Ask anyone who has converted their home and they’ll tell you it’s a big undertaking. But for Sophie and Bob, it was the chance to create a dream home that would fit their family’s exact needs. ‘Bob is from a farming family, and he wanted to give our three children the same countryside upbringing,’ Sophie says. ‘We sold our family home in a nearby village and spent the best part of six months looking for the perfect rural property.’
For advice on how to turn your rural home into an idyllic space, read the latest on barn conversions
The couple often passed this large dwelling nestled in the Lancashire countryside on their dog walks, and after some enquiries, they discovered the house was up for sale. ‘I dismissed the project initially as I feared it would be too much work for us to take on ourselves, but the setting and views won us over,’ reveals Sophie. ‘The barn came across as a sad old building that wanted to feel happy again. When the sale went through smoothly, it felt like it was meant to be.’
Sophie Waiting, an architectural illustrator, her husband, Bob, who owns a drainage business, their three children, Macy, Joss and Tom, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens
A converted barn with attached cottage in Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Over time, the house’s original layout had been altered and tweaked by previous owners, including an 18th-century cottage addition and a row of ugly garages from the 1980s. Luckily, the couple have a history of renovating houses. ‘We’ve had a lot of practise and we’ve had to become very DIY savvy,’ Sophie says. ‘There’s nothing we won’t turn our hands to.’
The couple reinstated the original cottage first so they had somewhere to live while they worked on the barn. ‘We ripped out all the fixtures and fittings and I filled our piggery with salvaged finds,’ reveals Sophie. ‘I wanted to reuse as much as I could, so I clung onto anything that may have a future use.'
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For the first two years, the couple concentrated their efforts on making the barn warm and watertight, as well as installing the kitchen and bathroom. Local contractors replaced the crumbling roof, removed the garages and added the mezzanine level.
‘After a year in the cottage, we were bursting at the seams and needed to move out,’ Sophie explains. ‘As soon as the kitchen and bathroom were in, we moved into the barn in time for Christmas.’
Sophie created detailed CGI sketches of her vision, and the resulting design map was handy in helping her hunt down budget-friendly vintage materials. ‘My nickname in the family is “The Sorcerer” because I can magic up materials from anywhere,’ she laughs.
‘We had such a big home to finish we had to make our money stretch. When I saw a flooring company was going bust, I bought all they had, and I sourced the appliances and units for about £1,000 on Ebay.’
The barn took two long years of solid work to complete. ‘We were pushing ourselves to get it finished,’ Sophie says. Part way through, she gave up working full-time and put her energies into her family and home. ‘Everywhere I looked there was a job to do,’ she recalls. ‘I left my business to concentrate on giving my children a lovely home they’d be proud of.’
Using clever design ideas and smart planning, the couple have highlighted the barn’s unique features. ‘This place had a lovely feeling to it and we wanted to keep that sense of personality,’ says Sophie. ‘This barn was a once in a lifetime opportunity; we’ll never move again.’