AND SALVAGED MATERIALS 

Before cross-country transport of materials started in the mid-nineteenth-century, people lived strictly off the land and repurposed as often as possible. Today, organic and salvaged materials serve a three-pronged purpose: to give a nod to the past; create instant warmth, character, and charm; and honor the environment through reuse. Consider the following organic and salvaged materials for your farmhouse:

Stone and brick. Farmers of the past harvested stone from their fields to use as a sturdy and inexpensive building material. In modern farmhouses, locally harvested or salvaged stone and brick is used for facades, fireplaces, floors, cornices, and quoin (large cornerstones classic in stone homes).


Wood. With trees aplenty, farmers once cut lumber from their property and hand hewed beams to provide structure to their homes. Wooden boards and beams reclaimed from old barns make regular appearances in the homes Period builds in the form of furniture, millwork, cabinetry, siding, floors, roofing, and more. 

Iron. Used most often for hardware—think strap and latch hinges, box locks, and shutter hardware—as well as lighting, there are still many companies and artisans that hand-forge their ironware using the time-tested methods of days past.

PRINCIPLE THREE: MILLWORK AND ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS 

In the days before modern machinery, every detail of a home was crafted by hand. The time, money, and skill it required to accent a house with decorative millwork and other architectural details showcased the wealth and success of the homeowner. Today, classic styles of decorative millwork in kitchens and bathrooms, on staircases and balusters, and in the form of casing, trim, cornices, and other interior and exterior detailing harken back to those days. Dormers and porches are also staples of early farmhouse style. Traditionally, porches were purely practical spaces created to keep the interior of the home clean, where muddy boots and soiled clothing from long hours working in the fields could be removed before heading inside. Dormers also once served a utilitarian purpose—to increase usable space, sunlight, and air circulation in the steep-roofed top floor of a home.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: INDOOR-OUTDOOR LIVING

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of farmhouse living is the nostalgia it inspires for a time when life was lived in close connection with nature, rather than technology. When siting a Period Architecture home, they pay close attention to environmental factors such as how they can utilize southern exposure to create sun-drenched spaces and the way the wind travels across a property. The Dutch door, for example, originally designed to let refreshing breezes in while keeping farm critters out, is very much still a celebrated feature of today’s farmhouses, both for its aesthetic value and its role as a bridge between the inside and outside. Similarly, open and covered porches, verandas, gardens, and outdoor fireplaces enhance and extend the amount of time one can spend enjoying the fresh air.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: UNITY OF OLD AND NEW

Historic appreciation and reproduction takes the best of the past and makes it work for today’s world. Shutters, for example, which were once used to protect windows and provide security on the first floor (solid or paneled) and ventilation on the second floor (louvered), are mostly decorative features today. Modern composite “woods” have similarly replaced some natural woods in today’s farmhouses, as they lend a comparable look and warmth but are longer lasting, lower maintenance, and rot- and bug-resistant. And where the fireplace was once the chief home-heating element, there are now central and geothermal heating and cooling systems. Combined with energy-efficient windows, insulation, and state-of-the-art home automation technology, modern homes can bring the best of new advances to the farms of yesteryear. 

PRINCIPLE SIX: FAMILY-FOCUSED COMFORT AND LIVABILITY 

The most alluring feature of the farmhouse is also the most fundamental: its inherent comfort, livability, and family-centered appeal. Period modifies and maximize traditional layouts to accommodate modern family living by reworking servant quarters and kitchens into functional mudrooms; modifying traditional center halls and closed kitchens to create convenient, open floor plans; and incorporating master suites with luxurious closets, bathrooms, and views. Laundry rooms and extra storage are added where they never existed in the past. Stair halls, butler’s pantries, and mudrooms become key support spaces.

From quaint, historic stone homes to modern, sprawling country estates, the farmhouse is an enduring beacon of authenticity, family roots, and provincial pride that beats on in the hearts of all who find a sense of home—and of self—on the winding dirt roads of the great American countryside.

2020: Celebrating 10 Years in Business

September of 2020 marked 10 years in business for Period Architecture. Since 2010, they have grown from a three-person practice into an award-winning architectural firm with residential and commercial commissions along the east coast and beyond.

Remarking on the firm’s 10th anniversary, Co-Founder and President Joseph Mackin says, “We’re thrilled to celebrate such a tremendous milestone as a company. With a renewed appreciation for life at home, we’re delighted to remain an advocate for enduring architectural design and create beautifully livable places.”

In celebration of this milestone, Period Architecture would like to acknowledge and extend a heartfelt thank you to their clients and partners of the last ten years. “Our clients and their trust in our vision have been the driving force behind our success throughout the last ten years. Their support has inspired us to design not just beautifully crafted homes, but places to create treasured memories,” says Co-Founder and Vice-President Jeffrey Dolan

With commissions in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and throughout the eastern seaboard, Period Architecture has remained a committed steward of the landscape and vernacular architecture since 2010.