Ask the ex­pert

Country Life Every Week - - Ask The Expert - Retrou­vius (020–8960 6060; www.retrou­

Where to be­gin?

Be it an old barn, fac­tory, ware­house, church or any other struc­ture that is to be con­verted into a home, I al­ways start by think­ing about the ma­te­ri­als that are ap­pro­pri­ate to the build­ing and which will work with it, rather than against it. This is partly be­cause my fo­cus is on work­ing with re­claimed ma­te­ri­als that can be used to cre­ate in­ti­macy and calm in a large space.

For ex­am­ple, an an­cient barn with ex­posed beams lends it­self to oak, elm, lime plas­ter, jute, hes­sian and linen in keep­ing with its ru­ral iden­tity, but an in­dus­trial set­ting would tend to suit metal win­dow frames, black or steel-grey ac­cents, painted con­crete and ex­posed brick. The ma­te­ri­als can be used in mod­ern ways—soft-coloured, cut brick can look beau­ti­ful on the floor, for ex­am­ple.

What are the chal­lenges?

Given that such build­ings will of­ten have a large floor space, it is im­por­tant to think about zon­ing to cre­ate dis­tinct, but con­nected, areas for sit­ting, din­ing, read­ing and so on. In­dus­trial build­ings tend to be deep in plan, so they can be dark; in a re­cent con­ver­sion, we used some met­al­framed win­dows sal­vaged from Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion, which di­vide the space, but also al­low max­i­mum flow of nat­u­ral light.

Rugs and tex­tiles can be used to help de­fine spa­ces, as well as muf­fling sound. Sim­ple, un­lined wool drapes can be hung as a flex­i­ble way to zone the space; sim­ply push them aside for a party.

A large wool wall panel placed as a back­drop to a sofa can add height and drama, as well as cre­at­ing a fo­cal point— they are use­ful be­cause the eye of­ten doesn’t know where to set­tle in a large room. I’m also keen on us­ing ta­pes­tries, both vin­tage and new, be­cause they help with warmth and acous­tics. A paint­ing can be dwarfed on a large wall, but a huge, beau­ti­ful ta­pes­try can rep­re­sent ex­cel­lent value for its wall cov­er­age.

Are you a fan of mez­za­nines?

They can work well, but en­sure that they don’t kill the sense of vol­ume in the main space. I ad­mire the Mes­sums Wilt­shire gallery and arts cen­tre in Tis­bury (www. mes­sum­swilt­, which has a free­stand­ing ‘pod’ within a 13th-cen­tury barn, ful­fill­ing a prac­ti­cal func­tion with­out de­tract­ing from the beauty of the an­cient build­ing.

And your thoughts on light­ing?

Use a mix of lev­els of light­ing to cre­ate a bal­ance. For ex­am­ple, a scheme might in­clude four dra­matic floor-stand­ing lights set around a seat­ing area to cre­ate a fo­cus, balanced with small hid­den up­lighters that il­lu­mi­nate a vaulted ceil­ing. An in­dus­trial build­ing may be trick­ier as ceil­ings are more usu­ally flat, but you can still achieve dra­matic ef­fects given the size of the space, even with sim­ple fix­tures. Buy cheap-as-chips pa­per shades in huge sizes and hang 20 of them— they will look a mil­lion dol­lars.

Top tips?

Don’t buy lots of fur­ni­ture. In­stead, buy big! Any­thing too small will look ridicu­lous in a large space, whereas a few pieces, scaled to suit the vol­ume of the room, will look much more balanced. The same ap­plies to ma­te­ri­als: my motto is ‘more is less’: more of a ma­te­rial can be calmer and more suc­cess­ful than a small piece, which can look fussy. In­stall un­der­floor heat­ing, al­most be­fore you do any­thing else. It is ef­fi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal, and un­usual ar­chi­tec­ture can make it dif­fi­cult to work out where to hang ra­di­a­tors. And fi­nally, re­mem­ber the rea­son why you chose the build­ing in the first place. Ac­cen­tu­ate its char­ac­ter and cel­e­brate the joy of a one-off.

Lord Mar­gadale and Johnny Mes­sum in the Mes­sums gallery, where old em­braces new

Left: A re­claimed metal win­dow frame. Above: Large ta­pes­tries of­fer vis­ual drama and warmth

Maria Speake, in­te­rior de­signer and co-founder of ar­chi­tec­tural-sal­vage spe­cial­ist Retrou­vius, sug­gests some sym­pa­thetic ways to re­store in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural build­ings

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.