How couple recycled materials from old cow shed to create this incredible self build

Large glass ceiling wall and a vaulted ceiling and v-frame roof supported by timber beams
Suzanne Blank Redstone and her husband, Peter Redstone spent 15 years transforming this agricultural building into a forever home (Image credit: RIBA)

This Devon farmstead was transformed by reusing the existing materials of the house in order to create a family home based around an art studio.

Artist Suzanne Blank Redstone and her husband, Peter Redstone, have been residents of Middle Rocombe Farm since the early 1970s, but about 15 years ago they embarked on the transformation of the farm buildings into a home.

The self build, now rather aptly called the "Cowshed", stands out by its clever recycling materials, demonstrating how agricultural buildings can be repurposed.

How self build recycled materials from cow shed

A converted agricultural building and surrounding plot

The 15-year project involved turning the farm buildings into a family home (Image credit: RIBA)

Inside, the exposed structure and surfaces pay homage to the original character of the cow shed.

The majority of the original cow shed remains intact, supplemented by locally sourced concrete blocks and cedar boarding.

Sustainability is a key focus for the entire farmstead as the existing cow shed structure has been upgraded with a super-insulated envelope and an structural insulated panelled roof. 

Additionally, the farm uses a ground source heat pump and a shared water treatment plant (where wastewater is collected, purified and reused) to minimise energy consumption.

Self build reused the roof too (minus the asbestos)!

David Kohn, founding director of David Kohn Architects who designed the home, stated: "Cowshed is an exemplar of reuse. It was originally built by our clients in the late 1970s to house their dairy herd. It was the cheapest most expedient agricultural structure available at the time.

"It used concrete posts to support timber trusses and an asbestos roof with concrete block walls. Other than replacing the asbestos, we reused every aspect of the existing structure.

"It sends a positive message to our industry that something considered so lowly and non-domestic 50 years ago has been transformed into a progressive home to last another 50 years."

A large windowed front wall to the property supported by a v-frame roof

The home was nominated for the RIBA Home of the Year due to the residential building being "repurposed in a humble yet inventive way" (Image credit: RIBA)

Home designed with art studio at its centre

An art studio with numerous paintings and sculptures

The art studio at the centre of the house features exposed concrete blockwork walls and a v-framed roof (Image credit: RIBA)

The house design revolves around the art studio, serving as the core and focal point of the house.

This double-height studio features provides a spacious setting to showcase the clients' art. Adjacent to the studio, there's an open-plan living and dining area.

Bedrooms and an office are situated on the ground floor, in order to ensure the home remains a lifetime home.

Large windows highlight owners' artwork

An open plan kitchen with windowed walls, kitchen island and dining table

The open-plan dining room sits opposite the art studio (Image credit: RIBA)

The home is well lit through carefully placed windows and rooflights, which David Kohn Architects says draws inspiration from the client's sculptures and artwork.

Framed views of the surrounding landscape and a covered veranda and outdoor workshop were also installed as part of the self build.

The home was nominated for the RIBA Home of the Year for 2023 with the House of the Year jury stating: "Cowshed is both pragmatic and has a multitude of references to high culture.

"Cowshed demonstrates how an agricultural building can be celebrated, reused, and repurposed in a humble yet inventive way that is both welcoming as a family home and appropriate to its setting."

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.