Design Advice for a Modern Barn Conversion

5 March 2020

Conversion of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings

What is a barn?
A barn is an agricultural building usually found in the countryside, on a farm.  Barns were originally used to house farm animals in the winter months and to store equipment or hay. 

Why do people choose to convert barns?
You may wonder why people would choose to convert a barn instead of building a new dwelling from the ground up, especially as conversions are typically more expensive per square meter. It’s a costly project to retain and upgrade the existing structure and fabric of a barn however, the answer is quite simple as it all comes down to the planning permission.  It is desirable to live in a rural area with picturesque views however, gaining the planning permission for a new build is improbable whereas, remodeling an existing barn is much more likely to be approved. Another benefit of converting a barn is preserving the history and unique character it carries which can be priceless.  

What to consider when planning a barn conversion?
There is lots to consider when planning to convert a barn so it’s highly recommended to hire a surveyor before purchasing, this could save you a lot of money in the long run.  Once you find the perfect barn, you will need to consider things such as insulation, as most farm buildings are uninsulated so an upgrade to meet modern-day standards will be necessary. It’s very likely that your barn won’t be connected to mains water, gas or electricity so retrieving early quotes is advised to get the best deals and to be able to include this in your budget.  

How to introduce natural lighting into a barn conversion?
Barns are not originally designed for living in and so the need for natural lighting wouldn’t have been a priority.  Adding structural glazing to encourage more lighting throughout the interior will be needed to meet modern demands, however, you will need to be careful with how this is done to keep in line with the permitted development rights. The minimal windows sliding glass doors by IQ Glass are a popular addition for barn conversions as they coincide with the regulations as you can see in the Perham Farm and Stable Barn Projects. Gable windows are also a popular choice to add to a barn conversion as they allow light in through to all floors; for more info on structural glazing options by IQ Glass click here.

Solar Shading & Privacy Options
With large structural glazing, you may require solar shading and/or privacy options, depending on the location of the barn.  The traditional option of blind installation defeats the purpose of the minimal and contemporary look of structural glazing if this is what you are aiming for.  Grants Blinds provide a unique patented product called Blind Space which is extremely popular amongst architects, as it allows the blinds to be concealed within the wall or ceiling creating a completely flush aesthetic.  Grants Blinds also offer a range of traditional options that you may prefer depending on the overall design of your barn conversion. Brise Soleil is another option that can be provided by Contrasol who specialize in solar shading solutions using Timber and Aluminium Brise Soleil systems, both fixed and motorised.  Both blinds and Brise Soleil are great options for providing privacy to an open glazed dwelling. 

How to retain the character of the barn?
The main attraction to your new home will be the features kept from the original barn itself.  Features such as timber cladding, old beams, and historical stonework will play a big part in keeping your property design unique and in touch with its historical roots. Deciding which features to keep at the beginning of your project is important as you will need to work around these features when designing the rest of the interior.  

Interior Design Recommendations
The layout of a barn conversion is more than often open plan which includes living areas, kitchen and dining spaces which creates a beautiful light-filled area whilst keeping in line with the original layout. Kitchens are not just for cooking anymore as over the years they have developed into an additional entertainment space. Watermark Kitchens provide bespoke designs specific to your needs and carry out everything from the initial consultation through to the design installation and aftercare. Watermark are specialists in their field and are used by many architects and interior designers for over 20 years.

Overall barn conversions require a lot of work and planning but as they say with hard work comes great rewards!  

We are always interested in following your barn conversion journeys so tag us on Twitter to keep us updated.

To book an appointment with one of our technical specialists please contact us.



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