Contemporary barn conversion

Inspired by modern design and statement colours, Lyn Nixon was given a free hand by her husband Andy to put the wow-factor into their newly converted barn. Boldly-coloured walls mix with bright accessories to create cool, contemporary interiors

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When Lyn Nixon married her husband Andy they were living in his two-bedroom flat on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lyn had an apartment of her own, which she started renting out when she moved in with Andy, but she wanted to add her individual style.

‘Although I was lucky to be earning an income from my flat and sharing the running costs of Andy’s, I wanted a home where I could add my own touches,’ says Lyn. ‘Besides, we would need more space eventually as we planned to start a family.’

While they were on holiday in Fife, the couple saw a converted barn up for sale and knew that this was the type of property they would like to live in.

Fact file

The owners: Lyn Nixon and her husband Andy, who both work in the financial services industry, live here with their five-year-old twins Lucas and Olivia

‘We loved the character and individual nature of this barn-style house, but we didn’t want to live so far away from our families,’ Lyn remembers.

Lyn and Andy searched for similar properties closer to home and found one advertised in a local property guide.

The barn had recently been converted, so it didn’t need any major structural work. It was on two floors and surprisingly spacious as it was laid out on different levels.

The ground floor comprised a dining room, storeroom, cloakroom and kitchen, with stairs leading down to a living room. The top floor had split levels too – there was a spacious home office, with stairs leading to a bedroom and bathroom. It then continued up some more stairs to a spacious bedroom with an en suite.

‘It was perfect for us. It had character and plenty of space and most of the main structural work was completed,’ says Lyn. ‘All we needed to do was transform the interior into a more contemporary home.’

Lyn and Andy raised the capital for the house purchase by selling their two flats and moved into the barn in spring 2006. They planned to decorate each room with a neutral palette initially then redecorate gradually as the rooms changed purpose.

‘Some of our rooms are now used in a very different way, especially since we’ve had children,’ Lyn explains. ‘The former dining room is now Olivia’s bedroom, the guest room has become Lucas’ bedroom, while the home office has been turned into a playroom for the twins. Admittedly, we didn’t think we’d need two children’s bedrooms so quickly,’ she adds.

The couple made a start on their initial decorating plans by employing Andy’s brother Ged, who runs his own painting and decorating business (, to paint every room, apart from the living room, in neutral Natural Hessian by Dulux.

Lyn already had a scheme in mind for the living room. She had loved the individuality of a quirky-looking bright orange chair that was featured in a magazine, so she bought it and used it as the inspiration for painting a bold orange feature wall in the living room.

‘It actually took five coats of paint to achieve the intensity and depth of colour that we wanted,’ laughs Lyn.

Within a month of moving into the barn, the couple had freshened up the décor in some of the rooms when Lyn discovered she was pregnant with the twins.

‘It was then full steam ahead to get a few more rooms decorated before the twins arrived,’ she explains. ‘We decorated our bedroom, because it was such a large space – we also needed a haven to escape to.’

Lyn’s inspiration for the look of any room begins with a piece of furniture – in this case it was a bold red chaise-longue.

‘I love bright primary colours and knew the size of our bedroom could take an extra piece of furniture, so the rest of the design simply fell into place,’ she explains.

She thought red should be the accent colour mixed with classic black and white.

‘I looked for a wallpaper with hints of red in it but couldn’t find one I liked and was drawn instead to a monochromatic retro print – it works perfectly,’ says Lyn.

As the birth of the twins wasn’t due for another three months, the couple decided to remodel their rather dated kitchen.

‘It’s a compact space, so we couldn’t change the layout dramatically,’ Lyn explains. ‘But we felt we could improve the flow by ripping out the units along the wall by the door and moving the sink and plumbing to the adjacent wall. We also thought the hob and oven would work better along the back wall.’

‘I wanted high-gloss units – as white seemed to be a popular choice, I chose a statement black finish instead,’ says Lyn. ‘I was warned about choosing high-gloss units with toddlers running around and now I know why – it’s shows every fingerprint.’

Lyn had already chosen some lime green accessories for the kitchen, so this seemed a natural colour for the walls. While Lyn’s father tackled the painting, Andy’s brother Ged tiled the splashback.

‘I had wanted lime green glass tiles but couldn’t find a good colour match, so Ged suggested white tiles to reflect light as the kitchen is quite dark, with a few random tiles in black,’ says Lyn.

When the twins arrived, all work on the house came to a halt. It was only when they were old enough to have their own rooms that Lyn put her creative hat back on.

‘I designed Olivia’s room using girly colours, and chose blues and greens for Lucas’ bedroom,’ she says. ‘As I’m not keen on traditional furniture, I was on the look out for something modern and individual.’

She soon found the solution, as she explains: ‘Children’s Funky Furniture was perfect – just what I had been looking for.’

Now that the major work in the house was complete, the couple turned their attention to remodelling the family bathroom.

‘We had wanted a wetroom, but realised that it wouldn’t work with the kids padding wet feet around the house, so we settled for a shower cubicle,’ says Lyn.

The couple had planned to open up the space by knocking down a wall. However, they discovered a large chimney breast was in the way, which would have been very expensive to demolish.

‘It soon became evident that the only place for the shower cubicle was against the chimney breast – so the rest of our bathroom fittings had to be worked around it,’ Lyn explains.

Lyn bought all their contemporary sanitaryware at a local bathroom shop and sourced the tiles through a friend. The couple then hired a plumber friend to fit the bathroom.

‘We’re so pleased that it’s finished,’ smiles Lyn. ‘Our home is now full of character and is bright and bold with individual touches – just like our family.’