That Ain't No Shed! Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and More Country Stars With Palatial Party Barns
Last summer, while he was planning the bash to fete his fifth album, Kill the Lights, country crooner Luke Bryan, 40, didn’t scout just any private, A-list locale. Rather, he brought the party to him, drawing 100 music industry insiders to an expansive, tricked-out barn that he had constructed on his Tennessee property in Williamson County. The soiree was novel, but not rare. For country elite, entertaining increasingly is moving out of traditional venues and into lavishly appointed barns that have become the ultimate at-home party space.
Like many, Bryan’s barn, which took its inspiration from Tennessee’s famed restaurant and hotel Blackberry Farm, embraces Southern history and heritage. In creating the space, interior designer Chad James sourced antique lumber from a shuttered factory in Georgia for the structure and reclaimed cobblestone from a street in Charleston, S.C., for flooring. “They want it to look like it has been there a while and not made in China yesterday,” says James of the barn owners with whom he has worked. (He has designed five party barns in the last few years.) The Bryan space was further customized with indoor sleeping quarters and a stage for impromptu musical performances, and accented with an 18th-century Italian chandelier and a number of Bryan’s hunting trophies.
Despite the low-key vibe, a first-class barn represents a real investment. James estimates that a basic 3,000-square-foot structure -- including plumbing, electricity, heating and air-conditioning -- will cost upwards of $50,000, with high-end finishings and materials pushing the price even higher, into the six figures. And despite the added expense, the investment doesn’t always have a significant impact on property value, according to Nashville broker Steve Fridrich. “Since it is someone else’s creation, people don’t want to pay a whole lot for it.”
But for celebrity hosts, the ability to throw a party outside of their actual living space has the added bonus of allowing revellers to get a bit rowdier without fear of destroying the carpets or vases. “People want to be able to have friends over and have a big party. Nashville has so much entertainment available at its fingertips that it’s not unusual for a party to have live entertainment of incredible quality. Barns satisfy that need,” says architect Bobby McAlpine, who has worked on a slate of high-end party barns for a variety of clients across the South and recently outfitted one with a pool. “It’s catching on,” he says of clients’ increased interest in these at-home venues.
The trend already has been embraced by the genre’s A-listers, including Jason Aldean, 39, who decked out his “man cave”-themed barn in rural Tennessee with a full bar, shuffleboard table and baseball memorabilia. The Alabama estate of Kid Rock, 45, is home to an expansive barn with a pool table, bar and leather couches.
For public figures, a barn also offers entertainment away from peering eyes. “With our entertainment clients, because of who they are, they can’t really go to [Nashville’s] Second Avenue and go out to a bar,” says James. “The way they can do that is to create that atmosphere in the privacy of their own compound.”
After moving into his Nashville home with wife Janine, Brooks & Dunn's Ronnie Dunn, 63, set his sights on restoring a 16-stall horse stable out back. The -structure now boasts a catering kitchen, bar and recording studio and has hosted business meetings as well as parties for up to 1,000 of the family’s friends. (New Yorkers and Los Angelenos have been particularly impressed by the space, notes Dunn.) “It’s real casual, cool, fun; you kind of let your hair down,” he says. As with many, Dunn took a rustic approach to decor, looking to highlight Southern tradition with touches like an elk-horn chandelier and parchment buckskin lighting. Over time, he picked up a tip for home design: “It’s a challenge not to get too kitschy. I learned the old phrase ‘a little cowboy goes a long way.’ ”
This article originally appeared in the August 6 issue of Billboard.