From derelict outbuilding to open-plan en suite

Inspired by their travels abroad, Jo and Gavin Acheson converted an early 19th-century barn into a boutique hotel-style master bedroom

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‘When we bought our cottage, it came with an adjoining derelict barn that had been used for storage,’ Jo explains. ‘Gavin and I could see there was potential to convert it into a stunning master bedroom en suite.’

A recent holiday to South Africa inspired the couple’s choice of bedroom design.

‘We stayed in open-plan rooms on our trip, and realised that style of layout would work well in the barn,’ Jo remembers.

Fact file

  • The owners: Jo Acheson, who runs her own communications company, lives here with her husband Gavin, a partner in a law practice
  • The property: A three-bedroom Grade II-listed cottage linked to a single-storey barn conversion dating from 1830
  • The location: Great Wratting, Suffolk
  • What they spent: The project cost around £25,000

The design

Jo and Gavin called in architect Katie Thornburrow ( and interior designer Cate Burren ( to come up with ideas for converting the derelict barn.

Katie and Cate put forward a design featuring a tall headboard for the bed, which would act as a partition between the bedroom and en suite.

‘We felt that encroached on the open space, so we asked them to remove it and create a free-flowing layout,’ says Jo.

As the cottage and the adjoining barn are Grade II-listed, the couple wanted a sympathetic design, but they were keen on a contemporary layout.

A new design was presented, featuring a wetroom along the length of one wall, with a vanity unit behind the bed delineating the bedroom and en suite areas.

Building work

The barn was gutted, leaving only its shell. Jo and Gavin then discovered that the building needed more structural work than they had anticipated.

‘All the walls needed underpinning, but fortunately this allowed us to lower the floor level of the barn at the same time, making it level with the cottage next to it,’ says Jo. ‘A lot of the timbers were rotten, however, and needed to be replaced. When we furnished the space, we put our king-size bed in the centre of the room next to some of the newly fitted reclaimed timbers.’

A new plumbing system was installed as there was no existing water supply to the barn. Then a tanking system was fitted towards the back of the space to create the new wetroom area.

‘Our project wasn’t without its setbacks, because of the barn’s Grade II-listed status,’ says Jo. ‘We had wanted to replace one of the windows with french doors leading out to the garden and pool area, but planning restrictions made it too difficult, so we left it as it is.’

Interior design

Although the couple love sophisticated neutral colours, they wanted to avoid choosing any cream shades traditionally used in country homes.

‘We chose plain soft brown silk curtains, and natural-coloured travertine and mosaic tiles for the en suite,’ Jo explains.

As there are no dividing walls in the space, the flooring and lighting were used to highlight the separate areas.

‘The en suite has different lighting from the bedroom, so one space can be brightly lit while the rest remains dark,’ says Jo. ‘It’s handy when one of us needs to get up early and doesn’t want to disturb the other.’

Finished project

As the barn was closed off from the main house during the build, the couple were able to minimise disruption. The project took more than six months, though, as they had to get planning approval for the windows and doors. Original access was through the large barn doors which have been transformed into a tall window, so there is no longer a separate entrance.

‘Converting the barn was a practical decision,’ says Jo, ‘but the result is a luxurious haven where we can relax.’


Fixtures, fittings and appliances£9,402
Furniture and accessories£6,000
Walls and flooring£5,000