Converting a barn into a kitchen

After connecting an outbuilding to the family home via an extension, Sheila and David Coles created their dream classic-style space.

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After connecting an outbuilding to the family home via an extension, Sheila and David Coles created their dream classic-style kitchen space.

Fact file

The owners: Sheila Coles, a marketing director, and her husband David, who is an architect, live here with their children, Laura, 16, Jenny, 14, and Edward, 11 The property: A five-bedroom detached house The location: Bedfordshire What they spent: The project cost around £200,000

The first thing we did when we moved here was to knock down the original house,’ says Sheila. ‘I know that sounds drastic, but we had always wanted to build the perfect family home.’

There was a large detached stone barn in the grounds of the property, but Sheila and her husband David didn’t demolish it as David intended to use it as an office for his architectural practice.

‘When David’s business prospered he moved to new offices, leaving the barn empty,’ says Sheila. ‘That’s when we first started thinking about how to turn it into a kitchen/dining area.’

When the couple built their home 14 years earlier, the house suited their needs, but now the kitchen wasn’t big enough for a family of five. Sheila and David knew that replacing the kitchen units and furniture wouldn’t solve the issue of space, especially as they wanted a more family-friendly room. It seemed that converting the unused barn was the perfect solution.

‘We knew we could make the most of the space in there, especially as its location would give us beautiful views of the garden – our other kitchen just looked out on to the road,’ says Sheila.

It wasn’t simply a case of transforming the barn space into a new kitchen. The barn needed to be connected to the rest of their property so everyone could walk through the house to the kitchen without having to go outside.

‘Luckily, we could draw on David’s architectural expertise, which made it easier for us to devise the new layout and work out what planning permission we would need – plus he was familiar with the Building Regulations which came in handy,’ says Sheila.

By extending the original house to help link the barn and the family home together, David and Sheila were able to gain some extra space to create another dining room, bedroom and bathroom.

‘Our kitchen plan had turned into a major project,’ Sheila remembers, ‘so it was essential to put together the right team to see it through properly.

‘That’s why we employed separate tradespeople rather than a general builder – we also project-managed it ourselves. I’m glad we did, as it gave us more control over the budget,’ she explains.

Although the couple hadn’t set a specific budget, they were conscious that the costs needed to be reasonable. But, as Sheila explains: ‘We went ahead with the project, knowing that if we needed to spend more to get it exactly right, then we would.’

The build project took around a year to complete – luckily, they were able to call on some expert help from David’s brother Tim, who is a kitchen designer.

Tim, Sheila and David put their heads together and looked at several schemes and layouts for the new space, which is how the design evolved.

‘We wanted a classic style for the new kitchen, so we settled on solid oak units,’ Sheila explains. ‘As Tim offers a bespoke kitchen service, we were able to choose exactly what we wanted to fit the space than if we had bought off-the-shelf pieces.’

Sheila and David had initially planned a central island unit as the hub of the kitchen. However, they realised that the space would be too narrow for an island, so they had to rethink the design.

‘Tim came up with a great solution – a peninsula run of units connected to the main units and worktop area,’ says Sheila. ‘He also suggested incorporating a glass breakfast bar to provide more work space and an additional dining area.

‘The breakfast bar is made from sandblasted glass – it works beautifully with the green-coloured pigments in our granite worktops,’ she adds.

Knowing that the kitchen would be a busy area with three children in the house, the couple opted for hardwearing Graal Italian porcelain floor tiles.

‘I think my trickiest decision was choosing the cooker,’ says Sheila.

Sheila had been using a single oven for years, but now she wanted something more practical for family cooking. After looking at a variety of models, from AGAs to split-level ovens, she came across the perfect range cooker with two ovens and two extra hobs. ‘It was exactly what I had been looking for – its steel finish goes beautifully with our solid wood units and it gives a stylish modern edge to the kitchen,’ she says.

Despite the size of the project, the couple managed to stay within budget and are thrilled with their new kitchen.

‘Apart from the build work, we spent most of the budget on the cabinetry – but it will look good for years to come,’ says Sheila. ‘It took a while to come up with the perfect design, but it was worth it.’


Building work, labour and materials£157,105
Fixtures, fittings and appliances£42,627
Walls and flooring£4,625