In the auction business, everything old can become something new again.
And while Wayne Barness has made it is his business to find new owners for old items running an auction house, his business mantra can be applied to his personal life.
Barness has nearly finished renovation of a house at 328 Old Highway 150 North, in Fayette that has resulted in a major facelift for an 85-year-old structure.
Yet recycling old materials isn't something new for this West Union man.
Barness has always had an appreciation for antiques. Some years ago, he also gave a facelift to a cabin he owned at Lansing. After selling that summer home, he turned his attention to the little brown house at Fayette's north edge, where Karen and Gary Becker raised their family, before moving a new home a few years ago.
The little brown house, built in 1929-- is situated in an idyllic location, nestled into a hillside where a spring begins and meanders through the remaining property.
Barness started working on the property by clearing what had been a horse pasture, and then moving enough dirt so the spring pools just outside the deck to the south of the house. But his work was just beginning. Being in the auction business, Wayne scoured websites and auction bills for materials he could use in his project. One of his best finds, he says, were the 18-inch wide barn boards that served as a barn floor. Friends in Boaz, Wis. who frequented his auction house in West Union, provided him with history on old barns and how they were put together.
The auctioneer says he thoroughly cleaned the wood, and put on three coats of polyurethane. He then attached the extra-wide boards to the studs serving as interior walls. For the exterior walls, he attached redwood lumber sawed from beams he bought in Dubuque, to two by six foot studs filled with insulation. Because the boards are old and not precise, Barness says he decided to run a bead of caulking in between the boards, resulting in a log 'chink' appearance. Signs of damage from the hay fork are evident in some places on the wood, but Barness feels that adds to the character, telling a story of sorts.
All of the interior lumber was purchased in Kendallville and also used as beams and trim boards. Flooring in the living area, is wood recycled from bleacher seats from Blooming Prairie High School. Cut to length and tongue and grooving added, the pine boards were then plugged with oak dowel pins.
Barness used a similar method on the trim boards around doorways. Because he is partial to a 'Western' kind of image, he also covered the screws that hold the trim to the wall, with wooden dowel pegs. Keeping with the theme of recycling existing materials, Wayne purchased windows that were torn from a home in Rochester, Minn. Fortunately, he was able to make the windows fit into his floor plan and the large areas of glass offer a fabulous view of the well-landscaped yard. In the kitchen, Barness and friend, Sharon chose to add color to the otherwise mostly wood-look of the home's interior. Amish carpenter Fred Gingerich, Wadena, constructed the kitchen cabinets, and Wayne and Sharon will finish them with a coat of red paint. The red cabinets accent the red paint used to refurbish 15 hay trolleys used as lighting throughout the house. Barness said friends have told him the hay trolleys were typically made by the town blacksmith – and back 100 years ago – every town had it's own craftsman. Adding a bit of brightness to the ceiling and helping to reflect light from the hanging fixtures on original hay tracks that once hung in Midwest barns, are sheets of corrugated steel.
In the bathroom/shower area, Wayne decided to keep the stone wall that was part of the previous house, as it contributes to the intrinsic nature of the home. Although he isn't sure if the tale is true, Barness has heard that the home is situated where there was once a 'Cracker Brewery.' He explains, "They couldn't sell you beer, but they could sell the crackers and the beer was free." Because there is a natural spring emanating from the hillside behind the house, he admits it makes sense that the site would have been perfect for keeping beer cold, or even using the natural spring water in the making of the beer. While Barness admits his home of up-cycled materials wouldn't be for everyone, he's very pleased with the way things have turned out. "If you're a young person, the old things and recycled materials used in the structure probably don't mean anything," he says. But people like Barness' cousin, Ken Reinertson, also of Fayette, from whom Wayne acquired some of the antique hay hooks, enjoy reminiscing about an earlier era when hay rails and hay hooks were used with the power of horses to do the work. "When I was in my early twenties, I moved a Montgomery Ward house to where Lonnie and Mary Ann Brekke live now," he says. "Bert Aylsworth helped me, but I have always enjoyed challenges like that. I suppose I'm probably doing this to prove something to myself," he admits. And perhaps he'll never truly be done with improving on the house he's built. But then, perhaps that's what keeps him young. There's always a new challenge waiting.