Adding an en suite in a listed barn

Camilla and Niven Shepherd have fitted a classic-style en suite to complement their listed barn home. The couple added an extension to the side of their home to house the new bathroom

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 ‘Niven and I fell in love with our Kentish barn the moment we set eyes on it,’ Camilla recalls. ‘Although we knew it would involve a lot of expense and hard work to convert the 300-year-old farm building, we couldn’t resist the location set within a landscape of apple orchards.’

The oak-framed barn, which had been used for housing cattle and agricultural storage in the past, was an empty shell. There was no room structure as such, but the interior space boasted a wealth of oak beams running vertically, horizontally and even curving around its timber frame.

As Camilla and Niven had some experience of renovating period properties, they felt confident enough to take on the challenge of converting the Grade II-listed derelict barn into a comfortable home.

Fact file

The owners: Camilla and Niven Shepherd, who are both retired, live here

‘We put in a sealed bid, knowing that four other people were interested in the barn, and were thrilled when it was accepted,’ says Camilla. ‘We then spent the next 12 months drawing up plans and seeking planning permission for Listed Building consent from the local authority.’

The couple wanted to convert the barn into a two-storey, four-bedroom house. While they were waiting for planning approval, they discovered that the previous owner had been given permission to demolish a derelict lean-to on one side of the barn 12 years before. The lean-to had added a further four metres of space to the building’s original footprint.

‘We contacted the planners and asked if we could add an extension, returning the barn to its original size, so we could create an en suite bathroom for the guest bedroom that we had planned for the ground floor,’ says Camilla.

Luckily, they were able to prove from old plans that the barn’s original footprint had been bigger, so the planners agreed to the extension work.

‘We were thrilled – at last we could get our project under way,’ says Camilla. ‘In essence, we were building a brand new house within the confines of the original timber structure and wall plates, so we knew that it would be tricky installing new windows and doors.’

Camilla and Niven hired local joiner and builder Terry Crick (01892 723082) to do the structural work for the barn conversion, including the extension for the en suite bathroom.

By adding a four-metre extension, the couple were able to create an en suite measuring 4×3.5m, using a timber frame of new oak, weatherboarded on the exterior and plasterboarded on the interior with polystyrene slabs for insulation.

‘Terry Crick supplied the oak frame, which was so solid it could stand safely on its own,’ Camilla explains. ‘He built this section exactly as it had been constructed originally – a single-storey with a high pitched roof and a baseplate wall of brick.’

Using his joinery skills, Terry made all the barn’s oak-framed windows and doors. He also fitted an electrically-operated ventilation system and installed spotlights on the walls and beams.

The use of traditional oak frame construction and materials has resulted in a seamless extension that looks like it has always been part of the original barn.

Once the extension’s structural work was complete, Camilla started sourcing classic-style fixtures and fittings for the guest bedroom en suite.

‘With all the expense of the conversion work, we were on a tight budget,’ says Camilla. ‘We went to a local branch of Plumbase, where we picked up great fittings at reasonable prices, including all the sanitaryware for our other bathrooms and downstairs cloakroom.’

As it was a single-storey extension, the couple had to work with the pitched roof when designing the layout of the en suite. They decided to put the shower cubicle in the corner closest to the window, where there was maximum height, to allow them to maximise the space.

They then planned the room scheme, which Camilla thought needed to be fresh and stylish to complement their new white bath suite. As the guest bedroom had a blue theme, they wanted to continue it in the en suite.

‘We looked at various designs before I spotted the blue and white chequerboard tiles, which we thought were perfect, and decided to use them on both the floor and bath panel,’ says Camilla. ‘We tied the scheme together with white wall tiles and a blue mosaic border.’

As the extension’s walls and floor were all new, the tiler didn’t have any problems laying the tiles.

‘Unlike the rest of the rooms in the barn, but that is one of the drawbacks of a 300-year-old property,’ says Camilla.

Although the extension project took around two years to complete, the couple are thrilled with the results.

‘I’m glad we found the original plans. Without them, we couldn’t have created our en suite bathroom,’ says Camilla.


Building work, including joinery£8,460
Fixtures and fittings£2,436
Walls and flooring£996