Couple show the stress-free way to bring a barn back from ruin
A derelict barn is now a state-of-the-art home thanks to a self-build dream team. Sharon Dale reports on an innovative conversion project.
SELF-BUILDERS without a horror story are unusual, as such projects attract disaster and sometimes even financial ruin and divorce.
But Sue and John Edmunds are a rare breed whose barn conversion went without a hitch thanks to a combination of luck, good planning and choosing the right builder.
“We had fantastic builders who guided us through every stage and came up with innovative solutions and ideas,” says John.
It was Malcolm Sampson, former rugby league player turned builder, and his son Lee, who broke the news that the barn was unstable and would have to be taken down and rebuilt stone by stone on more solid foundations.
The property in Crigglestone, near Wakefield, was in a poor state and had been for years before the couple decided to tackle it together.
It came with the 400-year old farmhouse that Sue bought in 1992. “I didn’t have the time or money to renovate the farmhouse properly when I was on my own, but when I met John we decided to do it together,” she says.
The couple tackled the farmhouse before turning their attention to the derelict building next door.
“It was strange because by coincidence I had asked the farmer years ago if he wanted to sell the barn separately and he wouldn’t .
“I always tell Sue that I didn’t marry her for her barn.” says John.
Getting planning permission was a struggle thanks to access and strict rules on keeping original openings, but they managed and even got permission to include three extra windows thanks to the help of their architect, AL Turner from Levisham.
The work, which started in February 2003 and was completed in December 2004, began with taking the building apart stone by stone.
John and Sue project managed the conversion and talented DIY-er John helped out labouring and fitting.
“That was something I really enjoyed. It reminded me of my Army days being part of a group all working towards the same goal and I loved the camaraderie,” he says.
Any spare time was spent sourcing everything from Pilkington K glass windows to underfloor heating topped with kiln-dried oak flooring that would not crack. Their “bible”, Homebuilding and Renovating magazine was a great help, but John says: “It’s incredible how much time sourcing everything takes.
“We went all over Yorkshire and to Manchester and, of course, we looked on the internet, which was before we got broadband. We’d sit there for 35 minutes waiting for a picture of a door handle to download.”
That’s not a problem now as the property is hi-tech with hard wiring for computers, an audio visual system and Bose surround sound.
Out with the old was their motto. They wanted a complete change from the more traditional decor in the farmhouse, so every room in the barn is minimal and modern.
John and I agreed on virtually everything. I couldn’t believe how similar our tastes were.
The layout provides a dining hall, sitting room, kitchen, utility room, study and cloakroom on the ground floor.
On the first floor there are four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Outside there is a garage and garden. “It is completely different to what we had at the farmhouse and it’s also very warm. We put more insulation in the floors, walls and loft than we needed to and most of the time we walk round in shorts and T-shirts,” says John.
The kitchen is a Leicht from John Longley in Barnsley and cost £16,000.
The steel, glass and oak staircase was a triumph thanks to local company Premier Engineering, who copied a zig zag design the Edmunds’ had seen in a magazine for just £10,500.
Most of the furniture is high end with just one or two costcutters including Stanley sliding doors from Homebase that John made into a wardrobe and an office cupboard that came from Ikea.The final job was creating a garden, which John did himself, but as it blossoms he and Sue are preparing to move and look for another self-build project.
The couple have documented the build on a PowerPoint presentation, which they plan to give to the barn’s new owner. It’s a digital documentation featuring before, during and after footage but there are no Grand Designs-style dramas. “It was a good build with no great problems and John and I agreed on virtually everything. In fact, I couldn’t believe how similar our tastes were.
“The only thing I questioned was how much we were spending on John’s gadgets. I couldn’t believe how much he spent on a TV bracket,” says Sue.
“They say it takes a year to build something and year to repair your relationship, but that wasn’t the case for us at all.
“We have very happy memories of it all.”
Park Barn is for sale for £459,950 with Dacre, Son and Hartley, tel: 01924 387001, www.dacres.co.uk
HI-TECH LOOK: Sue and John have gone for a modern, minimalist look in the converted barn to contrast their farmhouse.
SIMILAR TASTES: Sourcing all the materials was the main challenge for the couple.
UNSAFE: The barn in its derelict state.