After 25 years in London, a derelict barn in the Wiltshire countryside, with amazing views, took the eye of this keen house hunter, who bought it as an abandoned shell, with a corrugated iron roof and pigeons living inside.
As planning permission had already been granted, architect Mike Fowler adapted the plans. ‘It’s essentially a giant bungalow - the total opposite to the tall skinny Victorian terrace we had before,’ says the owner. ‘As we wanted to preserve the character of the beams, there are only two first floor rooms at each end, plus a side wing for the children’s bedrooms. Ground source heating, rather than an expensive Aga, warms the house from the surrounding land.’
The family rented nearby during the year-long project. ‘As it’s very exposed, the roof blew off in a storm just months into the build,’ remembers the owner. ‘We had to reinforce it with more beams, which swallowed up our contingency fund.’
To compensate, landscaping plans were put on hold. There wasn’t a single plant when they arrived, as it had been a working farmyard covered in 1970s steel agricultural buildings. Since then they've planted around a thousand hedging plants and trees, as well as creating a wild flower meadow.
Zoning the 18m long main living space was one of the biggest challenges. The original plans had the fireplace at one end of the room, but the owner wanted a double-sided fireplace in the middle to break up the space.
The owner's business partner Ange Howell designed the interior, including the kitchen and bathrooms. The pair run a slow living brand Hue Home (huehome.co.uk) which encourages people to buy less and hold onto treasures forever. ‘Ange’s expertise was invaluable in zoning the space and creating sight lines through one space into another,’ says the owner. ‘The undulating hills and vast changing skies undoubtedly acted as inspiration for the earthy tones and textural pieces.’
A window seat idea has been built into one of the original animal stalls. The wooden beams haven’t been touched at all, even the old bits of string hanging down. ‘You can easily ruin a barn by overdoing it, being too contrived and adding too much wood. I’ve let the beams speak for themselves and kept everything else simple and pared back. It was surprisingly hard as you have to reign yourself in!’
Staircase and bookcase
Despite having a clear vision, moving back into the huge space was daunting. ‘Initially it felt like a commercial unit with the concrete floors,’ says the owner. ‘Our possessions looked a bit lost and it took a while to soften the space with furniture, rugs and plants and books.’ A home office is accessed via a staircase in the open-plan space.
Circular table and mirror
A round pedestal table and convex circular mirror are juxtaposed against a giant Ficus Benjamina tree, which creates a splash of dramatic foliage against the white walls. A simple house plant idea welcomes nature indoors. ‘I didn’t realise how much greenery softens the space, until I started buying lots of plants,’ says the owner.
This impressive master bedroom feels like a quiet retreat. 'A dressing room and en suite bathroom separate it from the main living space. It’s a long way from the children’s rooms, so you don’t hear a thing which works well with a houseful of teenagers.'
This bold bedroom colour scheme injects a hit of contemporary colour into the house. The key to bold colour is a thoughtful paint idea – 'My daughter always wanted a black bedroom but I wasn't sure. But painting everything including the ceiling, door and skirtings makes it work' says the owner.
'My bathrooms are simple and uncluttered' says the owner, a key design element for a small cloakroom idea. 'I've created a little nook of pattern in the cloakrooms to add some fun' she explains, speaking of the Cole & Son feature wallpaper.
‘The economy of black and white looks beautiful and is a simple contrast to the old oak beams of the barn,’ says the owner. ‘I’m clearly drawn to the lost stories of abandoned buildings on the landscape.’
Now the barn earns its keep as a location house (lightlocations.com) and was the perfect backdrop for the owners' wedding reception a few years ago, when teepees were erected in the garden.
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