Converting a 19th century threshing barn

After a lengthy search for their dream home, Julie and Tony Moore discovered a barn conversion that needed some TLC. This 19th century threshing barn has been transformed inside and out to create a three-bedroom family home

Having spent nearly three years looking for their ideal property, Julie and Tony Moore were instantly captivated when they drove down a secluded leafy lane to view a charming barn conversion. ‘We were on the lookout for a historic property in a rural setting, and going by first impressions, the barn and its breathtaking location in the High Weald of Kent seemed perfect,’ says Julie. Previously, the Moores had restricted their house choices based on the proximity to their children’s schools, but with the children having left home, the couple had far more freedom to widen their search and seek out a property in an area they loved.

From the moment the couple walked into the barn through the large glazed front doors, they realised that they’d finally found a unique property. ‘The barn had such a lovely feel,’ explains Julie. ‘It was a character property, but with a contemporary edge that appealed to us.’

Fact file

The owners: Julie Moore (pictured right), a housewife, lives here with her husband Tony, who works in sales and marketing

Julie and Tony loved the feel of the property and the spectacular far-reaching views it offered, but on closer inspection they discovered that the conversion wasn’t finished to the standard they had hoped for. ‘The owner freely admitted at the time that he wasn’t a builder, and said that some of the work was “a bit rough and ready”,’ recalls Julie. ‘When we went upstairs, there was a rather strange open-plan arrangement with one large bedroom area that didn’t feel particularly cosy.’

Despite their reservations about the quality of the workmanship, after only one viewing the couple knew they wanted to make the barn conversion their home. They both agreed that with a lot of care and attention they could enhance the property and transform it into a striking home.

‘It was as if the previous owners had just done the basics when they converted the barn in 2006. We felt that it needed much more TLC to bring it up to the standard such a potentially fabulous property really deserved,’ adds Julie. Having bought the barn in October 2010, the Moores went through the house from top to bottom, deciding whether beams needed to be totally replaced or simply sanded and oiled, how to set about partitioning the first floor to create two separate bedrooms, and considering the best way to introduce design touches to suit their own personal style.

‘A lot of the oak for the barn was sourced from nearby woodland,’ explains Julie. ‘Unfortunately, some of it hadn’t been seasoned well enough so, over time, it had twisted and warped. Also, some of the oak had simply been glued onto the window frames, which didn’t look very good.’

To help bring the barn up to scratch, the Moores enlisted carpenter Dean Almond of English Oaks. ‘When Dean’s flyer dropped through the letterbox I decided to contact him,’ recalls Julie, who was thrilled that he turned out to be such a great find, as the work needed on the project suddenly escalated. ‘During the viewing, we could tell that the upstairs floor hadn’t been particularly well laid. When the previous owners’ double bed was removed and we moved in, we found that the floorboards were actually so bouncy that it felt as though we might fall through them into the downstairs bedroom,’ recalls Julie. ‘In the end, we realised that the whole floor would have to be completely re-laid and the joists would need to be strengthened.’

Dean had done such an impressive job of replacing the large oak steps leading to the back door and down into the kitchen that Julie knew he was the ideal person to help with this more involved task, as well as the many others around the property that required a skilled carpenter. Dean took up the floorboards, laid the new upstairs floor structure, then laid the original floorboards back on top of this. He then partitioned the space to create a separate master bedroom and guest room. To keep their airy new home light and bright, the Moores decided to install double-glazed internal windows with oak frames either side of the elegant vaulted landing. The open space above was filled in with plasterboard, insulated, painted, and reclaimed oak beams were added as a feature. A false beam the length of the master bedroom was also fitted in order to disguise a metal tie brace.

‘We decided to replace the old pine door to the bathroom with a smart oak one and then bought two more matching oak doors for the new upstairs bedrooms to give a more cohesive look,’ Julie says.

The next job on the couple’s hit list was the shower room. This was an enclosed square pod with a void above it that was part of the bedroom, creating a rather odd effect,’ says Julie. ‘Dean partitioned this off with reclaimed oak to create a useful storage area in the void, accessed by tongue-and-groove doors above the shower.’

Dean gradually worked his way through the house, replacing some of the beams and sanding and oiling others. Everything was going according to plan until the day when Tony spotted some tiny holes in the balustrades. ‘The house had been treated for woodworm before we bought it, but unfortunately this hadn’t solved the problem,’ explains Julie. ‘When we looked for other signs, we found even more evidence in the front door.’

Julie was keen to save the £1,500 she had been quoted to have the whole house treated, so wearing a boiler suit, mask and gloves, she set to work covering the affected areas in special wood preservative. ‘Treating the house with a syrupy green liquid hadn’t been on my to-do list when we moved in, but it had to be done,’ she recalls.

With the major jobs tackled and the woodworm treated, Julie decided to turn her attention to decorating. ‘The whole house needed a fresh coat of paint both inside and out and, after my success with the woodworm, I reckoned I could handle this job, too,’ she says, smiling.

To keep the interior of the barn as light as possible, the couple chose to paint the walls white and then add colour with a variety of furniture and soft furnishings. ‘We’ve introduced both old and new pieces of furniture to give a homely, cottage-like feel to the barn,’ says Julie. ‘We’ve also worked with some of the features added by the previous owners, including the range stove, floor and wall tiles in the kitchen.’

During the 18-month project, the couple ended up spending much more money than their original estimate of between £15,000 and £20,000. ‘We did end up using more of our savings than we had first hoped, due to the unforeseen costs, but the reality is that every penny has been well spent,’ explains Julie. ‘We took our time updating this property and we’re proud to have created a beautiful home that’s rich in history and character.’

The costs

Carpentry, including internal windows£18,087
External glazing£2,270
Curtain fabrication£1,400
Curtain pole and fabric for blinds and curtains£787
Oak internal doors, linings, oil and ironmongery£749
Furniture and light fittings£587
Woodworm treatment£214