A modern barn conversion

Susan and Simon Barry took on the challenge of converting four derelict farm buildings, including a 19th century cowshed, into a characterful, spacious country home

It took a lot of imagination for Susan and Simon Barry to appreciate the potential of a Victorian cowshed and three stables advertised for sale in their local newspaper.

When they went to view the derelict buildings, it was clear that a lot of work would be needed to turn them into a habitable family home.

‘A cockerel was living in the end stable, trees were growing out of the roof and there was ivy all over the walls – but I loved the place, with its old cider mill outside in the yard,’ Susan remembers. ‘It seemed so peaceful there and we felt sure that we could turn it into something special.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Susan Barry, who works for a chemical company, and her husband Simon, a manager at Home Retail Group, live here with their three daughters, Alexandra, eight, Gabriella, six, and Francesca, three
  • The property: A four-bedroom house converted from a 19th-century cowshed and three adjoining stables
  • The location: Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
  • What they spent: The couple paid £250,000 for the farm buildings in 2005 and have spent around £330,000 on renovations. The house has recently been valued at around £645,000

Wooden staircase in barn conversion

Light bedroom in barn conversion

The renovation

As so many renovations were necessary to make the stables and cowshed habitable, the couple continued living in their home in central Tewkesbury for a year during the major structural changes. Although Susan was pregnant with their second daughter Gabriella by that time, both she and Simon were keen to be on site as much as possible to advise on the build.

The couple had hired structural engineer Andrew Marcham to help with the redesign. All of the buildings needed to be re-roofed, the floors had to be excavated and re-laid with sandstone tiles as well as French oak floorboards and all of the windows needed to be replaced.

‘There were eight external doorways leading from the buildings originally. We didn’t need that many, so we reduced them to two main entrance doors and two sets of French doors opening out to the courtyard area,’ says Susan. ‘We turned the others into large windows.

‘The conservation officer wanted us to use single glazing, but the planning office was keen for us to install double glazing, thank goodness,’ she adds. ‘With a house this size, it helps to keep it warm.’

All of this work had to be done before Susan and Simon could even think about rewiring and plumbing, constructing new walls and replastering walls and ceilings.

Upstairs in barn conversion

Country kitchen in barn conversion

The kitchen

Meanwhile, the builders were busy constructing new walls in the kitchen area to define the utility room and mezzanine; plus other walls to replace the wood cladding in the wood shed and to divide up the rooms in the hayloft. Stud walls were built on all external walls for insulation.

The couple had planned to move into their new home in early summer, around seven months after starting the build work. However, when the new kitchen joinery arrived they found it didn’t match their original specification, with the wrong colour units and worktops, so they had to be re-made, which delayed the project.

Susan and Simon had invited friends and family over at Christmas that year, so even though the renovation project wasn’t completed by December, they needed to move into their new home that month. It posed a major problem, however – there was still no staircase or kitchen.

‘We had to make do with a set of ladders for stairs over the next eight months. We all slept downstairs, and Simon would carefully carry the children up the stepladder when it was time for them to have a bath – we at least had the upstairs bathroom,’ Susan remembers. ‘We borrowed kitchen units from a friend and cooked with a microwave until Christmas Eve, when our kitchen was at last installed.’

Susan had planned a simple tulipwood kitchen with a free-flowing design so the children could round around safely. As she explains: ‘I wanted the induction hob concealed so it would be child-friendly. As I didn’t want too many wall units, I asked the joiner to build a large island unit to create extra storage space.’

However, there were still lengthy delays to installing the staircase, so the couple decided to hire a different company to build it, choosing Sturdy Joinery in Bromsgrove which made the stairs from solid oak to match the other oak woodwork and beams in their new home.

With all the delays, dust and noise behind them, Susan and Simon are thrilled with the new look. ‘We were lucky to be able to design our own home – and I’m glad we went for it,’ says Susan. ‘The open-plan layout is perfect for children and entertaining.’


Bathrooms, tiling and sanitaryware£60,000
Joinery (windows and doors)£47,500
Roofing, insulation and skylights£38,000
Plastering, decorating, curtains and blinds£30,000
Kitchen and utility room (including appliances)£28,000
Legal fees, labour and professional services£32,000
Garden and patio£16,000
Ground works£10,000
Underfloor heating and boiler£10,000
Oak flooring£9,800
Log burners and installation£6,800
Wine cellar and installation£5,000
Damp-proofing/ timber treatment£4,400
Oak staircase and installation£3,500