It may sound like the perfect country idyll, but there's more to living in a barn conversion than meets the eye.
First there are the high ceilings and lack of dividing walls. These striking features are big selling points for barns, but can also be quite a challenge for everyday family life. How do you separate the various living areas in a barn that was originally built as one huge open space, for instance? And then there are decisions to be made about how to use an upper level – bedrooms or living space? And how that choice might compromise the view of the original oak rafters.
Here's how one couple got their barn conversion just right. They reconfigured the space and made elegant, pared-back décor choices. They also kept furniture and furnishings simple, adding antique and vintage pieces to complement the building's original timbers. Now the work is finished and the ancient beams are back in the spotlight, this rustic barn's sensitive renovation truly makes it one of the world's best homes.
Tamsin and Paul Clarke love a project. They’ve owned Victorian houses in London, a Georgian house in Ramsgate and sold a farmhouse in East Sussex to buy this barn. Even so, the couple had reservations when they first saw this building and say it wasn’t love at first sight because the beauty of the oak beams was lost in the busy décor. Three of the bedrooms were downstairs and the huge living room was on the first floor.
But the glorious barn, with its five bedrooms, swimming pool, outbuildings and a two-acre paddock, was just too good to pass by, so the couple and their children lived with the challenges for a few years while they made plans. They wanted to embrace the barn’s farming heritage and put the focus back on the beams.
Kitchen enhances the original beams
As they contemplated kitchen ideas for the barn, Tamsin and Paul decided to work with the barn's structure, rather than fight against it. Removing wall cupboards and switching the color palette from creams to grey-blue tones created a modern country look. The couple are delighted to be able to appreciate the craftsmanship and history of the oak frame at the heart of the kitchen now the wall cupboards are no longer cluttering the space. The cabinets are from Neptune.
Dining room details
A wall was removed to join the dining room with the kitchen, making the layout much more practical and sociable. The new look open-plan space is full of inspiring details for anyone looking for dining room ideas. Tamsin stripped the varnish from a rectory table, which is the ideal size for seating the family and guests. The original Tolix and Indian café chairs are from an antiques fair.
Selling their previous home meant finding a new way to display their collection of oil paintings found at fleamarkets and antiques fairs. The Victorian portraits in ornate gold frames looked perfect in the Georgian house but were too elaborate here. Tamsin removed the frames and now the dark colors look good against the pale walls and complement the other black details in the room.
Living room style goes up a level
One major discussion as the owners planned their renovation was whether to move the living room downstairs. The full effect of the pitched roof and original beams is best admired here on the first floor, however, and it's exactly the kind of amazing space you expect to see in a barn. In the end the couple felt it would be wrong to move it downstairs, where they would have had to put up internal walls.
Instead they decided to pare back the decoration to emphasize the oak beams here and throughout the barn. There are some inventive living room ideas in this room that would transfer well to any style of home. A large sisal rug frames the seating area in the refreshed room, and on either side of the modular blue velvet sofa are a pair of marine groynes, upcycled to make chunky pillar side tables with hurricane lamps on.
Unsure about color schemes, the couple took advice from Heidi Francis at Flint, who suggested Zoffany’s Half Mushroom (opens in new tab) shade. The advice proved invaluable, it’s the perfect neutral that brings the house together.
Living room storage – the big reveal
When is a TV not a TV? When it's discreetly hidden inside an antique cabinet, of course. You'll have to take our word for it, but the family's TV is tucked away in a mellow-toned wood chest opposite the sofas.
Anyone looking for living room tv ideas take note. This is a great way to repurpose a favorite piece of furniture. Along with the vintage leather armchair, it complements the natural beauty of the old oak beams.
Atrium entrance with high impact
Of course the barn's original architecture is the key to this unique and dramatic atrium entrance hall, however, there are hallway ideas worth copying for any space. All the joinery here, and elsewhere in the barn, was painted black to match the original outside cladding and emphasize the wood beams. Hallway woodwork, skirting boards and stairs don't have to be painted white.
Bedrooms with country appeal
Anyone looking for bedroom ideas will find lots of inspiration in the barn's beautiful set-ups. Re-using belongings gave this room a head start with an antique marble-topped table and antique mirror from the family's previous Georgian home. The wall lights came from Tamsin’s former office. Furnishings and décor in soft neutrals with just a hint of pink, creates a restful scheme, and of course the vaulted ceiling and those beautiful beams are the star turns.
Guest room style points
This guest room is Tamsin’s favorite room. There are plenty of great country bedroom ideas here worth borrowing. The rustic shutters used above the bed were bargain finds at an antiques fair and the floral oil paintings were bought in antiques shops and are the perfect accessories in a country bedroom.
Just because you're furnishing a child's room, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your own sense of style. There are some great kids' room ideas here, showcasing an interesting mix of old and new pieces. Tamsin combines fleamarket finds, such as the vintage machinist's chair, with old pine drawers from her mum, and a colorful new rug. The bright comic-strip artwork under the eaves is a fun compromise for anyone looking for Spiderman themed bedroom ideas.
Bathroom under the eaves
The couple converted one of the first-floor bathrooms into a bedroom, however, this one remained almost as it was when the family moved in. The bath fits in so well beneath the sloping beams and didn’t need changing so Tamsin just painted the feet black to give it a different look.
Swimming pool and outdoor dining and seating space
The pool was one of the deciding factors when Paul and Tamsin bought the barn – it certainly clinched the deal for the children. The outdoor space includes two-acres of paddock and a landscaped area around the pool that has become a stylish and social space enjoyed by everyone. There are separate eating and outdoor lounging areas overlooking the pool – great inspiration for anyone in search of pool patio ideas.
Keeping the farm heritage alive
The couple were conscious about repurposing as much as they could, in tune with the barn that became their new home. That goes for furniture, furnishings and the outside spaces. The restored lychgate entrance keeps the sense of the property's farming origins alive, right from your first sight of the barn and its garden.
Original feature: Jane Crittenden Photographs: James French Styling: Marisha Taylor
Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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