Homeowners Jeremy Witt and Hannah Smith have converted this listed timber and brick barn on the Essex/Sussex border to create a light-filled contemporary home that celebrates the building’s cathedral-like proportions.

Planning permission for the barn’s conversion was lengthy but ultimately successful. The design retains the original floorplan, including all the large agricultural openings created when the building was erected in 1836.

Externally, the original oversized openings, Welsh slate roof and brick walls sit alongside new larch cladding, which has been left to weather to its natural silver grey.

Internally, the barn’s original cruciform central space forms the kitchen, dining and circulation areas, with smaller spaces flowing off for bedrooms, a library and study. The design also incorporates contemporary detailing such as simple rooflights and large unadorned openings.

Fixing the roof was a huge and time-sensitive part of the renovation, with a team of four roofers working solidly for three months. They stripped and reused 12,000 Welsh roof slates from demolished buildings on site, and installed local Douglas fir timbers and insulation for the warm roof construction.

Project Notes

  • Project: Brick and timber barn conversion
  • Location: Essex/Suffolk border
  • Barn cost: £249,000
  • Build cost: £500,000
  • Building work commenced: Oct 2013
  • Current value of property: £1.7m

Before

Exterior from courtyard showing buildings that were demolished to provide materials

The original barn was in good structural health, but missing roof slates were allowing rainwater to enter, and wet and dry rot were both evident

After

Interior of barn showing cruciform circulation space

The design retains a largely open plan internal floorplan, including the original large agricultural openings and rooflights

open plan kitchen in converted barn

Large sliding doors provide a strong connection with the outdoors, where the simple landscaping and planting echoes the site’s agricultural past. The original floor has poured concrete floors with underfloor heating

A warm roof allows the barn's original rafters to remain visible

A warm roof (a timber deck installed above the original roof structure with insulation above it) allows the original timbers to remain visible without compromising thermal performance. To achieve this, the roof was raised 200mm, which required listed planning consent

Concrete dividers, originally part of the barn's milking parlour, have been converted into bays for bicycles and motor scooters

Concrete dividers, originally part of the barn’s milking parlour, have been converted into bays for the couple’s bicycles and motor scooter

Birch-faced plywood used to create furniture in the bedroom

Steps leading up to the bedrooms help to divide the space

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