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Enlighten Your Backyard
by Ashley Ball

Capitalism has spoiled us everyone wants a dacha. Or a hacienda. Or a teepee. The number of far-flung vacation homes owned by Americans is steadily growing.

Foreign vacation homes can be costly; renovating your residence lacks excitement.
Setting up a villa in your backyard, though, is romantic and adds value, turning your property into a "compound."
The Renaissance Barn Company ships authentic 17th- and 18th-century European barns to customers for use as outbuildings or residences.
For a whole barn, the company recommends hiring a contractor. They will send a specialist as well.
The Renaissance Barn Company also provides architectural supplies like bricks, timbers and tiles for use in remodeling projects.

And we're finding it's a hassle to split your life between two locales. In Town and Country, Shelby White mourns the loss of her bathing suit to a ravenous second home in tropical climes. Even aside from misplaced personal effects, she doesn't sound too up on the experience, citing buying expense, flying expense and second-mortgage tyranny.

Fearing the two-home headache, others concentrate on primary dwellings. Recently, home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. Inc. attributed its strong performance to the fact that many "consumers opted to renovate existing homes rather than buy new ones."

Remodeling, though, isn't as decadent. A butcher-block island can't compete with a villa.

The Renaissance Barn offers a compromise for those of us torn between a foreign getaway and a home makeover. The UK-based company buys European 17th- and 18th-century barns, then ships them, London Bridge-style, to customers.

It's an especially exotic treat for the American market. Most barn-salvage companies are based in Canada or the United States, and their buildings are wholesome, wooden. Stone barns evoke Tuscan Romanticism, crusty bread not American Gothic and chicken feed.

Customers bid through the company's Web site. Once the bid is qualified and finalized, the company ships the dismantled barn, along with a specialist included in bid price to work with your contractor.

What do you do with a big old barn, you might ask? Most customers use the buildings as guest quarters. (Just for fun, practice these words: "Mom, Dad, you'll be staying in the barn.") Others make entertainment complexes out of the structures; we bet those are the ones whose kids have the coolest slumber parties on the block.

For a less involved Old World fix, the company carries authentic tiles, slates, bricks and timbers. The materials give your kitchen or garage a cozy exoticism you just can't buy at Home Depot.

The beauty of the foreign and the conveniences of home (no freezing Mistral, no monsoon season), with the added bonus of raising property value: It's a welcome option for those of us with both wanderlust and visions of our property as a "compound."

Related Stories
• Homestay Companies
• Live and Learn a La Francaise
• Wine We Love

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Related Stories
• Homestay Companies
• Live and Learn a La Francaise
• Wine We Love

Web Links
• Renaissance Barns
• Timber and Stone

Related Books
• A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle

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