What’s a New England-style barn doing in the middle of a Napa Valley vineyard? Just ask John Furtado.
Furtado has owned his six-acre vineyard parcel on Silverado Trail since 1976. For years, Furtado wished he had proper storage for his tractors and other winery equipment. But Furtado wasn’t happy with just building any old barn.
“I value beauty,” he said. “I didn’t want to put up something ugly.”
After coming across photos of barns built by Vermont resident George Abetti, Furtado knew he’d found his barn builder.
What makes this barn different is Abetti’s framing style. Instead installing framing pieces vertically, Abetti does it diagonally. From the outside, the 2X6s look like large stacked Vs. Each board is placed 16 inches apart, Abetti said.
The look is especially obvious during construction. It’s an elegant design that stops people in their tracks, the builder said. Furtado’s barn is in the 4000 block of Silverado trail near Black Stallion Winery. A number of curious onlookers have already stopped by the construction site.
“They say ‘What the hell is this?’” Abetti said.
Furtado’s barn measures 68 by 24 feet and includes two stories, conventional barn doors, French doors, a loft and even a cupola. It will take a crew of four workers about eight weeks to complete the project, Abetti said.
The first floor of the barn will hold his tractors, and include a workshop for home winemaking, Furtado said. Upstairs will feature room for storage.
This isn’t some vanity project by a wealthy vintner. Furtado, 65, was a college English literature teacher and a supervisor at United Airlines for many years. He and his wife live in Oakland, near Piedmont. Furtado said he drives to Napa regularly to prune and tend his own vineyard.
“I’m frugal,” admitted Furtado, who has saved for the past 10 years to build his dream barn. After finally giving Abetti the go-ahead, he is content to watch his barn as it is built, taking daily photos of the process. “Every night I look at it. It gives me joy,” he said.
Why build such a fancy barn when many others would have a prefabricated aluminum structure installed, or something much less expensive?
“I want to be proud of anything I do here,” he said. “It’s an elegant work of art,” Furtado said.
Abetti, owner of GeoBarns, has built more than 180 barns, homes and other commercial buildings, he said. He typically takes on 12 to 20 such projects a year, mostly on the East Coast.
Abetti said he came up with the diagonal framing idea when bidding on a project. In order to come in under budget, he needed to cut about 15 percent off of his price. Abetti said he realized by using diagonal framing, he’d save on materials, there would be less waste, and the structure would be particularly strong. He got the job. “I’ve never built a standard (framed) building since,” he said.
The Silverado Trail barn is the first he’s built in California. Coincidentally, his diagonal framing method dovetails nicely with California’s seismic code requirements, he said.
Furtado said he budgeted $200,000 for the project, “depending on what else my wife adds,” he said.
Abetti admitted he’s enjoying the Napa Valley scenery and weather at this time of year. “I’d rather be here than in Vermont,” he laughed.
Once the framing is done, siding will cover the diagonal wood pieces, leaving their beauty visible only from the interior.
Furtado said he’ll let the wood weather naturally for a few months, then seal it. “Hopefully I’ll be dead before I have to seal it again,” he said with a smile.
Besides the barn and his vineyards, Furtado also plans on adding some vegetable boxes, olive trees and a 20-tree fruit orchard to the property.
There’s one other feature about his barn that Furtado is excited about. It’s nice and big inside, he said.
When his grandkids visit, “they will have plenty of places to hide.”