Escaping the rat race and running their own holiday accommodation business was a long-held dream for the owners of this Grade II-listed 300-year-old barn with five bedrooms. ‘We had a 10-year plan to move from London to Devon,’ says Emily. ‘I grew up in the countryside and my parents have a holiday home in Devon, so the pull to the area was very strong. I’d spent every family holiday there since I was four!’
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Frequent visits to Devon spurred the couple on. ‘In London, I had a career in publishing, which wasn’t compatible with living in the middle of nowhere, so I retrained as a reflexologist and acupuncturist. My husband, too, was keen to leave his job in the City. We just felt much happier here.‘Once we had our children, we wanted to give them a more outdoor way of life.’
The search for a suitable house with an outbuilding that could be converted into a holiday let began, with weekends spent travelling from London to Devon with their two small children. ‘It was an intensive search because we were so clear about what we wanted to achieve,’ remembers the owner. ‘We wanted to create accommodation that was stylish and family friendly; somewhere that felt special.’
Everything fell into place when a three-bedroom farmhouse with a separate barn close to Totnes came on the market. ‘It was over budget but when we went to view it, I turned to my husband and said, “This is the house”. We’d seen at least 22 properties and just knew we could create something amazing with this one.'
Once the couple had moved into the farmhouse opposite the barn, Raymond began project-managing and was on site every day. It was incredibly important that the barn was eco-friendly, so not only is it well insulated, but ground source heating and solar panels ensure it is powered by renewable energy.
To make the most of the first-floor space, the floor was strengthened and a staircase installed. Walls were moved and added to create five bedrooms and three bathrooms on the ground floor. Work was done to the grounds, too, with the addition of a hot tub and renovation of an indoor swimming pool.
The couple wanted the renovation, which took two-and-a-half years, to be as sympathetic as possible to the age of the building. ‘The plan was to restore the original features, so we kept the trusses in the top room exposed and cleaned all the beams.
Rich autumnal tones create a cosy atmosphere.
The statement space with vaulted ceiling features rich blue cabinets and patterned tiles.
Get the look
Enquire online: Cabinets, Yealm Kitchens
Buy now: Havana encaustic tiles, £105 per sq m, Terrazzo Tiles
'We wanted to create something that was stylish and family friendly – somewhere that felt special,' says the owner. The wood floor complements the stone wall perfectly.
Enquire online: Engineered oak floor, Beach Bros
Local interior designer Siobhan Hayles created a modern country look with a luxurious and stylish edge. ‘Siobhan was fantastic and understood what we wanted, challenging us to take bold decisions. We wanted every room to feel special and different, so the colours vary in each room.
A sumptuous velvet modular sofa is perfect for lounging.
Upstairs is autumnal and rich and incorporates sumptuous fabrics such as velvets. Most of the bedrooms are themed around nature, with wallpaper evoking the outdoors for a relaxing feel. Here, Siobhan has brought the outside in with a foliage-inspired wallpaper.
'We wanted every room to feel different, and for people to have a reaction to each space, so the colours vary in each room'
Get the look
Buy now: Margot bed, from £945, Loaf
Buy now: Lewis & Wood Beech wallpaper, £68.08 per 10metre roll, Jane Clayton & Company
A classic roll-top bath is the centrepiece of the scheme.
A palette of forest greens and teals creates a cosy look.
Get the look
Buy now: Ivy wallpaper by Barneby Gates, £87 our roll, Wallpaper Direct
Bleached woods and nautical blues create a maritime feel.
All the hard work has definitely paid off. ‘We’re really proud of what we’ve created,’ says Emily. And rightly so; this renovation proves that sometimes dreams really do come true.
To stay at Willows Rest, visit willowsrest.co.uk
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