Judith and Chris Brook have transformed a barn into a contemporary open plan family home, full of light.
Judith Brook did not need to look far to find the perfect conversion opportunity — the barn which she has now transformed into a lifetime home for herself, husband Chris and their children, nine-year-old Archie and Tessa, seven. She’d spent her childhood playing in the building – which stands within metres of her parents’ farmhouse in rural South Yorkshire – and her adult years quietly contemplating its potential.
“I’ve always loved it here, and since my late teens I would walk through thinking how it could work as a home,” reflects Judith.
The barn, built in the late 19th century, had served many a purpose throughout the 38 years Judith’s parents have lived and worked on the farm — which is now also home to Judith’s beekeeping business. Indeed, what was the former tractor store is now the centre of the house — a voluminous double-height dining hall with a bespoke timber, steel and glass feature staircase, heavy timber trusses above and folding sliding doors to the courtyard garden.
Initially the conversion had seemed unlikely though, with planning permission hindered by a bat survey and conservation issues. However following consultation with conservation officers, and in conjunction with architect David Bamford, the couple were successful with their plans.
Judith and David put out to tender to six local builders and dedicated a week to visiting examples of their previous work. One of whom was local contractor Terry Huggett. “When Terry visited the barn, I knew we were on the same wavelength — he understood my attachment and love for the building.” Terry and his team were duly appointed.
Work began with the floor excavation. “Floor upon floor of concrete had been laid,” explains Terry, “so we needed to dig down approximately half a metre to establish adequate head heights, but not so far as to compromise the foundations.” Fortunately no underpinning was required.
Inside the barn’s solid brick envelope, the walls and floors of Judith’s home have been built independently, supported by concealed steelwork and packed out with insulation. Chunky timber trusses support the new roof above. The original roof truss, which lies within what is now the master bedroom, was restored and raised — freeing the couple from having to duck when entering the room. However, considerable water damage to the remaining trusses meant replacements were needed. “A lot of time was spent finding timbers as gnarled and rustic as possible,” says Terry.
Judith dedicated a year to the build, helping out on site each day. “I’d drop the kids off at school then come straight here, and then return to the site in the evening or carry out research,” she explains. “I felt like one of team, helping with the excavation and unloading deliveries, as well as paying frequent visits to the local builders’ merchants with Terry to source and order the materials needed.”
Judith admits to missing life on site. “It’s given me the hunger to do it all again,” she says. “But having created my perfect home, we’ll be staying put for now.”