Renovated facade of Orchard Barn
Storm Hill Orchard Barn
CLIENT: PRIVATE CLIENT
LOCATION: EMPIRE, MI
YEAR: 2017
The Storm Hill Orchard Barn renovation transforms an abandoned apple barn into a spacious home-away-from-home for a couple with a love of writing, art, and vintage collectibles. Sited just south of the quaint lakeside village of Empire, the barn is a memory of the region’s agricultural past and a landmark within the town. The magic of the barn’s vast unpartitioned floorplan is recreated in the free-flowing living spaces of the renovation. The 3,200 square foot first floor is programmed with a series of “cabins” housing bedrooms, bathrooms, and laundry, with windows, hammock nooks, and halls scattered between them.

Through creative tectonic exploration, care toward material ecologies, and attention to the smallest of details, the Storm Hill Orchard Barn renovation works to reveal the unseen beauty of the structure, uncovering hidden histories and carving through the structure to create new ones.
Open view of first floor renovation.
Decorative frame Wood beam intersection detail
From cladding boards stamped with heirloom apple species—Grimes Golden, Shiawassee Beauty, Northern Spy, Tolman Sweet—to receipts scribbled onto columns and shelves alongside a Worker’s Compensation posting from 1942, the architecture recorded the day-to-day workings of the orchard, a history the client wanted to preserve as the barn was transformed.
View of wall with a green door and rustic storage cabinet.
View of stairs.
To open up the interior of the deep footprint, the central third of the second floor is removed, creating a skylit double-height living and dining space. This large volume is flanked by two second story lofts, left open and adaptable for flexible use, reminiscent of its agricultural days.
First Floor Plan
Floorplan construction drawing.
Second Floor Plan
Second floorplan construction drawing.
renovation photo.
View of second floor loft.
MATERIAL REINTERPRETATION
Taking adaptive reuse and resource sustainability to heart, the renovation repurposes as much material from the site and demolition as possible.

Sandblasting to remove layers of dust exposes the shining hardwood beneath years of agricultural grime. The stamped wood boards are refinished to become the backsplash wall in the bathrooms. Salvaged flooring from the double height space finds new use as cladding infill between the joists at the top of the cabins. Removed floor joists are sistered and repurposed as structural beams for new openings in the floor, and remaining boards are transformed into a custom dining table and kitchen stool tops. Old single-paned window sashes are scraped and painted then reinstalled as interior windows for the “cabins.”
Diagram showing where found items were repurposed within the floorplan.
RE-PURPOSED
Agricultural artifacts and miscellaneous finds are displayed as furniture and memorabilia throughout the renovated space. A log of unknown origin and use, nestled in the brackets of the second story columns, was labeled “existing log to remain” on the construction documents and now hovers above the double height dining room as a reminder of the myriad mysteries of the past.

Plumbing fixtures, doors, windows, and vintage tiles collected from architectural salvage warehouses complete the renovation with minimal need for new materials or resources.
Diagram showing where found items were repurposed within the floorplan.
Beam construction detail. View of vaulted ceiling and beam details.
Railing cable detail.View of projection screen from second floor loft.
The lofts are variably programmed as a project space, a writer’s loft, a movie theater, a music room, and additional “camping” space for when many friends come to visit.
View of first floor from second floor perspective.
Beam construction detail.View of kitchen range and hood.
A partial structural excavation to the north exposes the existing joists and blocking above the kitchen, creating a lattice structure that defines a domestic scale for the space while still allowing diffused sunlight to filter in from above.
Overall view of kitchen
Section
Section construction drawing.
ELEVATION
The southwest corner of the structure is carved out for a screened porch, removing a portion of the exterior wall entirely, but preserving a painted segment of wall and one existing window to create a liminal interior-exterior space that recalls the original raw and unconditioned barn.
Elevation construction drawing.
View of exterior barn pre-renovation.View of exterior barn in progress. Finished exterior view of barn.
View of screened in porch
View of screened in porch looking inside.Cute little dog
TEAM
Elise Dechard

 
CREDITS
Contractor: Quartersawn Custom Carpentry

Structural Engineer: Avanti Engineering