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New bed

Category: Website Reviews September 24th, 2009 by mbc

Somewhat in anticipation of being able to take up residence we’ve bought a great new bed for the barn. King sized, so an extra six inches for the baby to spread out in during the middle of the night whilst his mother and I teeter at opposite edges of the bed.

Ours is a Snowdon organic mattress handmade in Wales and 100% organic (organic cotton and sheeps wool). We also invested in a hardwood bed frame which complements both the mattress and the room that the bed is in perfectly.

There were two factors that influenced this purchase, firstly the bed has been manufactured locally, only a handful of miles from the barn and secondly the materials from which it is made are in line with the healthy house ethos of which I am an advocate.

But most importantly, this is one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever been in.

Abaca Organic
Abaca Organic

In their own words: "The organic bedding products used by Abaca are produced using materials created by traditional farming methods, avoiding the use of highly toxic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. These production methods not only offer great benefits to the farmers and the environment, but increasingly enable you to choose products which will be safer for you and your family."

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Online – recommended #2

Category: Website Reviews May 4th, 2009 by mbc

A couple more useful sites that I’ve used recently and can recommend.


A nice idea - 'Scavengers offers a unique bespoke service to source and reclaim that period piece of furniture you've been looking for. Baths, beds,sinks, taps, fireplaces, mirrors, chandeliers, radiators, garden furniture, doors and much, much more.'

So if you want something antique but don’t know where to start looking then get on to Scavengers and they may be able to find something to fit the bill for you. I bought a chandelier from Scavengers which despite having a bit of a battering in transit should work well in the barn. I would never have found myself rummaging through antique shops or trawling ebay.

Inspired by Light
Inspired by Light

A great choice of lighting at low prices. Some of the quality isn't the best but you get what you pay for. I especially like the order tracking that lets you keep track of exactly where your order is - right down to links to the Parcel Force website that let you see who signed for the items on delivery.

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Online – recommended

Category: Website Reviews December 15th, 2008 by mbc

I spend a far amount of time sourcing goods for the barn on the internet so here’s a summary of some of my favourite sites with great features, products or service.

Nigels eco store
Nigels eco store

Of all the online green / eco stores Nigels is well laid out with a variety of products available. I like it so much, I'm going to start offering some of their products here...

Homebase - Store Stock Check
Homebase - Store Stock Check

They may not be the most competitive on price, but I really like the Homebase store stock check feature - it gives an up-to-date view of what's in stock in store and so may save an otherwise fruitless journey.


Of the companies I've ordered from online, bathrooms365 has given by far the best service with regular updates, courteous service and prompt delivery. Recommended.

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Design Patterns @ architypes

Category: Website Reviews June 29th, 2008 by mbc

As should be pretty obvious to any regular reader of this site, I’m pretty keen on the use of design patterns to ensure the goodness-of-fit between building plans and specifications and the requirements of the eventual end-users of a building. Patterns help inspire, guide and polish building design at all levels.

A Pattern Language ~ the ‘bible’ of building patterns

So, when I stumbled across the architypes site my interest was piqued. is a library of architectural design issues, solutions and ideas.

At the heart of are two simple but powerful ideas:

Patterns: The principles and ideas are organized into “patterns”. Each pattern describes a solution for a specific problem or design goal. […]
Open Collaboration: is a continuously evolving peer-reviewed project that you are invited to participate in.

In use I find the site and its patterns to be informative & inspirational, but perhaps a little light-weight. For example, the intriguing ‘Places of Quiet Refuge‘ pattern consists merely of the text:

The Japanese are often admired for their techniques used in creating private and quiet spaces. They are masters of separating the public spaces from the private spaces, and their techniques are rather simple.

…and a photo of an interesting mezzanine. Thanks, I’d like more… but it does start you thinking.

Worth a visit if you’re seeking inspiration. I’m off to develop some of my own meaty patterns…

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Passive Solar Design as a Word Cloud

Category: Website Reviews June 25th, 2008 by mbc

One of the (admittedly very dull) things that I spend quite a lot of time thinking about and experimenting with is the presentation of information. One of the newish developments that is overused on the web, but can be very effective is the word cloud. A word cloud is made up of the key words found with the domain of a certain topic or article with the size of each word in relation to the others determined by the frequency of use of that word.

The site wordle provides a great on-line word cloud generator. I used it to generate a word cloud from my article on Passive Solar Design:

(Click on the image to get a larger version)

Please take a look at the image then read the article on Passive Solar Design

Although some of the colouring of words could be better and certain words such as direct & indirect loose their relationship, I think that the word cloud conveys much of the content of the article – what do you think?

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Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter…

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]


Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”


What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety


Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…


Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…