When Brett Van Sickle, a retired ballet dancer, first laid eyes on this barn, there wasn’t much to see. He’d bought a beautiful stone farmhouse in Greensville, Ontario as an investment, and the barn at the back of the property was more or less an afterthought. It was used as a garage for years until a previous owner installed a cramped loft upstairs. Besides the rudimentary electrical and plumbing, the space was barely livable. But Brett had a hunch he could do something with it – maybe convert it into a rentable apartment. He’d flipped a Toronto garage into a living space, and he knew his little barn had serious potential. On a $60,000 budget, Brett tore the place apart and (with the help of YouTube videos) rebuilt it into a one-of-a-kind, Balinese-inspired countryside escape. He liked the apartment so much, he decided to move in.
Home on the Range
The makeover was a complete head-to-toe transformation, and the barn board outside is one of the few original features of the home. To preserve a bit of history, Brett repainted the barn back to its original shade of red. The structure originally had no windows, so Brett punched in a few to brighten up the interior. Two hammocks look out onto the lush garden, which rests on an acre of land.
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Brett designed the garden with a bit of a curve, and he built the deck to move with the same natural flow. At night, the porch’s built-in lighting overhead casts a quiet glow on the yard.
The living room is washed in light thanks to the bright paint job. Brett loves plants, and he wanted to bring in pops of emerald green throughout the home to invite the outdoors inside. The coffee table is arguably the room’s most unique feature; it’s a teak stump from Bali. It cost a small fortune, but Brett said he prefers investing in statement pieces to define a space. The patterned carpet is from West Elm.
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Here’s another look at the massive couch, which Brett figures is about the size of a single bed – and just as comfy.
Go for Gold
Brett’s colour palette for the space is imbued with plenty of white with accents of rich greens, blues and gold.
The barn is filled with little show pieces, and this overgrown plant wall has a knack for turning heads. Brett said it took about a day to build, once he had all the pieces together, and a built-in watering system makes the feature ultra low maintenance. As for the design, he just walked into the tropical section of the plant store and picked out what he considered most beautiful.
Beside the plant wall is a tobacco-leather chair Brett found sitting on the side of the road in Toronto’s west end. He liked the worn-in look and bought it for a cool $80. The wooden chest beneath the plant wall is from Bali, and the rug was an IKEA find.
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It doesn’t get much sunnier than this spot by the window. Brett salvaged the chair on the left from a friend, who was planning on throwing it out. Next to it, an elephant foot has been transformed into a side table. The piece is a decades-old family heirloom originally from Kenya.
The original loft in the barn was far too cramped, so Brett lifted the ceilings. They’re now 20 feet high. The beams are original to the space, but Brett encased them in new wood for a more polished look. The punched-brass light fixture above the bed is from a Christmas market in Zurich, and at night it illuminates the walls in sparkly patterns.
Light as a Feather
Brett is Indigenous, and so there are little features throughout the home to reflect his culture. The dream-catcher at the end of the bed was chosen for him during a visit to a reserve. The white dresser is another IKEA purchase, but Brett added the bronze knobs to personalize it.
Peak a Boo
The barn’s shape can make it tricky to find suitable furniture, so Brett built the custom side tables into the walls. He got the bedside lamps for $20 at HomeSense and rigged them up himself.
Penny for Your Thoughts
Brett and a friend spent five days installing penny tile throughout the bathroom. It was a labour of love, and Brett likes the way the walls almost look like snakeskin. The skylight above the bath tub can be cranked open for open-air showers, and the faucet was installed on the opposite end so that someone could enjoy the view while having a soak.
The penny tile extends to the vanity, where Brett installed a circular mirror from IKEA. For that signature pop of green, Brett place a bonsai tree beside the sink.
Bird’s Eye View
The bedroom looks down onto the living space and offers an all-in-one view of the natural textiles throughout the home.
To accentuate the high ceilings, Brett brought in this 13-foot gold light fixture from Morba, a shop in Toronto. The piece draws the eye to the ceiling and highlights the barn’s stunning beams. The window in the background is too high to reach by hand, so Brett installed motorized blinds that close with the touch of a button.
Nooks and Crannies
The little space under the stairs was originally going to be blocked off with a door, but Brett decided to show it off instead. Storage space is essential in the small home, and the woven bags from HomeSense provide more room to store hats and mittens in the winter.
Brett’s favourite part of the home is the kitchen, and he wanted to make the space suitable for cooking, dining or just hanging out. The 5-foot by 8-foot butcher block countertop grounds the space and provides a large enough area for guests. The vintage light fixtures are from Legacy, a shop in Cobourg, Ontario, and Brett’s neighbour – artist Fara Louise Wood – made the tile backsplash by hand. The brass faucet brings a warm touch to the centre of the space.
Another perk of living in the country: Brett has an endless supply of fresh flowers at his doorstep. Here, he’s placed a leafy bouquet in a vintage blue vase.
Believe it or not, Brett’s stools are from Walmart. His mom picked them up for $50 each, and he spray-painted the legs white to fit the space. The wood flooring throughout the home is wormy maple, a softwood rarely used in flooring. In fact, it was so hard to find that Brett had to source and mill the logs himself.