The Barndominium movement is still in the infancy stages of becoming top of mind among the human collective, so it’s considered a daring choice among most. But for a couple of millennials who traveled the country with their daughter in a 180 square foot Airstream; it’s not so far-fetched. Liv and Tanner not only live in a renovated barndominium, they’re building a second in Montana and have started a barndominium design company.
So, you definitely could say...they’re all in.
Liv and Tanner Berg don’t have the average lifestyle, which is more than typical for those who consider building this type of home. The mindset of a person who decides to step out of the box and live in a barn home is by nature a nonconformist.
The Bergs are in their 30’s and their daughter Oakley is nine. They both grew up loving the rural life and Liv was actually raised on a potato farm. They were young parents who settled in the town they both grew up in with extended family close by.
Liv owns a dental consultant company and her husband is a stormchaser lineman, running crews that restore power after catastrophic events. Although they both travel frequently with their jobs, the flipside is that they also have a lot of time together, since Tanner works three months straight and is then off the rest of the year. Owning her own businesses, Liv can schedule her time around family; so they operate on a schedule different than most. With the help of Liv’s mother and sister-in-law, Oakley is homeschooled; which is another reason that they love the country lifestyle, it is a great way to teach their daughter through chores on their hobby farm and especially helping with the animals.
A Home of Their Own
The path to their current mode of life began after they had been traveling around the United States in an Airstream that they found on Craiglist and had renovated. This too was an unconventional move that at first was vetoed by Tanner; but three months later, the camper was theirs and they were hitting the road.
After a year traveling the country, they came back home and decided to start looking for some land they could call their own. They found a four-acre Alpaca farm; that sadly wasn’t sold WITH the alpacas. The property came with a 40’ x 80’ pole barn. They decided to live in their RV, while Liv began to draft houseplans. When she was through sketching and dreaming, they were at around 4,000 square feet. The family prepared to settle down as most do and get started on the next phase of life; albeit tied to a very substantial mortgage. After figuring out exactly how large that mortgage would be; the sticker shock made them pause. Taking time to absorb the numbers and after further contemplation, Liv realized that they didn’t need anywhere near the space that she had been planning. There were only the three of them; necessity sparked creativity and an idea came to her. They had been living in the RV for eight months. Glancing at the pole barn, Liv pondered over the possibility of taking one of the bays of the barn (it is a three bay) and converting it to a home, leaving the other two bays for the big shop area that they require. She thought it could possibly suit their needs and at the same time offer a comfortable, cool vibe. This was before the whole barndominium idea was a “thing”; before the Joanna Gaines infamous barndominium episode.
She went back to the drawing board and came up with a new plan that was around 1,600 square feet.
As with the Airstream, at first, Tanner wasn’t so sure about Liv’s plans to renovate a dilapidated, old hay barn; but as Liv says, “Tanner always gets on board, eventually.” We say, “Happy wife, happy life!”
In all seriousness, Liv says that Tanner is always the one to execute her vision, and “he makes the magic happen.” His favorite aspect was the huge shop, so he didn’t mind leaving the design of the home up to her.
A far cry from her original 4,000 square foot plan, but compared to the RV, it seemed huge! She decided to make it a two bedroom and make the bedrooms small, with the majority allocated to wide open living space. They love to entertain and that is where they put their emphasis. They added a glass garage door that opens into the house allowing them to enjoy the indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
Their friends and family were supportive overall, Liv’s dad had built his own home; so they got it. Most people didn’t understand. They couldn’t fathom the concept of living in a shop, but eventually as it was being built, their friends became curious and the curiosity turned to excitement for them.
After being in their home for a few years, they have realized how much the barndominium lifestyle really aligns with their addiction to being outdoors. Liv and Tanner are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy wakeboarding, wakesurfing, boating and hunting; so their shop houses all of their toys and the supplies they need to process food and meat.
So Nice, They’re Doing It Twice
Liv and Tanner decided once wasn’t enough. They bought 10 acres in the Missoula, Montana area and this time will be building their barndominium from the ground up. It will be a vacation home for them, as well as a home they will offer for rent as a BnB.
They have cleared the land and drafted the plans; but will be taking their time with the construction. It will again be financed out of pocket and they anticipate having it completed over the next couple of years.
This home will be classified as an Accessory Dwelling Unit ADU), which for code qualifications means that it must be 800 square feet or less. The design is a two-story, Carriage House style, with a two-bay garage on bottom and living space on top. The “wow” factor comes from the huge deck, with quadruple panel glass doors that will showcase that amazing Montana view. Because Missoula is such a thriving tourist area, Liv is planning to create multiple spots on the property for RV camping, as another source of rental income.
Back 40 Buildings
After building her own barndominium, Liv had so many people reaching out to her with questions about they could start the process themselves. She already owned with a partner, a pole barn/steel manufacturing company and was designing plans. Based on her research and the lack of options available for most consumers, she decided it was the perfect opportunity to start the company. Back 40 focuses on a modern, trendy, yet timeless design. They have had great success and are currently working with multiple clients; as well as commercial projects.
To Sum It Up
Liv says it all boils down to intentional design. “When the sky is the limit, we don’t take as much time to think about what really makes us happy, or how we may utilize something to its fullest. Whether it’s an engineering, architectural or square footage constraint, I don’t like to think of it as a limitation. It will force you to get creative and figure how the space will really be used. So, you start being intentional, which is a beautiful way of living.”
We agree! This family has so much in store for them over the next few years and we will be right there to follow their progress and cheer them on!