Old Barn Renovated into Rustic & Contemporary Photography Studio | Indiana Photographer

January 03, 2013  •  1 Comment

Remember way back last April when I shared a blog on the Always Happy Life Photography Studio Progress? Well, since it's now the beginning of the year, I figured it was time for an update on how the rustic old barn has become my very cool photography studio space. Many have seen a little bit here and there on the Always Happy Life Photography Facebook page (Are you follwoing me? If not, please go do it right now!). But what a transformation to see it all in one place. I find it very hard to believe the once falling down old barn is almost completely finished for this stage of the update. It is everything I had dreamed of when we decided what the old barn was to become in its new life...bright, cheerful, rustic, fun, functional, modern with plenty of character and perfect for my photography studio. All of my clients that have come to visit already think so too! After all, the studio is for everyone. Yes, it is wonderful for me to have it, however, I wanted it to be for my clients. I want everyone to smile when they see the bright green door outside and are greeted with the welcoming interior on the inside. The Always Happy Life Barn Studio is meant for YOU and YOUR FAMILY!  

 So, without further adieu I'll give you a photo tour and explanation of how and why we went about renovating the barn (formally an old corn crib and lean-to) into a rustic modern "I can't help but smile whenever I walk into it and I hope you do too" amazing space. 

When we started way back the barn looked like this:  Old White Barn in Green Fields in Indiana Yes...it's true. Should have been a tear down, right? You don't need to say more. However, there is character in it and potential...you just have to squint hard and you'll see it. And we like character, potential and a bit of a challenge around here. Especially when something has stood on our property since approximately 1916! It was originally a corn crib and also served as storage for a school bus, hence why the barn has been known as "The Bus Barn" for years. It definitely deserved a chance...

But now, in all of her glory (and a little bit of snow)...it looks like this: 

Barn Wreath Decorated for Christmas

Back in April, the old barn wood was removed from another local barn (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and a trailer full of barn wood was brought back to prep for the inside walls. Since the walls were insulated by Eco Comfort with Icyene spray foam (amazing stuff), we needed to put up new inner walls. Everything was power washed to remove dirt and grime, but only lightly so that the old paint stayed adheared to the wood for texture. All of the wood was faded barn red when it came off the barn. We only ended up with enough barn wood for two walls, so we chose the large West wall and the North wall of the barn and everything else was dry walled with fresh new walls. 

Old Barn Wood for Upcycle

Red Barn Wood Walls Going Up in Photography Studio Drywall and insulation in Barn Renovation

Next up was painting and painting and painting some more! As there was already concrete in the barn, we protected it with drop cloths and cardboard so that later in the remodel, we'd be able to stain it. Definitely important and I wish we done a better job at it, as we spent a lot of time scraping little bits of paint when the time came to do the floor. Luckily, we were able to borrow a professional paint sprayer and the scaffolding was still up from putting up the walls. It made the job so much easier. Everything was primed with Kilz primer once (the drywall really soaked it up) and then I painted two coats of paint on all of the walls. Back rolling the walls is essential if you are spraying and it's really nice to have an extra set of hands around to do this. Also important...wear a mask, goggles, hat and old clothes. Everything will be covered in tiny paint speckles! The white walls really made the space feel bright and airy and the texture of the old paint under the bright white really gave it the rustic feel. There are even little vines left in the boards...which I love. I did opt to leave a section of the original red barn wood on the front wall of the loft and we used natural rough hewn barn wood boards for trim around the stairs, on the ceiling and the South lower wall around the front door. Some of it is even original wood from doors to the barn that weren't used in the renovation. 

The ceiling went up next in the main room and we were again able to salvage old barn materials to upcycle them into the studio and give them a new life. Dana's Dad offered his metal barn siding and we took him up on it. Couldn't have found anything better new, I guarantee it! There is still a small section of the original red barn wood where the ceiling and loft join to give tribute to what the barn wood was like when we started. I love the little pop of red too. Lots of character in the studio, especially with the metal star light we found that hangs in the middle of the studio. It is one of my favorite features that we purchased while visiting San Diego from the tinsmith shop in Old Town. 

Vintage Metal Ceiling and Old Barn Wood

Tin Star Light with Blue Accents The concrete floor was laid several years before we decided what the barn was to become and was natural. It had some stains, but overall was in great shape. The spray foam insulation did leave some staining and there was some paint splatters from painting the walls, which meant several hours of scraping and cleaning of the floors. We stained and sealed the floors ourselves and overall it was an easy project. We only opted for one coat of stain, as I liked the unevenness of it after the first coat and was afraid it would be too dark if we added a second coat. We then sealed the floor with a silicon sealer and did two coats of this. Any water that hits it beads up instantly, which is exactly what we wanted! 

