When the Dream Comes True But the Reality is Slow & Ugly

white barn

Remember the World’s Worst Barn?

It was one of the reasons we bought this property…because of the dream.

It’s starting to look much better. Ish. And I wanted to show you what’s been done so far, grab your coffee, I’ve got a ton of photos.

And if you are like me and spoiled by beautiful finished reveals that sparkle and shine and scream “TA DA!!!”, then today will be a rude awakening.

It’s not pretty. But it’s progress.

This is how most projects happen. It would be so nice if we could all have a bunch of HGTV moments with dramatic sheet lifting to reveal a perfectly staged finished product. But that’s not normal life. This barn is a metaphor for my life. Maybe yours too.

Three steps forward. Two steps back where I trip over myself on that last step and then look around to see if anyone is looking.

Can you handle the truth?

the barn august 2013august 2013

the barn june 2014june 2014

DSC_6729august 2014

We hope this barn will be a place for you to come and hang out with us. For craft days, swap meets, imperfection camp, & beauty hunting classes. My sister already has a writing gathering planned for the end of September (it sold out in 48 hours)(please let this barn be finished enough) and Chad is planning a Men’s (thing?) as our test event before that ( to make sure we don’t burn down the place while people are here. We’re planning a hope*ologie event for November and other things to come after that. This barn isn’t for looks (thankfully). It’s for all of us to use in whatever way we want. It’s imperfection at it’s finest, a study in Lovely Limitations.


barn porch

So it’s been a year and in some ways it looks worse!! I should be so embarrassed to show you what we’ve done a year. But truly, this is a huge improvement. Stay with me now…

favorite barnHammersky Vineyard

For the record, here’s my dream barn. Ugh. It’s so beautiful. And mine will never have a vineyard or those expensive sofas. But mine can be white…


last year



I’m considering a sweet shade of pink for my office door. My office is attached to the back of the barn. And today it’s a complete wreck holding things that can’t sit outside while the inside of the barn is being worked on. Can you see it? Do you see the pretty barely showing through?

Sometimes I see it. Sometimes I want to eat a chocolate cake and flush my computer down the toilet.


Here’s the barn pre-windows back in the pre-spring. It’s just a humble, beat up, metal tractor barn that sits next to our house. It’s only 20′ x 40′ so it’s not a big place. Just big enough.

window test

The view from my front yard in the spring. See the blue tape on the barn? That’s how we decided on what size windows to order. We just ordered windows from Lowe’s.

window frames

Chad (my husband) and Sean (our friend/hired hard-working/can build anything-man who we highly recommend– but I’m not giving out his info until we are done with our projects because he is that good) built frames for six windows. Four windows went on one side, two on the other because of the heating thing we need to use, and the side barn door that opens up.


They took all the metal off to install the frames and windows.

windows in the barn

barn window



Inside the barn you can look out to our house. See how close they are?

windows in



Then summer came.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.06.04 AM

The barn had four lightweight metal doors that were super high and sort of weird.  We wanted wood doors so we lowered the door hardware to accommodate their weight.


Then it was time to paint. Chad and his dad and the boys put plastic on the windows. This is the view as you pull up our driveway. Sadly, the driveway spits everyone out at the ugliest part of the property. Lovely Limitation.


paint the barn

Sean loaned us his paint sprayer. Painting a metal barn was one of those things we didn’t want to mess up. The thought of it peeling in a year made me cringe. So we asked the paint fellas at Sherwin-Williams to tell us exactly what we needed to use to do it right. It took 6 gallons of multi-purpose latex primer and 10 gallons of Emerald paint–which is the top of the line fancy, blow your mind because this stuff is gonna last. Honestly, I wouldn’t buy the top of the line paint for every single paint project in my life. But for the exterior of the barn, absolutely. If they sold paint that used holy water infused with feathers from heaven I’d probably get that.

Chad said it sprayed on like a dream and the actually spraying of the paint went really fast.

pure white barn

The paint color is “Pure White”. Which is slightly off white if you ask me. But I’m still happy with it.


