Like many grand ideas, David Miller’s came unexpectedly. He awoke at 3 in the morning, found a pen and paper, and sketched out floor plans for The “Barnsion” – a multi-story barn-mansion. Now, most people would get up in the morning and tuck such an idea away in the drawer or perhaps even laugh it off and toss it away, but when David Miller gets an idea in his head, he brings it to fruition, and that’s why The Barnsion stands today.
The lavish barn-mansion is located on a sheep and cattle ranch east of Harlowton, and while it is most impressive, David and his wife, Renee, remain incredibly humble about it. “We didn’t build it to be braggadocios and we don’t want to give off that impression,” says David. In fact, The Barnsion was a combination of a few modest desires – a barn, a woodshop, and housing for guests. David credits his wife with the inspiration. “I had set out to build a barn for Renee’s horses with a woodshop attached for myself,” he says. “Renee thought we needed a place for our expanding family to stay on visits, so I got the idea to keep adding to it.”
Although many people have had a part in this project, the majority of the construction was done by David and his brother-in-law, Dennis Parisi. “If I can picture it, Dennis can build it,” says David. Among other things, Dennis built the entire heating system for The Barnsion and designed it to run on used oil.
In fact, much of The Barnsion is made of reutilized materials. The building’s main beams were salvaged from a demolition site and the front porch logs were pieced together from old power poles. The brick is from old buildings in Judith Gap and around the area. Even the shavings in the horse stalls are from David’s wood shop.
After three years of hard work and ingenuity, the Millers had a building that included a horse barn, wood shop, and enough furnished space to sleep 24 (or more) guests. The next step was to share their creation.
David and Renee began publicly renting The Barnsion in 2014 and since then have had guests from all over the United States. They have yet to meet a bad guest. “The people we’ve had here have been wonderful,” says David. “It’s been great to meet them and many stay in touch.”
Guests have the choice between any of The Barnsion’s visiting options – the Shed, the Upper Room, or the soon to be completed South Loft (which will be comparable to the Upper Room). The Shed is a private suite located on the lower level that has all the charm of a log cabin. It includes a custom kitchen, designed with rustic blue pine and repurposed granite, a bathroom, and a Vermont Castings Fireplace. A California King bed on the main floor sleeps two, while the beds on the balcony above sleep up to four. Children especially love this balcony, which can only be reached by climbing a pine ladder. The Upper Room and the South Loft are each approximately 1,700 square feet and actually contains several rooms on two floors. Each of these units has three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living area that offers a panoramic view of the Crazy Mountains. There are laundry facilities, a gas fireplace, a jetted tub, and outdoor decks in the front and back for added comfort and convenience. The Shed, the Upper Room and the South Loft are all decorated in a rustic Western style and offer generous portions of fresh coffee, roasted locally, and Renee’s homemade bread, baked with wheat raised on the ranch.
Outside The Barnsion, there are trailer hookups, plenty of room for tents for additional guests and there are even two teepees on site for guests to stay in. For these guests, two additional restrooms were homebuilt on the premises, complete with a shower and wash basin sinks. There are even accommodations for guests’ horses, with a stable, corrals, and a riding arena. The Millers also provide guests with access to their personal patio, which features incredible brickwork, an outdoor sink, a food preparation counter, a gas barbeque grill and griddle, a Traeger smoker, a fireplace, and plenty of benches and tables to seat a large group. Given these accommodations, many events have been held at The Barnsion.
David and Renee are delighted that The Barnsion and their beautiful Montana landscape has helped create so many happy occasions. They are looking forward to many more events in the future, including weddings, family reunions, retreats, honeymoons, weekend getaways, and more. While they could charge a substantial amount for all that their guests receive, they choose to keep their rates reasonable. “Money is not our goal,” says David. “This is our piece of heaven and we want to share it with everyone.”