DIY Concrete Staining Steps Barn Wood Trim and Bright Blue Door with Modern Stairs

When the loft was added on to the barn initially in 2010, Ed's Dad built a small ladder similar to what would be on a ship to go up to the loft. After trying to figure out ways we could use it, we decided it needed to be replaced and a full set of stairs put in. A bit of a challenge, as we needed to reverse the direction, but we wanted them to be safe for families, kids and even our chocolate lab, Harry, who couldn't manage the other ones. To keep them rustic, yet also give a little nautical flair, we opted for galvanized cleats and vintage New England Ropes three strand line to complete the banister. Can't get enough of them...can you? 

Sailing Cleat and Rope StairsNautical Cleat Stairs

Due to the very tall loft and the lower ceiling in the main room, a large fan was a must to circulate the warmer air that collects on the second floor. We also decided to leave open the small crawl space above the main room for prop storage. I have little chairs, an apple crate, baskets, an antique pedal car, sled, etc all off safely stored up high and easily accessible. To keep the rustic look, for the heating and air conditioning vents, we opted to go with round vents with holes...a very simple and affordable option. The ducts shoot into both sides of the barn to keep the studio and office spaces comfortable. Due to the spray foam insulation, the building is easily heated and cooled quickly. Ed's Dad built some beautiful new barn doors to separate the studio and office sides as well. 

DIY Barn Doors Wooden Barn Door DIY

The space that separates the studio side from the office side is a small kitchenette. I restored an old workbench we found and that works as counter space and storage in there. We'll be adding barn wood shelves above it to store bright white dishes and some glasses. The walls are painted gray to tie in the galvanized look from the ceiling of the main room and this is where the barn doors into the office side are. Ed's dad built them out of rough hewn boards and they fit perfectly. We had intended to save the old concrete floor, but discovered it wouldn't be possible, so wood floors to match the loft are planned to be installed. 

Old Work Bench to be Redone for Kitchen Cabinet Red painted shabby chic vintage workbench

The upstairs loft was originally going to be my office space, so that I could have a perfect location for editing, however after discovering how wonderful the natural light is up there, I opted to keep it for natural light space. The huge South window upstairs is perfect for newborn baby portraits! To complement the space, dark chocolate wood floors were installed and a custom built cabinet was made for the top of the stairs with bookcases and drawers for prop storage. After primer and I believe three coats of paint, there were ready for storage of the sweet newborn hats, blankets, fabrics, etc I use for baby portraits. I also converted an old dresser into an adorable shabby chic changing table for the babies too. The loft overlooks the main studio and carries through some of the custom sailing and architectural rigging my husband, Ed, does for Sail22. We had used wire rigging for our deck and at that time made additional custom posts for the loft. Ed used very strong line, known as dyneema, instead of wire for this railing. Super strong, adjustable and also allows us to take it down if we need to move anything large upstairs that can't fit up the stairs. 

Custom Bookcase Railing at Top of Stairs Bookcase Around Stairway as a Railing Vintage Shabby Chic Dresser Redo

Architectural Sailboat Rigging Railing for Loft

The main studio room has a great space for client meetings with a couch, chairs and coffee table I use as display space. It's the first thing you see in the main room when you enter. Of course, all of the pieces there are used as props for sessions too! And when extra family come along for a session, they also have a space to sit. There was an original barn door we had saved from the barn before that was in great shape before the renovation began and it now is hung on the wall. It's a great focal point and backdrop, but also functions to slide on barn track and block off the window on the wall to keep light out when I am shooting with studio lighting. The barn track also allows me to hang drops too. I'm all about multi-purpose uses! 

Barn Door on Track to Block Window Always Happy Life Photography Old Barn Studio Inside

We made a ton of progress in 2012 and there will be more throughout 2013! If you want to see more images of the barn remodel, please go to the Studio Renovation gallery, there were too many to post here. It's great to have such a wonderful studio space to share with my clients and I look forward to many, many, many sessions in the Always Happy Life Old Barn Studio! I hope you like how the progress and will plan to come by soon for a visit! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of how it came out! 


Becky Furry, owner of Always Happy Life Photography is based in Culver, Indiana. She specializes in capturing custom lifestyle portrait sessions with moms to be, newborns, babies, children, families & high school seniors. Becky is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and also is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She loves how Always Happy Life Photography incorporates her love of children & their families with her love of photography. Client portrait sessions are on location using natural light or in the Always Happy Life Photography studio which has a background of beautiful old barns, sprawling green fields and is close to Lake Maxinkuckee and the gorgeous Culver Academies. Contact Becky at 574-598-0022 or [email protected] for a personal consultation for your portrait needs.  Please follow Always Happy Life Photography on Facebook as well! 



What a lovely post! You have done an awesome job on the barn. Wish we lived closer so we could see it in person! Love that you were able to reuse different parts of the old barn. What a great history.
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