Beautiful Barn Event Venue

Photo Courtesy of Juays Photography

How One Couple Built the Barn Event Venue of Their Dreams

Posted by Sarah Asp Olson on February 22, 2018

Discover how one couple transformed their property by building a barn event venue for weddings and other parties, and their advice for how you can, too.

Around September 2015, Art Strahan’s oldest daughter came to him with a request:

“Brittany wanted to get married on the property,” says Art. “She said ‘I want to have my reception in the new barn. Can y’all make it happen?’”

One hiccup: there wasn’t a barn.

Building A Dream Barn & Event Venue

Building A Dream Barn & Event Venue

Photo Courtesy of Jill Houser Photography

Art and his wife, Adriana, started developing their 74-acre property in Hallsville, Texas, in 2011, in a small community called Walkers Mill. As a retirement plan, the couple wanted to use the land to serve the area. In fact, they’d been researching barns and event spaces and had even settled on a Barn Pros model they liked. Their daughter’s request turbo-charged that vision.

“She was getting married in June,” says Art.

A barn would typically take a year or more to design and build, but with hard work and a lot of hands-on effort, the Strahan’s made sure their daughter had her dream venue within a range of six months, between forest and a barn. Building the structure also quickly launched the next phase of Art and Adriana’s dream for their property.

“The carpenter who was physically responsible for building the barn was also getting married that same year, in November,” says Art. “He came to us and asked if he could get married on the property and have the reception there. It really started to grow legs after that.”

In the past year, they’ve had all kinds of events at the barn: debutantes, corporate trainings, women’s retreats, birthday parties and more.

“We have seen now a completely different property, which we just want to share with people,” says Adriana.

Journey to The Mill Barn

Rustic Wedding at The Mill Barn

Photo Courtesy of David C. Allen Photography

Art and Adriana were, actually, the first couple to get married at Walkers Mill, before it was Walkers Mill Vineyard & Winery. The two met nearly 20 years ago when Art was participating in a mission trip in Adriana’s native country – Brazil.

“I was assigned to be his interpreter by the Baptist Convention,” she says. “We worked really well together for one week, but we both were married and we lost contact for 13 years.”

In 2011, both divorced, they reconnected on Facebook.

Art, an orthopedic surgeon, and Adriana, an attorney, decided to make Texas their home. They were married on the property in late 2011 in an intimate ceremony.

Once they moved onto the land as a family—including their four daughters—they began to dream in earnest about what Walkers Mill could be.

“It just sort of transformed as time went on,” says Art. “As we used to walk in the forest, picking the wild muscadine, we would say to each other, ‘This place is meant to have life.’”

More Than a Barn

Barn Event Venue

Photo Courtesy of Jill Houser Photography

When the Strahan’s daughter requested a venue—stat—they knew generally which design they wanted, but were intent on customizing some aspects.

Using Barn Pros’ Ayshire 72’ as a template, they added knotty alder and steel doors, installed a picture window and oval windows on the second floor, and put in another dormer, a balcony and a second floor with a mezzanine. They also added interior wood siding and converted trusses to box beams.

“Barn Pros was just amazing,” says Adriana. “We loved one of their styles, but we wanted to make some changes. They were easy to accommodate and made it fit to what we wanted.”

The Strahan’s hired a local contractor to construct the barn, which arrived disassembled on two flatbed trucks.

The final structure is almost churchlike. The 6,336-square-foot barn has vaulted ceilings, a spacious great room and a full kitchen. There are bridal and groom’s suites and gardens surrounding the wraparound deck. One of the most exciting things for Art and Adriana is seeing how different groups customize the space and make it their own.

“That’s what is so fun,” says Art. “We saw our vision and knew what we wanted, but every time someone comes they completely transform it to something different.”

Art and Adriana are still working out what Walkers Mill will be in the coming years—there’s talk of cabins, walking trails and meals prepared on site—but one thing they agree on, Walkers Mill is more than just a business.

“It’s more than a vineyard, it’s more than a barn, more than a venue. It’s an extension of who we are, an extension of our love, an extension of our faith,” says Art.

Pro Tips for Starting a Wedding and Event Venue

Rustic Wedding Venue and Event Center

Photo Courtesy of David C. Allen Photography

Art and Adriana didn’t necessarily set out to create a wedding and event center, but they have learned a few things along the way:

1. Have a plan and a vision.

Art and Adriana say they stumbled into the event venue business, but they moved forward because it fit with their overall vision for sharing their property and enriching the community.

“You need to see the big picture even though you’re not able to accomplish everything at once,” says Adriana.

2. Partner with the right people.

When it came to building a barn, working with Barn Pros was a huge boon. Instead of just a company from which they purchased a pre-designed kit, Barn Pros became a partner in design and construction.

“The relationship was, in theory, done as they delivered the kit and we paid,” says Adriana, “But, no. They followed really close and were a real advocate to us and to the project and the vision.”

3. Get your hands dirty.

Adriana jokes that she is a lawyer who became a farmer. In truth, her current title could also include carpenter, plumber, vintner and even amateur veterinarian.

“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and Adriana isn’t either,” says Art.

4. Check your aesthetic.

One benefit to a Barn Pros build is the myriad of customizable options. The Strahan’s intentionally chose design elements that would enhance a wide variety of decoration styles.

“What we strived to do when it came to the design aspect was avoid things that were specifically Texas or specifically country, so you could be white tablecloth and black tie or, just a couple days later, you could haul in hay bales and have a hoedown,” says Art.

5. Stick to your vision, but don’t be afraid to pivot.

“Be flexible,” says Art. “Sometimes a better idea comes along on the fly—the contractor has an idea, the carpenter has an idea, someone walks by and says something—sometimes that changes everything.”

6. Understand your own temperament.

There are days when you’ll come home after a long day looking to relax, but “when you’re driving up the driveway and there are three cars there—that was an adjustment for me,” Art says. It took time to learn to share their home and create the boundaries between private and work life.

“If you don’t like people,” he says. “This is not the thing to do.”

7. There isn’t one right way.

The Strahan’s vision for their property has evolved since their wedding in 2011, and they continue to dream about what’s next.

“If you’re passionate about it and thinking about it, go for it,” says Art.

All photos courtesy of Art and Adriana Strahan.

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Sarah Asp Olson

Sarah is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Delta Sky, Country's Best Cabins, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and more. Sarah has written about everything from rural cabin life and home decor trends to higher education and the country music scene in Norway. Check out some of her work at http://www.sarahaspolson.com.

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