House Tours Extra: Renovated Oak Barn
For our first House Tours Extra, Gemma and Robbie visited Stephen in his stunning Renovated Oak Barn in the heart of Suffolk. Join them as they take a private tour of Stephen's unique home, which has been a project of love for the past ten years.
History Of The Barn: A Family Dairy Farm
The oak barn is situated in the Deben Penninsula of Suffolk, an area of outstanding natural beauty with marshes and picturesque meadows. Originally part of a working farm, owned by Stephen's family, the barn was a grain store for dairy cattle. When Stephen's parents past away, the farm was no longer a viable commerical venture and Stephen decided to take on the project of renovating the barn and making it his home. A farmer all his working life, the barn is more than just a building, it is part of his family's heritage.
Planning Permission For Renovating A Barn
Converting a farm building into a private home can be a lengthy and time consuming process. The first step is to prove that it is no longer feasible or needed for commercial use. In order to obtain this proof, Stephen had to put the barn and surrounding land up for sale. There was the potential risk that he would lose it to an interested buyer, but thankfully nobody put in an offer.
The next hurdle was to get the architectural plans agreed and passed. Originally, Stephen thought about having a great hall on the first floor, but the planners didn't like that idea. A compromise was made with a mezzanine at one end, with an open view of the barn's ceiling. This wasn't quite how Stephen envisioned it, but this is now his favourite part of the renovation.
"When I'm tired at the end of the day, I go and sit on my Knoll sofa upstairs and gaze at the ceiling and think about the men who built the barn. It would have been around 1790, and most of the beams would have been second hand, so they are probably even older than that. I love the sculptural feel of all those old timbers holding the whole thing together."
Hand Crafted Oak
As you stand in the centre of Stephen's renovated barn, the most striking aspect is the beautiful hand crafted oak. More remarkable is the fact that Stephen completed all of the carpentry himself. We asked where he acquired the skills to take on such a massive project, and he explained with a smile that all farmers have to be carpenters, builders and mechanics. He googled anything he didn't know how to do!
Stephen has an A level in woodwork, but he told us the best way to learn is to complete smaller projects and learn from mistakes. When he was newly married, he renovated a period cottage on a very tight budget, and he gained a lot of knowledge from those restorations.
Most of the original beamwork was luckily intact, and only needed treating to ensure its ongoing longevity. For the additional oak, Stephen found a fantastic company in Staffordshire who sourced high quality timber from Europe. The wood arrived pre-cut to Stephen's specifications and he shaped it using a router. The new oak will age over time and is a beautiful companion to the original wood.
Handles, Latches & Cabinet Hardware
Door furniture and cabinet hardware are often overlooked details, but can make such a difference to the overall finish of a renovation project.
For the interior design of the barn, Stephen knew that he wanted a simple look to complement the period beams and oak carpentry. A traditional and timeless style with a country farmhouse aesthetic.
Discovering our range at Suffolk Latch Company, Stephen was pleased to find exactly what he had been looking for. He chose traditional black hand forged ironmongery for the internal doors and larger cupboards. For the external doors, black lever handles were fitted. The kitchen has Shaker style cabinets with bun shaped wooden cupboard knobs.
See below to Shop The Look and recreate a classic farmhouse style in your home.
Renovating A Barn: Mixing Old & New
Stephen was born at the farm and has lived and worked there all his life. Although the land has now been put out to contract, and the farm no longer as it was, the renovated barn retains a real sense of history. There are many pieces of furniture, utensils and ornaments that have been in Stephen's family for generations.
In the kitchen, there is a dining table that once belonged to his great grandfather. This sits next to the newly made bespoke round oak table. The kitchen is such an important space, and Stephen wanted to have a proper farmhouse kitchen where the family could come together and spend time eating and talking. He decided to forgo a central island, and instead made a focal point of these tables - the past and the future blending seamlessly together.
"When we are all together for a meal and I'm carving the meat, I imagine how my great grandfather would have stood at the table carving meat for the family, using the same knife."
There are other historical pieces, including a bed that was made by Stephen's great great Uncle, passed down to his grandmother for the farmhouse, and now passed down to him.
Mixing old and new is a great way to bring unique character to a home. Stephen has created a wonderful eclectic look with a combination of period features, antique and new furniture.
Stephen's Renovation Tips:
- Research as much as you can and look at lots of different designs.
- Visit other barn conversions - learn from other people's mistakes and discover new ideas.
- Planning is everything.
- If you are using a builder you will need to decide exactly what you want before the work starts, because changes halfway through a project are costly.
- Recycle as much as you can - the airing cupboard doors in the barn were originally part of the bull's pen and bricks found under layers of flooring were saved and re-used.
We hope you enjoyed the tour of this stunning renovated oak barn. Thanks to Stephen, for sharing his family story and showing us around. Join us next time where we are going behind the scenes of a unique self-build that was originally the outbuilding to a Georgian Manor House.
Shop The Look
To recreate the relaxed country farmhouse look from Stephen's barn, choose hand forged thumb latches, T hinges and classic cabinet furniture.
*Please note prices of products quoted are accurate at the time of the article publication but may be subject to change*
In case you missed it...
- House Tours: Renovated 1920s Property
- Kitchen Ideas: Cast Iron Cabinet Furniture
- How To Fit A Suffolk Latch