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  • Writer's pictureJane Rubin

Barns - Stirring the Emotions with Functional Simplicity

Updated: Mar 8, 2023


Photo courtesy Ilene Rosenbaum

There’s something very magical about barns. An architectural structure standing the test of time, barns date back to ancient times and were constructed to house animals, feed, farm tools and other necessities of an agrarian society. Often used to shelter strangers passing by on pre-asphalt roads, they sheltered more than livestock. And, in some movies, books and my active imagination, a place for romantic interludes!

Their design hasn’t changed tremendously over the years - always built with economy of space and storage using materials indigenous to their setting, so simple and purposeful that they appear modern. And for me, it is that very simplicity that makes barns both emotionally appealing and beautiful.

In my early 20s I collected barn wood to use for decorative shelving - holding my knick knacks and then a beautiful antique pewter tea set we received as a special wedding gift. The wood was rustic, unpainted and beautifully aged. Over the years, I installed the arrangement in apartment after apartment, carefully choosing a wall where it would be appreciated.

Have you wondered why farmers choose to paint their barns red. I have, so I looked it up and discovered that originally red wasn’t a choice, it was the byproduct of a time before paints were available. A mixture of linseed oil, milk and rust were used to protect the barn wood from the elements, rot, moss and pests. The chemical reaction of the ingredients plus the sun, resulted in the red color. Although today, farmers often choose other colors, many stick with red paint as a nod to their predecessors.

As an amateur photographer, one of my three favorite subjects to photograph are barns. The change in light on the surface, their texture and design provide endless possibilities. So many are in disrepair as small farmers close down and sell off. Today, many have been converted to homes, wineries, interior mushroom farms, auction venues, wedding venues (I understand that these are not too popular with neighboring farmers) and the list goes on. I must have hundreds of photographs of barns in my photo library. I hope you enjoy some more of my favorites. They were all taken in Sussex County NJ - still rural. Send some of yours to me and I will share on my blog!

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