Converting a derelict barn

Mervyn Cole and Terry Chappell abandoned one major home project to take on their dream renovation, which involved converting two dilapidated 19th century barns to create a three bedroom house with open-plan kitchen/dining/living space, frameless floor-to-ceiling glazing and a glass extension

Mervyn Cole and his partner Terry Chappell have moved 14 times in 30 years, renovating properties and then moving on to their next project. However, while searching for their latest challenge, they had to look further afield to find what they wanted.

‘We had already been through four counties looking for a derelict building with a large plot of land, but without much luck,’ says Mervyn. ‘Eventually, though, we came across two dilapidated barns for sale in Gloucestershire, which were perfect.’

Unfortunately for the couple, the two barns went to auction under sealed bids – and they lost out to a higher bidder.

Fact file

  • The owners: Mervyn Cole, a retired interiors retailer, lives here with his partner Terry Chappell, who is an employment consultant
  • The property: A three-bedroom house converted from two barns dating from the 19th century
  • The location: Newent, Gloucestershire
  • What they spent: The couple bought the two barns in 2001 for £275,000 and have spent around £364,000 converting them into one large house. The property has been recently valued at around £1.5million

Searching for a project

‘We were devastated at missing out as they were the ideal challenge for us,’ Mervyn explains. ‘However, we had to move on, so we concentrated our efforts on finding another project.’

Exterior of barn before renovation

The property

Five months later, Mervyn and Terry discovered that the rival bidders had dropped out of the sale and were asked if they were still interested in the barns.

‘Although we had already made some headway with our new project, we loved the barns and their surroundings so we decided to go ahead with the purchase,’ says Mervyn. ‘Pulling out of that project meant we lost money, but we knew it would be worth it in the long run.’

The two 19th-century barns – one made of stone and the other of brick – formed an L-shape, although they were not actually linked. The single-storey brick barn was in a dilapidated state and uninhabitable with large cracks in the walls, which made it structurally unsafe. The stone-built barn lacked foundations and part of it was still very much the original cattle shed, with brick cobbles on the floor and cattle mangers fitted along one of the walls.

Planning permission

The two barns came with approved planning permission to convert them into a four-bedroom property. However, Mervyn and Terry were not happy with the proposed design and set about planning a more contemporary style.

Their design linked the two barns with a glass and zinc-roofed extension and included a ground source heat pump to provide underfloor heating for both floor levels.

‘The original plans allowed for four rather cramped bedrooms, three of which were meant to be in the single-storey brick barn, leading from a corridor running its length,’ says Mervyn. ‘We thought the brick barn would be better suited as a large open-plan kitchen/dining/living area – we disliked the proposed kitchen space as it was too small for our needs.’

Mervyn and Terry’s plans for the second floor of the stone barn included two spacious bedrooms, both with en suite shower rooms. The ground floor of the barn would comprise the hallway, study, snug room, shower room and guest bedroom, making it a three-bedroom property. The stone barn would then be connected from the sitting room to the brick barn via the glass and zinc extension.

‘We called in an architect to draw up our designs and to handle the technical details and, two months later, planning permission came through,’ says Mervyn.

Shower in barn renovation

Snug with woodburning stove in barn renovation

Interior design

The build project was scheduled to last for nine months, so the couple rented a property until they moved in seven months after the majority of the building work was complete, so they could make the final decisions on the room schemes.

‘We chose a Bulthaup kitchen, which came from Hobson’s Choice in Swindon, because we fell in love with its clean, geometric lines,’ says Mervyn.

The couple then had limestone tiles laid throughout the ground floor to create a neutral base within the rooms and to continue the contemporary scheme.

‘We knew a limestone floor would look great and be easy to keep clean,’ Mervyn explains. ‘We chose the tiling and sanitaryware for the shower rooms from Porcelanosa as we like their quality design.’

Mervyn and Terry have subtly blended contemporary furniture with the occasional statement piece such as the framed antique Persian jewellery close to the modern Andy Warhol prints of singer Dusty Springfield.

‘We love our new house because we’ve brought together all the best design elements from our previous homes into a traditional-style setting,’ says Mervyn.


Building work incl decoration£200,000
Fixtures and fittings£24,300
Underfloor heating£15,000
Professional fees£11,700