John and Wendy Bullen have turned a derelict old barn into a stunning home in an ambitious conversion project with new oak frame additions — and took the prize of Best Conversion in The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2010.

We saw it regularly on the long walks we took over the hills in the Forest of Bowland,” says John. “It was completely isolated, set on its own amongst acres of beautiful countryside, enjoying incredible views across Morecambe Bay. We always thought it would make the most amazing home.”

The farmhouse and barn actually already had planning permission but the existing owner, for various reasons, hadn’t been able to go ahead. “We were lucky,” explains John, who owned a garden centre and landscaping business. “We knew the owner and managed to negotiate a sale.”

The existing plans were for it to be demolished and replaced with a new home, but John and Wendy wanted to keep as much of the old property as possible and build around it, in order to create something that continued on the history of the place rather than erase it. “We’d always liked oak frame homes and had long considered the idea of building a new home out of oak,” explains John. “We had come across Border Oak in magazines and at exhibitions and really loved their style.”

Instead of going down the package route – better suited to new builds than projects that have to incorporate an existing structure – the Bullens decided to use a local architect, Andrew Knowles from the Sunderland Peacock practice in nearby Clitheroe. “Andrew was brilliant, and it was so important having someone who understood not just the site itself – and could visit as much as he wanted – but who had a feel for the local rural buildings we wanted to complement,” says John. Border Oak then designed and manufactured the oak frame and managed its erection on site while a local builder, Michael Barnes, brought in his subcontractors to work on the long hard job of renovating the stone structure.

John and Wendy enjoyed taking control of the sourcing and specification for their new home; the front door has been crafted from a 200-year-old oak tree, while old local stone has been sourced for the mullioned windows and surrounds.

John and Wendy chose to leave all the oak framing untreated along with the windows. “It means the windows will age in exactly the same way as the oak frame — to my eye too many new windows in oak frame homes look orange years after installation.” Inside, stone slabs, reclaimed from the original floors, have been used to create cills and fireplace hearths. Reclaimed ton (random) slates now grace the roof.

The mix of old barn and new oak frame is a huge success. The ‘extensions’ are sensitively designed and the whole house looks like it has been there not just for years but centuries — it really is a fine example of what can happen when new buildings are designed to work well with what’s there already. “We can’t spend enough time here,” say John and Wendy. And, if you were lucky enough to live here, then you’d feel the same too.

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