Red Red Barn

Most of us have admired numerous barns across the countryside, but have you ever noticed that the majority of them are red (or some faded variation of red)? Have you ever wondered why red was the color of choice for these agricultural icons?

A quick Google search will yield several results, with various but similar reasons. Farmers of the past used linseed oil to seal the wood of their barns. This treatment yielded a rustic earthy color, and varied according to what additions were made to the oil. It has been said that farmers would commonly add ferrous oxide, otherwise known as rust, to the oil. Rust was cheap and plentiful, and provided the benefit of a natural mold and moss deterrent. Of course, the addition of rust also yielded a red-orange color to the wood to which it was applied.

Over time, red barns became a thing of fashion. The bright red color provided a striking contrast to the traditionally white farmhouse. Once paint began production with chemical pigments, red was also the most cost efficient color to buy. This was, of course, appealing to the pocketbook of the typically frugal farmer.

While the barns of our landscape are usually some form of red, the beautiful barnwood furniture that we incorporate into our homes is usually void of any color but the aged character of bare wood. Reclaimed barn wood no longer has to be sealed with linseed oil to protect it from the elements. Its days of fighting Mother Nature are over; instead its only enemies are the pets and children who play on or around it. The dining room table and coffee table are now treasured pieces of a home’s interior, sheltered by a roof and walls. The reclaimed barnwood furniture of dining and living rooms is envied by the barns of the countryside, still left with their red coats to brave nature’s fury.

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