Renovated derelict farm

Lisa and Richard Swaine dedicated 16 years to renovating a derelict farm, creating a stunning family home that comes to life at Christmas

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This Christmas, Lisa and Richard Swaine are looking forward to a relaxing family celebration in their newly completed home – a spacious barn conversion that incorporates the adjoining renovated farmhouse.

It will be the couple’s first break in almost 16 years, since they started work on the derelict former dairy farm, bought in 1998 from the local water authority in a ‘best bid’ sale for £150,000. The main draw of the property, which is set in the Yorkshire Dales, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was its remote location in the countryside.

Approached by a quarter-mile track and surrounded by three acres of gardens, fields and paddocks, the agricultural buildings of various sizes were arranged to form a courtyard. The couple have since converted the smaller buildings.

Fact file

  • The owners: Lisa and Richard Swaine, who own a design and marketing company, live here with their children, Freddie, nine, and Henry, eight
  • The property: A converted barn and renovated farmhouse with outbuildings
  • The location: Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire
  • What they spent: The couple bought the farm in 1998 for £150,000, and spent around £275,000 on the conversion and renovation work. The property has recently been valued at around £990,000

Keeping to budget

With only a small amount allocated to spend on the farmhouse and a tight budget for the barn conversion, they knew that they would need to carry out most of the work themselves. ‘We didn’t have too many problems with the farmhouse,’ says Lisa. ‘My father is a cabinetmaker and my brother a steel fabricator, so the only trades we needed were plumbing and electrics. Richard and I did the concreting, pointing, tiling and plasterboarding.

‘When the time came to start the barn, we were just entering the recession, which meant we had a smaller design workload, so Richard was able to take on the responsibility of project-managing the build and doing most of the work on his own,’ she adds.


Lisa has created very distinct bedrooms for the boys to reflect their personalities. Freddie’s bed is from The Furniture Market and is dressed with Chocks Away fabric by Harlequin. The striped Estrella rug is from Barker & Stonehouse



An impressive six-metre-high Christmas tree rises up to the galleried landing beside the bespoke staircase, which Richard made by hand using green oak and laser-cut steel. The pine cone wreath on the front door is from The Contemporary Home


Mixing the old and new

This staircase leads up to the boys’ bedrooms, each featuring high ceilings, bare stone walls and stripped and oiled floorboards, plus an adjoining bathroom. The rooms are accessed by a corridor with cottage-like proportions that belie the expansive, contemporary living room in the barn next door; this space has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams, and a galleried landing overlooking the hall downstairs. A large wood-burning stove is the focal point of the space. ‘We wanted to create a “wow” element as you enter the room,’ explains Richard. ‘It took a lot of careful planning to make it open, light and airy, but not feel as if it was too large or cold.’

living room with exposed beams

Preparing for Christmas

Standing tall from the hallway below, the top of an imposing six-metre-high Christmas tree emerges. ‘From the very beginning, we visualised having a big tree in the hall,’ says Lisa.

‘However, we didn’t realise that it would require four sets of lights and more baubles than we own,’ adds Richard. ‘We keep adding to the collection – eventually we might have enough decorations to fill the branches!’


Lisa and Richard bought the sofa for the snug at a local auction. On the wall above is a christening painting by Richard’s father Neville Swaine. The small armchair for Harry and Freddie is from Rooms4kids

A statement staircase

A stunning bespoke staircase that Richard designed and made by hand is the centrepiece of the barn. Created from slabs of green oak, with laser-cut steel tread brackets and hefty supporting oak beam, it’s one of Richard’s proudest achievements from the project. ‘It took a year to design and build,’ he recalls. ‘It had to be a one-off, just like the barn. Stone, steel and oak make excellent material companions.’


dining area

A family home

As well as a stunning family home, the farm includes a photographic studio, and a separate studio for Richard and Lisa’s design and marketing business. The couple also juggle two other businesses, working out of the farm. ‘We have a very quick commute to work every morning across the yard!’ laughs Lisa. ‘Running three businesses is a lot, but we like to keep busy.’

There was a frightening time for the couple two years ago, as they were close to finishing the project, when Lisa suffered a stroke. After a difficult period of tests and treatment, however, she is on the mend and their vision for the boys’ upbringing in this idyllic rural setting is back on track.

Richard spent his own childhood very happily in a similar barn conversion that his father completed 50 years ago. ‘I swore one day I would come back to Yorkshire and have a conversion like that, with my own children, to enjoy everything I loved when I was growing up – and I’ve done it!’ he says. ‘We’re delighted with the finished house and the boys adore it, too,’ adds Lisa. ‘The whole thing is exactly as we had planned it – we couldn’t have done it any better.’

The costs

Farmhouse renovation£60,000
Converting outbuildings£19,700
Costings for barn: 
Windows and doors£7,000
Underfloor heating£4,500
Concrete floor£4,000
Boiler plumbing£4,000
Fires and flue£2,800
Miscellaneous decoration£2,000
Arch rebuild£1,000