The Barndominum Series: How This All Came About

A Little Background...

It seemed like such a great idea!

Last year, we bought some acreage that just happened to have a pole barn on it. We intended to use the custom home plans that we had drawn up for us by a local builder. It was a big, beautiful, modern farmhouse....the kind we had dreamed about since renovating Farmhouse 1.0 two years ago. At this point, we'd been debt-free for a year, and (for once) made some really smart decisions with our money! The price tag pushed 500K (which gets a little scary on one income) but that was ok...we'd sacrificed, we'd saved...we deserved this!!!!

Our springboard Nicholas Lee design

Our springboard Nicholas Lee design

And then, as God has always done in our lives, He put a series of events in to motion...

First, Tanner needed three more months of work history at his new job. No biggie. We'd be able to break ground by the end of summer! However, I think the Lord knew that this would be just enough time for us to get one of our "wild hairs" (remember that time we quit our jobs and traveled in an Airstream for a year?) and rethink this whole being-in-debt-for-eternity thing.

All it took was an episode of Fixer-Upper (darn you Joanna Gaines!!!!) and I was sold. We would turn part of the massive existing barn on our property in to a house!

"The Barndominium" via Fixer Upper/HGTV

"The Barndominium" via Fixer Upper/HGTV

Oh, the naivety...

We called off the home build. We started measuring and sketching and designing. We got all our ducks in a row and called the bank to tell them we'd only need a third of what we had planned on borrowing. Easy!

Bank: "'am? You can't do that...."

Me: "Do what?"

Bank: "Build in to an existing barn. I'm sorry, but we won't be able to lend to you."


Turns out, banks don't like two bedroom homes, barn-conversions, or anything else non-traditional that may be a "risk". That's really unfortunate for people like me, because unless it's risky, I am typically not interested.

So, we gave up on our barndominium for a few weeks, until we had an idea....what if we didn't take out a mortgage at all? What if we were the general contractor? What if we paid cash for our house?

And that's exactly what we've been doing for the past several months! 

Our friend Cole, digging our well

Our friend Cole, digging our well

Oakley in the "living room"

Oakley in the "living room"

Oakley and Tanner digging trenches

Oakley and Tanner digging trenches

So...How Exactly Does This Work?

Well....we don't really know!

Seriously, we are flying by the seat of our pants. I decided to blog about this journey, because I want to show millennials that it IS possible to be debt free/mortgage free before 30, and that you don't have to be rich to do it (just semi-crazy, and willing to live below your means!) I am super inspired by my friend Jennifer Mead of Grace Filled Interiors, who just sold her beyond-gorgeous custom farmhouse (that they just built!) to start flipping fixer-uppers and building a legacy for her family. It can be hard, however, to find people "in our same boat", so I hope that blogging about the Barndominium can be a good resource for people who want to do the same!

I'll be posting a more detailed outline of how we are paying for our build later this week (a lot of financial creativity, to say the least!) as well as posting at each phase of construction (yes, we are doing a lot of DIY and acting as general contractor, and no, we do not have any construction skills haha!!!!) Currently, we have put the well in, ran power to the barn, rehabbed the pasture, and are installing our septic over the next few weeks while the engineer is redesigning our structural system to convert the use to a single-family-residence.

Even if you don't "have" to pay cash for a home renovation or build, I encourage you to be open minded and think of all of the benefits! You will not only save tons of money on the actual labor and materials, you also will have made one of the best investments out there (real estate) and have built-in equity that you can use for future investments (more on utilizing equity as an investment strategy later!)

I'd love comments, questions, and advice. If there is a topic you'd like me to blog on specifically, shoot me an email ( or connect with me on

Til' next time!


olivia berg