Farmyard to furniture: How two brothers are preserving the history of Sask. barns
REGINA -- If you’re driving on a Saskatchewan highway, it doesn’t take long to come across an old barn or grain elevator. Two brothers from the province took note of that, as well as the rising popularity of reclaimed wood, and created a business.
The Prairie Barn Brothers tear down old structures and repurpose the wood to make home decor and furniture. It started in January of 2018 when Tyler Slowski and his brother, Nathan, tore down a friend’s barn.
“We started wanting to deconstruct these barns to preserve the rich farming history of Saskatchewan. We thought ‘all these buildings that were being torn down or burnt and there’s so much good lumber on it,’” Slowski said. “We wanted to salvage it and reuse, recycle and reclaim it.”
They aim to salvage enough wood from every structure to be able to give some to the property owners, to sell some and to keep some to do their own projects.
They’ve created a wide variety of furniture and decor including accent walls, desks, tables, shelves and quilt ladders.
Slowski said the wood goes well with almost every home design.
“There’s so many different unique applications you can do with the barn wood that just makes it stunning,” he said. “We regularly get cedar, fir, spruce and spine as the major types of wood.”
When the brothers started out, it was just the two of them doing it as a hobby with some help from their immediate family when necessary.
Two years later, they’ve hired eight members to help them with their current project which is their biggest yet: a 126 x 68 two-storey timber frame barn.
The Prairie Barn Brothers are spending a few weeks in the Regina area as they slowly deconstruct their biggest barn yet.
It belongs to the Harle family, who has owned the land for decades.
“The barn was built in 1910 and established in 1911,” Lorne Harle, the 90-year-old property owner, said. “The barn was used for everything and there’s a lot of history to it.”
Harle said throughout the family’s decades with the barn, it’s stored everything, including livestock, grain and general farm equipment.
His son, Ken Harle, grew up on the farm and has fond memories of days spent in the barn.
“I wouldn’t say it was more important than the house, but it’s right up there,” Ken said. “But it’s time. The lumber can be reused and there will be lots of homes enjoying the lumber.”
“It’s served its purpose and it may as well come down now while it’s still usable rather than ending up in a pile of rubbish.”
Slowski said it’s important for them to work closely and build strong relationships with their clients and property owners, because of the sentimental value the buildings often have.
“We want to ensure that they’re happy with what we’re doing, because it is hard for them to see a barn like this go when it’s been in the family so long,” Slowski said.
It will take a few weeks for their current tear down to be complete. When the barn is down, the wood will eventually be dispersed into homes across the province where it can help new families make memories just like it did for the Harle family.
“It’s just so beautiful that you can actually take something that’s 100 years old, and recreate something to last another 100 years for another family,” Slowski said.
In 2019, they were offered about 100 barns through social media or word of mouth.
“We want to continue to grow because we know there are so many different industrial buildings, barns and grain elevators around Saskatchewan that could be salvaged,” Slowski said.
Although growth has been quick, Slowski said he’s not entirely surprised because of the high demand for refinished wood.
“There’s a lot of demand in bigger cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto,” he said. “But we want to grow and give back to Saskatchewan now, so that’s really what we’re focusing on is opening up doors here for people to buy reclaimed wood from us.”