They are all over social media. Barndominiums are the latest real estate fad to fill up Instagram and trend on TikTok. But these steel-framed buildings are much more than their label implies.
What is a barndominium?:
"When we say ‘barndominium,’ it’s intentionally designed as a residence. It’s not designed as maybe a workshop with maybe a living space you added in to," says Oliver Bell.
"Some people might consider a barndominium a pole barn," adds his wife Stacee Lynn. "You see that a lot in the upper Midwest and East Coast, which is a wood-frame barndominium which still has a metal side and metal roof. Down here, it’s a steel frame building."
Stacee Lynn and Oliver ought to know. They don’t just run the company Our Barndominium Life; she’s the “Premier Barndominium Floor Plan Designer in the US” according to Luxury Barndominium Magazine. Stacee Lynn's also lovingly referred to as “The Barndo Lady” on social media.
Who is 'The Barndo Lady'?:
A barndominium is a nontraditional home and Stacee Lynn’s path to becoming a barndominium designer is just as nontraditional. You could go all the way back to 28 years ago when she and Oliver got married, but the short version of the story begins two years ago.
"We wanted to build a barndominium and Stacee Lynn was looking for a contractor," shares Oliver. "She drew it up. She couldn’t find someone to do it, so not only was she the designer, I suggested that she build it and she took over from there."
Stacee Lynn became the general contractor on the project, one that had high interest in Cleveland, where it was going up.
"As we were building it, lots of people started stopping by and saying, ‘Wow, this is a beautiful design,’" she remembers. "I think we started to feel we were on the right part of our journey here, that it wasn’t just us who had fallen in love with the design, but that others were interested as well."
Those visitors encouraged her to share her barndominium’s progress on social media.
"And I did. I’m not dancing, I’m not singing, I’m not twirling," Stacee Lynn chuckles. "I’m talking about metal buildings and we are fast approaching 400,000 followers on TikTok and we’re just over a year on that platform."
Almost 80,000 and counting follow her on Instagram.
"A lot of folks on social media have said 'The Barndominium Lady' and the name just stuck," says Stacee Lynn.
As her following grew, so did the number of inquiries about whether she would design more. In June 2020, Stacee Lynn launched Our Barndominium Life.
"There’s lots of reasons why people do this and build these buildings," she says.
So what are those reasons? Space is a big one.
"You can get these large spans with barndominiums, high ceilings," says Stacee Lynn. "That’s what everyone seems to be very attracted to these days."
In a barndominium, the weight of the building is carried on the outside wall, so no load-bearing walls are needed inside unless you want a second story.
"You get the benefits of a metal building, which is energy efficiency, low maintenance, the building goes up quickly so you save money," Stacee Lynn explains.
How much does a barndominium cost?:
How much you save depends on a lot of different factors, the most important being where you plan to build. Labor and material costs are cheaper in Southeast Texas than they are in Central Texas.
The general equation to calculate how much a barndominium will cost you is: design plus materials plus labor. Like anything else related to barndominiums, design can range from simple to extravagant.
On the cheaper end of things, you have DIY kits, such as these from Absolute Steel here in Texas. They provide the steel frame, paneling and all door and window buildouts for as little as $40 per square foot.
There’s one important material missing from that: concrete. Pouring the slab is another $4-$6 per square foot.
Labor costs here depend on how much work you want to put into it instead of hiring jobs out. Hiring builders, carpenters, HVAC technicians, electricians and plumbers can be spendy. For example, builders will probably set you back another $4-$5 per square foot.
Learning some carpentry skills helped Stacee Lynn cut costs on her home, the Creek House.
"We did a lot of the work ourselves. We did a lot of woodwork ourselves. A lot of painting, staining, you’d probably be surprised by the mix of things when you walk in," she says. "But it gives you a chance to say you’re proud of an additional feature because, hey, we did that accent wall ourselves. Or we did this piece ourselves."
Stacee Lynn also saved money on her custom build by designing it herself. Now she does it full-time at Our Barndominium Life. Like other firms that specialize in barndominiums, she offers stock floor plans, but Stacee Lynn says she really enjoys working on custom projects.
What can you put in a barndominium?:
"We do a lot of specialty rooms. We do a lot of combo rooms," she says.
The Creek House is full of examples of combo rooms, but the best illustration might be the game/media/bunk room upstairs. It's a space where the whole family can get together to play games at the table, watch a movie on the big-screen TV or crash for the night courtesy of three different beds tucked into the design.
Another popular feature is secret rooms, the doors of which are hidden by cabinets or shelving.
"It could be for getting away in case of a bad storm. It could be that someone is trying to break in and you want to retreat for a period of time until help arrives. Some people use them for gun safes," says Stacee Lynn.
Not all secret rooms are pantries, but smugglers' pantries are a much-requested room. Meant to look like another cabinet in the kitchen, it opens up to reveal something else entirely.
"Smugglers' pantries are fabulous," Stacee Lynn laughs.
The Creek House doesn’t have one, but it does have a lot of other requested features, such as a glass garage door, an outdoor kitchen, high ceilings, a clawfoot tub, a 20-foot kitchen island and functional barn doors on the exterior.
In the design and décor of the Creek House, you'll find multiple examples of ways to save and splurge. Stacee Lynn says she was thoughtful about which pieces were worth investing in, such as the clawfoot tub, while she looked for a deal on other pieces, which involved turning a ladder into a hanging pot rack.
"You can save money building a barndominium," she says. "Sometimes. It depends. Lots of variables in there."
Extreme barndominium projects:
Plenty of her clients aren't interested in how much they can save. They're looking for something special that uniquely fits their needs. Stacee Lynn shares some of them on her popular social media accounts.
They range from a 21,000-square-foot barndominium with a two-story in-law apartment to an 8,000-square-foot entertainment barndominium going up south of Dallas.
"That’s going to have a commercial kitchen, bowling lanes, a dance floor for sock hops for the family," says Stacee Lynn. "Really super cool project."
It doesn’t stop there. She and her team are also brewing up special for a legacy ranch property near Cat Spring.
"It has an in-floor trampoline system, a rock wall and an amazing, over-the-top home gym system that would rival some of the gyms that are out there," Stacee Lynn says.
Why stop at one barndominium when you can have, say, five? Yep, Stacee Lynn's currently working on that too.
Her message: barndominiums have been around for decades, but today’s barndominiums have a whole new look and feel.
"Barndominiums are special," she adds.