A con­verted barn in north­ern France takes on a mag­i­cal Yule­tide look, thanks to its stylist owner

There can be few places more ap­pro­pri­ate to cel­e­brate Christ­mas than in a barn – although this beau­ti­fully re­stored space, all soar­ing ceil­ings, white­washed brick­work, tac­tile tim­ber and light-re­flect­ing sur­faces, is a far cry from its orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion as a brick-built sta­ble.

The trans­for­ma­tion from farm build­ing to fam­ily home is the work of in­te­rior stylist Rachel Cop­pens. “As soon as I saw this place, with its ex­posed frame­work and cathe­dral roof, I knew that I had found our home,” says Rachel. “There was ev­ery­thing I loved – vol­ume, un­touched space and na­ture all around.”

At the time, Rachel was liv­ing in a con­verted silk fac­tory in the cen­tre of Lille in north­ern France, but was look­ing to move to the coun­try be­fore her son Louka was born. “I wanted to have out­door ar­eas as well as big, open-plan spa­ces,” says Rachel, who found just what she wanted in this lofty build­ing on the out­skirts of Lille. “I love to start from scratch and dream up my own home. I could eas­ily imag­ine liv­ing here.”

Rachel, who has ren­o­vat­ing form, was heav­ily in­volved in the project from the plan­ning stage through to the fin­ish. The 95-square-me­tre barn proper has been con­verted into an ex­pan­sive liv­ing area with an open-plan kitchen, din­ing area and sit­ting area, whose airy di­men­sions per­fectly ac­com­mo­date a gen­er­ous Christ­mas tree stud­ded with glit­ter­ing baubles. A broad cor­ri­dor leads through to a 130-square-me­tre ex­ten­sion, which houses the mas­ter suite, two fur­ther bed­rooms, a pow­der room and bath­room. Struc­tural el­e­ments that could be con­served, such as the ex­posed frame­work, were re­stored and their nat­u­ral beauty left to form an eye-catch­ing fea­ture com­ple­mented by stretches of white­washed orig­i­nal brick. Else­where, the walls were clad with pan­elling for in­su­la­tion.

Not ev­ery­thing went ac­cord­ing to plan. The barn’s newly laid tim­ber par­quet floor­ing had to be re­placed by con­crete an­hy­drite floor­ing, cov­ered with a white epoxy resin, af­ter it suf­fered ex­ten­sive wa­ter dam­age. Hav­ing fin­ished the wooden floor, Rachel went away on hol­i­day. “We came back home to find our­selves knee-deep in wa­ter,” says Rachel. A com­bi­na­tion of heavy rain – “like a tsunami!” – and the slope of the ground around the barn had flooded the house. “It was a com­plete shock,” she says. “I didn’t have the strength to start all over again and de­cided to en­trust the sec­ond phase of the work to oth­ers!”

She made the most of the sit­u­a­tion, how­ever, by hav­ing the level of the floor­ing raised and un­der­floor heat­ing in­stalled, and the calamity did have one silver lin­ing: “At the end of the day, we have gained in com­fort and light,” says Rachel.

“The white floor bright­ens things up and adds a more mod­ern touch to the house.”

As soon as the dam­age had been dealt with, Rachel – who trained as a visual mer­chan­diser be­fore an in­tern­ship with a pho­to­graphic stylist en­cour­aged her to switch cre­ative tracks – turned her at­ten­tion to the in­te­rior de­sign. Her style is a melt­ing pot of rus­tic and eth­nic bo­hemian in­flu­ences, with an em­pha­sis on tex­ture and tac­tile tim­ber. Trav­els to far-flung des­ti­na­tions such as Morocco, Asia and South Amer­ica are a source of in­spi­ra­tion, and as an in­te­rior stylist she has the in­side track on the best places to find fur­ni­ture. “I am lucky to live in Lille and near Bel­gium, in a re­gion full of in­te­rior de­sign stores and an­tiques shops,” says Rachel, who sourced the rail­way sleep­ers for her kitchen bench­tops at a lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage store.

Fur­ther ev­i­dence of her hands-on ap­proach to in­te­rior de­sign comes in the shape of some of her fur­ni­ture. She crafted the din­ing ta­ble from tim­ber plank­ing, and when she couldn’t find the teepee bed that she dreamt of for her son’s bed­room, she made one her­self. “I learnt to use a jig­saw dur­ing my car­pen­try lessons while do­ing the visual mer­chan­dis­ing course,” says Rachel. “I quickly came to en­joy DIY. It al­lows me to make my own unique pieces of fur­ni­ture at a low cost.”

Sea­sonal touches in the form of sparkling fairy lights, stars and gold ob­jets glit­ter and gleam against a har­mo­nious back­drop of ma­te­ri­als and tones. Wood, cush­ions, soft rugs and an ar­ray of candles cre­ate a homely set­ting, per­fect for Yule­tide cel­e­bra­tions – while the Christ­mas tree, dec­o­rated in vary­ing shades of white and gold that work seam­lessly with the re­strained scheme, only adds to the magic of Euro­pean win­ter evenings spent by the fire.

“As soon as I saw this place, with its ex­posed frame­work and cathe­dral roof, I knew that I had found our home”

LIV­ING “It’s so cosy here that, once in­stalled on the sofa, it’s hard to move!” says Rachel about her favourite area, the liv­ing room. Ei­ther side of the fire­place two so­fas from Mon Sa­lon à Moi face each other across a hand­made cof­fee ta­ble crafted from a pal­let and cas­tors. Cush­ions and can­dle­sticks from H&M Home add to the warmth of the room. Fes­tive rein­deers and metal tray from Fam­i­flora.

MAS­TER BED­ROOM The main bed­room, with its own dress­ing room and bath­room, is part of the barn’s ex­ten­sion. The La Red­oute bed is dressed in bed­li­nen and cush­ions from IKEA, with a float­ing shelf dis­play­ing Rachel’s art­works and ob­jets. A black fea­ture wall and faux fire­place (above right and op­po­site) add a stylish note to the monochro­matic scheme, which is grounded by a geo­met­ric vinyl rug. Rachel in­jects per­son­al­ity with an eye mir­ror, stool from Morocco and strik­ing pho­tog­ra­phy.

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