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Barn Homes Multitask to the Max
Back on the Farm
Rick and LuAnn Leavengood have built their dream home near Melcher, Iowa, on the farm that has been in Rick’s family for 130 years.
Photos courtesy of Rick and LuAnn Leavengood.
Rick’s great-great-grandparents established the farmstead in 1888. When Rick’s grandparents called the farm home, they raised four sons in a small house and had a diversified operation typical of the time, complete with corn, soybeans, and a wide variety of livestock. As a teenager, Rick worked with his grandfather on the farm. “I have such good memories of that time,” he says.
Rick retired in 2015, and he and LuAnn decided to purchase the 240-acre farm, which was then owned by Rick’s uncle. They began making plans for their new home. “We always wanted to get back to the farm,” Rick says.
The idea of a multipurpose structure came to them after driving past a similar building in the area. They stopped and talked to the owner and learned it was built by an Amish company, Horizon Building Systems of Drakesville, Iowa. They attended an open house at Horizon with a rough sketch of their home. The rest is history.
From the moment the Amish crew arrived (brought to the farm by a Mennonite driver), they were ready to work. Rick was on hand for the 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. workdays, and he was amazed at the speed and craftsmanship. “It was such a unique group,” he says.
One thing that fascinated Rick was the Amish crew’s use of modern tools that had been customized to run as air tools. “We didn’t have electricity run to the site yet when construction began, but the foreman said, ‘We don’t use electricity,’ so it all worked out,” Rick says.
Originally, LuAnn had researched tiny houses, but Rick wanted a big shop for projects and storage for their motor home and antique tractors. They compromised on a big structure with a smaller living space. The building is 40×88 feet, with a 40×24-foot residential area.
From the time the first post was set into the ground, local residents were curious about the Leavengoods’ project. “We couldn’t have predicted the curiosity factor. People stopped by on a regular basis to find out what we were doing,” LuAnn says. “We still have people stop, and we’re happy to show them around.”
Making Dad Proud
Rick's father is buried in the cemetery across the highway, and Rick says he had a good view of the construction on the farm that has been in the Leavengood family for generations.
Moving Right Along
Aside from the drywall and other interior finishing done by the Leavengoods, construction was complete in just eight weeks.
The Leavengoods chose upgrades like spray-foam insulation, in-floor heat, a high-tech security system, and quality windows and doors.
Doing Things Right
These options are more expensive, but, LuAnn says, “We really wanted to do everything right.” The in-floor heat keeps the house cozy during the cold Iowa winters.
Room to Grow
The Leavengoods’ long-range outlook included making the house accessible for themselves as they age and having room in case any relatives need to move in. They have one bedroom right now, but additional quarters could be added in the currently unfinished second story.
LuAnn gets credit for the farmhouse-chic-style interior decorating. The flooring throughout the living space is wood-look ceramic tile, which is easy to care for. "My goal was to keep it simple so the entire house could be cleaned in less than an hour," LuAnn says.
She chose grays, whites, and other neutral colors for walls, and she has added stylish elements like shiplap accent walls, antique accessories, and colorful art.
Cozy Country Bedroom
The home currently has one bedroom, but an unfinished upstairs holds the potential for additional living quarters.
One misconception potential homeowners have about multipurpose buildings is that they are less expensive than a standard house. “That’s not necessarily the case,” LuAnn says. “We could have built a home for a lot less than we spent, but we wanted this to be built to last.” The couple hopes one of their children or grandchildren will live there someday.