Down on the Farm

French Country meets ’30s and ’40s moody gentility in the ultra-spacious great room of the Hicks/Blessing house, once a hay barn. Elegant sconces in the open kitchen complement punchy pendant lights in the living quarters. Cerulean bar stools and throw pillows, together with bold floral drapes, deepen the main hues of cream and stone (window treatments and color scheme by Ashley Smith, Benson & Babb Interiors) — all set off by a stained white-oak floor. Photo by David Dietrich

Re-using old barns is a charming trend. In the scope of new builds, that usually means a post here, a beam there, weathered by the decades and showing up planked in a sleek floor, hammered into a dining-room table, or installed as a decorative accent above a stove or hearth. Sometimes, the antique barn wood has been salvaged from the same property as the home. In other cases it’s scouted from well-known farm regions — Pennsylvania Dutch Country, for instance — or lumber-heavy locales, such as the Pacific Northwest. The result: a pastiche of regionalism that winks at the past.

But Kim Hicks and Wayne Blessing are inhabiting their old barn on another level. For one thing, it’s not even old: the circa-2001 hay barn, on 30 acres near DuPont Forest in Transylvania County, still wears the utilitarian air of the modern agricultural building: brisk, no frills, sitting tight to the landscape. A year ago, Hicks and Blessing, working with New Pointe Builders, crafted a chic layout inside the barn’s blank shell.

Unlike horse stables gridded with stalls or heavily timbered antique barns, modern hay barns recall airplane hangars in their high-ceilinged simplicity. Keeping the original metal roof and painted cedar cladding as it was, the couple transformed the spacious interior into an heirloom two-bedroom, two-bath “semi-retirement” home.

The former owners of Flat Rock Wood Room, where their son Josh is still manager, Hicks and Blessing still compete regularly on the Southeast barbecue circuit. (The restaurant became known for its barbecue and its wood-fired pizza; Hicks’ and Blessing’s signature brisket, infused with a proprietary Memphis-style dry rub, routinely placed in the top 20 out of 5,000 national contenders.) At home, the couple works their newly established Wagon Wheel Garlic Farm, managed by their other son, Derek. When they were restaurateurs, Hicks and Blessing noted a lack of locally grown garlic, so now they intend to fill that niche themselves, sourcing their harvest to farmers’ markets and other venues.

Garlic can be a challenge to grow, but the land’s 30 fertile acres, sitting next to the pristine Little River that feeds DuPont Forest’s famous waterfalls, are relatively flat — an unusual feature in Southern Appalachia. “We looked at several farm properties, but this was the best for our needs and wants,” says Blessing. Being surrounded by so much natural beauty and an ideally scaled building — a livable 2,100 square feet surging with light and air — meant that “a new build didn’t seem as interesting,” he adds.

But renovating a farm building for residential use does carry a few hitches, Hicks says. Challenges include “getting permits and finding good contractors” — those who will spend the time untangling the technical issues lurking in the process, she says. Inside, they worked with Ashley Smith of Benson & Babb Interiors, who helped turn the barn into an abracadabra situation. Smith chose and placed furniture and artwork, designed all the custom drapes, directed the interior paint scheme, and guided the couple by accessorizing their trove of Southern architectural antiques and making them fit with the feel of the structure: down-home but never precious.

“It still looks very simple and hay-barn-like on the outside,” notes Hicks. “But when you walk in the door — well, it kind of surprises people.”

The house’s front door, from Argentina, dates to the 1930s. An ultra-hip steampunk pendant fits swimmingly with the unusual timbered portico: the recycled ridge line of an old Victorian house. Photo by David Dietrich
On the screened-in back porch — once a lean-to from the house’s former life as a hay barn, where horses could cruise by for a bite to eat — a double-hung Dutch door maintains the agricultural flavor. The rustic wood table is from Architectural Warehouse in Tryon, one of the couple’s favorite places for discovering regional treasures, and the cable-style rail, built by New Pointe Builders, keeps lines sleek and clean. Photo by David Dietrich
A wide backsplash of Gramercy Park tile in “Pipe Smoke” from Walter Zanger, sourced through Crossville Studios, is an ideal backdrop to “Grizzle Gray” painted maple cabinetry and a lighter, oyster-hued island by New Pointe Builders. Sink and fixtures are by Hajoca of Hendersonville. The wide-open kitchen looks at once elegant — thanks to ornate sconces and chandeliers — and modern. The royal spots of blue hit in all the right places, and Kim credits Ashley Smith of Benson & Babb Interiors not only for selecting accessories but for artfully grouping the couple’s smaller collectibles on the cabinet tops. Photo by David Dietrich
Kim reveals that the entire master bath was built around the antique stained-glass window the couple found at Architectural Warehouse in Tryon. A slipper tub is sited below the window for soulful rumination, but in the outsized shower (with two shower heads) and on the floor, Speak Easy porcelain tile in “Sidecar” (Crossville Studios), made to “read” like wood, keeps everything grounded. The glass subway tile behind the sink is from the Stile Squared collection via Crossville Studios; the span adds a luxe touch seconded in the vanity’s antique tiger-eye onyx knobs. Photo by David Dietrich
A sliding barn door painted an artichoke shade is an ingenious touch — but Kim says the vintage comforter on the bed was actually the master bedroom’s radial point. The palette and furniture — including custom bedding and a Karastan rug, appointed by Ashley Smith of Benson & Babb Interiors — were chosen accordingly. Photo by David Dietrich
In the den/family room, cerulean walls and the couple’s many quirky collectibles (a slot machine, a carved horse from Texas) unite for a World War II-era atmosphere — the space seems ripe for reading, culture, and conversation. Kim notes the antique apothecary “show globes” hung as pendants: in past centuries, they were filled with colored liquid to signal pharmacy services to passersby. The driftwood-base lamp on the bookcase was made by Wayne’s grandmother in the 1930s, and Kim upholstered the vintage Beechnut-gum crate to give it new life as a coffee table/ottoman: an heirloom that rolls to the future. Benson & Babb Interiors (Ashley Smith) is responsible for the custom drapery, original artwork, and the Jaunty hand-knotted rug. Photo by David Dietrich

Builder: New Pointe Builders
Interior Designer: Ashley Smith, Benson & Babb Interiors
Cabinetry: New Pointe Builders
Carpentry/woodwork: Rock Solid Construction
Bath and Kitchen Fixtures:
Hajoca of Hendersonville
Master Bath Fixtures: ProSource Plumbing Supply
Flooring: New Pointe Builders
Countertops: RockStar Marble & Granite
Tile: Crossville Studios

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