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Extension to Complement Our Barn Conversion: Case Study

By: Mary Williams BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Barn Extension Traditional Location

The Bignall family had lived in their converted barn for 16 years when they decided to build an extension. The problem was coming up with a design that blended well with the original structure, satisfied the planners and made the most of the incredible views.

Karen Bignall said:

“When we bought our barn it had already been converted. It is beautiful Grade II listed property that is thought to date back to the 17th century. The walls are made from brick and flint and it still has all sorts of wonderful original features. There are lots of exposed beams inside and the beautiful arched shapes of its windows have been retained.

Beautiful Barn

The barn has one large living area, in which we have a sitting room space, with a wood-burner, and a dining area. The main stairs come down to one side and lead up to a galleried landing. Also on the ground floor is the kitchen, which leads out on to the terrace. Upstairs, we have four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

With just two children, the barn was the ideal size. There was plenty of room both for the family and for guests to come to stay. There was also lots of space for entertaining. We had several big parties over the years both inside and out.

Designing an Extension

Our barn is set in a stunning location with wonderful views down to the river and across the valley. Our only slight regret about it was that nowhere really made the most of those views. You could catch glimpses but due to the positioning of the windows, there was nowhere to sit and relax where you could really take in the amazing panorama.

After much consideration, however, we eventually decided the answer was to build a garden room, an extra space that flowed on from the main living area and that featured lots of glass. Like the kitchen, it would open out on to a terrace. We put our ideas to an architect who drew up some plans. We went for quite a bold, modern design featuring lots of glass that we thought would contrast with the older original barn and would look eye-catching. Unfortunately, however, the planners thought otherwise. They described our plans as too “industrial” and it was back to the drawing board.

In Keeping With Character

The next set of plans was more acceptable. We did have to work closely with the conservation officer at the council in adapting them but eventually we came to an agreement. We would be given permission for large windows that were not in keeping with traditional barn-style windows if we had sections of brick and flint, as well as timber. The shape of the building had to follow the shape of the original barn – and the join had to be seamless.

So work began and, wherever possible, we built our extension using reclaimed materials - and it looked fantastic. Inside, we laid a reclaimed oak floor that flowed on beautiful from the living area. We keep areas of the brick and flint wall exposed for character and we brought in some very contemporary looking furniture that gave us that “old and new” contrast we had been seeking.

Today, the garden room looks as if it has always been there from the outside, so perhaps the planners were right. It is the most wonderful place to sit as the sun goes down and has delivered everything we were seeking in terms of capturing the views."

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