One Room Challenge: Balancing Design and Life

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to live in a remodeled barn. With one great room, it was a design challenge. Set on 2 acres, it was a romantic and private location. Simply, it was a chance I just couldn’t pass up. 

The barn-inspired casual design for an active lifestyle. Set in the vineyards of Sonoma County, I worked diligently to balance design choices with space. 

I’m excited to share some of the insights that can help you in dealing with your design challenges—whether you’re in an Atlanta loft or any single room.

Moving to a one-room barn posed the classic chance to transform a challenge into an opportunity. The traditional Chinese symbol for opportunity expresses this concept in a single symbol. 

Here are 5 challenges I overcame in creating a remarkable space.

Design for Living

Despite the limits of fewer rooms, the barn provided me with a single focus: planning the space for active living. I needed to organize the flow to have everything work in harmony. 

This meant structuring the great room to be the “IT” space for cooking, entertaining, working, painting, and relaxing. 

With an open plan kitchen, the west wall became a chef’s kitchen contained on one side. The center marble-covered a functional island that became the stand-up kitchen prep area and eating zone. An elegant couch and chairs offered a mix-up of a new twist on relaxing, entertaining, and as-needed computing. 

With a side table and a wall-screen, I created a special place reserved for creative work: painting, designing, and writing.

Balance of Country and Sophistication

From the outset, I knew that this barn evoked a country palette. Ancient wood floor beams set the tone for going barefoot and feeling relaxed. This country’s quality was balanced with a few modern items such as lamps, vases, and pillows. Because everything happened in one space, I only needed a few accents to pull this look together.

Managing Budgets

Of course, there’s the important consideration of cost. Much like evaluating the costs associated with plastic surgery, it helps to educate on options. The design is very similar. One needs to understand costs, outline goals, and make educated decisions.

As I decorated the barn, I needed to juggle furnishings, accent pieces, paint choices. I had to make tough decisions about what I envisioned, and what was in the budget. Fortunately, I found resources for re-using, recycling, and re-finishing that added a very unique look to the outcome. 

Embracing a Minimalist Look

Minimalism in a single room is a smart idea. It helps you select the very best of the best, and let go of the rest. In this process, I was inspired over and over by the work of Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and originator of the Konmari method. 

This inspiration led me to let go of many items that I’d gathered over years, from my larger city dwelling. Kondo recommends a process of inviting items into your home by selecting items that ‘spark joy.’ She also advises thanking objects that you’ve purchased but are letting go of. It may sound odd or quirky. But, it works!

Her method enabled me to let go, give away, and release items and furnishings that no longer truly worked. 

Blending Inside and Out

In every space, there’s a natural invitation that is unique. In the barn, the key theme emerged of blending inside and out. 

The barn was set on an open field on 2 acres. Most days, the door was wide open. We often had birds visit, march around on the wood floors, and then fly off. It became such a frequent event, that I set out bowls of food and water on the stoop. 

During all the seasons, different plants bloomed. With so much on the outside, it was a natural call to bring in cuttings from trees, fresh vegetables, and wildflowers. As the year evolved, so did the cuttings and installations. 

If you’re facing the challenge of designing for one room—I hope these 5 tips will help you create the room of your dreams.

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