Barns are being lost and stolen in search of “rustic chic” interior design

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A lot of our history is being lost so that people can get that popular look.

In the preservation world, according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, there are Ethnographic Landscapes, which are “landscapes containing a variety of natural and cultural resources that the associated people define as heritage resources.” In many ways, our old barns are like that; they are part of our history, they are part of the landscape.

Barns are also disappearing fast, victims of fashion as “rustic chic” is all the rage, what Annaliese Griffin of Quartz describes as “a look that favorites open-floor plans, farmhouse sinks, and tastefully rusted antique planters overflowing with greenery, often incorporates weathered wood on floors and walls, in soft, earthy shades of brown and gray.”

This is That ’70s Show all over again, when this was also the fashionable look. I wrote years ago that “every barn that we used to admire got torn down to get barnboards for some rec room, and now we have no barns and a lot of tired rec rooms.”

They didn’t get every barn then, but they are certainly working hard at it now. According to Associated Press, Kentucky in particular is a hotbed of barn wood thievery. It doesn’t seem like it would be high risk, but the sheriff is getting riled.

“I’ve had a few people that said, ‘They’ll try to put them in the penitentiary for stealin’ some lumber?'” Cumberland County’s [Sheriff] Daniels said. “Yeah. You know, bud? It’s still not yours to take. You’re still on someone else’s property that you’re not supposed to be on. You could be messin’ up their livelihood if that barn is used for farmin’.”

One writer ties it all into a lot of other things we talk about on TreeHugger, recommending restraint:

The modern farmhouse craze is part of a broader cultural movement that favors farm-to-table cooking, farmer’s markets, backyard chickens, walking communities, casual food trucks and the like. It is meant to be an aesthetic reflective of a lifestyle that is genuinely simpler and more relaxed, not a pretty pastiche.

TreeHugger always preaches reinvention and reuse; most of these barns are not being used and are rotting away. It takes a lot of work and creativity to preserve them, but the nation only needs so many barn wedding venues. With the decline of the family farm and the change in farming tech, they are not really needed. So some might say that this is creative recycling of a wasted resource.

On the other hand, if there is a broader cultural movement and it isn’t just about style, then how about leaving those barns and those ethnographic landscapes alone?

A lot of our history is being lost so that people can get that popular look.



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