It took a few weeks to get it all finished just because we kept leaving town and playing in the yard and needing to get more paint.

painted barn



But finally I had a pure white barn with wood doors. No time to enjoy it because we had to move everything out of the barn so we could start work on the inside. Cue Sanford & Son music!

barn doors

That seam in the metal above the door drives me so close to insanity I can’t even tell you. Dear Lord please help me to be blind to that because of how beautiful this will be one day. It would be so easy to cry myself to sleep every night for the mess that this all is. At times it’s completely overwhelming. What have we done?! We bought the most expensive home we’ve ever purchased and it’s a holy mess along with 12 acres of land that needs major attention not to mention dumpsters.



Sean had to brace up the rafters so they could hold all the lighting and fans. They pulled out all the old wiring and then put in miles of new wiring. I had big ideas for all sorts of different lighting. I can’t wait to show you when it’s all done. Notice that crazy heater on the left? Lovely. At least we’ll be warm? I hope.






electrical plan


Here’s the pretty outdoor light I just ordered from Barnlight Electric. For some reason this was the most difficult decision for me to make, worse than the paint color, window sizes or anything.


The ceiling is getting the white paint treatment. So far it has a coat of primer and I’m already feeling this was one of the best design decisions I’ve ever made. The first day Chad sprayed the primer on the ceiling he didn’t wear a beard net and he pulled paint out of his beard for hours. This is love after a 20 year marriage people. The next day he wore a full body suit in 150 degree heat with the windows taped up standing 15 feet up on scaffolding spraying primer on the ceiling of the barn. He’s my dream man.


I needed the extra push to choose white for the ceiling since I knew it’d be such a pain to paint, Caroline came to the rescue and wrote a little ode to the white ceiling-ed barn and why she believed the white would make a huge difference. Chad and I were both sold after that.



The barn now has insulation! And ‘walls’ are going in as I type. I’ll tell you more about that in the next barn update.

sean & chad


The gorgeous awe-inspiring view from the open barn doors. Can we just take a moment and accept the fact that this is not the view I had in mind years ago as I dreamed about our future barn? Sometimes dreams and reality don’t match up. But I’d still take this over living in the subdivision sans metal tractor barn. We’re getting closer to the dream. Even if it’s slightly hideous and majorly overwhelming.


I can’t over exaggerate how rough/Sanford & Son/honky tonk it is out here. This will take YEARS of work. Come at your own risk. Keep your expectations low, and your heels lower. I’ve tripped multiple times trying to look cute in my wedges.

DSC_6747 2




I have to fight daily to not focus on the wires, the car getting the oil change (or whatever family vehicle is currently getting worked on) the falling apart greenhouse that we haven’t had time to take down, the overgrown trees we had time to kill but not cut, the trash, the metal, the wires. The mess.

20140703_EmilyFreeman_Hope(this photo? that’s our pavilion with lights to the World’s Worst Barn)

But it’s forward. It’s better than last year.

And the one thing that keeps us going is the encouragement, hand-holding, accountability, and support from our family and friends that THIS is worth it. Family and friends believe in this place so much that they’ve helped support this barn renovation financially. I think it’s important for you to know that we aren’t putting this all on a credit card and neither are we dishing out a bunch of cold hard cash–because we simply don’t have it.

Our family and friends have come and encouraged, prayed, worked, moved furniture and helped us believe this truly can happen. This project is too big for us to do alone. I’ve even had companies email and ask how they can be a part of this barn. Just this past weekend at the Lowe’s Style Saturday, two long time Nesting Place readers turned friends shocked me when they said they’d come out and help have a clean up day if we need it.

We aren’t doing this alone.

But we are doing this with purpose.

And I’m okay inviting you out under the power lines, with all the imperfections in plain sight, before it’s “done” if you are okay coming.

Invitation coming soon.

Until then, I’ll take three steps forward.

Two steps back.

Trip over myself.

Look down at my feet and see a feather.

And carry on.


let's carry on

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  1. I love seeing the progress and I can’t wait to someday come for an event. Love you and am so proud of you. xoxo

  2. Shawna Hart says:

    I love this post! And your transparency! Your book and the concept of “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” has revolutionized my life-both personally and in my home decorating! As a result, I can’t quit talking about your book! Any family member or friend who has a birthday gets your book! I just want to say, you are making a difference in people’s lives- freeing them to be ok with lovely limitations, to embrace the beauty in a little mess, and to find their personal style through the things they love! Someday I would love to have coffee in your new barn and celebrate with you on this huge accomplishment! Keep up the work! Your encouraging the rest of us to dream big and accomplish great things!!

