Worlds Best Homes

This cowshed conversion by interior designer Samantha Todhunter is contemporary and colorful

This barn conversion has given a vibrant makeover where a timber frame is juxtaposed with a steel staircase and openings

19th century colorful cowshed conversion in Dorset
(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

When the owner of this former cowshed in Dorset in the south-west of England acquired the ramshackle stone structure four years ago, it was still very much in the state its bovine occupants had left it when they decamped a good two decades previously. 

‘I poked my head inside and thought how the heck will this become a wonderful space to spend time in,’ she admits. 

She and her husband had their eye on the cowshed and the neighbouring threshing barn ever since they bought their 16th-century farmhouse in the Stour Valley 20 years ago. 

‘These buildings were once part of the farm and we always thought they would make lovely accommodation for our grown children, their families and friends,’ she recounts.

When they bought the farm buildings, the couple were nearing the end of an extensive refurbishment of the farmhouse, collaborating with architecture firm Llewellyn Harker Lowe and interior designer Samantha Todhunter

‘The architects have worked on a lot of historic buildings in the West Country and so we knew the barns would be in good hands,’ explains the owner, adding, ‘Their stamp is that they always seem to succeed in giving a building a bit more presence and perhaps an element of surprise.’

The cowshed dates to the late 19th century and is the larger and more recent of the two barns. 

‘We wanted to show the workings of the building – all the beautiful old trusses and purlins,’ says the owner of the aesthetic, which sees the rugged timber frame juxtaposed with an unabashedly modern steel structure and generous Crittall openings that pull light into the building. 

Hall

Neutral country hallway in 19th century cowshed conversion in with exposed stone walls in Dorset

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

True to form, the architects have given the cowshed that extra oomph, celebrating its volumes with a soaring double-height entrance and steel staircase; a second side entrance opens into an extra-wide hallway. ‘You could play a game of cricket in that hallway,’ says the owner. 

The original beams and stone wall are juxtaposed with a steel staircase in this light-filled space.

neutral country hallway in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

Glazed doors create a sense of openness and offer views to the terrace and countryside beyond. The elephant was from an antiques shop in India.

See: Hallway ideas – stylish ways to create a welcoming first impression

Living room

colorful country living room in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

It is the owners’ sociable nature and sense of fun that was at the heart of their brief to Samantha, who not only helped select the furnishings but also the fabulously textural sawn oak floor that unites all the spaces. 

‘The barn needed to be cosy, comfortable and practical, and it had to work for all generations,’ explains Samantha. ‘Nothing could be too precious; they wanted it to be easy for little ones to crawl around or play hide-and-seek.’ 

So, furniture is robust, from a bespoke, slouchy sofa in practical denim-hued linen to sturdy antiques sourced by Samantha and the owner. 

The remit in the open-plan living space was to create a joyous scheme full of colour. 

Fabrics bring cheerful touches, such as an exuberant embroidered stripe that has been used on a pair of armchairs and to dress the expanses of glazing in the large open-plan living space. 

See: Living room ideas – clever ways to decorate living spaces

Kitchen

Colorful green country kitchen in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

The living room fabric nicely complements the kitchen, which forms part of this room and has cabinetry in a punchy shade of green. 

‘The owner was adamant about a Hunter green kitchen so I was equally adamant that we would have to have dark worktops – the combination of green and black definitely has the edge,’ Samantha insists. 

See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for all kitchens 

Dining room

neutral country dining room in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

Pretty pendants help to define this space within the large living room. ‘They can be pulled down to create a cosy ambience,’ says Samantha.

See: Dining room ideas – inspiration for decorating and furnishing your space

Utility

black utility in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

Panelled doors are complemented by a similar wall treatment. 

Landing

neutral landing in 19th century Dorset barn conversion

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

The client had owned this pair of Portuguese chairs for years and found the perfect spot for them in this galleried space. 

Bedroom

pink country bedroom in 19th century Dorset barn conversion with colorful interior

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

Samantha left the wall behind the bed in its natural plastered state. ‘I’m glad we did as it’s the perfect pink,’ she says.

roll top bath in 19th century Dorset barn conversion with colorful interior

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

An exposed stone wall adds to the charm of this space, where guests can enjoy a leisurely  soak in their room. 

Bedroom

green and white country bedroom in 19th century Dorset barn conversion with colourful interior

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

A vibrant geometric linen informed this fresh green and white scheme. 

See: Bedroom ideas – designs and inspiration for beautiful bedrooms

Bathroom

white country bathroom in 19th century Dorset barn conversion with colorful interior

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond/ Future)

Tongue and groove is a pleasing foil to an industrial-style mirror. 

Having previously decorated the owners’ London home, this is Samantha’s third project for them, and the sense of ease and familiarity between designer and clients is reflected in the effortless way in which the barn has been transformed. ‘It was tremendous fun,’ says Samantha. ‘My client has a fantastic eye and had a very clear picture of what she and her husband wanted – essentially, we’ve created a canvas for people of all ages to kick back and enjoy themselves.’  

Interior designer/ Samantha Todhunter Design

Architect/ Llewellyn Harker Lowe

Photography/ Jonathan Bond

Text/ Rachel Leedham