Open House – Part II

Despite all of the insane reasons to have an Open House on February 4, 2017 – we did, but we “did it our way.” (Here the Frank Sinatra music playing in the background?)

We did not attend the highly publicized Pink Bridal Show in Chattanooga the week before.  We have done that gig before in the past but it just wasn’t our style.  The cost of having a booth at the show is very high especially for venues. That is a hard pill to swallow.  Plus….we felt like we had 30 seconds to draw a distinction between our venue and the other 20 venues that were there as crowds of prospective brides passed by.  You print off hordes of material to throw at all of these people when most of them have already secured their venue and half of them will ditch their bag of paperwork within a few hours of the event.  When a true prospective bride looks down into a plastic bag filled with brochure after brochure concerning “all things wedding related….and more”, it just exacerbates her and just magnifies the daunting task before her as she struggles to plan for her wedding.  She rummages through a mess of papers trying to find the perfect venue and the perfect vendors and trying to imagine how to determine such a standard when all you have to go by is a short write-up and a great one-liner catch phrase.  Or…..she walks past a booth of a venue that sounds interesting but she can’t get a moment to talk to the representative because they are talking to other people. So, she looks at a few pictures hanging on the booth wall or on an easel and though they are beautiful photos of a beautiful bride, it makes it very difficult to see exactly what the venue itself looks like because all you can really see is the bride.  So – you walk on into the sea of other brides meandering through the aisles of a bridal show looking left and right and feeling much like a pinball as you make your way through the packed event hall.  Does this sound familiar?  I imagine that this approach does indeed work for some brides….and maybe many brides – or the bridal shows would change their format.  But….it is not our approach…..good, bad, or different – I wanted a  very casual approach.

Invite brides to your house – well…..close, my barn.  Let them see first hand what sort of place we are.  Even in early February when our flower beds are not bursting with blooms yet (though the Jasmine vine in this photo was touting a few yellow buds already) and the chilly frost was melting off of the grass (but hey – look how green our grass is even in February….my husband has the magic touch and knows how to talk to the lawn) and the trees stood naked (but – we do have the trees and it makes it easy to imagine all of the shade that will come from them once spring arrives) and there were no newly born baby goats in the pasture (but we still had a slew of goats and young’ens that flocked to the fence to greet our visitors)……despite all of that, the barn (and farm) still had no trouble showing her strengths and her unique features.

We do hear quite often (and I heard it again that weekend) from first time visitors these two comments, “From the outside of the barn, I wasn’t sure what to expect…but when you come in, wow…it really works!” and the second is, “I have looked at all of the pictures on your website and they are amazing but they just don’t do the place justice.”  I take both of these as compliments.  We are indeed a simple farm and we just embrace that.  We don’t have expensive cedar board fencing lining our property, a monstrous mountain stone entry way, a concrete statue fountain spewing water in our garden, an old dairy barn design with gables in every direction and an ornate cupola on the roof, and we also don’t have a Tara-style plantation mansion setting at the end of the driveway.  But – that is just not us….we just aren’t the mansion sort of people and our farm was nothing more than a simple farmers homeplace where he invested his heart and soul to live off the land and provide for his family.  We take what we have and make the most of it.  We think there is not only value to this approach; i.e. be thrifty, repurpose, embrace a simple way of life, etc.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t make improvements or put a fresh coat of paint on something or add a new addition….it just means to keep the same ambiance – the same spirit – the same path as you  move forward.

We often say that we were repurposing long before Pinterest became trendy.  There are so many items around the farm that you see and often walk right past that have been on the farm for years (or from my grandparents farm even)…items that many people would’ve tossed in the dump or not taken a second consideration to…but we found new life and often even a new purpose in them.  Take for example:  our whiskey barrel bar.

We have so many gorgeous “cake table” photos of this particular set up; two old whiskey barrels, one from the George Dickel Distillery and the other no-name barrel alon with a wood table top.  It is the table top that has the more interesting story.  This use to be a work table top in our Milkhouse building when that housed the tool room.  This wood table top was set on two old oily metal barrels and it had piles of odd tools, rusty coffee cans full of used nails, half-used oil cans, and such on it that the table top itself was buried under the mound of junk.  That first year of hosting weddings we were looking for any economical choice to provide additional tables.  I began to clear off all of the “junk” and decided that even as worn and oil-stained as this was – that there was beauty “enough” even in this table top to make the effort worthwhile.  Clearing off the junk was the easy part for it was the gobs of dust laden oil spills that proved a challenge…but once I removed the oil, the character of the wood and all of its many years began to shine through.  It still is an old worn out tabletop but the beautiful hues in the wood partly comes from the oil that was absorbed over the years from being a work table.  I wouldn’t part with it though after its rescue, I have had several men offer me hundreds of dollars for it (surprisingly enough).  I could go on and on about such stories about many of our decor choices; the hand plow in our flower garden, an old decrepit wheelbarrow, a cast iron tub, an industrial wheel, and more.  (Ah, sounds like a good idea for a whole new blog post – for another day.)

