Love and toil fashion a home from old barn

Ordeal: A nice family from Stoneleigh finds itself in Monkton, hoping to finish transforming an old Amish barn in just six more months.

April 07, 2002|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For Tim Satterfield and his wife, Tami Boehle-Satterfield, the writing was on the wall - literally.

Last April, Tim and Tami bought a run-down, early 20th-century Amish barn on 6.5 acres with a view of the Gunpowder River in Monkton. Their grand plan was to renovate the dwelling in time for Thanksgiving.

But as they embarked on their mission, it became apparent that the road to renovation was not going to be as smooth as they had hoped. And the wall holding the phone in their makeshift living room turned out to be not only the best place to scribble numbers, but also the best place to chronicle the ups and downs of "The Project."

Writings from the wall:

"28th-2001 - The Satterfields moved in and the primary movers broke everything."

"June 2001 - A snake was found on the floor."

From the beginning, almost nothing has turned out as planned. "This has been an experience in much, much pain," Tim said.

Along the way, they admit to some poor judgment - such as hiring the first and only architect they initially interviewed, only to fire him - but they've learned a great deal about renovation.

They wanted to be done by November, but their mishaps pushed their schedule into 2002. Now, with a new architect and builder, they hope to be done before their two children return to school in the fall. But for Tim and Tami, every day has become a lesson on how to renovate a home.

The Satterfields can envision what the old barn will be like when it finally turns into a home.

Tami, an artist, pictures herself downstairs in her studio, working on her latest painting, or maybe preparing dinner in her new kitchen that overlooks a great room with its soaring cathedral ceiling, exposed beams and oversize windows.

Tim, a publishing executive, sees himself in his personal study. Their 10-year-old daughter, Carson, and 12-year-old son, Dylan, will have their own bedrooms in which to play and study, and they will have their own baths. There even will be a loft space for guests.

However, that picture is months away. Right now, the family is living in chaos. Remember, this is a barn, and the farm animals - two goats and four miniature donkeys - that Tim and Tami brought onto the grounds seem to be living better than the humans.

Inside the main house there is an upper level, but it's nothing more than a plywood floor. There're no stairs to the upstairs, however.

Consequently, every single thing the family owns is crammed onto the first floor, cramping everyone and everything. There is only one bedroom, and the parents have claimed it.

"We feel kind of guilty about that," Tami said.

As for the walls, well, there were no walls. So, the couple cleverly carved out living spaces for the children by creating "walls" with boxes filled with their possessions.

But when renovation work began, the children's walls came tumbling down, sending them to another area of the house and forcing them to sleep on a separate couch in what became the living room.

The ceiling

What the wall said:

"Queenie the cat fell through the ceiling."

"Two workers fell through the ceiling."

Tearing out the ceiling has been extremely problematic.

The work is being done in sections and as each section is removed, all of the boxes, furniture and accumulated junk must be repositioned. The Satterfields' cats have figured out how to climb the stacks of boxes and crawl up to the ceiling space.

"Late at night, we can hear them walking on the ceiling above our bed," Tami said, adding that the sounds can be unnerving.

And then there is the dust - everywhere.

The floor is filthy. Their furniture, including many pieces hand-painted by Tami, is slowly being ruined. "I don't want to think about it," she said, looking at her dining room table covered in boxes, papers and other miscellaneous items.

From the early 1950s until 1997, the barn was the home and studio of local, renowned ceramics artist Olin Russum Jr. and his wife.

Russ, as he was called, was an eccentric who lived simply, living off the land, growing his own food, bartering for what he needed and bragging that he could survive on as little as $8,500 a year.

In the room where the dining room table sits are a refrigerator, a microwave and a bookshelf stocked with canned goods. That's the pantry. There's no stove.

"We eat out a lot and use the grill," Tim said.

There's no kitchen sink. Dishes are washed in the slop sink in the laundry room.

"When we moved in we bought a brand new washer and dryer," Tami said, adding that it wasn't out of pleasure, it was out of necessity since the home never had a washer or dryer.

Unfortunately, they have been unable to hook up the dryer. So when it's too cold or wet to hang clothes on the line outside, they hang them from any available inside space. A shirt is draped over the back of a chair. Paisley boxer shorts rest atop a pile of boxes. A red turtleneck hangs from an artist's easel.

Another message from the wall:

"Late at night the Satterfields like to escape by going to the 24-hour Wal-Mart."

The beginnings

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