  3. We also just bought a “oof” house, although the to do list isn’t quite as rugged as yours, and I find myself in the same “what did we just do” phase mixed awesomely with “I can’t believe I am living here” moments!

  4. It’s looking wonderful….I hear you about the slow and ugly. Our house renovations are going about the same way… I just have to keep thinking about the end product.

  5. I really like your progress! You know the seam that is driving you crazy? What if you hung some kind of barn quilt there as an “arrow” to draw your eye away from the seam? I know a barn quilt is probably a little “country” for your style, but I am thinking that you can come up with some kind of Nester-fied cool and lovely version!

  6. This kind of update makes me happy. Truly, it’s going to be your dream barn soon and you won’t remember what you pictured before.

  7. I can see the seam with letters on it that spell out “hope*ologie” or “limitless” or something. Maybe painted on a verrrrryyyy looonnnnngggg piece of wood. (Maybe you have an extra board or two!) Or a metal pipe running across (like for the doors on your dream barn) that you could hang interchangeable stuff off of. You know-like Word of the Day toilet paper! These are the things that one thinks about when awakening 2 hours earlier than necessary.

  8. I think that space is stunning…those high ceilings and big windows, omg, it’s going to be amazing!

  9. I love every single time I get to come and see this piece of beauty God has placed y’all in. I love it all….even the parts that feel rough and untamed for now. I’m so glad you went with white for the ceiling (Caroline to the rescue!). It’s already beautiful and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to grow into itself. Sigh. My heart is happy.

  10. I know this is a big project but you really have make some awesome improvements so far and it will get there! It looks great with the improvements you have done already, I know it will all come together and you are very blessed that you have so many people around you that wants to help you make this happen. I love following along with the barn remodel, thanks for sharing it with us. :-)

  11. Looking more beautiful everyday!


    So stop saying that trying to get more views on your blog post.

    Its like you are whinning.

    Cut it out!!!

    • {insert laugh cry emoticon here}

      I agree, it really isn’t anymore.
      I called it that in the first post about it (http://thenester.com/2013/08/the-worlds-worst-barn-why-we-love-it-an-invitation.htm ) why do I keep referring to it as that? I think it helps remind me that even what was a pretty horrible space (it was pretty close to the world’s worst barn) can become something that people get mad at you for calling it that just a year later, even when it’s not finished!

      Thanks for the kick in the pants!

      • Your place is beautiful…such a great picture of our journey with God. He makes all things beautiful in His time. ;) I don’t think you’re whining at all. Nor is your motive to get more blog readers, IMO. A place like yours is a lot of work–a work in progress and a work that seems to have no end in sight. That’s your blessed reality. Thanks for being real and responding to opinions with grace. I rarely comment on blogs, but want to give you my thumbs up! How wonderful that your vision is bigger than you–sounds like a God-inspired vision to me!

  13. I loved seeing the progress and hearing your heart in the process. I can so relate…your barn is certainly a metaphor for my life.

    Can’t wait to see the barn walls!

  14. Ah … those windows! And the white rafters!

    YES, Nester, YES!


  15. Charla Emery says:

    I totally feel your emotions, weare going thru the same, renovating (now I call it reconstructing) our 100 year old farmhouse, reclaiming the land which is overgrown in miles of brambles and wisteria, finding purpose and vision along the way.
    One note about your barn, we have done about the same thing insulation wise and now realize we absolutely have to insulate the metal roof and add a ceiling. The summer heat load thru the roof makes it very uncomfortable and while the propane heater will keep you comfortable as long as you are near it, the high ceiling and once again up insulated roof just suck the heat up away from the ground floor. I love the look of exposed trusses, but not at the sacrifice of comfort of us and others.

    • We’ve wondered about that too, we’ve been in barns that do it both ways but it might be on our ‘next year list’ for now, we don’t even have a/c so you know, we aren’t worried about the cool air escaping (looking at the bright side much?!:) I can see lots of additional steps in the future!

