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  • Dyan Vorster

Barn Makeover

Updated: Jul 30

“Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I have always loved a good makeover - choosing color schemes, applying a fresh coat of paint, and finding those perfect pieces that draw it all together. I may not have any training as an interior designer, but one thing I am good at is implementing other people’s great ideas!


I know this seems like a strange topic to talk about in a blog series about running a horse barn, but think about it, how you style your facility has a significant impact on the first impression you create. It is the public face of your business, and it says a lot about who you are.


Having said that, please don’t feel that your barn has to be perfect for you to begin building your business. Maintaining a clean and neat environment, along with excellent care, will go a long way toward helping your clients overlook any deficiencies in your facilities. I have first hand experience in this regard! Our initial efforts at “decorating” were mostly utilitarian. We had to get our property into working shape as fast as possible, so that we could begin taking borders, and pay the mortgage. We did throw a coat of white barn paint on the stalls to smarten things up a bit, but it was a temporary fix at best – a little like putting lipstick on a pig.


It has taken us three years to finally get to the point where we can even consider making any significant cosmetic changes. Now, you are probably thinking, “Wow, three years!” But in Tolkien's words, "late is better than never," right!


There were a number of reasons that it took us such a long time. Firstly, we operate on a shoestring budget and had to be extremely strategic in our long term planning. For this reason most of our initial efforts on the farm went into clean up and essential projects, for example, building the sacrifice paddocks and run outs, fixing fencing, and laying out the arenas. Secondly, we both work full time and have had to do all the work ourselves which has slowed down our progress considerably.


As mentioned in my previous blog (https://www.willowfarmequestrian.com/post/there-be-dragons-here) our barn had good structure, but that was about all that it had. However, we were fortunate when it came to our makeover, because when we peeled off the shabby facia paneling on the walls, underneath we found beautiful solid wood 2X6 beams.


Painting anything white in a barn is setting yourself up for constant maintenance. And having dirt floors (especially in a flood zone) is...well I don't have words. Stripping the stall walls and laying concrete in the barn aisle were huge jobs, but well worth the effort. I have always liked the look of natural wood with black trim and, in my opinion, the end result is elegant, warm and inviting. We still have plenty of work to do, but as we tackle these projects, we are slowly changing the look and feel of our barn to better reflect who we are.


As I look back at pictures I have taken to document the transformation of our property, there is something extremely satisfying in seeing our vision for the space come to life. Don't let the scale of your project stop you from taking that first step. Take the plunge. You can do it!


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