Barn conversions have been very desirable properties for some years now because they offer the flexibility of modern open plan living combined with the authentic character of an old building.
Such is the desire for barn living that most of this country's suitable barn stock has already been developed leaving the price of the ones still available prohibitively high.
The alternative is to go for something that is less suited to conversion; either very run down or facing harsh planning constraints or, as in this case, both!
The finished article from the front:
The day we first went see Roy & Janine Naismith's dilapidated 14th century barn was a memorable one. They didn't so much know what they wanted, rather what they didn't. It was to be an open plan kitchen living room and as such the kitchen cabinets would be permanently on display and they wanted them to be a fabulous focal point of the room.
They were concerned about the surplus of space available and wondered how it could be made comfortable and how the kitchen could be made to integrate into the whole space.
Roy as a serious cook was keen for the kitchen to be at the centre of the room space, not tucked away into a corner.
Janine was in agreement as she felt it would be the most used part of the space and therefore should have access to views and natural light.
The ancillary activities such as storage and washing up needed to be accommodated in spite of limited vertical wall space. The walls down one side reached 1.7 metres (less than 6ft) before the roof slope began.
To get a full impression of the space, we insisted they open the doors, which hadn't been opened in over 100 years! After digging out the key Roy had to fight his way through a bed of stinging nettles just to get to the padlocks. The doors were rusted solid but once we had prized them open the atmosphere of the space changed instantly. We could appreciate the depth of the view, corridors
into the landscape on both the north and south vistas. There was a golden opportunity to create a kitchen that was part of a larger environment with long views to a rustic church on a hill to an uphill view of fields and downland looking south.
The downside of using barns, especially those that are heavily protected by historic listing is that there are restrictions on placing new windows into the building,
so natural light is restricted to where the barn doors were positioned.
Blasts of light would come into the centre leaving the spaces either side dark, along with the substantial roof void. Solving this dilemma would become key part of the brief.
The property was essentially two large barns joined together at right angles.
With the kitchen living space as the clear winner to occupy the larger building, another interesting dilemma revealed itself, how to use the copious amounts of residual space. In some respects there was too much.
With the key decision to place the culinary zone at the centre we looked at the big issue of sound privacy and creating a comfortable location. Working in the middle of the room can feel disconcerting. From our study of neuroscience we know that to feel comfortable in a space your back needs protection from on-comers. Hence we came up with the idea of creating a media den or a quiet room at the end of the open space.
This was to be a heavily insulated semi circular pod that could be used either to contain noise or protect you from it. This was placed in a dark area behind the culinary circle and along with a double front curved cupboard provided the necessary back protection. To add some wit and function we suggested wrapping a circular staircase around its perimeter and using the roof as a study area.
Hard working family members could then keep an eye on the cook!
The full height storage cupboards were placed against the taller vertical wall (North facing) leaving us with where to place the washing up zone. At this point we started developing the idea of a sink cabinet against the low wall (south). Hence came the idea of the sink trough.
The finished project is remarkably similar to the initial plan but the actual aesthetics in three dimensions evolved through a number of interesting ideas. For the most part the barn was going to be ultra-modern. Out of this came the desire to reference the building's history in a contemporary way in each piece of furniture.
Even though we had given several intermediate presentations throughout the design process, the clients were still quite moved when we showed them the 3D watercolour render for the first time - WOW was the general consensus...
As the building work progressed it became more and more apparent that there was not going to be a straight wall in the whole building! This further ratified our freestanding approach but contact with a wall somewhere was unavoidable. In order to get around this we were forced into developing some rather original fixing methods.
No straight wall in sight (the kitchen is going where the blue tarpaulin is):
The project combines many different materials and as such requires many different skill sets to work them. It was in the workshop for nearly twelve weeks with up to six men working on it at any given time.
Getting the perfect finish on the metalwork took a lot of energy...and sandpaper!
We had to give a precise layout for the plumbing etc months before we were due on site. On our intermediate site visits we would see the various services go in and couldn't help but look at the positions and think that somehow they were in the wrong. When we delivered the kitchen it was too late to make any changes; the floor was already laid, the services
were in position and to add to the pressure we had a camera crew filming a pilot for a new interior design TV show!
Rear view of the fridge housing:
The Haddow Partnership
Philip Coleman Builders Ltd
Siemens - www.siemens-homeappliances.com
Fisher & Paykel - www.fisherpaykel.co.uk
Miele - www.miele.co.uk
ISE - www.insinkerator.co.uk
Gessi - www.homecreations.co.uk/acatalog/Gessi_Kitchen_Taps.htm