Ashleigh Harris firmly believes things happen for a reason—and if we stop to notice them, sometimes the unexpected, little things turn out to bring the most joy.
A few years ago, she and her husband Will had all but signed a purchase agreement on one of Stillwater’s stately homes. As Harris tells it, everything about it was perfect, and they could picture the house becoming home to their three girls. But they paused long enough to take a deep breath and pray about the situation, just in case it wasn’t meant to be.
“Just then a little old man walked to the end of his driveway and hammered a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign into the ground,” Harris says. Admittedly, that 1870s farmhouse on the corner of Olive and Oak looked like it needed work—and Will’s initial reaction was simple: no. But Ashleigh saw possibilities in the acre-plus yard and outbuildings, and the details fell into place.
“Despite shag carpet and a crazy kitchen, it was gorgeous,” she says. And because the price was lower than other properties they’d considered, there would be wiggle room for renovations. The little old man? His name is Gary Sample, and he’s since become like a grandfather to the Harris’ girls. They share a deep love for cocker spaniels and the home that connects them. Sample stops by to eat Fudgesicles, read books or watch renovations come together. When he sends birthday cards, he signs them, simply, “The Old Guy.”
The Harrises have gotten to know their neighbors. They’ve acquired chickens. The house has slowly but surely become the shabby chic, shiplapped home Harris had pictured for her young family. Along the way, she's created an online presence to share the ups and downs of the imperfect process. To that end, Oakstreet Barn has amassed 10,000 Instagram followers, and Harris has big plans for future endeavors. But for now, the focus is on living a lifestyle, not gaining notoriety.
“We’re about progress, not perfection. I want to create memories, build community and really know my neighbors,” says Harris. “Our hope is to inspire others that taking time to renovate a house and to homestead is a huge joy if you can find the balance of work and play."
Short-term Barn Rental
Blueprints exist—and permits are pending—to turn the barn into a rental unit. “Our hope is to give locals and tourists alike an urban farmhouse experience,” says Harris. “We imagine guests taking a swing on the big oak tree, collecting eggs from our pet chickens and strolling down to Main Street—or getting a giant ice-cream cone from Nelson’s.”
The Harrises expanded their garden and hope one day to live off of what they grow in their backyard. They’re working on providing education on organic gardening in the city and homesteading.
A Rolling Boutique
This summer, look for their vintage-farm-trailer-turned-rolling-retailer, complete with a chandelier and reclaimed barn wood giving it a seriously country-chic vibe. They plan to sell locally sourced art and candles, jewelry, and even sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes from the family’s garden.
With over 10,000 followers (and counting), Oak Street Barn shares everyday moments from its 1870s farmhouse in the middle of Stillwater, “putting charm and life back into these old walls—and listening to their stories.”