This Christmas marks a turning point as Jo Barnes and her family welcome their first guests to celebrate the festive season at Anthology Farm, a pair of Grade II-listed barns in the Cotswolds.
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It hasn’t been an easy journey to get here. In 2016, after a decade of uncertainty, the family farm in Staffordshire was compulsory purchased to make way for HS2 - a large-scale transport project.
For Jo’s father-in-law, John, it was particularly emotional as his family had farmed there since 1921. ‘It was a difficult time,’ says Jo. ‘Not only had we lost the farm, but my mother-in-law Rosemary and I had to close our businesses, a farm shop and wedding venue, and start again.’
Fortunately, a farm came up 70 miles down the road in Gloucestershire and the family jumped at it.
‘We could see the potential immediately,’ says Jo. ‘Farms have to diversify these days to survive. The land was perfect for John and my husband Henry to farm and we knew the barns would make a fantastic holiday let.’
Set in 500-acres, Anthology Farm is comprised of two barns, set in an L-shape.
The previous owners had used them as office space and the buildings were full of small meeting rooms, long corridors and dark wood partitions.
They opted to move the huge staircase in the middle of the main, bigger barn. Replacing it with a simpler one, set discreetly to the side, opened up a dramatic, double-height space that became the dining room.
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The huge, arched picture window at the back was updated and double-glazed, and most of the windows were changed to suit the heritage style of the barns.
‘We were really keen to expose some of the brickwork. It’s lovely, honey-coloured local stone from the Doddles Hill mines opposite the farm and we felt it would add real character to the property,’ says Rosemary.
‘Even though it’s a huge space, the light bounces off the walls and makes it feel really cosy.’
The family decided to engage an architect, as well as interior design company Run for the Hills, to work on the project. ‘As soon as I saw the barns, I knew I wanted to be part of this project,’ says Run for the Hills founder Anna Burles.
‘Jo did the right thing bringing us on board at the beginning, as we could ensure the architectural design also worked for the interior design. It succeeded because everyone collaborated so well together.’
The family knew they wanted the interiors of the barns to be neutral and monochromatic, but they also briefed Anna to add some eclecticism.
‘We deliberately gave every bedroom and bathroom its own personality,’ says Jo. ‘We wanted them to be cosy, stylish and comfortable, but not too fussy.’
Jo and Henry stayed in the main barn last New Year with their daughters.
‘The children thought it was magical,’ says Jo. ‘I particularly love gazing out of the picture window in the dining room over the Cotswolds. It’s an amazing view, especially when tinged with a little Christmas frost. We love the place so much; it’s got everything my dream home would have.’
Anthology Farm is available to rent through Unique Home Stays.