9 of the best contemporary barn conversions

These former agricultural buildings provide a generously-spaced shell for a rural family home

By Becca Green | 6 May 2021

Looking for barn conversion ideas? Ripe for renovation, these agricultural outbuildings offer a contemporary space within a traditional landscape. The transformation process is no mean feat, but the results can be extraordinary. Take a look at these nine conversion projects that have all conserved the spirit of the original structure.

1. 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.

hand-built barn shawm house grand designs house of the year

Photo: Rob Rhodes

2. Kitchen barn conversion

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.

West Sussex Kitchen Barn Conversion

Photo: Middleton Bespoke

3. Georgie and Greg’s barn conversion

Georgie and Greg’s ambitious barn conversion on their family farm in Sevenoaks faced numerous challenges, from health concerns to planning restrictions and financial constraints. Finding themselves priced out of the property market, they decided to convert a single-storey barn on Georgie’s family farm.

The barn was not old, but because it stands in a greenbelt and conservation area, the couple weren’t permitted to substantially alter the structure. Architect Mike Kaner from Kaner Olette to drew up the plans, using rooflights and unobtrusive slit-shaped windows to get light inside without adding expanses of glass. Inside, a steel-framed cube was designed to stand in the centre of the barn to create a second level, with a snug in the lower half and Georgie’s craft workshop above.

Grand Designs Sevenoaks barn conversion exterior surrounded by trees and green grass

Photo: Jefferson Smith

4. Cornish holiday home

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 three bedrooms – a master suite, guest bedroom in the loft and a bunkbed room complete with climbing wall for the kids.

Charlie Luxton's self build barn conversion holiday home in Tregona north Cornwall - grand designs

Photo: Mark Bolton

5. Rural rebuild

Modular building techniques delivered innovative barn conversion ideas for this project 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.

modular rural home swann edwards architecture copy

Photo: Swann Edwards Architecture