Architectural designers, Andrea and Duncan Pyle had been searching for a barn conversion for some time before coming across a collection of dilapidated stone barns on an agricultural property website.

Project Notes

  • Project: Listed barn conversion
  • Location: Somerset
  • Plot cost: £412,500
  • Build cost: £165,000
  • Current value of property: £750,000 – £850,000 (2016)

Organised around a central courtyard, the barns were once owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

Grade II listed stone barn conversion

Externally, the roof has had to be rebuilt and the stonework repointed.
The window in the gable end is the only new opening in the building

“There were a number of covenants on the barns which meant that the plot could not be developed into more than two dwellings,” explains Andrea. “And if treasure was ever found under the barns, it would belong to the Duchy. The barns are also Grade II listed, along with the main farmhouse.”

Andrea and Duncan moved into a mobile home on site, along with their two sons, and began work on getting the barns structurally stable.

“We began with the most structurally endangered section of the barns,” says Duncan. “The roof timbers were very badly damaged and the roof was beginning to collapse. We were woken in the middle of the night by a huge crash — the wall had come down.”

The barn conversion is taking place in three phases, with Andrea and Duncan working their way around the courtyard. “So far we have only completed ‘phase one’ — the conversion of the two-storey section.”

Grade II listed stone barn conversion

The barns are arranged around a central courtyard and Andrea and Duncan
plan on carrying on the work in three phase, phase one of which
(the two-storey section to the right of the gates) is complete

Work was initially delayed due to conservation issues regarding the presence of bats in the barns.

“We were required to put in bat boxes, a bat roost and also owl boxes. Part of the barn is now completely sealed off for the bats,” explains Andrea. These measures delayed the project by a month and added costs of £5,000, including the necessary surveys.

Before conversion work could begin, the entire roof had to be removed in order to deal with the missing and rotten sections. This was a painstaking job as care needed to be taken not to damage the clay roof tiles so that they could be reused.

All the original stonework had to be repointed. “We found a local supplier who advised us on the mix, down to which grit had been used in the lime — we ended up with an exact match,” says Duncan.

Internally, all the floors had to be dug out on the ground floor, whilst on the first floor, the timber floors were completely rotten, with the exception of a couple of elm beams. These beams have been restored and, together with new green oak exposed joists, now form the new first floor.

Barn conversion living room with exposed stone walls

The large original elm beams have been saved and sit well with the new oak joists
which form the new first floor and have been kept exposed

“We used pre-painted cement boards (which provide a fire break) between the joists to make up the ceiling,” says Andrea. “This means no cracks in the plaster and no fiddly painting.”

Dining space in barn conversion with polished concrete floors and exposed beams

The polished concrete floors set a neutral background for the original features to
shine and, although they took up a large portion of the budget, work brilliantly
with the underfloor heating

Living room with woodturner and exposed stone walls

Andrea and Duncan were permitted to keep the exposed stone walls as even
though they are uninsulated, they are internal and back onto the woodburner,
acting as one big solid stone radiator

Andrea and Duncan planned to create Modernist-inspired, pared-down simple interiors and chose polished concrete floors for the ground floor, poured over underfloor heating, which is powered by a ground source heat pump.

Living room with polished concrete floors

Shadow gaps have been used rather than skirting boards,
in keeping with the Modernist-inspired crisp interiors

The ground source heat pump located in a paddock nearby, whilst ground-mounted solar photovoltaic panels serving the electricity for the heating system and hot water have also been installed, meaning the Pyles are on their way to being self-sufficient.

Barn conversion with bi-folds

The large area of glazed bi-folds replaces an old timber barn door
and spans both the ground and newly created first floor

To open up the layout and allow more light to flow through thew house, some internal walls were removed, including a non-structural Victorian brick wall. Natural light was important as the only new openings allowed were a window in one gable wall and a Velux roof window in one of the bedrooms.

Barn conversion open plan hallway with bi-fold doors

This glazed opening spans the double height space that has been created by cutting
away part of the first floor around the new steel and timber staircase 

The aluminium/timber bi-fold doors replace a large timber barn door, flooding the central hallway – open to the kitchen and dining room – with light.

Open plan kitchen with contemporary staircase

The Ikea kitchen is separated from the dining space by the steel staircase and full of light thanks to the glazed bi-folds to one side, with French doors to the other

White contemporary kitchen with exposed beams
Barn conversion bedroom with exposed beams

Upstairs there are now three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Although the original beams have been retained, they have been combined with new oak purlins for extra structural support

Contemporary bathroom with sloping ceiling and exposed beams

Duncan and Andrea shopped around for the best deals on sanitaryware and tiles in order to keep their costs down. The ceramic wall tiles (below) are from Topps Tiles

En suite shower room with twin basins and stone tiled walls

Phase two of the conversion will involve converting the next section of the barns into two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living space.

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