Michelle Berman is a Yankee Barn Homes’ client who recently completed her Hamptons build, Bay View. This was Michelle’s first build and we wanted to hear about her experience. We think you’ll find her insights interesting and informative.
YBH: How did you find out about Yankee Barn? How did you find us?
Michelle: I started to think about building a home out in the Hamptons and I saw that everybody as a broker was touting the modern barn and the barn aesthetic as a building style. People seem to be drawn to it. I was thinking, I’ve seen a barn home company, somewhere. It was there in the back of my head. I recall thinking, there’s a company that’s actually a real barn building company. I did a search on authentic barn builds and came up with Yankee Barn Homes. Then I started to look at your website. I spent more and more time on it. I finally called YBH after spending quite a bit of time looking around the site. I spoke with Jen Hastings and she told me Jeff Rosen (co-owner of YBH) was going to be in the Hamptons at one of his builds.
Jeffrey was building the Tisbury model at the time I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted a design build firm. I wanted to work with a company that did everything in-house rather than start with an architect. I just didn’t want to go that route. So, I met with Jeff at the Tisbury. After seeing so many homes out here (The Hamptons), I walked into that house, looked around, and said, Oh My Gosh, I’m going to build one of these houses. It was immediate because Yankee Barn houses are so special and different and authentic. It was kind of like, I want to build a barn, but I need it to be the right kind of barn. Not a fad barn, but the real deal.
YBH: You’ve pretty much answered my second question, which is, why you decided to use YBH? You basically walked into one, saw it and said, this is it. Right?
Michelle: The quality of the build, right. And the elements, the design elements. It was high-end, very special, and unique. All of that together just said, Wow! There is good and bad architecture here in the Hamptons. There’s a style of home that people gravitate towards which is a typical Centre hall kind of Hamptons style, a gabled house. Everybody builds those. You can walk in one and it looks like the one you just left. That never happens with a Yankee Barn. I thought “I have to stand out in a crowd of successful builders who’ve been doing this for years”. This was my first experience building. I thought I’d better come into the market with something special.Here is a little bit of an aside: A broker recently came to see the house before his customer, because he wanted to preview it. As I was taking him through the front door (he’s a highly successful broker around here), he walked in as I said, “It’s a Yankee Barn”. And he said “I follow them! I’m on their website all the time, I love Yankee Barn Homes. I want to have a Yankee Barn. I want to build a Yankee Barn.” This is when I said, “You should build one.” He was just so excited about Yankee Barn Homes.
YBH: That’s a great story and leads to my next question. Tell me about your experience with the staff at Yankee Barn. What did you find satisfying and what did you feel could have been done differently?
Michelle: I would have to say there is absolutely nothing that disappointed me. There’s nothing that could’ve been done differently. It was the most extraordinary, wonderful experience from the very beginning. And I was a tough customer. Yankee Barn and I spoke about what I wanted; we went through everything first. I said I wanted to build the Tisbury. Then we figured out it wouldn’t work on my property because it is very sloped. So, the YBH Design Team had to go back to the drawing board. We talked through what I wanted, and they came up with this really great design and we fine-tuned it. And I said, “Yes, this looks like it. Can we do this? Can we do this?” And they did. Just as the design was done, I got to see the property with the trees cut down and cleared away.
When I stood on the property, I went crazy. I realized, oh no! This house must be upside down. The views are not on the main level! They are higher up. I called Jeff Rosen, panicked, because everybody had done their job. YBH did the design, it was done. I signed off on it. Oh NO. Oh NO. Oh NO! I just had the land cleared. I’m looking into another house! Who wants to look right into the front door of another house? I made the biggest mistake. I didn’t know what to do. I literally was panicked, and Jeffrey is such a calm person. He’s a great guy. He said, “I’ll come out tomorrow. Let me look at it, you know, stop by the land.” Jeff came out to the Hamptons and walked the property with me. “Okay” he said. “I think you need an upside-down house. We’re going to figure this out.” Within two days the design was redone to what you see now. It’s amazing how the YBH Design Team did that. They just figured it out. Boom, boom, boom. We lost no time. And it’s such a better design for this particular property. To top it off, there are things I like about it better than the original design!