  16. I’m so glad you didn’t make us wait until the final “reveal.” I’ve been thinking about the barn and your progress and am so excited for you. Thanks for your willingness to share the process and the imperfection. And it seems to me that you’ve done so MUCH in a year! It’s already beautiful.

    P.S. I’m in Charlotte and would also love to be a part of a clean up day/landscaping crew/whatever you need. Cheering for you!

  17. This is SO beautiful and my first thought was I would love to have my daughter married there! It looks fabulous to me!

  18. Each time you share pictures of The Barn, I see your vision. :) It’s looking beautiful…and thank you for sharing the real progress and reminding us that it is a beautiful and stretching and frustrating and wonderful process and not just an easy “after” picture. (Can’t wait to hear what’s planned in November!)

  19. kayla lou says:

    Its funny, when you look at other blogs, they don’t mention the nitty gritty when they post things they don’t mention the bad stuff when something finally goes right.
    I think that’s why people can relate to this blog so much.
    Because each and every one of us is perfectly imperfect.
    Reading a post that reminds us that daily life isn’t some cake walk, and that other people’s lives are hard too is a fantastic reminder.
    The part that got to me the most was when you talked about the financial help.
    The barn is coming along beautifully, but the fact that you admitted that you aren’t doing this alone is amazing.

    Thank you, nester, for being who you are.

  20. I agree with Kayla. I love the fact that you show “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” While it may not seem like it, the barn is completely and utterly inspiring because real life isn’t an HGTV one-hour makeover. It’s just the opposite as you so accurately point out. I also LOVE the fact that you are doing this one step at a time with the resources you have right now instead of using credit to get it done immediately. Summary: it’s just awesome so please keep posting all of it. :0)

    P.S. Another idea for the seam could be a large, “weathered” sign that reads “Lovely Limitations” or “Welcome” or something great and original that I know you could create. Just an idea…

  21. Myquillyn – I just want to hug you!! You are such an inspiration to me, but not in the way that so many are where it’s completely unreal and unreachable (and you know they’re having mental breakdowns behind the scenes even if they don’t show it) kind of way – but in the most beautifully honest and ‘perfectly imperfect’ kind of way. Every day you show the shadows AND the light that you’re walking through, and it’s such a divinely beautiful reminder of the journey we all walk, and that we can move closer to our dreams with each day and step if we set our minds to it. I’m one of the small few who will be able to join you guys for the writing event in September, and you must know I will be all OVER that ticket ordering for a Hope*ologie event and anything else you can think of :) I told Emily (just on Friday at the Girl’s Night Out event in Charlotte) that I’m adopting myself into y’all’s family and that I’m a hopeless groupie but can’t help myself! My hubs came along with me to the very first barn event (and our lives were forever changed for it, really and truly), my Momma and I came to see you at your book signing and got to hug you and giggle over your beuatiful work of art, my sis came with me on Friday to see Emily, and now Momma and I will be out again for the Writer’s Circle. I am so beyond touched by the work your beautiful family is doing. I love that you share all the scary stuff along the way as well as the beautiful little ‘feathers’ too. Anyway… the very first time you mentioned ‘the dream’ to have a barn to gather, etc I was in tears… I get it – I SO get it… and I just looking forward to lifting you all up in prayer and loving support where ever I can, I am so blessed by all of your courage (fear+action)… thank you for sharing all of this along the way friend… truly.

    Ok – gushing, rambling, comment over ;) Big hugs!!

  22. In the words of my mother whenever she gave me a home perm with those tight ugly rollers in the 80’s and I would look in the mirror and nearly cry. She would say “sometimes you just have to be ugly for bit to be beautiful for a longtime”!
    I personally think the progress is amazing. And if you can a deal as half as good on pretty outdoor sofa’s as you did on that killer kitchen range I can definitely see them adorning the lawn out front of the barn! Just maybe one day I will get to travel down from Canada to one of your events and see it all for myself! I bet it will be nothing short of breathtaking!

