Black and White Barndominium in Centra Iowa designed by Morton and Morris Lare Interior Design

The Winterset Barndominium Floor Plans and Concept

In this post, we’re excited to introduce a very unique construction project, a barndominium unlike our previous custom home builds, located just west of Winterset, Iowa, in rural Lorimer We have been involved since the earliest phase of the project, working with the client to develop the barndominium floor plans all the way through finishes, lighting, cabinetry, and furnishings. In this post, we’ll walk you through the floor plans that we developed as well as the mood boards we created for each room.

What is a barndominium anyway?

At the end of 2022, one of our previous clients called us to tell us that they wanted to build a barndominium on an acreage that they had purchased in rural Iowa. The land was located on an old cattle farm. Initially unfamiliar with barndominiums, we discovered they are metal structures, often used as out-buildings or sheds, transformed into fully functional living spaces. You’ve probably seen this type of building many times before and never given it a second glance.

Our clients were working with Morton (a brand name synonymous with this particular type of building) to design, supply, and erect the exterior of the building.For the interior design, we began with a blank canvas. One of our initial steps was a field trip with the client and Morton representative to tour several barndominiums, or ‘barndos’, for inspiration.

How are barndominiums different from traditionally built homes?

We learned that the interior of a barndominium is almost indistinguishable from a stick built custom home. However, there were some major differences between the barndominiums we saw here in Iowa and our typical new construction home projects.

First, the barndominiums don’t have basements; they sit on slabs. Second, they are typically built as a single rectangular shape. This isn’t a requirement. But people often opt for a barndominium because it can be less expensive than a true custom home. Working within the rectangular proportion guidelines offered by the manufacturer keeps costs in line.

What are the benefits of barndominiums?

One of the main benefits of barndominiums is their relatively lower price compared to similar conventionally built homes. They are engineered offsite, and the shell is erected fairly quickly.

The interior of the barndominium can be finished however the owner likes. Stud walls are framed out inside the metal exterior. My favorite benefit to the barndominium was the lack of required interior structural support. You’ll see these buildings used as living spaces – like a traditional home – but also as hobby shops or ‘fun barns’.

Living in a rural state, we’ve had more than one client approach us about the idea of erecting this type of building on a piece of land devoted purely to recreation.

Barndominiums are very energy efficient, and the steel exteriors are virtually maintenance free. The exterior can be finished in a variety of ways. We spent quite a bit of time on the Morton website studying the different design details and color options before finalizing our selections.

Designing Our Barndominium Floor Plans

This project immediately took us back to our time as graduate students when we would start a project with a program (requirements for the functional and aesthetic features), analyze the site conditions, and then move on to roughly blocking out spaces in the basic shape of the structure. That is exactly how we approached designing this floorplan.

Iowa Barndominium Floor Plans designed by Morris Lare
Overall Floor Plan (Click to Enlarge)

Our Iowa barndominium’s living quarters measure 36’ wide by 80’ long, with one side facing a pond to the north and a hobby shed at the opposite end. Our clients wanted to use the barndominium as a vacation property centered on outdoor living with the goal of hosting their friends and family.

Our goal was to design a floor plan for the barndominium living area that incorporated a large great room with comfortable seating for at least six people, a spacious kitchen geared for entertaining, a dining area, powder room, primary suite, three guest bedrooms with ensuites, a main laundry room, and a shed bathroom and laundry space (for literally dirty clothes).

We loved having the opportunity to start from scratch on the floor plans without involving an architect. The shell of the building set the basic requirements. The interior would have radiant heat through the floors, so not only were we free of structural constraints, but we didn’t have to worry about HVAC.

iowa barndominium floor plan with four bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms
Bardnominium Living Space (Click to Enlarge)

The Living Area

We worked to design the barndominium floor plan with several intentions in mind. One was to maximize enjoyment of the views. The property is surrounded by beautiful Iowa farmland as far as the eye can see. A second goal was to bring as much light towards the interior as possible. Our great room layout draws light from three directions so that the main living space will receive light throughout the day. This was incredibly important to us since the main elevation faces north.

Great Room Layout (Click to Enlarge)

The layout is strongly symmetrical with a North South central axis splitting the space along the vaulted ceiling peak. The fireplace and range hood are aligned on an East West axis.

We knew from the start that the living quarters would be oriented toward the north side of the building and the view of the pond. The main laundry room would also serve as a semi-mudroom and the first space adjacent to the shed. The four bedrooms and bathrooms would be located in the center between the laundry and the great room.

floor plan for living and entry spaces in a barndominium 36' wide
Living and Dining Layout

We felt that the living room and the larger outdoor living would benefit more from the sunset views, so we opted to place our front door seating and fireplace in the northwest corner of the structure. On the opposite side of the great room, the kitchen and dining area open eastward to a grilling patio via a sliding door.

floor plan for kitchen and dining spaces in a barndominium 36' wide
Kitchen & Dining Layout

Both sides of the great room feature a large sliding glass door that opens onto the northern patio. The doors serve as windows but they also facilitate circulation throughout both spaces to the exterior. The living room is oriented around the fireplace, while the kitchen is arranged in a galley style with a large island. In the dining area, we incorporated a long built-in buffet that serves as a wet bar with plenty of extra storage to make up for the lack of cabinetry in the kitchen.

built-in storage incorporated into the barndominium floor plan
Extra Built-In Storage Highlighted

We designed this home with the mindset that it’s a weekend getaway. While storage is a necessity, the same requirements don’t apply the way they would in a family home. We eventually partnered with a local cabinet showroom on the cabinetry layouts, and they designed a recessed built-in storage closet in the hallway as well as extra cabinetry in the laundry room for even more storage.

