The elegant interiors of this beautiful rustic barn are the epitome of Christmas chic, with roaring fires, flickering candles and plush reindeer skins.
The move to the barn came about some 17 years ago. The family were living in Worcestershire when the owner’s husband got a job in London, which resulted in the need for a more southerly location. ‘A barn in Oxfordshire came up for sale on the internet,’ she says. ‘I rang the estate agent but, sadly, it was under offer, so we decided to rent a flat in London until the right place came up. Then the barn popped up again on my internet search as the sale had fallen through, so I got in my car and whizzed down to see it.’
There were just two problems – the couple didn’t want to live in a barn and it wasn’t detached, which was one of the things at the top of their wish list. ‘I drove up and almost immediately thought about driving away again – it looked so small,’ says the owner. ‘But then I spotted the paddock and the outlook, which I loved.’
In a classic case of appearances deceiving, there was plenty of space inside the barn, too – essential, as the owners’ children, then aged three and five, needed room to run around. ‘The barn had just been converted so everything was new,’ says the owner. ‘Also I was brought up nearby, and it felt like coming home. I fell for the barn there and then; all I had to do was persuade my husband that he had to come and see it!’
So, one summer’s evening, the owner took her husband to view the property. ‘He looked at the paddock and said, “This is great. We’ll buy it.” He hadn’t even looked inside the house!’
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Originally a cow shed, the barn was converted into a four-bedroom home in 2000. Since then, the owners have added a garden room, playroom and a green-oak garage, with an upstairs gym.
The mix of tactile fabrics and vintage finds makes this an inviting space to curl up in with a book.
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Initially, Sarah and Mark didn’t do much work to the property, partly because it was a recent conversion and also because they had young children. However, after three years, they decided to make the barn work better for them as a family and built a green-oak garden room. ‘Because of the barn’s position, we only had one window that looked out over the fields,’ says Sarah. ‘Adding the garden room meant we could see the view all around.’
Plenty of seating and a roaring woodburner ensure that this light, open space is also cosy for festive get-togethers. Red and white is a recurring palette in the couple’s home and the tree decorations are no exception. Their Scandi-style, handmade appeal adds plenty of traditional charm.
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Sarah and Mark also made some changes to the layout. Next to the garden room was a living room, which they decided to turn into a kitchen. ‘It works brilliantly now. We had to walk through here to get to the garden room, so it made sense to convert it,’ says Sarah. ‘Now the kitchen, where we spend most of our time, is the heart of the home. Everyone used to sit in the old living room while I was cooking so I felt away from all the action, but now they sit around in the kitchen or garden room, so it’s a much more sociable space.’
Sarah knew exactly what kind of look she wanted for the kitchen. ‘I was keen to have painted cabinetry so I could change the colour whenever I wanted,’ she says. ‘I chose a handmade, solid-wood design and incorporated an Aga with a fireplace surround as a focal point. I also decided to have a large island with a sink so I could look out on either side to the front and back gardens while I prepared meals.’
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Benches are a great option for this informal scheme and provide more seating room than the equivalent chairs.
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Another project involved building another barn, complete with woodburner, at the back of the house. It was originally created as a workspace for the owner to make curtains and blinds, but has now been converted into a family room for the children. ‘It’s a great place to socialise,’ she says. An L-shaped sofa dressed with plump cushions and plush throws makes for cosy gatherings.
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The owner’s signature interior style seamlessly blends Scandi and French influences with older pieces. ‘I favour a shabby chic, vintage look,’ she says. ‘I love new things but prefer to mix them in with older furniture that has a history. We bring clients to our home so the look had to be right. Above all, though, it was important that it be an easy family home, and not too precious.’
Sarah found the elegant sleigh bed in an antiques shop, while the mirror and bench are both available in her shop, Vintage Barn Interiors.
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Splashes of red enliven the neutral palette.
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The homely house definitely comes into its own at Christmas. ‘We have a logburner in the garden room and we put a big tree in there,’ says Sarah. ‘We wait until Dan’s birthday on 18th December is over, and then on the 19th we buy the tree and have mulled wine while we decorate it. I love Christmas here. The children are home from university and we have family and friends round. It’s a really special time.’