Sarah and Richard Hayes have renovated an old cottage and a pair of derelict barns, linking them together with a dramatic glazed extension. The couple’s stunning contemporary home is designed perfectly to accomodate them and their lifestyle, whilst also seemlessly blending into the surrounding landscape.
Few properties epitomise the term ‘individual home’ quite like the tumbled-down Welsh cottage, complete with barns, which Sarah and Richard Hayes have renovated and extended. The resulting house is not only aesthetically unique, seamlessly blending the old with the modern – with not a hint of period pastiche or stark white-rendered minimalism in sight – but has been designed with the couple’s lifestyle in mind. There’s room for their “75m-long collection of books” and for their three children and grandchildren to stay, while the house also satisfies their ambitions for increased energy efficiency.
Whilst the couple had originally intended to move from Oxfordshire to Shropshire, a weekend stay with friends who’d retired over the border put a different spin on proceedings. “That was it, we fell in love with Powys,” says Sarah, an author. It’s easy to see why — tucked within rolling hills, valleys of vibrant green fields prevail. The house now takes in views over one such “secret valley” as well as the Hayes’ stunning landscaped garden.
The couple landed upon the derelict 17th century farmer’s cottage with adjacent barns – and almost no mains services – just two weeks before it was due to come to auction. Although their bid was successful, the building’s age prompted the local planning officers to prohibit its demolition hence plans were drawn up for the renovation and extension of the cottage — with a link to the two existing barns, which would in turn be converted into one habitable space.
Work began with the almost entire rebuild of the cottage and barns — new foundations were added and a few of the existing cottage brick walls and stone barn walls were repointed. “The cottage had been built into a slope, and was consequently very damp,” adds Richard. As such, a new hefty reinforced-concrete retaining wall was constructed, running the whole length of the house. This wall now forms the backbone against which the linear library of bookcases has been added.
Richard and Sarah also admit to being fortunate in their main contractors, IJ Preece & Son, who were selected through tender. “Their attention to detail was incredible,” agree the couple, who sold their existing house and moved into a rental property just ten miles from the project.
The house now successfully unifies the cottage with its extension — with slate-coloured porcelain tiles laid (over underfloor heating) in clean lines across the entire footprint. This synthesis is none so evident than in the open plan living area, where the barn’s original warped timber trusses have been hung against clean, contemporary plastered walls – behind which the new structural glulam frame hides – to stunning effect.
The blustering wind whipping up the valley is quite forgotten when sitting on the sofa below, within the ambient interiors. “We’ve lived in period houses and wanted something modern,” says Sarah. “But now we have the best of both worlds.”