I guess I want to say that we do winter projects and we do make improvements on our venue and farm but we always try to follow the same template and follow the same approach.  When we added onto the main part of the barn to build our dancehall (a few years ago), I made sure that we found some old “oak” weathered barn boards so that from the outside – no one would know that we had added a new wing to the barn.  I hope that I haven’t shattered someone’s assumption that it was part of the original barn – LOL!  But by using the same old barn boards from another barn, it tied the look together and followed the same approach.  A year ago, or so, I had 2 older men come up to me after the wedding reception dinner while I was sitting in the lounge on the sofa. One man said, “We keep debating each other on a subject and wanted to ask you….Is this barn a real old barn or did you build it to make it look like an old barn?”  I looked at the man in astonishment because as I sat there listening to him, I see the original tackroom floor underneath my feet and they are about as ancient and authentic as anything could be.  I see the horse stall door feet away from me with an old rusty colored chain on it where I had to latch the stall door with the chain so that my horse couldn’t open it with his mouth like he did with a regular stall latch.  I replied to the gentlemen, “Oh my, you must think that I am very talented to think that I could create all of this from something new!”  I, again, took all of this as a compliment though, and with each addition or improvement, I once again hope that most people cannot even see and distinguish the new from the old.  My husband says that I am the “Queen of Distressed” which is different from being the Queen of Stress or “being” distressed….I think – LOL!  But, I want it all to blend and if I can’t find a way to repurpose something old – I sure want it to look as though I repurposed something old.

You saw this photo above in the Part I blog, right?  Do you notice anything new?  It is a cool shot and angle that Bri Sanders Photography took.  My colored bottles in the window were her idea….and it really showcases all of the lighting effect that is going on.  It also shows that mix of old weathered wood that accents off of the colors of the bottles and lights.  What it does show that you may have missed is that we have “put in” a few wooden windows in the back of the barn.  OF COURSE, we used old wood to make them.  They look great and blend in too.  They look like horse barn windows and best part….is that they look good closed and look good opened.  So when the weather permits, we can open up the windows later in the evening to increase the air flow “as well as” this will make some adorable photos with a bride and groom looking out of them!  This is a great example of “kill 2 birds with 1 stone” as I like to say…..great additional function plus a great photo op!

We have also added a unique feature to the window near the “Watering Hole” (i.e. our Bar room).

Notice this picture from last fall.  See the wooden window behind the bartender.  We have added a unique hinged shelf type bar that provides a work area shelf for the bartender and also provides a shelf type bar for the guest to have the drink set on.

So this now allows your bartender (and all of his clutter of bottles, coolers, and more) to remain inside of the barn and serve your guests…..and your guests who can remain outside, have a little bar top shelf that sits atop the opened window making it easier and safer to position them a drink.  When it is no longer needed, it folds down and the window can close.  Eeeeezy Peeeezy!

Next two barn related projects will have to wait till I have pictures “at night” to fully tout them but I will at least tell you about them.  We have added more lights to the Horse Ring/Bonfire area.  They are strung overhead so it will give a whole new look.  We have just given the whole bonfire area an upgrade….in defining the space and such…you will just have to see for yourself!… We are still working on it but I hope to have a night photo when it is all completed.  Then we are adding some unique lighting “effects” to the old pear tree there on the rock patio.  This is going to look amazing especially towards evening… fact…..I could totally see the rock patio as being a great place to have your “first dance.”


We often say that the stage is a great place for a first dance (and yes – still is) but we sometimes hear grooms say that they don’t like the feeling of being “on stage” while doing this first dance.  Some brides will kick off their dance time by doing the first dance “in” the dancehall.    But now, let me suggest another option…picture this as I describe it……..

Your guests have finished eating.  Everybody needs a bit of relaxed time afterwards so that they can have a restroom break, maybe go back outside to see the goats before they head back to the barn, or others to play another round of cornhole.  So, maybe you even have a table set out “outside” near the ring for your cake display even.  I would have the table set up earlier then have someone move the cake or desserts out closer to cutting time so it doesn’t sit outside the whole time.

