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.
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.’
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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