When fate intervened, Nichola Trayler-barbrook seized a golden opportunity to transform a barn conversion into a stunning home
Nichola Trayler-bar-brook seized a golden opportunity to transform a barn conversion into a stunning home
Looking round her stunning house today, Nichola finds it hard to believe that she once turned her back on what has become the home she adores. ‘When I first viewed this barn conversion I dismissed it as I felt it was too small and lacked potential,’ says Nichola. ‘It was a decision I’d quickly regret.’ After tying the knot in 2013, Nichola and her husband Alex were on the lookout for a new home and liked the idea of swapping their modern three-storey townhouse for something with more character. Having trawled the internet, Nichola discovered a quaint-looking barn in a pretty Hertfordshire village. ‘I was so excited when I drove up and saw the converted cow byre,’ she recalls.
Nichola’s excitement turned to disappointment, however, as although the setting was undoubtedly idyllic, she had a sinking feeling that the barn just wasn’t quite right. ‘After walking from room to room, I felt that it was too cramped,’ she recalls. ‘Plus, its location in a Conservation Area put me off as I assumed that extending could be problematic.’
To Nichola’s surprise, that very night another set of buyers put in an offer for the barn and it was immediately taken off the market. In the months that followed, she continued her search for her dream barn conversion but nothing suitable came on the market. ‘I soon realised that rejecting the first barn had been a mistake,’ she says.
All was not lost, however, as several months later the original barn came back on the market and Nichola was quick to arrange a second viewing. ‘This time I visited when it was dusk and the owners had turned on the lamps and lit candles, so every room looked charming,’ she explains. ‘Having chatted to the estate agent, I discovered there was scope to extend too, giving me the option of creating the walk-in larder and utility room I was after.’
With Alex also on board, the pair snapped up the property and moved in not long after. When builder Dan Rowley, a family friend, visited the property to do some work for the couple several months later, he had some ideas about how they could rejig the layout to create more space. ‘It prompted us to ring architect Craig Humber of Croe Architects and, from that moment, everything quickly gained pace,’ says Nichola. ‘We ended up discussing ambitious plans to extend at the rear.’
The proposed design would add a substantial amount of space, with an oak-framed extension to create a vaulted dining room, a stunning master bedroom with en suite, a small terrace linking the new spaces seamlessly together, a compact loft bedroom and, of course, the sought-after larder and utility room. ‘It was a major project, but we felt it was worth taking on so much work as it would completely transform the house,’ says Nichola.
With planning permission passed, work began in December and took until July the following year, with the couple also deciding to make major alterations to the kitchen and main bathroom. ‘It made sense to do the work at the same time,’ admits Nichola. ‘It ended up costing more than we’d anticipated, but we firmly believed the end result would be worth every penny.’
Once the major building work was completed, Nichola carefully considered the decorating schemes for each room, choosing chalky grey paint as the backdrop to her furniture and accessories. ‘My aim was to strike a balance between being sympathetic to this character property and injecting a few contemporary touches,’ she says. ‘We’ve teamed furniture from our old house with new, more rustic pieces. I must admit, I went to great lengths to achieve the look we were after; finding the rose gold bathroom fittings I wanted was definitely one of the biggest challenges.’
There’s no denying that Nichola and Alex have created a beautiful home that they’re justifiably proud of. ‘We both love our barn,’ says Nichola. ‘From the outside, you’d never guess what lies behind the door, and people often comment that it’s a bit of a Tardis. I’m so glad fate intervened and allowed us to buy a property that’s become such a special home.’ ➤
‘It was a major project, but it was worth taking on so much work to completely transform the house’
before previous scheme Above Nichola and alex liked the sense of height and character in the old kitchen, but wanted to give the space a more sociable layout by introducing a central island unit with breakfast bar