Grand designs - converting old and wonderful buildings

It is extremely satisfying to breathe new life into buildings like barns or stables that might otherwise have gone to ruin. We've worked on a number of converted use properties and in our experience, they been some of the most challenging but also some of the most exciting. My own home is a converted school house and our new studio used to be an old pub so I know first hand how tricky it can be to begin this type of project. 

It is extremely satisfying to breathe new life into buildings like barns or stables that might otherwise have gone to ruin. We've worked on a number of converted use properties and in our experience, they been some of the most challenging but also some of the most exciting. My own home is a converted school house and our new studio used to be an old pub so I know first hand how tricky it can be to begin this type of project. The answer is to look to the property itself for inspiration – let it be the canvas! Every space has a story to tell, no matter if it’s a grand historical property complete with wood panelling and decorative plasterwork or a humble barn conversion.

The way I usually get into a project is by looking at what I can do to make the bones of the property the best they can be. The industry jargon for this is “interior architecture” but really, what we are talking about here is making the most of what you have. Sometimes this involves stripping away previous decoration to see what lies beneath. Don’t be afraid to remove bits that don’t work for your lifestyle. Just because something is historical doesn’t mean it can’t change. One thing that can be especially transformative is opening up ceilings to expose the rafters, making the most of an outbuilding’s height.

On the other hand, it’s also OK to add new layers, like lime washed timber cladding. One thing I always push for is  getting more light into the building, especially as the kind of properties we are talking about here are generally light poor. Adding bi-fold doors, skylights and large windows where possible will totally transform the liveability of a space by making it feel welcoming and generous.

Of course, you have to be sensitive to the surroundings and the character of the building but it is possible to rejuvenate them if you have a sympathetic eye and sensitively incorporate contemporary materials and furnishings were appropriate.

Whatever you do, make sure you've got planning permission before ploughing ahead. Familiarising yourself with your local council's planning guidelines is a good idea, however, I would advise seeking help from a planning consultant or an architect. As with all things in life, it is possible to do it yourself but often, you'll end up saving time, money and anguish by getting professional insight. If you are seeking inspiration, take a look at our latest project Mill House - a beautiful old farm house with converted outbuildings.

Good luck!
Emma

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