Shannon Smith always wanted a barn house, and that’s what she got — complete with a silo attached. “I’m a country girl,” the Cloquet woman said.
After spending more than two years building her dream home, Smith’s four-bedroom, three-bathroom and 9-acre property is on the market for $665,000.
The home went up two days before COVID-19 prompted shutdowns in Minnesota. There were no bites for months, but Smith had a couple showings a week before the News Tribune visited to hear the story behind the barn.
Smith built the home at 4213 Van Gassler Road with contractor Jared Clampitt.
They both grew up in Mahtowa and married in 2013. Soon after, they started on the house.
They researched traditional barn sizes and dimensions, planned for an authentic gambrel roof and drafted the property.
The silo was his idea.
“He told me, ‘If you have a barn-shaped house, you have to have a silo on it,’” Smith recalled.
The house is on Smith’s family’s land. Her parents own two nearby lots, and the plan was always for her and her brother to live there.
While building the barn house, Smith and Clampitt (now divorced) lived in an empty family home on the property for a year and a half. Clampitt took time off his job to focus on the house, and they both dedicated nights and weekends. It took more than two years to complete, and they built 99% of it themselves, they said.
And that wasn’t an exaggeration.
Walking into the home is stepping foot on a floor covered in pennies, 80,000 to be exact.
That’s $800 worth, and they’d get $300 worth at a time. The bank was curious what they were doing, Smith said.
And they liked the beat-up kind to achieve a dark copper tone; they returned a bundle of too-new pennies. Smith paid her daughters $10 an hour to help place them, and they used wood glue and covered it with floor epoxy. In the very center is a Bahamas penny with a star on it.
Standing in the living room on a bright January afternoon, “This was all brush in a field,” Clampitt said.
There are three stories, a wall of windows and a 35-foot vaulted ceiling in the living room, which made it difficult to hire out at times. Drywallers didn’t want to go up that high, so Clampitt was installing it himself on a scissor lift.
Clampitt pulled the living room’s 8-foot chandelier up with a rope and installed it with an extension ladder.
In the kitchen, they were quoted $40,000 for granite countertops, so they made their own out of concrete for $400. It wasn’t easy.
They stained the concrete, and they added stamped edging to match the brown cabinets and backsplash tile.
For the paneled barn door between the kitchen and the master bedroom, she and Clampitt salvaged wooden pallets from around Duluth. They paid $35 for the metal, which he bent to fit.
“You can see this one had a big 50-gallon drum on it,” Clampitt said of a half-moon outline on one of the wooden panels.
They bought the vessel sinks in the master bathroom for $7 apiece and made the rest of the vanity to match using a chunk of timber and leftover silo tin.
They added floating shelves behind the toilet and lined their standing shower with tin and framed it with galvanized pipe.
They made their dining room table out of the same timber they used for the stairs.
“There’s really nothing in here we haven’t made,” Smith said.
The second floor is open walkways with bedrooms and two bathrooms. One has double vanities bought at a closeout sale for Smith’s daughters.
Radiant floor heat runs throughout the home, and up one set of stairs to the top of the silo is a circular room with vinyl slate on the floor, tongue and groove wood in the ceiling and a 360-degree view. “My dad would joke that he was going to deer hunt up here,” she said.
Follow another set of stairs to a wide-open third-floor, loft-style game room complete with a pool table and foosball.
They conditioned and stained each board by hand, enlisting the help of Smith’s daughters, too.
Some of their DIY approach was out of preference, some out of necessity.
An electrician balked at the prospect of working on their house, they said, so Smith and Clampitt installed a mile's worth of wiring themselves. The house is set back a half a mile from the road, so it cost up to $17,000 to get electricity.
They also had to bury their own wiring for Internet access.
“I used my trencher, she pulled me from her car. … It took a couple of hours to get down the driveway,” Clampitt recalled.
She also primed and painted the house in its entirety.
Always on the hunt for good deals, they’d often scavenge antique shops or scour Facebook marketplace. There’s a story about finding the right tile cleaning out several Twin Ports stores of it.
They couldn’t use their three-car garage for years because it was filled with goods that could prove useful.
From their initial concept to the finished product, it’s almost spot-on, Clampitt said.
While they’re happy with the results, it was a challenging process: Budgeting money and time, and managing expectations for how long it would take.
There were also unforeseen out-of-pocket costs, and: “Life happens,” she said.
Smith and Clampitt’s divorce is why they’re selling.
“Believe me, I struggled. This is where I’m supposed to be. My parents are right there, it is hard.
“I need something more manageable.”
“Part of it was my fault. We didn’t plan to go this big,” said Clampitt, recalling the spur-of-the-moment decision to add the third floor while Smith was at work.
They agree this project was possible because of their long-held skills problem-solving as a team.
“We’ve always worked really well together, even now, even though we’re divorced,” she said, adding: “We’re both pretty handy. We have vision.”
“And we both can follow through,” added Clampitt.