Barns get new lease on life

Khari Otten wasn’t raised in a barn. But in July, she was married in one.

She and her college sweetheart, Daniel Otten, decided to do something different for their wedding.

There wouldn’t be a church, a steeple or bells.

There would be dozens of friends and family members seated in an immaculate garden in front of a green barn with crisp, white trim.

Dan Bates / The Herald

Jim Proffitt bought a former dairy farm near Stanwood in 1988 and converted the 1940s barn into an apartment and recreation space.

“I grew up in the country, so it was just really neat,” said Khari Otten, daughter of Tom and Lisa Hegna of Arlington. “It just was really us. We’re kind of laid back and we like the outdoors.”

In her wedding dress, holding her father’s elbow, Khari Otten descended from the barn’s grand white staircase to meet her groom.

After the ceremony, the guests danced and partied in the barn’s loft, decorated with soft white lights and ferns.

“People thought that it was amazing,” Khari Otten said. “I heard from people that it was just the most amazing wedding they’d been to because it was such a different setting than the norm.”

General contractor Jim Proffitt owns the green barn and the farm around it. The barn was built in the 1940s, and it was a mess of sawdust and dairy farm remnants when he bought the place in 1988.

Over a number of years, he did a little here and there, eventually making the tired, faded red barn into an apartment and family recreation space.

The remodeled barn has seen about 10 weddings, all friends and family, starting with Proffitt and his wife, Amy, in 2002.

“I think to save those things is very important,” he said. “It’s a look. It has a feel that a newer place can never have. A new one never looks the same as an old barn. There’s just something nice about it.”

Few old barns are lucky enough to get a new lease on life, whether they’re renovated for farm use or transformed into something else entirely.

But because of their aesthetic, solid building materials and sturdy joints, historic barns are sometimes the subjects of extreme makeovers.

In Snohomish County and across the nation, old barns are being converted into homes, restaurants, studios and banquet halls. One former barn even became a dog day care.

Some barns are taken apart, moved and reassembled elsewhere, while others are fixed up where they’re at.

In 1994, Kara Keating and her then-husband, John Beall, bought Clifford Rod’s Arlington dairy farm. The two spent three years of weekends renovating the 7,000-square-foot barn, which Rod had built in 1948 to house his dairy cows and hay.

It was a huge project that cost them thousands of dollars. Keating and Beall were divorced in the process. Still, both were devoted to finishing it.

Dubbed The Big Red Barn, it is now a center for yoga, dance and tai chi. Beall uses the top floor for photography and has a shop on the first floor.

“The summer is my favorite time, when we can open the windows and practice with fresh air breezing through,” Keating said. “There is also a mountain view to the east, so it’s quite inspiring to be in there, particularly on a clear day.”

She said they were glad to be able to save the old barn. When she drives around Snohomish County, Keating now takes special note of old barns. Most don’t share the big red barn’s fate.

“Even the ones that are falling down, in a way it’s kind of beautiful,” she said. “It’s the circle of life. What are you going to do?”

Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or

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