Updated: Dec 24, 2020
About 3 years ago, around Christmas , I was living in a tiny apartment in Beaumont, Texas. I was taking my prerequisites for nursing school, nannying, running the desk at a bridal store, and still wasn’t making it. I started watching YouTube videos of novice woodworkers building furniture that I would have loved to have. I decided it was time to try. Woodworking wasn’t totally foreign to me, but I certainly didn’t have the skills to sell anything I made…or so I thought.
For Christmas that year I got $250 all together from my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (they knew I was scraping by), I took myself down to Lowes and bought a bag set of power tools; I got a circular saw, sawzall, and a drill. It was enough to get me started, but honestly, it made the work really hard to get right.
My first project was an old oak table that needed to be stripped and refinished. That project was a pain, because I didn’t have a sander, but in 1 week I flipped the table for a $75.00 profit. All $75 of those dollars went into buying a sander (my arms were grateful). The next project was another oak table, plus chairs, and it was actually my boss’s. She paid me $400.00 to strip and refinish the set, it took me two weeks of working every day after I got done nannying, but I remember vividly how comforting it was to have cash in my hand at the end of it.
After flipping small furniture pieces for a few months I got the nerve to try building something from scratch. All of the tutorials I found required more tools than I had, so I winged it, went in with a general plan and not much else. Sadly, I still wasn’t making much money, so by necessity I was skimping on wood. I made friends with a framing crew that was working on a house outside of my apartment complex, they would let me hop in their dumpster and pull pieces that I thought I could use. That free scrap wood was my ticket to experimenting and building my skills, without it, I wouldn’t have had the funds to play around and learn with what I had.
Eventually my playing around turned into a “farmhouse table” with a bench, it was too big for my apartment so I sold it on Facebook marketplace for $275.00, considering the only things I purchased to complete it were sandpaper, stain, and screws, it was a reasonable profit. The whole thing took me a week to make and selling it boosted my confidence.
The 2nd piece I made was a table and bench, for someone who I still adore today. She reached out to me on Facebook through my ad for the first table, sent me some pictures from Pinterest, and we agreed to a price. I was so amazed that she would take a chance on me, especially after I told her I didn’t know what I was doing, but she bought from me anyway. One week later I loaded up my dog, the legs, top, and bench into my Honda-CRV (which looked ridiculous), and drove an hour away to deliver it to her. When I got there her two little boys greeted me and were all about my dog (Heidi). The boys played with Heidi and I got to work unloading and putting together the pieces. My Client was so gracious and did just about everything she could to build me up while I was there. I will always be grateful to her for picking me, and for how sweet she was when she didn’t have to be.
From that 2nd table on everything I made was custom, made to order, and one of a kind…mostly because I couldn’t make the same thing twice had I wanted to. After 3 months of selling on Facebook I connected with a local shop owner who wanted to buy my pieces unfished to complete for her shop. Having that relationship was awesome because I had constant customers, but working out of my apartment sucked. The neighbors didn’t complain, but understandably, the complex manager hated me. That was when I began dreaming of a barndominium. I saw myself with a big shop, high ceilings, a hoist, an enclosed area for painting, and space to dry quality wood.
When you’re a college kid making $1,200 a month, dreaming about houses of any kind is a little wild, and when people saw me doodling plans on graph paper they made sure to remind me about it. Ignoring them was easy because planning made me happy, it was a way to feel closer to the dream. I kept drawing, cluttering up my apartment with ideas, and selling tables as I went. At the end of summer 2017 Hurricane Harvey hit and changed everything for me. Beaumont was flooded, every neighborhood was effected, and I got mold damaged out of my crumby apartment…back to central Texas I went. My business dried up when I left Beaumont, but my parents were supportive and let me live with them while I finished classes online and applied to nursing school.
That fall I met my husband. He’s 6’, blonde, with green eyes, and the man can do anything. Within a week of meeting him we were planning our life together, he is the only man I’ve met who captivated my attention that way. I spent the rest of the fall preparing for nursing school and by December we knew we were getting married. We shared the dream of having a shop that could house our passions, so we toured the YouTube rabbit hole watching every “barndo” video we could find. Our favorite builds were completed by Erik Cortina, his work is amazing and I highly recommend you check out his company if you’re building in Central Texas; he is who we would have used if we had stayed in that area.
Jumping forward to December of 2018, E. and I got married, two weeks later, the Navy moved us to North Carolina and we decided to plan it all out. We knew that we had a good chance of staying here until his obligation to the Navy was over, so we spent the better part of 2019 looking for houses that could accommodate a mega shop, but we couldn’t find any. Most of the properties available within our commute are “bird houses”, cute little houses in a row, on ¼ acre lots, with an HOA, and community pool. That’s just not our thing, besides, most HOA’s wouldn’t allow E. to work on his trucks or weld on our property even if we did build a shop. The constraints we were under with the local market left us with one big, but easy choice to make, should we buy a birdhouse and accept the sacrifice, or take on the challenge of building on unimproved land…There wasn’t much to talk about, neither of us were willing to give up our passions or bend to the will of an HOA, so we started the land search.
In January of 2020 we found our property, its 3 acres in an unincorporated area between Wilmington and Jacksonville. Our commute is reasonable and the neighbors seem to be sweet people. We jumped at the chance to buy it and went full force into designing our dream.
That’s how we got here, that’s the big story. Eventually E. will write his side of it, which will likely be short and sweet.
What made you want a barndominium? If you’d like to contribute your story to be shared with our subscribers, write it up and shoot it to me in an email, I’d love to help you share it.