The Bedrooms & Bathrooms

overall bedrooms and bathrooms layout for a banrdominium interior 36' x 80'
Overall Bedrooms Layout (Click to Enlarge)

The biggest challenge of the layout was accommodating four bedrooms with their own bathrooms in such a narrow rectangle. Normally we try to avoid long hallways, but with this particular space and requirements, we had no choice but to incorporate one.

iowa barndominium interior design of the primary bedroom and bathroom layout
Primary Bedroom & Bathroom Layout

We were able to balance out two more generous bedrooms and bathrooms that are mirror images of each other on the west with the primary suite and a smaller guest suite facing east. We prefer for primary suites to face east as much as possible to take advantage of the sunrise, especially when the property has an expansive view like this one does.

The primary suite accommodates a king size bed, generous closet space, and a bathroom with a freestanding tub, long vanity, spacious shower, and separate water closet. We wanted it to feel luxurious, like a true getaway, and less like a cabin.

barndominium guest bedrooms - back to back bedroom and bathroom floor plan
West Guest Bedrooms Layout

As we designed the two primary guest rooms, we considered that couples might want to use the bathroom at the same time. Much like hotels, we split the vanity from the water closet and shower so that one person could be getting ready while another showered or used the toilet.

Also like hotels, we eliminated the reach-in closets so that we could hang a TV opposite the bed. The built-ins include a dresser space with a television, storage for a small suitcase or duffle, and hanging space. Eliminating the drywall and doors allowed us to create much more flexible storage that was better suited to a vacation home.

bedroom with small ensuite bathroom layout
Back Guest Bedroom & Bath Layout

In the smaller back bedroom, we can still accommodate a queen size bed and nightstands, but we paired it with a smaller bathroom. A short “hallway” separates the bathroom from the bedroom so the person using the bathroom still has some privacy. The architecture here allowed for a reach-in closet in addition to wall space for a TV.

Barndominium Space Planning Challenges

During the design process, we did struggle with some of the limitations of the barndominium vs. the stick built custom home construction we’re used to. Most barndominiums are designed within a rectangle of standard proportions. There are set increments for how big or small the base shape of the building can be. We did start out with a slightly narrower design but eventually widened it to make the bedroom layouts work better. It was definitely tricky to fit everything into such a narrow footprint.

We also had to work closely with Morton on the placement of windows and doors. Once certain elements of the design were set, we couldn’t change them. In stick-built construction, we’ve seen a home framed and realized that we needed a larger window or that we had to shift a door. That isn’t possible with steel frame construction.

The Exterior Design Concept

barndominium exterior design concept black and white with black roof
The Exterior Design Concept

Once we nailed down the floor plan for the living space, we began work on the concept. After much time spent looking at inspiration photos of barndominium exteriors, our clients decided that they wanted a black and white scheme. We opted for white on the main body of the exterior with a black accent band and a black roof. Cupolas with weather vanes are a charming addition to the large roof expanse, while the cedar accents on the porch warm up the high contrast color scheme.

exterior rendering of a Morton barndominium in Iowa, black and white with cedar accents
Exterior Rendering by Morton
Black and White Barndominium Exterior with cupolas and cedar accents, Designed by Morton
Exterior Rendering by Morton

The Interior Design Concept

barndominium rustic ranch farmhouse interior design concept mood board
Interior Design Concept

For the barndominium interior, we first envisioned a farmhouse feel that was light, bright, and airy. But after working with our clients, we realized that they favored an earthy, deeper palette with natural wood. We kept the overall feeling light but warm and envisioned a white oak floor with barnwood accents and rustic wood cabinetry in the kitchen and primary suite.

rustic modern Iowa barndominium interior design concept
Interior Design Concept

Our final interior design concept evolved into modern Iowa farmhouse meets rustic mountain lodge. We transitioned our vision from a modern farmhouse, implied by the black and white exterior, to more of a modern cattle ranch, drawing on the history of the property. Our clients wanted to create a space that felt comfortable, cozy, and welcoming for their guests, with an transitional aesthetic that leaned modern with a rustic edge.

rustic modern Iowa barndominium interior design concept
Interior Design Concept

We planned to incorporate natural materials like the wood cabinetry and floors but also stone countertops, black accents, and a touch of concrete. We planned to bring in the modern touches through lighting and hardware and color through furnishings, decor, tile, and cabinetry.

We hoped you enjoyed this introductory tour through our barndominium interior design from floor plans to concept. This project has been two years in the making and should be wrapping up this summer.


We’re excited to share more of the process with you in future posts. Make sure to subscribe below to be the first to know when we publish a new post. We’re also eager to hear your thoughts on barndominiums and our specific design plan. Share your views in the comments below!

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6 Responses

  1. Oh my, this is such a fun project to read about!! Our Director of Marketing is from Iowa, and she’s confirmed that this is an innovative idea that she’s certain will inspire other homeowners nearby. Thank you for sharing, I’ll be excited to see this developed!

  2. What an incredible project, Jillian! I look forward to following along as it progresses! Congratulations!

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