It’s no secret that the key to a successful barn conversion is the ability to work with the existing building, rather than squeezing in passe traditional styled features that we consider match the period.
The love and challenge of creating a functional, dramatic home while maintaining the core of the buildings history and agricultural past, is at the heart of the projects final success. Too often conversions obscure a barn’s origin so that it now has the look and feel of an ordinary but oddly proportioned house, and not a celebration of its agricultural and utilitarian beauty.
A barn must be taken on for love, and you must accept the quirks.
Beauty and function
With housing stock in short supply, recent changes to the UK’s planning rules have opened the possibility of residential conversion for many agricultural structures previously considered not worthy. Corrugated metal barns, Dutch barns and pole barns are supremely functional and can provide the opportunity of a wonderful and unique conversion.
The importance of working with, and celebrating the latest crop of agricultural buildings ripe for conversion, will provide an opportunity for many who in the past would have been denied the opportunity of a rural dream. You do, though have to work with their simplicity and core character and make the buildings existing structure work with you, by choosing materials that allow for this.
What we want today
The form a barn takes lends itself to so much of what we want in our modern homes, with space, height and large openings for walls of glass. These new class of barns also allow for the use of alternative materials and finishes – timber, metal, rubber, board, concrete; almost anything can be used in and on these buildings. Remember though that they are not constructed from the usual house building materials, avoid recladding them in slate, tile, brick or stone which will “jar” with what you wish to achieve.
Watch the added form
To change or add to the form, by including details such as brick chimneys, porches or dormers, is a “No!No!” These should be left with the normal housing stock.
Inside its soul
The layout of the interior provides many a challenge for the barn conversion, fitting in all of the rooms, with all of the functions we require for our modern way of living, avoiding too much subdividing of the space, and consideration and working where possible with the buildings entire open area will provide a positive blueprint for its new life.
Barns can provide a wonderful uncluttered space — keeping this alive as you transform your barn is key to success. The interior and exterior should work together.
Dance into the light
Barns originally designed and built for housing livestock or storage and not conceived for human habitation would usually have very few openings. The openings which existed tended to be on the larger size for moving large vehicles or animals through, alternatively they would be small ventilation openings. Providing light into the new rooms without creating too many new openings is one of the single biggest challenges facing the converter.
Sky with light
Large expanses of glass using larger bespoke rooflights and skylights will work better than the creation of new openings with lots of smaller roof lights. Providing the greatest amount of light to the key habitable rooms and accepting that some parts of the building will, be darker. With areas such as WC’s, utility and services only using only borrowed light and the creation of snugs and evening rooms may create contrast and interesting use of these areas of the property – but plan your artificial lighting well!
Most barns have a simple rectangular shape, rooflights can be the key to getting light into the centre of the building avoid multiples of smaller skylights and openings and think large custom made rooflights.
Fewer the better
Only add new openings, where necessary, but do consider them as you do the existing structure. The fewer and larger openings generally work better on these type of barn conversion, allowing the drawing of light, with spans between floors, so that multiple rooms benefit. The original design and use of a barn did not allow for symmetry and can often be quite random; this should be continued so that the integrity is kept.