Converting a unique building into a stylish home

From getting permitted development rights to what buildings make good conversions, read our guide to converting a unusual building like a barn, church or factory.

By Emily Brooks | 22 January 2018

Converted buildings make some of the most exciting places to live, but only when the transformation is done with sensitivity. Here’s how to get it right, from planning through to layouts.

the kitchen area of a renovated old warehouse with exposed cement pillars

Image: Jim Stephenson

Living in a dramatic old building is sold as the stuff of fantasy: waking up under the gnarled trusses of an ancient barn, or entertaining friends in a huge open-plan former church with plenty of fascinating original features.

For every success, though, there’s a transformation that hasn’t hit the mark. Read on for our top tips that’ll make sure your conversion is a winner.

Which buildings make good conversions?

Clever conversions2

Image: Richard Chivers

Thanks to their large open spaces and unfussy design, buildings such as barns and warehouses are a natural fit for open-plan layouts. Meanwhile, pubs, post offices and smaller agricultural buildings (such as dairies) already have a more human scale that makes it easy to envisage them as homes.

Many other types of building – from water towers to electricity sub-stations – do not lend themselves as well to being turned into residential properties, and yet people undertake such projects regularly.

They usually require specialist help and a bespoke approach – hurdles that, for many, are too troublesome and expensive. If you have a determined mindset and a suitable budget, however, they can be the most spectacular projects of all.