So….rally people to watch the cake cutting – outside provides lots of space for all to see and surround you by then easy access to get their own slice of cake.  Once most people are served, have the DJ announce the first dance on the rock patio. You can see from these photos (the one below was over a year ago) that the rock patio area is always beautiful with its Queen Anne’s Lace and other flowers always putting on a show.

You two come together and have the whole rock patio as your dance floor – allowing for your guests to be encircling you all around the patio and some maybe even standing inside the barn though the barn doors are wide open.  This lets you be less on a stage but still the slight elevation change allows good visibility.

Photograph wise….it doesn’t crowd you out since you have the whole patio plus you will either have the new lighting effect from the Pear tree or you will have the barn lights in the background…either way…..should photographer beautifully as well as function well.

All the lights glowing this time of evening, people’s bellies are full so their full attention can be on this moment, it just makes for a grand way to wind down the evening a bit.  I love this picture above because you not only see the tender moment between bride Savannah and her father, but you can see how comfortable and casual people are sitting on the large boulders behind them, sitting in the grass beyond them, and just folks chilling out in the  background as they get to be witnesses to this magical moment.  Anyway……….this is just too awesome of a set up not to consider it as an option.  Plus…we are adding some really cool lighting effects to this old pear tree so it will be even more stunning of a photo this for this year’s brides.

One of my last decorating opportunity last year, I told the bride that I was going to “doll up certain areas” to add a whispy romantic touch and one of these areas was in front of the buffet room.  I added a collage of vintage frames – some with mirror insets and some empty…but I loved the look that it gave…..and it does add a cute element to those walls.  So – we decided to keep it as a permanent accent wall.  A wedding or two later, Caressa Rogers Photography captured this amazing photo that at least highlights why I like the look…whether as a cake table backdrop or even for your tea and lemonade drink station.

So, just in case you have not visited the barn in a while…..imagine and enjoy this new accent wall and find a way for it to help dazzle your own wedding day!

Two more important notes that are related to the barn before I end.  One….we have added more of the farmhouse tables to our inventory of “included furniture pieces”.  This brings us up to 7 Farmhouse tables and 3 of the larger barnwood tables.

Having now 10 wood tables that you can use for your reception will allow you to either use exclusively wood tables for your reception needs (if your wedding is 75 guests or smaller)….or we can mix the rounds and the wood tables in  a mismatch fashion which looks great.  For each wood table that you incorporate – it will save you money on linens plus it infuses the cool farmhouse look into your layout.  Some brides have done this last year utilizing the fewer wood tables that we had and you can see how trendy the look was.

Even in this photo above, you can see how this bride rented colored napkins for each table that infused her color scheme as well as tied the different tables together with the similar napkin.

The bride in the second photo used a colored runner PLUS a different color napkin to infuse her colors.  Neither is necessary but you can see by these photos how interesting the look becomes by the mix.  And…don’t fret, Jill is a master at blending the mix so she can help you with those layout decisions.  Ultimately, of course, if you do want to use all round tables with linens – that certainly is your choice to do so too!

We have also added 6 high top tables to our inventory as well.  These again do not require linens as most high tops do but look cool and funky enough without them but you could certainly add them if you desired.  These can be set up outside for your cocktail hour, in the dancehall for guests to set their drinks on, or even in the main part of the barn as back up table options for unexpected guests.

This for now is where I will end Part II but don’t think this is the last of it.  One more blog posting for the Open House is going to continue the pictures and news about the renovations. We have one more fully packed Farm Blog telling about some Farmhouse renovations but also about a few new “services” and “options” that we have added to our list of “extras.”  Do I still have you interested?  Great!  Check in later this week.

A shout-out to my number one construction company that is always on board to help us with our crazy ideas and our winter projects.  Steve, the man, finds a way to “make it happen.”   I paint the picture for him….I concentrate on the art department side, but Steve at Woodward Enterprises figures out the logistics.  It is a collaboration for sure as me and Jill go back and forth and back and forth over vision and what we think would look best until we agree (no small feat for a mother-daughter duo).  Then….we get Steve involved in the “how best to make it happen” side of things and him and his crew go to work.  I am sure that they tell tales about us and our crazy antics.  And I am confident that I have finally taught Steve to think outside the box now.  But I did want to thank them officially here for their hard work.  It is great to have such a diverse work crew who you can trust to be on your property no matter what….and that they will work hard to get your vision completed.


That’s it for now….check back in a couple of days for the final post in this series – Open House Part III.

~ Margie