Old barns abound on the Cape. There’s something special about them that makes us want to keep them here. For this feature, we looked at two—one in West Barnstable and one in Harwich—that have been converted into living spaces. We listened to the families’ heartfelt stories about the process of restoration, barn living and what compelled them to save the structures in the first place.
With Love, Anything is Possible
CINDY SAUERS, OWNER OF SATURDAY FARM
To Cindy Sauers’ dismay, everyone said the barn would have to come down when she and her husband, Harry Eisner, both retired from the corporate world and bought the property they call Saturday Farm in 1997. The main house, an old farmhouse built in the late 1700s by one Captain Baker, was intact, but the walls on the 20 x 20 barn at the back of the property were caving in, and the floor was rotted out, as were the windows, which had vines growing through them. But, says Sauers, “I was in love with it.”
Fortunately for Sauers, her architect friend Richard Tichnor offered a second opinion about the neglected barn. “He said we could restore it,” says Sauers, “and he drew up the plans.” Tichnor’s design incorporated a storage space in the rafters, and he added wide beams to support the roof. Sauers’ husband, a software-engineer-turned-builder, together with Sauers’ son, Jason Bellamy, did all the construction.
“The guys put the whole building on top of sawhorses while they poured a new foundation,” she says. “I was afraid on windy days that the whole thing would blow over.” Eisner managed to salvage pieces of the rotting floor. “Some of the wood is really funky, but I like it,” he says. The two men put new shingles and a new roof on the barn. They also installed skylights to which Sauers added stained glass panels. Kitchen cabinets were fashioned from the salvaged floorboards and their knobs were once Sauers’ grandmother’s thread spools. Plumbing was added for a bathroom, and there’s a bed made up for friends who come to visit.
They painted the original barn doors green, and Sauers applied her own whimsical touches—a silhouette in white of a girl and one of a cat, both painted with glow-in-the-dark white paint. Eisner and Bellamy also added glass storm doors that let the light in and keep the weather out when the barn doors are open.
Sauers chronicled the entire seven-month process, taking photos and writing daily in two large scrapbooks. “Every night, I insisted that the guys write about the day,” she says, which, though tired, they diligently did.
Before the 1970s, the property had been a blueberry farm, and the barn was used for storage and packing. “There was a square hole cut out in the back of the barn where they sold the blueberries from,” says Sauers.
Now the property is Saturday Farm, home to Sauers, Eisner and their pet sheep, Bromley and Jobey, affectionately known as the Baa Boys. The sheep have their own little home outside, but they like to come into the barn from time to time. Sauers grows and cultivates lavender in the gardens and uses the barn as her studio. An artist and herbalist, she likes to paint and make concoctions, such as rose petal oil, organic sunflower oil and lavender sachets. They use the captain’s house as a guesthouse, and they live in a small, modern house, which Eisner built about eight years ago. “But I spend most of my time in the barn,” says Sauers. “If we ever had to move and sell everything, I’d want to take the barn with me.”
A Carefree Lifestyle
DICK KIUSALAS, OWNER OF WEST BARNSTABLE TABLES
When Tara Kiusalas was a child, her father brought her, along with her older sister, Andrea, and younger brother, Stephen, to an old barn in West Barnstable. Explaining to the toddlers that this was going to be the family’s new home, he showed them the upstairs and told them to figure out who’d get which room. “I was sure dad was just joking around with us—I was like, ‘Dad, we’re going to live in a barn?’” laughs Tara, an acupuncturist in Attleboro. “The rooms were all filled with hay,” she chuckles. But dad, Dick Kiusalas, owner and founder of West Barnstable Tables, says it was his dream to live in an old barn.
“I’ve always admired people living in converted barns, the carefree lifestyle,” says Kiusalas, “and I love the texture, the feel and the warmth you get out of old wood.” He moved to the Cape in 1967 from Thompsonville, Connecticut, and worked as an ad manager at The Yarmouth Register until he decided to make furniture, he says. In the early 1970s, Kiusalas and his business partner built furniture across the street, in a building behind the Old Village Store. When the barn and the property—formerly the premises for the cranberry growing operation of A.D. Makepeace in the late 1800s—came up for sale in 1975, Kiusalas knew it was a perfect fit. The property consists of a few big barns and some small ones—the largest being the home of West Barnstable Tables, the second largest, Kiusalas’ home.
In the late 1800s, cows and donkeys resided in the barn, in what is now the Kiusalas’ living room and kitchen. The original support beams are intact. The family used, and still uses, in the case of the grandchildren, one of the original beams to mark the kids’ heights over the years. You can still read the names and scratches in ballpoint pen today—and see teeth marks from donkeys chewing on the beam in the 1800s.
The original, wide floorboards remain, as does the original ladder to the upstairs. Kiusalas added the fireplace to the living room, which has a feature probably not found in many homes, installed into the mantle: a taillight from a 1939 Ford. It lights up when the water pump in the house goes on. “It’s for safety as well as aesthetic purposes,” says the imaginative Kiusalas. When he purchased the property, the barn was attached to a storage shed, but Kiusalas didn’t need the extra space, so he moved it. “I got up on the roof with a chainsaw and I sawed the building in half,” he explains. About 25 years ago, he added a screened-in porch to the downstairs of the barn, which became the bedroom for his wife, Barbara, and him (until the winters make it too cold). “It’s been an organic process,” he says of the house, “with layers of history.”
Tara was seven when her family moved into the house, after the three siblings had decided on their bedrooms. “It was like ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she says with a laugh. “We always had ‘Little House on the Prairie’ jokes.”