12 Oct 2023

Redefining Rustic Charm

Nestled amidst the rustic charm of a lovingly renovated barn, this month’s Q&A transports us into the world of Nick and his family, where cats, dogs and even horses are part of their daily life.


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This stunning self-build renovation is a testament to the art of transformation, boasting a blend of bespoke and unique features that redefine rustic elegance. Join us as we step inside and explore every nook and cranny, including the heart of the home — the solid oak kitchen, proudly crafted by the talented artisans at local gem, Portree Kitchens.

What inspired you to embark on your own project rather than buying?

After losing out on a Georgian farmhouse, we started to look for a project that had the potential to give us the space we desired. After calling around estate agents asking after properties with land, they said they had a barn with planning and asked if we would be interested. So, purely by chance, we said why not and went to see the property. When we arrived, it was the location that sold it to us, and we just had to go for it.

What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?

We wanted to retain the history and originality of both barns, one being stone and one steel framed. This led to us trying to incorporate a mix of industrial-style fittings and ones with an older, more classic feel.

How did you approach finalising your design brief?

We worked with an architectural drafter to help re-configure the original plans to create space for a fourth bedroom, as well as rearrange the living space to suit our open-plan living.

Did your project need to cater for any special requirements?

We wanted to include a menage in a very tight space. This led to some very clever planning with the builders to retain walls and work across several levels on the outside space to achieve what we wanted.

How and why did you choose this plot?

As mentioned, it was purely down to the location. We came to see the barn on a late summer’s evening, and as we sat looking over the valley, deer were running across the fields with the cows in it, and the sun set behind the trees to the west of the property. We fell in love with it at that moment.

The barn had planning permission under a Class Q conversion. We worked with Rugby Council to make some minor adjustments and then again with the planning officer to get an outline for the stables and menage.

Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?

The builders, on the whole, were great. However, in order to keep costs as low as reasonably possible, we used lots of different contractors, which did lead to some challenges. We made a couple of mistakes with scoping the underfloor heating plan, and no one took accountability for the design issues, which, ultimately, cost us money in the long run.

Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?

No, just a drafter to make the plan adjustments. We designed the outdoor space, including the stables, ourselves, using software we found online. We also used Photoshop to create lighting plans internally for the electricians. We completely self managed the project.

How did you approach material and product specifications?

Instagram and Pinterest helped form the look and feel of the house, and taking inspiration from other builds and projects helped with our decisions. We also made some considerations around the ecological impact and environmental impact, leading us to using a GSHP (ground-source heat pump) and recycled composite cladding.

How does the property respond to passive house principles?

We have triple-glazed windows on the west of the property. The house was airtight tested as part of the GSHP installation. We used the latest superquilt insulation in the roof and, of course, the GSHP system.

How long did the project take?

We originally wanted to be in the house by Christmas of 2020 (nine months). Although we technically moved out of an onsite static caravan into the house, it was a long way from being finished, and we spent nearly another year finalising the fixtures and fittings.

Did you remain within the original budget?

We did stay within the original budget. In fact, we didn’t borrow our last payment from our draw-down mortgage as we really maximised our budget by doing things ourselves and staying within the 10% contingency.

Please provide an overview of the finished space.

The house blends a mixture of old and new with an industrial feel, softened with our existing furniture and new pieces that helped complement the building and its surroundings. The whole house focuses on the south and west aspects, prioritising the views across the valley.

What was your vision for the exterior/landscaping?

We wanted the inside and outside to flow flawlessly, which meant things like flush reveal cills on the bi-folds and decking helped create one big living space inside and out. We also wanted to create different sections of the outside space as the sun moved around the property and the night got cooler. This led to a sunken seating around on the southwest face of the property.

How did you decide which plants to use and how to place them?

It can be windy, so although the plants are minimal, we used evergreen privet hedges in our planters to offer some year-round protection, and we then added in some nice grasses to bring the space to life over time.

How does the garden respond to the surrounding landscape and your new home?

At first, it didn’t blend as well, with sharp edges and monochrome colours, but as the plants have matured, the outside space has really come to life and now flows perfectly.

How does the property respond to its surrounding landscape?

From the road and canal path, the property blends nicely with the black exterior cladding, looking similar to the existing industrial building.

What does the local community think of the new property?

We are very isolated; however, the farmer who sold the property and any visitors love the building and its finish. We are not easily accessible or on a public footpath for the local community to see the property easily.

Is the final property everything that you hoped it would be?

Yes, the location and the space we have designed fit our needs perfectly, and now we are raising our family in a place they can call home. It’s spacious but cosy and has good proportioned rooms for us all to enjoy.

What’s your favourite thing about your new home?

Having a coffee in the morning, sat at the kitchen table looking out the 15m run of bifolds across the views of the valley. It’s always a reminder of how lucky we have been to have the opportunity to build in an awesome location.

Is there anything that you would have done differently?

Maybe an additional focus around the renewables with solar and air conditioning built in and potentially a porch in the hallway. But, in retrospect, we are really pleased with the outcome.

Would you do the whole thing again?

Yes, it’s something we are open to. However, with a young family maybe a static caravan might be a stretch this time round.

What advice would you offer to anyone looking to self-build?

The location has to be right, and then be sure to understand the mechanics of each element so that costs don’t spiral and you can effectively manage the contractors. Be on top of the budget daily to prevent cost overruns.

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