Focus On: Design Advice for a Modern Barn Conversion

11 February 2015

Conversion of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings

Changes to permitted development rights last year made the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings much easier. Previously extensive planning permission was required in order to change the use of these large country buildings.

Now the change of use of these barns and barn buildings is covered by ‘Permitted Development Rights’, making converting barns into residential buildings easier and more cost-effective.

There are of course limitations; the area converted cannot by more than 450 sq m, the area can only be split into a maximum of 3 separate dwellings, ‘Prior Notification’ procedures are needed to establish whether approval is needed for noise/traffic and Permitted Development rights do not apply in conservation areas or to listed buildings.

But the new legislation makes the process of undertaking a barn conversion project much easier.

There are a number of design issues to consider when turning a commercial, agricultural outbuilding into a useable home, first is insulation. These barns would not have been built with integrated insulation required to make it a habitable living space. Walls will require extra insulation be added, roofs will require extra insulation and windows and doors will need to be replaced with modern, thermally efficient models.

Clever ideas need to be considered in order to get light into the large barn space. Barn buildings are generally designed with small openings for ventilation or enormous cart door openings. If able, enlarging the window openings will allow more light to enter the space. Other window ideas could include installing large sliding glass doors into the cart door openings or filling entire gable ends with glass.

Traditional designs to modern windows can be used to recreate an industrial appearance, such as the Mondrian Windows or traditional timber windows from Timber.

Timber is generally the first choice for front doors. The warm, classic appearance of wood easily complements any external building material used to create Barns. An alternative option for filling an old cart door entrance or gable end is to use a large timber front door from the Ingresso Range at IQ Glass and surrounding it with fixed window panes for a dramatic entrance way.

Internally the large open spaces of a barn building can create dramatic living areas, large double height voids and flowing living spaces.

Kitchens, living areas and greeting areas have the ability to flow together under a well-executed design scheme. A barn conversion often offers wonderful open plan space - but planned badly this can lead to over the top storage capacity and a lot of extra miles! Plan you work triangle well (not a new concept - developed in the 1950s by US ergonomics researchers), from storage to cooking to sink/waste.  

Annie from IQ Kitchens advises that “Open Barn style spaces tend to lend themselves better to a one wall layout with a workstation/ island rather than a traditional L of U shape.  The cook can look out from the kitchen to interact with family or guests - Making for a sociable, inclusive as well as functional space.”

Think hard about what you need from your space.  What are your main daily functions - cooking, eating, entertaining, workspace, relaxing, or family living?  A Barn conversion with open plan living offers so opportunities for zoning and multiple seating areas - indoor and outdoor living spaces offer a different experience at different times of day.  Try an east facing breakfast table and west facing Gin and Tonic patio.


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