Undertaking a barn conversion or significant restoration can be a daunting task. Some barns are more readily converted into homes or other modern uses than others. Traditional barns in Devon usually follow type-patterns and are often characterised by an uncluttered exterior with blank walls with few openings, forming a shell around a single space.
Successful convertion of a barn or farm building that does not have many openings within its walls will often be dependent upon its location, quality and importance, as bringing in light and dividing up the space will usually be necessary.
Conservation officers from the planning department may play an important role, as well as the suitability of the proposed new use, when compared to the Local Plan. Often a considered argument is required to set out the principles to convert or restore before detailed plans are prepared. Barns and farm buildings are often converted into new homes, wedding venues, conference centres, start-up business units, holiday lets and offices. Whatever the proposed use, the original building should still be legible after conversion, and this can be a persuasive argument if a modern, contemporary solution is desired, as the new is clearly defined from the old.
Careful attention to original features and traditional construction methods can help secure consent to convert. Sensitive use of traditional local materials and crafts such as stone, cob, rammed earth, green oak, lime mortar and lime render, slates and thatch help tie the building to its history and add to its appeal. These techniques can be applied both in a traditional style and in a modern interpretation.
Traditional techniques and local materials are sustainable and eco-friendly and are less harmful to original fragile walls and roofs. Old stone and cob walls need to be allowed to ‘breathe’ to ensure that they can dry out naturally which is contrary to many new building products and often need expert advice.
Working with an old building can have unique challenges, ranging from bats to subsidence and collapse, but is rewarded with a characterful and beautiful end result that can breathe new life into a underused building. Conversion and restoration varies from minor works and repairs of leaks and rot through to rather more grand designs incorporating modern lifestyles.
Some related projects can be found in the conservation section.