Friday, December 18, 2015
Red Barns: Fashion or Function?
Most of us have admired numerous barns across the countryside, but have you ever wondered why so many are red? Have you ever wondered why red was the color of choice for barn painters of the past?
Farmers often 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, commonly 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. Hence, the red hue of the barns.
Over time, barns bedecked in red paint became as much a reason of fashion than function. 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 some of us incorporate into our homes is anywhere from a chippy red color to mostly bare weathered wood. Lumber reclaimed from barns no longer has to be sealed with linseed oil to protect it from the elements. Its days of braving Mother Nature’s weather patterns are over; instead its natural enemies are pets and children who play on or around it. The stately Rustic Mountain Barnwood Farmhouse Trestle Table is now a treasured accent piece of a rustic home’s interior, sheltered by a roof and walls. The reclaimed barnwood furniture that now resides in our dining room is envied by its friends in the countryside, still left with their red coats to brave nature’s fury.