  23. I’m so excited for you!! And completely inspired by your attitude. Our place & our plans here at our farm in Oklahoma aren’t completely different. I’m watching you closely. XOXO Big hugs!!
    And this was my favorite line today:
    “If they sold paint that used holy water infused with feathers from heaven I’d probably get that.” LOL Excellent.

  24. Oh my goodness, I think you all have come so far with this! Thank you for sharing all your hard work. I love seeing how it is morphing into what you dream. Never loose sight of what your heart wants….you will get there!

  25. Seriously, this is really encouraging to read right now. I had a huge wave of inspiration and motivation at the beginning of the summer after reading your book. (Thanks!) I was able to get a lot done, like rearranging all the furniture in my two main living areas and painting one room bright white. It’s made a big difference. But a few of my other projects are stalled out and give me anxiety when I look at their unfinishedness. I’m hoping the trifecta of energy, opportunity and supplies will happen soon so we can enjoy the end results!

    I really think the barn is coming along so well! I love the windows (even with a less than perfect view). And picturing you tripping while trying to look fabulous in your wedges made me laugh out loud. Keep up the good work! ;-)

  26. I love seeing the transformation and I am so excited for you that your dream is materializing before your eyes. If you are having a work day and need extra help, I’d love to come. I can do anything, except heavy lifting. With the help of our friends, my husband and I even installed an in ground pool in one of our houses years ago!!

  27. Closer to the dream, even if it’s slightly hideous. I love that :) I may live in Atlanta, but I’m definitely going to accept your invitation to visit under the power lines!

  28. Oh, it’s looking great! My husband is an electrical engineer and does the street lighting for our city. He’s forever pointing out light fixtures to me and telling me about them… so I don’t think it’s odd (actually, rather fitting!) that your hardest decision was picking out the light. I’ve learned from The Hubs that you don’t mess around with big decisions like that! Haha. Also… hope*ologie event!? Oooh!

  29. these updates are my TOTAL favorites! I’m definitely one of your barn groupies :)

  30. Love how real you are about this project. It’s inspiring for anyone involved in any kind of project that will need to evolve because of financial and time constraints.

  31. I think there needs to be more “in progress”, because none of us are living in the “ta-da” HGTV world so thank you for being real with us (as always), being encouraging and sharing the progress. Because it is SO REFRESHING! Can’t wait to see it continue on!

  32. I have to say this post may me cry just a little bit. I’ve followed your blog a long time, but often couldn’t totally relate because your last rental was an amazing home to start with (and would probably cost at least a million dollars for a comparable home & yard in the city I live in. I have loved seeing you dive into something you believe in, and work with limitations that seem like more genuine limitations. Watching as you take deep breaths, practice what you preach, and keep working away is really inspiring. I live across the continent, and will never get to see the barn in person, but I love every bit of reality you are sharing here. Prayers and best wishes for you as you keep moving ahead. :)

  33. Oh I think you’ve made huge progress. The barn is looking fabulous.

  34. I have a saying I subscribe to: the journey is the joy. This is a beautiful, enriching process (kind of like childbirth!) Your lives will be forever changed and so much richer for having soldiered on! Thank you for inviting us along to witness the transformation!! It is a beautiful and joy filled process for me. You are blessed!!

  35. As always beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. When I look at these images I see love, hopes and dreams. Just beautiful.

  36. Oh I think it looks wonderful – I know it has been A LOT OF WORK! But the progress is awesome. I just realized you are in NC like me. I want to come see your barn and land sometime!!

  37. Transformation always takes time, so it helps to focus on what it WILL be instead of what it isn’t yet. I’m sure there are a lot of caterpillars out there thinking they are the World’s Worst Bug, not realizing that one day they’ll be awesome little butterflies.

  38. I love the white, the doors, windows and light! So much progress. It’s funny how we have to constantly remind ourselves of the progress when our mind races to all that’s still left to be done. It’s happening. With God’s help and grace, you’re doing it! Thank you for the reminder that some (most) things take time!

