Up in the Barn
An artist takes DIY to a new level
A sputnik-style light fixture hangs from a reclaimed barn beam. Hand-made doors provide privacy in the loft, which serves as Mike Carr’s home office. A guest bedroom lies beyond the main space.
Photos by Emily Sidoti
When Shannon and Mike Carr purchased their 1834 Cape-style house in Fairfield, to say it “needed work” was an understatement. “It was in foreclosure,” Shannon explains, “and there were rotten tree trunks in the basement holding up house!” After shoring up the foundation, the Carr’s first project was adding a back patio. “I laid all the bricks myself,” Shannon remembers. The patio turned out to be a catalyst for many more DIY projects in the coming years. Although this self-taught handy-gal is not your average weekend warrior. As a Massachusetts College of Art class valedictorian, Shannon always had always had an eye for design, and worked as the creative director at Nicole Miller for nearly 10 years before having children. “I always had an interest in design, starting in high school,” Shannon says. “My years working for a high end designer like Nicole helped to refine the level of my design, as I was fortunate enough to be exposed to design not only in New York City but also from all over the world.”
After living in the house eight years, Shannon learned she was pregnant with twins (Cooper and Kennedy, now 15), and she and Mike realized they needed a bigger house. “We decided we liked the old part of it and would add on what we needed,” Shannon says. This first renovation included expanding and renovating the kitchen to create a great room, plus building an attached, two car garage and the two story “barn” above it (named for the exterior architectural lines). At that time, the barn interior was framed out, but left unfinished. “We always knew we’d finish it once the kids were in middle school and needed their own space,” Shannon said. Nearly a dozen years later, Shannon began the labor-intensive design project, which was inspired by an unlikely source: a trailer full of barn wood.
“We heard from a friend about a farmer in Pennsylvania who was taking down his milk barn and had kept all the wood,” Shannon explains. “We drove down there and loaded it piece by piece into a trailer,” she says. Once home, the real work began. “No one would clean it up or plane it for me, so I just did it myself,” Shannon says. That reclaimed wood was transformed into sliding barn doors and beams cutting across the pitched ceiling. It was used to create the custom coffee table that sits in front of the brown, tufted leather sectional. It was fashioned into the king-sized headboard in the guest room, and the nightstands that flank it. It was used to make a base for the marble topped bar, and the one-of-a-kind beam pendant light fixture that hangs above it.
Not only did Shannon design and build these custom pieces herself, she built the staircase leading to the loft, installed the shiplap wall treatments, laid the bamboo flooring, and even did all the stone work on the fireplace. “I really like doing puzzles and it was like doing a puzzle,” she says of the masonry project. “I brought up all the stone up and laid it out, puzzling it together with very little cutting.” Licensed electricians and plumbers came in to complete those aspects of the project, but the heavy lifting was all Shannon.
The result of Shannon’s hard work is a large, airy entertaining space with soaring ceilings, a loft home-office for Mike, a beautifully appointed guest bedroom, and a full bath. “It’s actually all too nice for the kids,” Shannon jokes. Two huge Sputnik light fixtures are suspended from the rustic cross-beams, and a duo of oversized canvases grace the far wall.
Oh, and Shannon created the artwork as well. Her custom pet portraits are a multi-step process using gel medium and a reverse rubbing technique with oil pastel details, resulting in a textured, multidimensional piece. The canvases of the Carr’s Cockapoo, Corker, are titled “Naughty” and “Nice,” and are a conversation starter. “We entertain a lot,” Shannon says. “Thanksgiving, Christmas, lots of lacrosse and basketball team parties, and even Mike’s 50th birthday,” she continues. “One of my favorite spaces is the bar...and it probably gets the most use.”
This spring, in preparation for Cooper and Kennedy’s confirmation party, Shannon embarked on first floor facelift which included repainting the kitchen’s thirteen year old French provincial golden hues with Benjamin Moore Baby Fawn in pearl finish, and painting all the wood trim to a high-gloss greyish brown called Silhouette. It pairs perfectly with the Shaker cherry cabinets and stone-colored mosaic tile backsplash she installed during the first kitchen renovation, and have stood the test of time. New, oversized glass pendants and newly upholstered benches surrounding the huge island complete the modern update.
Shannon didn’t stop there---she also turned Mike’s former office into a den for the twins, ship-lapping the walls,repainting the fireplace, adding built-ins, and constructing a daybed with charcoal covered cushions for both seating and overnight guests. “It was their eighth grade graduation gift...Cooper calls it the Fortnite Room.”
“When I’m not working on my own home projects, you can usually find me in my studio working on my latest pet portrait, in my garage workshop creating a new piece for a project, or at my kitchen island working on a design board to help a client reimagine their space,” Shannon says. “This is going to be the start of something for me.” Follow Shannon on Facebook and Instagram @upinthebarn for all her latest creations.