Homes within converted barns offer a contemporary space within a traditional landscape. Take a look at these inspiring barn conversion examples below.

riba house fo the year handbuilt barn shawm house grand designs - 9 contemporary homes in converted barns - conversions - 

Image: Rob Rhodes

Choosing a barn to convert into a contemporary home is no small feat, but the results can be extraordinary. Take a look at these 9 conversion projects that have all conserved the spirit of the original structure. 

Shawm House 

Living on site, Richard Pender managed to construct this building for his retired parents, designed by MawsonKerr Architects, by hand with just a little help from outside contractors. He created a new timber frame within the existing barn structure and finished the build by applying larch cladding to sympathetically connect the project to the old, walled garden and small, stone stable block.

Passivhaus construction techniques were coupled with locally sourced materials for low impact. Superinsulation to the new and existing features, a biomass boiler and triple glazing throughout, work to make the building as sustainable as possible.

Kitchen barn conversion

West Sussex Kitchen Barn Conversion - 9 contemporary homes in converted barns - conversions -

Image: Middleton Bespoke 

Design Director Jasper Middleton from Middleton Bespoke took the opportunity to create this contemporary kitchen in a converted 1940s barn. Keen not to overwhelm the striking space, he worked with a new style of kitchen over the Georgian-inspired cabinetry Middleton is known for.

For the conversion, large doors were added along with reclaimed panelling and a vaulted ceiling. ‘The barn’s narrow width was a big challenge – we had to compress the gap between the island and the main long run of cabinets to 90cm instead of the standard one metre,’ explains Middleton.

New materials

Practice Architecture Flat House and Studio Image Credit Oskar Proctor 5 - 9 contemporary homes in converted barns - conversions -

Image: Oskar Proctor

Run by Steve Barron and Fawnda Denham, Margent Farm in Cambridgehire is part 20-acre hemp farm, part bio-plastic research project. The duo asked London-based Practice Architecture to create a new farmhouse, converting an industrial barn into a ground-breaking prototype that makes use of the site's natural resources and expertise. 

The main structural walls of the three-bedroom home are made from pre-fabricated panels designed by the architects using hempcrete - fibres of the hemp plant mixed with lime and water to created a concrete-like substance - and set within a timber frame.

19th-century stone

stone barn conversion with original doors - conversions -

Image: Nigel Rigden

Linda and her husband Peter snapped up Leachachan Barn on the banks of Loch Duich in the Scottish Highlands after visiting it in 2019. ‘I really liked Rural Designs’ projects, so I spoke to architect Alan Dickson, who got behind the idea from the start,’ says Linda. ‘What was great about Alan was that he really understood how to design a house for the Scottish environment – making the most of the views, but also keeping the house warm, and to maintain the traditional features, which is what I wanted above all.’

Nineteenth Century Stone Barn Conversion2 - 9 contemporary homes in converted barns - conversions -

Image: Nigel Rigden

The project was a sensitive one; from the very beginning, both Linda and Dickson wanted to ensure that the barn kept its agricultural identity. ‘You get a lot of terrible conversions that look like some kind of Franken-barn that’s neither a house or a barn,’ explains Dickson. ‘What we wanted to do with this build was make sure that, at the end of the project, it was unquestionable that it was still a farm building, and that any alterations were absolutely in character.

Rural rebuild

modular rural home swann edwards architecture copy

Image: Swann Edwards Architecture

Modular building techniques delivered an innovative solution for this barn conversion in Shouldham, Norfolk, which links neighbouring agricultural buildings. As well as bringing two elements into one spacious home – including a cinema, games room and bar – the family also wanted to raise the height of the original barn roofs to incorporate a first floor.

This involved placing additional weight on the existing walls, so with the emphasis on conservation, carbon reduction and expediency, Swann Edwards Architecture devised a timber frame structure inside the shell of the original buildings to both support the new composite clad roof and provide a basis for the new link element between the buildings.

Cornish holiday home

Charlie Luxtons self build barn conversion holiday home in Tregona north Cornwall - grand designs 

Image: Mark Bolton

Set in the picturesque Cornish countryside, a mere 15-minute walk from the beach, sits Charlie and Kate Luxton’s converted holiday home – a far cry from its former life as an agricultural barn. The finished project is split into two halves – the original barn, named The Sheepfold, and the annex, now called The Sheepshed.

Building work on the three-bedroom Sheepfold commenced in 2011, with the clearing of the site, removal of the roof and restoration and adaption of the property’s stone walls. These were internally insulated with breathable wood fibre and lime, with sections of oak cladding. It’s topped with a highly insulated reclaimed slate roof. Inside are 3 bedrooms – a master suite, guest bedroom in the loft and a bunkbed room complete with climbing wall for the kids.

The Essex barn

Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses9 - 9 contemporary homes in converted barns - conversions - 

Image: Rachael Smith

Kevin McCloud voted this grand barn conversion as one of his top 10 favourite Grand Designs TV houses of all time, explaining: "Most of us when faced with a building of this scale and size would get freaked out by the challenge of doing anything with it – but not Ben and Freddie. What they made was a grand, triumphant addition to their collective autobiography of made things... I love this place… a home with all the attitude and resilience of its owner." 

The original barn in Colchester, Essex, dated from around 1560. The owners saved £500,000 on the surveyor’s quote of £1.3million. A modern roof belies the stripped back nature of the interior. There’s no plasterboard or paint to hide the bare bones of the structure and the shell of the barn has been transformed into a liveable space. 

Cowshed conversion

converted cowshed into modern agricultural home in somerset - grand designs conversion

Image: Grand Designs 

Ed, a first-time self-builder armed with a wheelbarrow and a vision, had a fearless, gung-ho attitude which reflects the overall approach to this project, he embarked upon with wife Vicky after setting eyes on a semi-derelict concrete and brick cowshed in Somerset.

The design of the house, which follows the original sprawling footprint, takes its cues from the cowshed in terms of orientation and layout. ‘We worked out the rooms within 24 hours of seeing the building for the first time. It speaks for itself,’ says Ed. ‘We didn’t want to mess around with the layout and we wanted to keep the original internal brick pillars. Three of the four main walls were still there and we knew what spaces we wanted; it was just a case of arranging them in the right way.’

Consequently, the large open-plan living, dining and kitchen area looks out over the panoramic south-facing views of the Somerset hills.  


Which converted barn is your favourite? Share your thoughts with us by tweeting us @granddesigns or post a comment on our Facebook page.



What to consider when choosing glazing for your self-build

A guide to broken-plan living spaces

Building regulations: what you need to know

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live Online: Self Build & Renovation Weekend 31 July – 1 August 2021

Discover free home project advice and product recommendations from the comfort of your own home. Register now to express your interest.

Barn conversions: 9 of the best contemporary rural homes

Barn conversions provide a generously-spaced shell for converting into a rural family home. Explore these 9 projects in more detail.

A converted Portuguese winery with a unique red façade

This sensitive restoration is at once both modern and inextricably linked to the history of the building.

Converting a garage: what you need to know

Choosing to convert your garage could be a great way of extending your current living space. Here are a few things to consider before taking...

Inside a former Victorian school cookery given a new hotel-luxe style

Take a tour of this former cooking and laundry school turned contemporary apartment in Clerkenwell, London.

How to create a home fit for a multigenerational family

Whether for adult children or elderly relatives, multigenerational living is a growing trend that can be improved in practice by good design.

Loft conversions with the wow-factor

Loft conversions can add space, light and balance to a home. Here are some of 2019’s best, all with real wow-factor.