Bonnie and Tom Ansley were living in Chicago and had never visited Door County until a last-minute family trip brought them here in 2012. The couple both work in IT and knew that telecommuting was an option for them. When they found the 100- year-old apple barn on the Slaby property on Cottage Row Road, they knew they’d found their project. “I don’t know if we fell in love with it, or if we just didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” laughs Tom.
Three years later, the barn has been transformed – with the help of the Ansleys’ designer, Julie Rearick and Carlson & Erickson Builders – into a beautiful home that retains the integrity of the classic barn structure, including its nine-inch-thick stone walls, with a modern, open floor plan and clean décor.
“We’re pretty low-key,” says Tom. “I don’t think we had so much of a vision for the place as a desire to keep as much of the original structure we could while rebuilding.” The couple re-used and recycled as many materials as possible, including repurposing a sliding barn door as an entrance to a bedroom, and using wood reclaimed from the barn’s exterior to frame doors and windows. They even milled oak trees on the property to make added supports. Bonnie keeps a blog on the project, updating friends and family and making a record of the small triumphs and temporary snags that come with home renovation.
Modern touches include a wide industrial staircase using raw steel stringers and an open kitchen with a large marble island that serves as the center of the home. Both Tom and Bonnie have their own office space, each with a view through one of the home’s many windows that frame an endless variety of pastoral scenes. “Making the most of available light was a constant challenge in the design of the home. With such thick walls, we had to get creative,” says Bonnie. The deep, angled window wells are the perfect complement to the larger spaces of the home, and light is optimized by the open concept, including a glass wall to Bonnie’s office that greets visitors entering from below.
True North partner Brian Reinhardt helped the couple obtain the property, and since then, acquire additional land, which they plan to preserve. The Ansleys’ 50 acres of field, orchard and woods provide endless opportunities for exploration for themselves and their two collies. “The other day we were walking through the orchard and we came upon a group of Monarch butterflies. There must have been more than a hundred. The sun was shining through the trees and we thought, Yes, this is it,” says Bonnie.