  39. I am a 71 year old woman who has spent her entire life moving from one place to another, and constantly making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. to be honest, although I did own two newly built houses, and one I designed and had built, others were in various sad states of repairs. The new homes were in the city, (small lots,) and the sad ones were in the country with acreage. Looking back, I now realize that although I did derive a lot of pleasure in the results of our labors of love to update and renovate the sad ones, I wish I would have known more about “living in the Moment.”
    Try to learn to relax and enjoy the process more, even the disasters and messes along the way. And if you really wanted that picture postcard estate, you would not have purchased this place. I for one, do not care nor want that high end, expensive looking property, it is not who I am. I now live alone with my dog in a small one bedroom apartment, and I thank God daily for being to simply live independently, and not with one of my children. I still take great pleasure in decorating and redecorating my home in spite of limited resources. Thrift stores have become my favorite places, and I recently realized that I have no desire to purchase new, it is a waste of money in my opinion. So quit apologizing and agonizing over the lack of pretty views, or the messy state the property is in at the present, and focus on being thankful you are able to 1, own such a large property and be out of the city, and 2, that you have the vision and ability and finances to improve it in time. It is truly a blessing, you have so much more than many others. You owe no one any apologies, you are a smart, talented and visionary person. So go out there and enjoy it all.

  40. Oh, I just RELISH watching the barn’s story unfold!! And I pray I will one day get to see it (and its surroundings) in all its beautiful imperfections.

    You amaze me, girl. I love you. xoxo

  41. Congratulations on your progress! It looks really amazing!

  42. Another idea for that seam on the barn. You can run a 1×8 or a 1×10, horizontally across the entire length of the barn over top of the seam. Make sure to wrap it in Aluminum so that it holds up in the elements! We do it all the time at my work, it looks quite nice when its done and hides imperfections just like that! Just an idea! Love your blog! Can’t wait for more progress pictures!!

  43. I really enjoyed the full details in pictures and update of your barn- the good, bad, and the ugly. It all does take time and patience, at least that is what I have been telling myself. We just bought our first house ever, and needs a lot of work. It’s an old house, but had almost a full acre that we couldn’t refuse. We have four boys and a little girl, that enjoy the land just as much as we do. We have lots of work to do on this house, but somehow I find it refreshing and exciting to have the sky’s the limit on what we can do with the house and property. Thank you for sharing pictures and your ups and downs with your house.

  44. Love ALL of this. The good, the beautiful, and the ugly! As school starts we are focusing on the aspects of Rachel’s Challenge and the first is Look for the Best in Others and I can’t help but let me it remind me of homes AND people. I love that you see the best in every situation and in property. :) Can’t wait to sign up for a visit to the barn! And I’m only two hours away so I am ALL in for a clean up day!

  45. Yes to all of this, Nester. Yes! Thank you for sharing your barn and your heart with us. It – and all of us – are works in progress, created and creating. I was serious about the offer to come help clean up and am even more resolute after reading this. :)

    I got my work gloves and trash bags ready, sister. You just say when.

  46. Stephanie says:

    I love it! I grew up with a barn with dirt floors, so I’m envious. Looks amazing! Have you thought of doing something graphic over where the seam? Are the doors staying that color? Can’t wait to see how it all turns out. If help with your ‘barn raising’ if I didn’t live 3,000 miles away ; )

  47. This was a great post! The barn is lovely, but the memories being made and the model for your children, and us, of how to live, work and love together is better and so inspiring.

  48. I LOVE this barn! I love this barn so much I want to marry it! It’s going to be drop-dead gorgeous. I’m so proud of you!

    I live in Concord (met you at Lowe’s) and will be happy to help during a clean-up day. Just say the word!

  49. What I see…. those trees greeting guests more graciously than any fancy high-rise doorman! Also, walked out my front door this morning to find scores of friendly black crows gathered on my electrical lines. It made me happy! :)

    • Also… maybe the “seam sign” should just say, “THE BARN” so when you have an event the invites can say, Where: THE BARN. ;) And another thought, while looking at the picks, I hear wind chimes… in the pavilion and outside the barn!!! Great so far!

  50. Valerie H. says:

    OK, so that seam? I totally understand. What you need is a big old “Welcome to The Barn” banner up there! And as I type this, there is a totally 80’s oak bench with a heart cutout sitting on my front porch, but you can’t tell because I painted it black, distressed it, and hung a wreath over the heart cutout. All because I heard somewhere that ” it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” :)

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