Modern design ideas from an iconic Western structure, plus simple ways to get the look

Backcountry base camp

When orthopedic surgeons David and Amaryllis Scott want to leave their weekday routines behind, the word “yonder” fits the bill. Their barn-shaped retreat on a silent ridge in Winthrop, Washington, is as remote from their working lives as the surface of the moon.

“First and foremost, it’s base camp,” David says. “But it’s also a place to escape from the stresses of our profession. We can forget it all.”

The metal-roofed, cedar-clad structure perches on a mesa amid near-treeless foothills shimmering with golden bunchgrass, sage, and bitterbrush toasted brown by sun and dry wind. Oversize windows face southwest to the North Cascade Range, scooping in hearty portions of nearby Mt. Gardner and a scrabbly terrain with some of the Northwest’s best cross-country skiing.

The Scotts wanted a simple weekend home that put them close to the mountains. “At one point, we actually thought we’d just put a yurt on the property,” David chuckles. When they decided instead to build a custom two-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot home that would provide comfort and utility, they called in the family expert-David’s father, architect Winton Scott. The elder Scott was intrigued by the architecture of Northwest barns and suggested a design that borrowed from the region’s buildings.

An open floor plan for the kitchen, dining, and living areas dispenses with walls. The warm-toned wood ceiling soars to a mind-clearing altitude of more than 20 feet above interlaced scissor-shaped trusses of vertical-grain fir, complementing the great room’s loftiness while keeping the scale intimate and friendly.

Architect Winton anticipated the seasonal extremes, calculating the path of the sun and the heavy snow loads in determining the strength, slope, and overhang of the eaves. “The monumentality of the view was hard to escape,” Winton says. “That was the genesis of the design-that sense of openness and no divisions of space.” -Peter Sackett

DESIGN: Winton Scott Architects, Portland, ME ( or 207/774-4811)

Rustic barn style

The Scotts’ house is a classic barn-like space: natural, functional, and warm.

Shaker-style kitchen cabinets. “Their simple design doesn’t compete with the trusses, which are a focal point of the house,” Amaryllis Scott says. Advice for your own cabinetry: Borrow ideas from timeless, utilitarian styles.

Long, deep eaves. A generous overhang offers protection in any weather but allows a connection with the outdoors.

Exposed posts and beams. Overhead trusses establish a repeating visual rhythm and give scale to the main room.

Nuts and bolts in plain view. Real barns show their seams; for an authentic look, display the hardware that holds the house together. 

Wine Country retreat

The Carneros region is one of the least-developed areas of the Napa Valley, its rolling hills dotted with barns and sheds and water towers. When real estate developer Keith Rogal, founder of Napa Valley’s two-year-old Carneros Inn, began work on a new phase of development – 24 single-family homes on-site for those “who check in and don’t ever want to check out,” he says half-jokingly – he sought a design that would reflect these surroundings. He hired William Rawn Associates, a Boston-based architecture firm known for thoughtful, place-driven projects, and matched it with Napa-based duo Kimberley Nunn and Dan Worden of Shopworks, creators of the playful interiors for eight W Hotels.

The resulting homes (including Rogal’s own, pictured here) take their cues from the rural setting while simultaneously updating the barn form. Vaulted 16-foot ceilings soar over large, open-plan rooms. Nothing is embellished; instead, the construction details provide the decorative flourishes. Simple board-and-batten siding on the exterior “connects in an honest way with agricultural buildings,” says architect Douglas Johnston. Shopworks used the material indoors to line the walls of the great room and define a more intimate scale. “We updated it by making it lighter and thinner, more appropriate to interior application,” Worden says. “Matching its height to the top of the doors also gives the space some breathing room.”

The airy interiors provide a gallery-like backdrop for furniture and objects chosen by Rogal and Shopworks for their sculptural, tactile qualities. “We picked a shaggy wool rug that everyone wants to lie on, and a chair threaded with leather strips that kids can strum like an air guitar,” Rogal says. “That’s part of the charm of an interesting space-that it can attract idle play, that it provokes fascination.” -JAIME GROSS

DESIGN: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Boston ( or 617/423-3470)

INTERIOR DESIGN: Shopworks, Napa, CA ( or 707/258-1924)

Sleek barn style

Melding traditional barn forms with modern finishes and colors requires a subtle hand. The key is to draw inspiration from the rural setting without making it kitsch.

Roof deck. The upper level includes an open-air gazebo (far left) modeled on the region’s water towers.

Restrained mix. The loftlike living area contrasts straight-from-the-farm materials (board-and-batten siding, cabinet fronts with simple casework, walnut-colored floor planks) with stainless steel appliances and objects in a neutral palette.

Light sources. Inspired by barn roof vents, a clerestory-lined monitor pops open the great room’s ceiling, washing the room with sunlight. The oversize mirror further brightens the space.