From pig­gery to palace

With a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion and a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment, unloved out­build­ings can be given a new lease of life. Anna Tyzack in­ves­ti­gates

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Anna Tyzack meets the own­ers turn­ing ne­glected out­build­ings into fam­ily homes, party barns and stylish hide­aways

Noth­ing stirs up the blood of an ar­chi­tect more than a lowly pig­gery or cart shed. With their simple floor­plans, un­em­bel­lished struc­tures and cav­ernous roof spa­ces, these build­ings lend them­selves per­fectly to far more ex­trav­a­gant uses, from party barns and hol­i­day lets to pala­tial fam­ily homes.

‘their hum­ble ori­gins give them a dis­tinct per­son­al­ity,’ ex­plains ar­chi­tect Martin hall (www.hallbed­nar­czyk.com), adding that peo­ple tend to be bolder when they’re work­ing with for­mer agri­cul­tural build­ings. ‘there is more of a will­ing­ness to choose raw ma­te­ri­als and glass.’

the lim­its set by plan­ning laws, which en­cour­age use of ex­ist­ing open­ings and preser­va­tion of the orig­i­nal struc­ture, can cre­ate a chal­lenge, but, in some ways, make the process quite simple. ‘the win­dows and doors in our barn dic­tated the in­ter­nal lay­out,’ notes Katie Pri­est­ley, who con­verted an old dairy in Dorset into a fam­ily home.

in­deed, such is the cur­rent mood for open-plan liv­ing and dou­ble-height ceil­ings that many mod­ern homes are ac­tu­ally mod­elled on for­mer cow sheds. Danny Lodge, the new fam­ily home in West Sus­sex of ar­chi­tect Matt White (www.mattar­chi­tec­ture.com), is a case in point: a 4,300sq ft mod­ern Sus­sex barn, tacked onto a grade ii-listed Vic­to­rian game­keeper’s cot­tage.

‘it’s a hard-work­ing fam­ily home that com­bines prac­ti­cal­ity with charm and per­son­al­ity,’ con­cludes Mr White.

The sta­ble turned party barn

When Steve and Jules (left) hor­rell moved to an 18th-cen­tury cider barn near Bru­ton, Somerset, in 2016, they didn’t give much thought to the run­down sta­ble block across the court­yard. how­ever,

when it de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther over the win­ter, they de­cided to con­vert it into a party room.

‘The bar­rel-top roof was the only sta­ble part and we were go­ing to lose it if we didn’t do some­thing,’ says Mrs Hor­rell, man­ager of Roth Bar & Grill at Hauser & Wirth in Bru­ton, Somerset, where her hus­band is head chef. ‘As we’re both pas­sion­ate about en­ter­tain­ing, it made sense to have a party space.’

Plan­ning per­mis­sion wasn’t re­quired, as they weren’t adding new walls or win­dows. ‘We could have con­verted it into a proper house, but we re­stored it to pre­serve what was there—we like the way the struc­ture is open­fronted,’ Mrs Hor­rell ex­plains.

They re­placed the oak posts, which had been chewed by nu­mer­ous Shire horses over the years, and re­paired the roof, then in­stalled an out­door kitchen and fire pit, plus a long din­ing ta­ble.

The Hor­rells have used their party barn on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing bar­be­cues and New Year’s Eve cel­e­bra­tions. ‘Once you’ve dec­o­rated it with can­dles and lit the fire, you can use it in win­ter as well as sum­mer,’ says Mrs Hor­rell.

It’s also a use­ful shel­tered workspace: this au­tumn, Mrs Hor­rell has been mak­ing black­berry cor­dial and, at Christ­mas, Mr Hor­rell heats vats of mulled wine on the stove.

‘We use it to store our trac­tor and to process ev­ery­thing from our small­hold­ing,’ con­tin­ues Mrs Hor­rell. ‘Even when the rain is ham­mer­ing on the tin roof, it’s a lovely place to be.’

The cart shed and dove­cote turned cot­tage

When the roof of the 16th-cen­tury dove­cote at Shelfield House, Warwickshire, col­lapsed in 2016, owner Lady Kil­maine (above) re­solved to save the build­ing and con­vert the ad­ja­cent cart shed into a cot­tage. Her daugh­ter was get­ting mar­ried that sum­mer and the cart shed, which had been used to store wood and her late hus­band’s trac­tor, would pro­vide ex­tra ac­com­mo­da­tion for wed­ding guests. Af­ter­wards, it could be used for long-term lets.

