Garden and Gun

How an Alabama family turned a wooden shell into a genteel home


By Joe Bargmann

The Bodnar residence, a salvaged barn set on a sloping piece of farmland outside of Birmingham, Alabama, is the kind of place that seems almost sepia toned, like those charming vintage photographs taken a century ago.

That notion of time, of recognizing one’s place in it, is important to John Michael Bodnar, a restaurateur, and his wife, Shay. So is the sense of the word land—having respect for it, feeling a connection to it, being aware that they are part of a bigger picture.

All that idealism aside, when it came time to pick a place to raise her children—Francie, five; Isabella, three; and Lila, two—living in barn wasn’t exactly what Shay had in mind. Slowly, John Michael convinced her that the idea made perfect sense. It made sense for the environment because they were repurposing old materials, and it made sense for their family because John Michael had long ties to farming. When the decision was finally made to go through with it, he had a Pennsylvania barn trucked to Alabama, and he soon turned to architect Jeff Dungan of the Birmingham firm Dungan & Nequette for help transforming the wooden shell into a home.

“I went to Jeff and I said, ‘I want to build a barn. Here are the dimensions, and here are my general ideas,’” recalls John Michael. “I was expecting him to be like, ‘What? Are you nuts?’ But he just said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”  Read article here