For the past 10 years, our family has celebrated birthdays, hosted family reunions, and created memories in an old pig house that’s been transformed into a gathering space we’ve dubbed the “Party Barn.” It’s a cozy venue, no matter the weather — on a rainy Sunday afternoon, there’s no better place to be than in the Party Barn, listening to the rain pound on the tin roof.
The Party Barn sits on our family farm in Charlotte, Michigan. The farmhouse and barn were built around 1900 by our grandparents, William and Edith Schrader. My mother was a little girl when they built the farmhouse, and the pig house was in use when my father was a farmer, between 1945 and 1990. Now, my sister, Sharon Adams, and her husband, Larry, own the farm. We’re all thankful to continue spending time on the property, because they’ve lovingly restored the house, the barn, and the outbuildings that frame our childhood memories. My parents would be shocked and amazed to find out we spend more time in the Party Barn than we do in the house during the lazy days of summer.
When Sharon and Larry renovated the house, the first thing they did was move all of our parents’ furniture into the pig house. The pig house, which is in the backyard, was the natural place to store these treasures. It soon filled up with chairs, tables, beds, lamps, and household items collected over our parents’ lifetimes. Next, they stripped the farmhouse to the studs and, with the help of local contractors, transformed it into a modern version of the original house. Saving and refinishing all the old doors, the staircase, and the original woodwork throughout the house became a painstaking labor of love. When the farmhouse was finished, it retained the original floor plan and charm of the Michigan farmhouse our grandparents built.
My sister is an interior designer who loves projects, and when the farmhouse project was finished, she was soon seeking another. While cleaning the pig house one day, she moved some furniture around and noticed the floor needed cleaning. After she cleaned the floor, she decided to put down one of her Oriental rugs. That looked nice, so she moved a couple of chairs and a table into the area. She added a lamp or two, and found some old teapots and flowers to add a homey touch. The project grabbed her interest and it progressed from there. She began washing windows, hanging lace curtains, and decorating, using stored treasures and her imagination.
And so, the Party Barn was born. Our family, friends, and neighbors have all enjoyed the many parties and get-togethers my sister has hosted over the years. Now, our grandchildren come to the farm every year to create their own memories. Putting together puzzles, reading in comfy chairs, knitting, and playing games are a few of the activities our family enjoys while relaxing in the renovated space. Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, our family has a magical place that brings us together. Our parents would be happy to see the joy we share when we gather in the Party Barn, and I’m quite sure the pigs never had so much fun!
Becky Hunt is a farmer’s daughter from Michigan. After leaving the farm, she became an educator, a world traveler, and a writer. She now lives in Woodstock, Georgia, and spends her time traveling, writing, and with her grandchildren. No matter how far she goes, her heart is still on the farm.
Readers, have you repurposed a room, building, or other area on your property? We’d love to see what you’ve done to make your space work for you. Email us with details of your renovations, including photos, at Letters@Grit.com. You can also mail letters and photos to Grit Mail Call, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.