Barn Conversions - Where To Start?

Where to start and what to consider when thinking about a barn conversion.

A barn conversion being undertaken in a beautiful rural location.

Long the domain of luxury property programmes on TV and the glossy pages of interior design magazines, barn conversions are the home transformation dream. Creating an entirely bespoke living space that’s packed with character, homeliness and love is a once-in-a-life opportunity for many, and a project we all want to embark on in the best possible way in order to achieve success. But where to start, what to consider and how achievable are the pictures in your head? Let Refresh Renovations help you to explore the world of barn conversions…
A open plan converted barn living space with kitchen using original beams and features

Finding the Land

Most barn conversions take place on rural land – and finding such a place that is suitable for the construction of a new home can be tricky. Planning laws tend to (understandably) restrict development in green locations and so even if you find the perfect place, it may not be possible to build on it.
Literally converting a barn or other agricultural use building into a home is more likely to be accepted if the development is bespoke, doesn’t look directly over any other buildings (or at least, not that belong to other people) and isn’t destroying or altering a listed or historical building.
In most cases, planning permission won’t need to be sought for a barn conversion; but a conversation should always be held with the local planning authority to understand exactly what does need to be planned, discussed and sought. It is often a case more of navigating the complex planning legislation and regulations that are in place rather than applying for outright planning permission – so clever planning is critical, and back-up plans should be in place in case of no outright acceptance.
Even where barns are listed buildings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing can be achieved design-wise with them. For the most part, barns for sale are no longer in use and most local authorities would much rather see land in their areas used than abandoned and left to fall into disrepair.
If a full extension is being planned, most local authorities will require full planning permission protocol to be undergone. In order to maximise your chances of having your plans accepted, it is always recommended that you involve the relevant authorities from the outset.
A living space created in a barn ceiling

Adapting a Barn’s Layout

Barns often blend into the countryside landscape as they’re minimalist, naturally coloured and rarely overly tall or sophisticated in their design. In many cases, an understated exterior is the most appropriate option to stick with; and it’s worth remembering the inside can be hugely more grandeuse than it may ever appear to be from the outside.
A barn is usually large in footprint and height, and these factors should always be considered and best utilised to create a beautiful living space. If too big for a homely feel, interior design can instead be used to zone the space and prevent it feeling too overbearing.
Barns rarely exist with large windows already in place, and so light sources should be considered from the very first planning stage. Incorporating a decent light source in the entrance to the property can help amplify the space beautifully and really highlight the scale and height of the building from the very second someone walks in.

Adding in Mezzanines and Floor Variations

Most barns are single level and single room, which while presenting a great space, doesn’t necessarily translate into the zoning needed for a functional living area. Installing mezzanine floors or zoning the open space with different flooring types provide separate room areas that work functionally and aesthetically well. 
Through our process a conversion designer will be able to produce section drawings that work out exactly how much space in the roof or higher up is available and what can be achieved within it. Ceiling heights will need to be designed to provide well proportioned spaces and in some cases, upper levels may need joists and other additional roofing supports put in place.

Integrating Original Features

Where there remains original features of the barn that could be used or re-used in the conversion, they should be. Brick plinth walls can make for stunning interiors and roof structures often stand the test of time and remain as safe today as they were during construction, with heavy timber and period techniques used. 
Timber cladding is an extremely popular exterior finish to barns, even if not originally the cladding used. In some circumstances, this can be created using reclaimed wood, so repurposing materials already used in the construction of the building. It is also a solid favourite with planning authorities, as it’s all natural and doesn’t stand out too much.
For barns with stone walls, adding in an internal timber frame can help supply insulation and gives deep windows that add character to the building. Timber frames can also provide good noise protection from the outside.
A modern bathroom in a barn conversion

Making it Happen

Once you have an idea of budget, what your ideal living space would look like and how much you feel you can achieve, it’s time to get the ball rolling! First, set up alerts on relevant property websites and with estate agents covering the geographical locations you’d like your conversion to be so that you’re kept informed of any new properties that come on to the market.
With the help of our Refresh specialists and a designated project manager, keep a clear idea of budget, project plans and interact with local authorities, conversion designers and other related contractors as early as possible to ensure that your project will be completed in good time, to a suitable scope, and by teams of trusted workers.
A barn conversion can create a stunning abode entirely bespoke to you, your family and your tastes. In both preserving and creating heritage the transformation opportunities are limitless and if you can dream it, there will be a way to do it. Planning is key and communication is critical – and with those things in place, your barn conversion will be underway in no time at all and your new life can begin. 

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Ready to start realising your barn conversion dreams? Get in touch with our renovation specialists today for ideas, inspiration and a free, no obligation quote.

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