by Nikki Alvin-Smith
Do you know the artful ways to make small spaces feel like big places? Interior design knowledge can help you make the most of your horse barn tack room space. Improve the form, fit and functionality with these simple approaches to design. These methods are all easy to implement and not expensive to accomplish.
Add a Few Feet Or Combine Stalls
If you are fortunate enough to be in the planning stage of building your new horse barn then consider the benefit of adding a few feet to the size of the tack room. While a 12’ by 12’ stall can easily manage as a good tack room, if you take a few extra feet to 12’ x 14’ or 16’ the slightly larger size can make a world of difference to the interior perspective.
For example, if you take two of the usual 12’ square stalls and cut one down to make a bathroom (include a corner shower, toilet and small sink for maximum functionality – a well-designed 12’ x 8’ space can easily accommodate all bathroom features), then the remaining few feet combined with the second stall will make a great tack room.
Similarly the addition of a foot or two in height to the exterior barn wall can add significant cubic footage to a tack room as well as neighboring stalls. If there is a dropped ceiling/loft space above the tack room there is not much option to expand the cubic footage in the tack room. If you have the opportunity to leave the space up to the rafters open it offers some nice design finishing options. A rustic look can be very appealing that highlights the beams above. Timber frame modular builds really lend themselves to this option as their aesthetically appealing mortise and tenon joinery combined with arched timbers offer a great ambience.
It is prudent to enclose all sides of the tack room to protect it from vermin and dust, as well as boost its security level.
Pulley systems with drop down shelving or loft space can be useful for extra storage.
Existing barns lend themselves to removal of a stall partition wall and combining two stalls into one large tack room space.
Shed Some Light
The more natural light you can allow into any interior space the larger it will feel. Installation of windows is a good idea. However, avoid using all your wall space for windows as this will limit availability for cupboards, counters, saddle racks and other storage options.
Windows can also pose a security risk. As tack and equipment are valuable items it is a smart idea to fit the windows with some form of security protection. Tall, narrow windows may not allow as much light to enter the room but should still be sufficient to add natural light and may also offer energy saving advantages for daily use of the tack room.
Banking windows across the top of the exterior wall (fenestrated window) is a good option to consider as this area is hard to reach for storage needs. Ensure the windows offer an easy clean option. Consider self-cleaning glass as a good long-term investment. While the windows may not always look quite as clean as you’d like as it takes a while for the chemical cleaning reaction to activate, in hard to access areas it is a boon.
The addition of a mirror on the interior wall that reflects light from the window offers a good counter point to spread light and provides a useful feature for folks to use to try and tidy up that inevitable hat hair following a ride.
While a fully automated door option would be ideal when you are carrying a heavy saddle, with reins from a bridle catching on your legs as you walk, they are not very practical in the horse barn. Expensive to purchase, these doors will open and close whenever you walk a horse close by. For these reasons ‘open sesame’ style automatic doors are not often found in equine housing areas.
Self-closing doors on the other hand are a great idea. They are likely required by your Building Code Officer to help mitigate the risk of the spread of fire. Leaving the tack room door ajar invites vermin in and if the space is heated allows warm air to escape, so a self-closing door helps eliminate those issues too.
Extra wide tack room entry doors (36” wide is a good choice), make life easier when it comes to daily use, especially with the often-bulky stuff that horse folks are usually carrying about.
Tack room doors can be secured with a passcode lock system for easy use by permitted users of the space.
You may be tempted to place the entry door in the center of the tack room interior wall, but this is not the best idea. It is better placed to the corner of the space as it will free up more wall space in the interior for storage options.
Uniformity and Color Choices
The color wheel is a great place to look for inspiration on color choices.
It is wise to remember that lighter colors provide a more spacious feeling than darker ones. Cooler colors such as blues, grays and whites are good color choices for small spaces. Darker colors offer a warmer feel.
Where wood finished walls are included opting for a light pine with a light stain application, rather than a cherry or mahogany species (both of which are expensive to buy), will give the tack room a roomier feel.
Don’t be shy to mix wood species within a room but be aware the more uniform the color and finish the surfaces of a room are, the larger the space will feel.
Floors that offer a contrast of color help ground the space. High impact rated tile and polished/painted/stained concrete are popular choices (especially if radiant heat is installed these are an optimal choice). Wood floors offer warmth and less likelihood of damage to items that may be dropped such as saddles.
Choose flooring that is easy clean to save labor and mitigate the risk of damage from spills and accidents. Hoof oils and boot polish are common offenders!
If you’ve ever lived in a small space such as a simplified living tiny house, cabin or an RV, you know that small spaces necessarily require some crafty designs to optimize their efficiency and daily use. Look at these designs for some inspiration.
Details like hard furniture acquisition selection, counter depths, size or portability of center islands (a great idea to use that central dead space in the room), should all be carefully considered. For example, chairs or couches with minimal arm rest widths can still do their job comfort wise without taking up unnecessary space.
If you are somewhat handy but cannot manage the workmanship level of custom carpentry, and don’t want to expense the funds to hire a good finish carpenter to craft your tack room needs, consider buying units from box brands like IKEA online, where units can be adjusted and easily cut down to fit a specific area.
Modular barn builders often offer upgrades to their designs where fitted tack chests and cupboard storage can arrive complete and ready for use, with the advantage of known costs with their ‘to the penny’ quotes for the entire building, set up and delivery.
High End Details
Where possible incorporate high-end features and details to elevate and ‘class up’ the impression of the tack room. The more confined a space the more people notice the finishing touches.
Good quality hardware on cabinets, well-designed light fixtures, neatly joined and painted base or crown molding, can all showcase a high level of care and attention as well as offer great functionality and express good taste.
Extra Take Home Notes
When it comes time to decide where to put what, keep all dirt producing items such as boots at ground level and items that are heavy to lift such as saddles within easy reach of the average height human. Baskets and bins for horse ‘clobber’ such as bandages, bell boots and exercise equipment should be kept handy and hopefully in easy to see locations.
A pulley system with a large shelf can offer extra room for seasonal use items like clean, folded horse blankets, show equipment not for daily use such as pristine white saddle pads and breeches, show helmets, hats and boots etc.
The inclusion of some form of seating area in the tack room is a good idea as pulling boots on and off, tack cleaning and other barn duties often entail time and effort where a place to sit is appreciated. Especially as we age up.
A tempered glass window in the top half of the entry door can alleviate the risk in high traffic barns of people crashing into each other coming and going. It also adds light to the room to further improve a spacious feel.
Shop for comfort and practical solutions to common tack room issues. Nuances such as saddle mattresses that protect the underside of expensively, carefully flocked saddles when stored, shaped padded crown bridle hooks to minimize stress on leather headpieces, and rubber hooks instead of metal ones in prominent places that offer purpose but not risk of injury are all good ideas.
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Feel free to contact Nikki Alvin-Smith for further information and high-res photos.
About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
Photos are available on request.
About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
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Grand Prix Dressage
Please visit https://www.horseinakiltmedia.com/to learn more about her affordable services.