YBH: That’s great to hear because we think our design team is phenomenal. I must say, from having been a person that wasn’t in this business originally, I’ve come to understand how phenomenal the YBH Design Team is.
Michelle: Oh, they’re amazing, and they’re fast. They listen, they come up with ideas. They were so responsive and so understanding of me. I was trying to work through things and figure out what I was looking for. It was probably the best working experience I’ve ever had with anybody in the field of building or renovating.
YBH: What were the must haves for your design?
Michelle: I had to have all en suite bathrooms, each bedroom with its own bath. I didn’t want any shared bathrooms. I needed them to feel big in a small space. I wanted a maximum number of bedrooms and wanted them all to have private bathrooms. I didn’t want a hallway bathroom.
I wanted a dramatic center piece staircase. I wanted a great room with an open, expansive feeling. I didn’t want a formal living room. I like that most of your barn homes are open. I wanted the main living space of the house to be a huge room. It’s usually the area where people spend 90% of their time, so I wanted it to be large and impressive.
The open space in the living area is one of the differences from the original design. It is so much better. The original design was a double height living room. Since flipping the floor plan, there was no option for a double height living room, but I got an additional family room with the current design. From the perspective of a home that you’re either entertaining in or if your family is visiting, there are two very distinct, but very wonderful living areas. You could be upstairs eating dinner with parents/friends while kids could go down into the family room (that opens to the pool) and have a great time. The upside-down floor plan added a whole other space that I didn’t even know would be valuable. People really love it. I still have maximum bang and a real WOW-factor between the stairwell and the upstairs space. I didn’t lose anything and gained a beautiful space.
YBH: It looks like you always meant for the plan to have main living space on the upper level.
Michelle: I didn’t want to build an upside-down house because there are people who don’t want a flipped floor plan. They don’t want to walk upstairs. I completely understand. I put in an elevator. My decision had to do with being a real estate agent and thinking about selling it. People don’t want to carry their groceries up another flight of stairs when they come in the door. Therefore, it was designed to have an elevator, but I was on the fence as to whether I’d actually put it in or make the space into closets.
Then came the only other hiccup. And it was a big one. We realized the topography of the land had a 16 feet slope difference from one end to the other. Wow! And the house was already designed. I needed stairs to get up to the front door. And the topography was a very difficult thing to work around. So the house design evolved more because of that issue. When we designed the house, I didn’t really understand the topography. Remember, the land hadn’t been cleared when I bought it. The house was originally going to have six bedrooms, two on the lower level. I said, okay, now that we have 12 steps to get into the front door, let’s take away one lower level bedroom and make that space a ground level entry. This allows entry from the driveway level and direct access to the elevator. Again, that was another design change that Yankee Barn made because I was freaking out about the 12-step front entry.
That was the other big change I talked through with Yankee Barn. Within four hours I had a new design that took the bedroom away and incorporated the elevator. This was after the original designs were submitted to the town for permitting and everything. So that was a hiccup that got fixed very quickly by Yankee Barn Homes.
YBH That’s wonderful to hear.
Michelle: The thing I would say about Yankee Barn is they were right there, going through the process with me. They were very understanding. Because it was my first build, I didn’t really know what I was doing. YBH was very accommodating and just so easy to work with. They made me feel that we were all part of the same team. I could tell the house meant as much to them as it did to me.
YBH: How likely would you be to recommend Yankee Barn Homes?
Michelle: Oh my God. 100%. And I intend to build another one, you know. The goal would be to do this again. Yes, I would highly recommend Yankee Barn Homes and would love to do it again, and some day, to live in one, myself.
Every one of Jeffrey Rosen’s YBH homes are so spectacular. Everyone down here loves them, they’re just amazing. And he’s such an incredibly talented man. I mean, I say to him, “People say, well, who did this? Or, who owns this, or who built it?” Jeff’s response was “Well, I didn’t physically build it, but I developed it.” I told Jeff, “When people complement me I feel like I’m cheating because really, it was mostly Yankee Barn Homes.” Jeff replied “That’s okay. We don’t mind, so long as you recommend us. It’s not a problem. We’re glad to play second fiddle. It’s not a problem.”
Photography by Saunders & Associates