18th century barn conversion

Tina and Mark Blake have totally transformed their stone barn with lots of imagination and hard work. The couple have knocked through to the garage to create a bigger kitchen as well as exposing the original ceiling rafters

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The moment Tina and Mark Blake saw their house with its uninterrupted views across a valley, they fell in love with its setting in the Cotswolds countryside.

However, once they had looked round the converted 1720s barn and cowshed, the couple had a few concerns about it.

‘We had only recently finished converting our previous home,’ Tina explains. ‘The Cotswold barn had been converted too, but not particularly well, and we could see it needed more work than we had thought.’

Despite their misgivings, the couple were keen to move house, and Tina needed land for her horses, so after careful consideration she came round to the idea of taking on the challenge of another renovation project.

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That was 10 years ago. ‘I don’t think we realised exactly how much work needed to be done at that time or how long it would take,’ says Tina.

A great deal of structural work was necessary, but fortunately the 18th-century house wasn’t listed so there were not many restrictions. The couple wanted to extend the kitchen, then redesign the layout of the first floor to make the bedrooms bigger. They also planned to open up an unused second floor loft to create a master bedroom with an en suite.

The couple applied to the council for planning permission for the loft project (and a garage conversion) and consulted a structural engineer about installing a new roof on the house.

They were on a strict budget, so they did much of the work themselves and enlisted the help of Mark’s uncle Brian, and his friend Pete Wyse, to help with the heavy labour such as chipping off old plaster and removing rotten flooring. Tina and Mark tackled the plasterboarding, while Brian helped out with the plastering.

‘Almost no room has gone untouched,’ says Tina. ‘Mark, Brian and Pete fitted all the new oak window frames and sills plus our handmade oak interior doors.’

The house also needed to be rewired and re-plumbed, but a major part of the renovation project was the kitchen. The low ceiling was removed to expose the original rafters, then the builder moved back the end wall of the kitchen by 2.6m into a large adjacent garage to create more space.

‘The remaining space became a single garage,’ Tina explains. ‘We also had a floor built above the garage to create a study, which is accessed from the kitchen by climbing an iron spiral staircase.’

Tina and Mark bought the staircase in kit form and erected it themselves, which saved considerably on building a bespoke staircase. They hired a mini-digger to start off the groundworks in the kitchen extension – but they couldn’t tackle everything and called in professionals to install their underfloor heating with an English limestone floor laid above it.

The old central staircase on the ground floor was demolished and replaced with a stylish new one made from oak and glass and relocated further back in the space that had previously been an office.

The first floor originally had four bedrooms, one bathroom and an en suite shower room. To accommodate the new staircase and create larger bedrooms, the couple redesigned the layout by knocking down walls and relocating the doors. They now have three bedrooms, two bathrooms (including an en suite) and a bigger landing.

‘Our new staircase goes up through all three floors,’ says Tina. ‘Before it was built, there was no easy way of reaching the loft space, which was dark and dirty, but the space is gorgeous since the conversion – and has stunning views.’

The loft originally didn’t have enough height for it to be used comfortably as a living space or bedroom. By lowering the first floor ceilings, the couple were able to create a spacious master bedroom with a dressing room and en suite.

With all the major work completed, a new boiler and central heating system were installed and new flooring was laid throughout, including oak floorboards in several ground floor rooms. The entire house was then decorated in a classic style with neutral shades.

‘Neutral colours are a perfect backdrop for our traditional furniture, such as our antique oak dining table,’ Tina explains.

Outside, Tina and Mark added an oak-framed entertaining area near the swimming pool that came with the house. They also landscaped the garden, planting a beech hedge, olive trees, a series of rosebeds and borders and a box topiary.

After six years of renovation work, the project entered its final stage, when the existing conservatory was knocked down and replaced with an orangery.

‘It’s my favourite place,’ says Tina. ‘It has fabulous views across the valley from three sides, so I feel as if I’m outdoors.’

While the build was under way, the couple continued living in the house to oversee the project. It wasn’t without its difficulties. Soon after they moved in and started work, an end wall collapsed.

‘As it had once been an old barn, its far end had no foundations and it crumbled away after very heavy rain,’ says Tina. ‘We had to call the builders back in case the roof went – our electricity company came back too as that wall carried the electricity supply. It took six weeks to do the repairs.’

The couple are thrilled with their newlook barn. ‘It involved a lot of time and effort, but it’s a joy to live here, especially with such beautiful views,’ says Tina.

Costs

Orangery£60,000
Doors, staircase, window frames and flooring£53,000
Greenhouse/landscaping£40,000
Kitchen (including units, worktops and appliances)£30,000
Building work (including roof, rewiring & plumbing)£28,000
Heating£20,200
Miscellaneous£15,500
TOTAL£246,700