“Amy builds. I un-build.” That is how Brett Trefethen captures the essence of Barn Boards and More: the unique business partnership that he and his wife, Amy Grant-Trefethen, have crafted over the past ten years.

They recycle old barns and other structures before these fade from the landscape, salvaging as much as possible and creating new furniture, decor and art from their finds. In the process, they have amassed enough architectural salvage, vintage timber and barn finds to open a retail shop and custom-made furniture studio in a repurposed warehouse at 521 Water Street, a half mile from downtown Gardiner.

It all started in 2008, when they learned of an enormous three-story barn in Manchester that had already been knocked down by someone who chose to use a chainsaw to extract a few timbers, and then walked away from the mess.

“A lot of it was salvageable and we hated to see it go to the dump or the burn pile,” says Grant-Trefethen. “We offered to finish the job properly and ended up with a lot of good material for our own 1805 Mt. Vernon farmhouse that we were in the process of rehabbing.”
Since then, the couple has completely torn down about 30 barns, and they have “picked” or reclaimed wood and other parts of 70 or 80 other barns and buildings across the state.

“We have yet to advertise— old barns seem to find us,” they said. Each barn dismantling can take anywhere from a month to a year to accomplish, and begins with an inspection and a detailed proposal, including a timeline.

“It’s great to think that by offering an alternative to bulldozing barns, we’ve saved the equivalent of a small forest. By my rough calculations, we’ve salvaged the equivalent of about 6,400 10-12” diameter trees,” Trefethen said.

Besides their concern for the environment, they share a passion for preserving and restoring “old stuff, and creating a future for objects with a past. This is achieved by repurposing: using something old in a new way – or upcycling, transforming something old into something new. “Everything we come across has its own story, and that makes it so wonderful,” says Trefethen.

“I learned a lot from my dad, who was a builder and had his own workshop as well,” says Grant-Trefethen, who worked in visual merchandising for Patagonia in Freeport before starting this family business. The regional manager was so taken by a faux wall she had built of vintage barn boards and brought in to use as a store backdrop that Grant-Trefethen was soon making replicas for Patagonia stores as far away as England and Australia.

Grant-Trefethen is the brains and beauty behind the operation, according to Trefethen who left a career in education to become the self-proclaimed “Materials Acquisition Department… and the delivery guy.” He also handles wood order processing, which may entail cleaning, trimming, measuring, sanding, and applying polyurethane coating as requested, to the reclaimed barn boards that customers can select from their ever-growing, ever-changing inventory.

Customers and commercial clients can also order custom-designed tables and other furniture and installations made to order by Grant-Trefethen in their Mt. Vernon woodshop. For those who are not drawn to the appearance of reclaimed wood with its inherent imperfections and distinct markings, “I can also plane the surfaces for a more polished and contemporary, mid-century modern feeling,” says Trefethen.

“We enjoy working with contractors to replace old parts or to add rustic elements to new homes,” said Trefethen. “It’s amazing how much character one mantel or even a coffee table can lend to a space.”

They take special pleasure and pride in incorporating salvaged items with sentimental value – such as wood reclaimed from an old family barn or homestead – to create new useful or decorative items with a built-in legacy, a story to tell for future generations of family members.
Demand has grown enough that they have hired another builder, Nate Armstrong, while Teen Griffin often anchors the sales floor while Grant-Trefethen is in the woodshop and Trefethen is out on a job or a delivery.

In this family business, the couple’s 16-year-old son Bryce is also becoming a skilled craftsman in the woodshop, while 13-year-old daughter Ella helps Aunt Toosie create lovely handmade aprons and pillows and Uncle Robert offers upcycled wooden picture frames and boxes. Among other local items available here are Birtwell Farm goat’s milk soaps, photography by Norman Rodrigue and Mikaela Gibbs’ custom signs.

The business, started just ahead of the DIY (do it yourself) curve, has been attracting a growing following since it first opened a retail storefront in downtown Hallowell two years ago. Now Barn Boards and More has settled into its spacious Gardiner location, with plenty of room to display finished products in their store as well as for their inventory of lumber and barn finds.

Grant-Trefethen has begun to offer some classes such as string art and paint night, setting up makeshift tables with old doors laid across sawhorses, offering light refreshments (BYOB) and even the occasional food truck. Their upcoming expansion into the adjacent warehouse space will soon make it easier to hold more classes here and to offer the rustic, loft-like venue for event rentals such as bridal showers and even wedding receptions.

Despite its impressive size, Barn Boards and More can nonetheless be easy to miss as it’s built into a hill, below street level. Locals will recall the building, next to D&H Motors, as the longtime home of Standard Distributors.

“When we first saw it, the interior was dark and crammed with floor-to-ceiling shelves of motor oil, air filters, and tarps,” says Grant-Trefethen. After clearing out the old inventory, adding new windows and reconfigured lighting, the space is now attractive and welcoming. The high ceilings, old garage bay door and loading dock all remain, making it easy to maneuver furniture and oversize items. There is ample parking as well.

Barn Boards and More is currently open Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. 3 p.m. as well as by appointment. Later in the summer, the hours will be extended. An open house is planned for June. For more information, visit barnboardsandmore.com or visit their Facebook page or call 213-6777.