The dove­cote was a simple restora­tion pro­ject for ar­chi­tect Si­mon Mar­son (www. mrtar­chi­tects.co.uk)—he ren­o­vated the old rafters and re­placed the roof—but the cart shed was more chal­leng­ing, due to con­di­tions set out by the Plan­ning Depart­ment and Build­ing Con­trol. ‘We had to work with ex­ist­ing open­ings and were un­able to use any of the ex­ist­ing struc­ture—in­su­la­tion had to be placed in tim­ber par­ti­tions, which meant build­ing a shell within the build­ing,’ he says.

By re­plac­ing the wooden end walls with glass, Mr Mar­son al­lowed nat­u­ral light to flood into the build­ing, aided by con­ser­va­tion roof lights. ‘The re­flec­tive qual­i­ties of the glass en­hance the his­toric qual­i­ties of the build­ing,’ he elab­o­rates.

For the wed­ding, a fam­ily of five stayed in the cart shed, which has since been rented out. The dove­cote pro­vided space for three guests and is now used for stor­age. ‘There’s no ac­cess for birds any­more, but we’ve made pro­vi­sion for an owl’s nest,’ says Lady Kil­maine. ‘I get such plea­sure see­ing a beau­ti­ful build­ing rather than a ruin.’

The dairy turned fam­ily home

The dairy at Dud­dle Farm near Dorch­ester, Dorset, was re­lo­cated from another lo­cal farm in the early 1900s —you can tell be­cause the beams are num­bered—and trans­formed into calv­ing pens by Katie Pri­est­ley’s (be­low left) fa­ther in the 1990s. When he di­ver­si­fied into blue­ber­ries and forestry, the dairy was left empty.

It wasn’t un­til 2015, when the florist (www.katie­priest­ley.com) was preg­nant with her third child, that Mrs Pri­est­ley’s par­ents sug­gested she and her hus­band, Matt, trans­form it into a fam­ily home. ‘The builders man­aged to com­plete the work in seven months, so we could move in be­fore the baby ar­rived,’ she re­calls.

This was no mean feat given the scale of the build­ing, which is L-shaped and housed trac­tors and farm ma­chin­ery as well as live­stock. Ac­com­mo­da­tion now in­cludes

‘The bar­rel-top roof was the only sta­ble part and we were go­ing to lose it if we didn’t do some­thing

four bed­rooms, an of­fice, a laun­dry room, a sit­ting room and a vast dou­ble-height kitchen with ex­posed rafters. ‘We’ve def­i­nitely up­scaled—we could fit our old cot­tage and gar­den into the kitchen alone,’ laughs Mrs Pri­est­ley. ‘We can now have 35 sit­ting down for Christ­mas lunch.’

The kitchen is the hub of fam­ily life, painted in blues, greys and whites, with so­fas, toy cup­boards and an enor­mous din­ing ta­ble, as well as an Aga and kitchen is­land.

This opens onto the farm­yard, where the chil­dren can ride their scoot­ers and bikes and wan­der into their grand­par­ents’ farm­house.

‘I was de­ter­mined to live in this com­mu­nal, multi-gen­er­a­tional way,’ con­firms Mrs Pri­est­ley. ‘It’s an in­tel­li­gent way of us­ing a build­ing that no longer had a use and is a lovely space to live in.’

The chicken shed turned hol­i­day let

There was noth­ing par­tic­u­larly eye-catch­ing or his­toric about Ni­cholas and Sue (above) Pea­cock’s chicken shed near Trel­lech in Monmouthshire, which made the chal­lenge of con­vert­ing it into a four-bed­room hol­i­day home even more en­joy­able, re­veals ar­chi­tect Martin Hall. ‘It was a wreck with a cor­ru­gated roof, dirt floor and rot­ten tim­ber walls,’ he ex­plains. ‘We’ve worked with plenty of ru­ral build­ings, but this was a bit more of a bas­ket case than usual.’

