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A labor of love: How a Lake Geneva area barn became a luxurious home

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When Norman and Diane Erdman first looked at the old barn at N1870 Clover Road, it was in a state of near disrepair.

When Norman and Diane Erdman first toured the barn on Clover Road it needed to be either torn down or completely renovated. But they decided t…

It was at the point where the Bloomfield barn, about seven miles outside Lake Geneva, either needed to be torn down or completely renovated.

“I think we can save it,” Norman said after touring it.

Then the work began on what is now a six-bedroom home, with four full bathrooms and two half baths.

“We started work on it in April of 2010 and we just finished last year, so 10 and a half years it took us to finish,” Diane said.

Now, after a lot of sweat and tears, the couple is hoping to find someone to buy the barn-turned-home who loves it as much as they do.

The couple, who plan to become snowbirds in retirement, have put the 9,406-square-foot home on the market for $1.39 million.

Rough start

The barn conversion project originated with Mike Maxwell, the original barn owner, who lives in a farmhouse across the street from N1870 Clover Road.

“He started it in 1997,” Diane said.

After changing the zoning to R-3, to allow the barn to become two condos, Maxwell ran into financial issues. He sold the property, which changed hands several more times over the years, then it was foreclosed.

The barn sat for several years, deteriorating.

“The previous renovator wanted to have a lookout tower on the top of the roof and they left the center part of the roof not redone and it kept getting a lot of rain,” Diane said.

That was when the Erdmans came into the picture.

While the couple rehabbed several properties in the past, the Bloomfield barn was certainly their biggest challenge.

Top to bottom

For the Erdmans, the first project was fixing the roof. Their engineer instructed them to add a foundation and steel basement beams to support the house.

Working from the initial building plans and with help from contractors, the couple finished a walk-out basement about five years ago.

They moved into the basement while working on the rest of the barn.

While they worked to preserve as much as they could from the past, they didn’t sacrifice modern conveniences.

The Erdmans installed geothermal heating — meaning the natural heat from the earth warms the house, which makes it cost as much to heat the structure as it would a traditional ranch home.

Heat also runs to the basement, which contains two garages. Together, the garages provide enough space to park up to nine cars.

The Erdmans finished the basement before moving on to the upper levels and they lived there for about five years while the finished the rest o…

Upstairs, over 20 original barn trusses were steamed three times in order to clean and preserve the wood.

Each truss, from floor to ceiling, took one day.

As part of the barn renovation, the barn trusses were all hand steamed multiple times, to clean and preserve the wood. The stairs going up to …

“I got used to being on a 10-foot ladder,” said Diane, pointing up to the trusses. They extended to the ceiling where a small piece of old metal trolley still hangs, a memento from the past, when a pulley system was used to lift hay into the barn loft.

The original barn wood was preserved in multiple areas of the home. Some of it was cut for doors and windows. It was also used on the basement fireplace, along the main staircase leading up to the second floor and on a sliding door and closet doors in the basement.

The Erdmans preserved some of the original barn windows and now use them as decorative transom above the door leading from the main living roo…

The Erdmans also used some of the original barn windows to create a decorative transom above the door leading from the main living room to the side office area.

But for the mantle over the fireplace in the main level living room, the couple salvaged wood from an 1855 covered bridge in Millmont, Pennsylvania.

The fire place on the main level includes stone from a Lake Geneva condo project and the mantle wood comes from an old covered bridge in Penns…


Diane is originally from Pennsylvania. After joining the Army, she ended up moving to the Midwest.

She met her husband Norman at a small bar/restaurant on Main Street in Spring Grove, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin border.

They were introduced to each other by the owner of the Town Pump, which is now the Grove Pub and Grill.

Two lamps from the Town Pump hang over the main dining room table.

Norman and Diane Erdman, who spent ten years restoring the Bloomfield barn, met at a small bar/restaurant in Spring Grove, Illinois called the…

Manufactured stone left over from a condo project on Wells Street, near the YMCA in Lake Geneva, can be seen on the front of the house. It also appears in a decorative wall in the master bathroom and on the main floor fireplace.

The grand entrance includes a window wall, giving breathtaking sunset views.

The stone is how the Erdmans met their realtor, Kristin Stahulak, of Keefe Real Estate.

The Erdmans were selling the stone, and Stahulak bought several pallets of it from them for her home.

After that, the three started talking. Stahulak’s husband ended up pouring the concrete driveway and backyard patio, where one of the old farm’s silos once stood.

Stahulak became the listing agent for a previous house the Erdmans owned in Bloomfield.

When the couple decided to sell the Bloomfield barn home, they contacted Stahulak again.

“This house is so beautiful I didn’t think they would ever leave it,” said Stahulak.

Standing in the home’s living room near the fireplace, she said, “I think the nicest thing about this house is that when you are in it, it doesn’t feel big. It feels very charming and warm and cozy and there is so much natural light and the views from every room are unbelievable.”

To the east side of the home, there is a rectangle window slit in the master bathroom shower to watch the sunrise while taking a morning shower and four balconies to enjoy the view.

“Just this morning, we were sitting outside, having our coffee, and there were three deer running by the cornfield,” said Diane.

Cranes also appear frequently.

One year, a hot air balloon landed in the back field.

On the Fourth of July, the Erdmans would sit high above it all in the top story cupola to see fireworks from all directions.

“It’s just so beautiful,” said Diane. “This is my little remembrance of home in Wisconsin.”


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