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September 17, 2014
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From a barn to a home; A dramatic renovation makes a modern living space

The completed barn
Photos by Jack Kucy


The task of building the Levine house went to cabinetmaker Larry Braverman, Levine’s next-door neighbor. Levine said he was “extremely lucky” to have Braverman. When Levine asked him if he would take on the task, Braverman replied, “I’m a cabinet maker,” to which Joe said, “Let’s consider it one big cabinet.” Levine said this was just the first of “a long relationship of doing uncommon projects together.”

One of those uncommon projects was creating the guesthouse to the home, built from a salvaged redwood water tower from New York City and made to look like the original tower. The structure is two-level, with a bathroom and sauna on the first floor and a bedroom on the second floor, all of which is sitting on the foundation of an old chicken coop. It has a copper roof and an outside shower.

The interior décor of the barn is minimal. Cyphers said that when she is decorating she keeps it simple. “The internal structure is so beautiful,” she said. “The post and beams are like a sculpture in itself; it’s a celebratory piece that is giving gratitude to the natural environment. I’m careful not to put anything in here that would detract from that.”

Levine agrees, saying, “I don’t feel like we’ve decorated.”

It’s simple, clean and contemporary. The kitchen is the largest piece of furniture. It’s an island that is a combination of wood and steel put together by Braverman. The staircases are steel, with a spiral stair going to one loft and a straight stair going to the other. The bathroom is made from yellow pine and cement, and the sliding bathroom door has a yellow pine frame with a translucent fiberglass panel. Everything was made off-site and installed in an effort to make everything moveable and freestanding, such as the kitchen island and the entire bathroom. This was an intentional part of the design concept, giving the owners the option to rearrange and restore the barn to its original space.

Much of the furniture is by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen. The dining room chairs are from his famous Seven Series. The large dining room table was designed by Levine and built by Braverman. Other furniture was collected over the years from flea markets and auctions.

The barn has been renovated and complete for many years, but some big changes are about to come. The house is currently heated by oil and a wood stove, but in the spring, the couple will install a pellet boiler and solar panels. These will replace the need for oil, and Levine recently made the call to cut off their oil. “It’s an exciting thing to sever our oil pipe,” said Levine. “That was one of the best calls I’ve made in a long time.”