The plan­ners weren’t con­vinced, ei­ther: the ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved by just one vote. ‘They were wor­ried about the im­pact on the land­scape, but, now, ev­ery­one can see that it’s un­harmed,’ he con­tin­ues.

Mr Hall was de­ter­mined that the de­sign should be play­ful and prove that you can make a small space feel gen­er­ous and wellap­pointed. ‘I ap­proached it as you might a lux­ury yacht,’ he says. ‘Ev­ery­thing is high-end, yet com­pact.’

The ar­chi­tect steered away from dis­tressed ma­te­ri­als, which could feel nos­tal­gic and themed, and opted in­stead for raw ma­te­ri­als: cedar, iron, con­crete and walls of glass. The ef­fect is clean, light and mod­ern, but re­flects the agri­cul­tural roots of the shed.

As it was to be a hol­i­day let (www. thechick­en­she­dat­park­house.com), the Pea­cocks opted for a pared-back in­te­rior, with a focus on lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and crafts­man­ship. ‘When you’re on hol­i­day, you don’t want the clut­ter of every­day life around you,’ be­lieves Mrs Pea­cock.

Much of the fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing the beds, was de­signed by Barnby De­sign of nearby Hay-on-wye (www.barn­by­de­sign.co.uk). There are also hand­made Welsh blan­kets and some colour­ful Scan­di­na­vian pieces. ‘The walls are clad in cedar and the floors are pol­ished con­crete, but there’s no mis­tak­ing the build­ing for any­thing other than a rad­i­cally re­pur­posed shed,’ Mrs Pea­cock as­sures me.

The sheep shed turned week­end hide­away

When de­signer Christo­pher Howe

(left) was shown a pho­to­graph of a run­down sheep shed in a field in Glouces­ter­shire, he tried to per­suade his client not to pay too much for it. ‘It didn’t look spe­cial: not the field, not the set­ting, not the build­ing,’ he re­mem­bers.

A few weeks later, stand­ing out­side it with his client, Robin Mcdon­ald, he con­ceded that it was mag­i­cal. ‘The pic­tures didn’t do it jus­tice. It’s in the mid­dle of a wild­flower meadow and there was plenty that could be done with the in­te­rior,’ con­firms Mr Howe. ‘It took me by sur­prise.’

Mr Mcdon­ald, who bought the shed as a first-an­niver­sary present for his wife, was de­ter­mined that it feel like a hide­away cabin, rather than a cot­tage. By main­tain­ing the large barn doors and cre­at­ing four lev­els, Mr Howe trans­formed it into a bi­jou onebed­room house with a mez­za­nine bed­room for guests. ‘When you open the doors, you can see ev­ery room, rather like a doll’s house.’

There’s a sunken kitchen with a Cotswold­stone floor and an im­pres­sive cen­tral stair­case, lead­ing to the ground-floor sit­ting room, bed­room and bath­room. ‘The­o­ret­i­cally, the stair­case is too big for the space, but it di­vides up the rooms and pro­vides stor­age space be­neath,’ ex­plains Mr Howe.

Once the struc­ture was com­plete—a process that took only 8½ weeks—it be­came a week­end re­treat for the Mcdon­alds, their two young chil­dren and dog. ‘We get to hun­ker down to­gether and we’ll never grow out of it—the whole point is that it’s a lit­tle hide­away,’ Mr Mcdon­ald smiles.

Mean­while, Mr Howe has now ac­quired a dis­used Bap­tist chapel in the area to con­vert into his own hide­away.

The Hor­rells’ old sta­ble block is ideal for bar­be­cues in sum­mer and the mak­ing of mulled wine by Steve (above) in win­ter

De­spite rigid plan­ning re­stric­tions, a shed and dove­cote have found a new lease of life

Right: Aban­doned af­ter the farm di­ver­si­fied, the dairy was ripe for con­ver­sion. Be­low: Af­ter seven months, it was a fam­ily home

Above: In need of an imag­i­na­tive eye: the old chicken shed that Ni­cholas and Sue Pea­cock have trans­formed. Be­low: Now, the shed is a hol­i­day let with the feel of a lux­ury yacht

Top: De­signer Christo­pher Howe cre­ated a cosy space cen­tred on a strik­ing stair­case in this for­mer sheep shed. Above: The Mcdon­alds’ hide­away can only be reached on foot

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