Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"
This comment from robertloxton was posted on one of my how much does a barn conversion cost posts the other day.
I bought a threshing barn and subsequently got pp for conversion to one dwelling. There are so many different ideas and prejudices out there about how and where to go about this.
The best advice I had…..was to make sure you applied for what you really wanted for yourself. Not to be unduly influenced by other peoples experience. Sometimes you find that experience (including professional) is 20 years old….and in truth matters have moved on. The economy has moved on.
So my answer is to spend a huge amount of time reasearching and establishing for yourself what you want. Head up the applications yourself and use the professionals as back up to you. Don’t let them be the lead players.
Clearly you have to be doing this in an informed way. But rocket science it ain’t.
I think there are some really important points in there…
I’m not anti-architect, I’ve never used one myself but I know a few and value their advice and opinion. But Roberts point on your conversion being about “what you really wanted for yourself” is key to personal success for most fool-hardy instigators of conversion projects. I’m not wanting to pick on architects, but I see them as a key source of opinions that differ from your own and the most likely to be able to shift your project away from “what you really wanted for yourself“. By all means seek advice, explore differing opinions and adjust your own thoughts, but I strongly believe that you should own the overall vision for the conversion yourself.
It can be alluring to seek advice and delegate decision making, to play the part of a patron rather than project manager, but that’s rarely the route to personal success and the satisfaction gained from a vision made real that should come from a successful conversion. Unless you truly have more money than sense & a willingness to create the vision of others then conversion is surely not for the weak-hearted.
It was never planned this way, but I realise now that the name of this website enshrines this approach, it is after all, MY Barn Conversion.
When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…
When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage. With a barn conversion the challenge is heightened (often literally) as we often design in full height, full length / full width open spaces that subsume those areas of the home we utilise for storage in more traditional houses (the attic, under the stairs etc.) into the main habitable volumes of the building.
In ‘A Pattern Language’ Christopher Alexander tells us to give 15-20% of the volume of the building to bulk storage.
Plan for dedicated storage rooms, shelving up through double height rooms, raised cabin beds with large storage spaces above and below…
Consider the local vernacular.
Consider the local vernacular. When converting or renovating you’ll already have a great reference point in the building itself and others close-by of a similar age.
So, in East Anglia, a wheat straw thatched roof is a appropriate choice just as are brick and flint walls in Wiltshire or a cross-over slate lintel on a house in North Wales.
Of course your local planning office may have differing opinions, having decided on a local ‘style’ – rendered walls with stone corners for example, that is not actually in keeping with the local vernacular at all … don’t forget to pick your fights wisely …
When working with an old building maintaining its integrity is essential. One of the cornerstones to the integrity of a building is the materials from which it is built and with which it is maintained and the techniques applied to those materials.
Choose your palette carefully – natural stone, slate, local timber, lime mortar …
Then ensure these materials are used in a sympathetic manner…
Most conversion projects involve the division of large functional spaces in smaller, habitable spaces. But keep the space & enjoy it … allow for a full height atrium, keep large open plan living spaces, divide spaces with furnishings, temporary dividers or screens rather than solid, immoveable walls.
Avoid the desire for that extra bedroom or reception room – may as well buy a new build!