While empty nesters Karol Ann and Chris DeLong always planned to retire in the country, it’s safe to say they never thought they would live in a barn. “We both grew up in small towns, so we had a desire to get out of Nashville and move into a small community where we could get involved,” says Chris. “We started taking Sunday drives, trying to find just the right spot.” One Sunday, the couple discovered tiny Santa Fe, Tennessee (population: 300), and a few days later, they found themselves in a bidding war at an auction for an 83-acre property, complete with an old farmhouse, a smokehouse, a chicken coop, and a rickety barn. “There were probably 100 people there, but we got it,” he says.
Karol Ann immediately called in her designer, Nashville-based , and they got to work on plans for a top-to-bottom farmhouse renovation. Sadly, it was not to be. “We figured out pretty early on that it was just going to be a money pit,” says Karol Ann. But Chris accidentally stumbled on Plan B while clearing out the barn’s hayloft. “I was looking out this giant window, and I saw the sunset,” he says. “The next thing I know, I’m telling Karol Ann and Kendall that I had a vision, and I think we need to live on top of the barn.”
Barring the reclaimed beams, most of the items in the living space are on the newer side to complement the room’s wide-open floor plan. The custom light fixture is from Urban Chandy.
Kendall pored over plans trying to figure out how to maximize the living space in a fixed footprint. "I had to fit a kitchen, bathroom, closet, and laundry, but I also didn't want to lose any of the symmtry of the gorgeous columns. It was a giant jigsaw puzzle," she says. Now their dining area perfectly showcases large windows with scenic views of their property.
The wood for the kitchen cabinets and hood came from the old chicken coops on the property. “It was all thoroughly cleaned,” says Karol Ann. “There were people in here for weeks with wire toothbrushes, scrubbing away.” Lucite hardware from and sleek offset the rustic elements, while brightens up the space.
Although the couple had to get ruthless when downsizing from more than 7,000 square feet to 1,400, Karol Ann couldn’t bear to part with her mother’s . Now, they’re right at home on the reclaimed wood shelves alongside that inspired the paint color on several of the loft’s doors.
Karol Ann found the entryway bench, a convenient spot to stash blankets or change shoes, at Stoney Lonesome Antiques in Spring Hill. The American flag that hangs above it is from Props Antiques in Leiper’s Fork.
Because storage is at a premium—there are only two closets in the entire living space—the couple decided to build (also used as dressers) out of wood mined from the smokehouse. adds a modern edge.
All of the doors came from the old farmhouse. Here, refreshes a vintage door.
Chris spent more years than he can count rocking in the that belonged to his beloved grandmother. The couple added barrel tables from the Jack Daniel Distillery and book fair signage from 8th Avenue Antique Mall in Nashville.
Vintage bingo cards lend old-fashioned charm to game nights on the porch.