Northeast of Oneonta, rolling hills and towering pine trees frame green meadows where whitetail does gather and graze with their fawns in the shadows near sunset. “It would make an incredible painting,” says residential designer Adam Gerndt of the 1,200-acre property that his clients chose. “They wanted to build a home that would be part commercial hunting camp, part family home.” Well-versed in designing country retreats, Adam embraced the project with his usual enthusiasm. “I love thinking about the views, site lines, and sun angles,” he says. “When I have a large property to work with, I can dream a little bit more about what a place can become.”
Here, the clients wanted to keep the property’s original hunting lodge and add two new buildings: a welcoming family home for the couple and their four college-age children and a separate, barn-inspired space for hosting groups and entertaining. They had a vision of architecture that was warm, natural, and honest with interiors that felt inviting and relaxed.
With these requests in mind, Adam designed a four-bedroom, two-story home with a soaring living room wrapped in windows to capture those awe-inspiring vistas. For the barn, he created a classic structure with reclaimed timbers using mortise-and-tenon construction. To tie the two buildings together, the designer incorporated materials such as hand-split cedar shake roofs and red cedar board-and-batten siding. Additional rustic features include cedar posts and beams on the home’s porches and reclaimed brick pavers for the barn floors (inside and out). Local rock—a brownstone-and-moss rock mix quarried just 5 miles from the building site—was used on both structures, while the house also showcases Pennsylvania bluestone on the terraces. “The topography and views played into the forms of both designs,” Adam says. “Even though they are new, they feel like they have been here for years.”
For the barn, the owner wished for a structure reminiscent of one from his childhood. “I frequented an 1845 barn as a kid. It was something I had always wanted on my own property,” he says. Adam was happy to bring the memory to fruition while also adding updates to the classic agrarian structure. “Barns are usually used for animals, tractors, and crop storage, but this barn is geared toward gatherings with family and friends for celebrations, holidays, football watching, relaxing, and telling tall tales about hunts,” the designer says.
Dubbed the “party barn” by the homeowners, the building is dominated by a 28- x 32-foot dining hall to seat a crowd. An adjacent living area, parlor, bar, game room, and screened porch offer additional entertaining spaces. Two kitchens—one inside and one outside—accommodate caterers and grill masters, while a loft is outfitted with sleeping bunks complete with nooks for phone chargers. “On any given day, we may have guests fishing for bass on the lake or roaming the property hunting deer or quail,” says the owner. “The place fills up with hunters from late fall through the winter months, friends during football season, and family during spring and summer. We sometimes welcome nightly dining for 24 hunters, but we also hold fundraisers and corporate retreats for 80 or more guests.” Yet even with the expanse of space, the barn still feels intimate. “It’s just as comfortable for a small group of friends here for the weekend,” says the owner. And it’s that versatility that makes this property a favorite retreat no matter the occasion.
Commercial hunting retreats include more than just a farmhouse and a pretty piece of land—they involve a whole operation. “It’s critical to understand the in’s and out’s of a day in the field, as well as how a farm and hunting camp function,” Adam says. Here are just a few things to consider in the planning stages:
Day-to-day operations—For a camp to run smoothly, you have to think through how the farm is managed, how the task buildings are integrated into the property, and how trucks, tractors, and other vehicles move about the farm. Adam considers several essential questions: How will the buildings relate to each other? How and where are meals prepared and served? Is there a place for guests to gather? How can you make the spaces feel connected but also ensure privacy for when the owners want some space to themselves?
Organization—When you design a hunting camp, you have to consider that you are dealing with muddy boots and more. Because there are so many comings and goings between the hunters, dogs, farm managers, and owners, the buildings need to be durable. Designing spaces for easy cleanup are just as important as creating places of beauty.
Service first—A hunting camp has to serve its guests, which means making arrangements for their daily routines such as sleeping, eating, and entertaining. Here, overnight accommodations include bunk-style sleeping quarters. Mornings are met with breakfast and coffee before the hunt. In the evenings, hunters relax in the party barn over cocktails and dinner.
Get to Know Adam Gerndt
Auburn University graduate Adam Gerndt of Adam Gerndt Design Group has practiced design in the Birmingham area and beyond for more than 15 years. From in-town renovations to new suburban homes to lake houses and country retreats, Adam has worked on a variety of projects but says he especially loves the retreats. “Being able to go out onto a property with a client to explore the land and discuss big ideas really is such a rewarding opportunity,” he says. “My family heritage is connected to farming and rural building. I’m also a hunter and fisherman, so I think there is something about these kind of projects that comes naturally to me.”
House and barn exterior and interior design; landscape design: Adam Gerndt Design Group, 205.939.1113 Landscape contractor: EarthWorks Landscape Supply, earthworkslandscapesupply.com Cabinetry: Cotton Woodworks, 205.567.5469 Custom metal work: Welded Wood, 205.966.2741 Plumbing fixtures: Fixtures & Finishes, 205.323.5616 Furniture: Sourced through Defining Home, defining-home.com Countertops: Triton Stone Group, tritonstone.com Windows: Sierra Pacific, sierrapacificwindows.com Hunting camp: Five J’s Hunting Preserve, 256.590.8392