Rather than move, the owners of this Kent barn conversion consulted the architect Thomas Croft, who remodelled and extended the space to give them the indoor-outdoor lifestyle they craved.
After a decade in their Grade II-listed converted barn in Kent, Pam and Patrick Watts faced a familiar mid-life dilemma. They craved a new, contemporary living space but, with five acres of delightful gardens and a teenager at school, preferred not to move. To satisfy her curiosity, Pam viewed alternatives, including an ultra-modern barn conversion, also in Kent, designed by the Notting Hill-based architect Thomas Croft. It did not suit their needs, but she and Patrick loved Tom's work. 'He has a talent for fusing contemporary elements within historic buildings,' Pam says. They chose to stay put, but in 2009 commissioned Tom to completely remodel and extend their barn.
This was not an overnight transformation. It took a year to get listed-building consent, even though the planners agreed that the previous conversion done in the Seventies had failings and was ripe for revision. 'It was done in a folksy, vernacular way, with cellular rooms,' says Tom. It took another year to complete the build. Radically, Tom stripped back to the barn's original frame and built a green-oak-framed kitchen extension onto one end. As the listed-building consent allowed them to demolish all but the barn's frame, Tom had the freedom to install modern touches, such as underfloor heating, a built-in Sonos sound system and Lutron lighting.
The building is an L-shape, with the main entrance leading to the centrally located original barn. This has become a large, open-plan living space divided into sitting and dining areas that can be closed off with internal sliding doors. Beyond the dining table is the new kitchen extension with another dining area. The existing single-storey extension at the other end, which forms the L-shape, became the main bedroom and bathroom. There are three further bedrooms.
The completed barn has robust, raw textures, with old oak beams wire-brushed and repaired, limestone flooring and specially commissioned steel staircases leading to two mezzanine rooms - a bedroom and a study. 'We didn't want it too perfect,' Tom says. Planks from the original barn floor have been laid in a bold strip from the front to the back of the barn - a reminder of its early origins.
Interior designer Sarah Delaney introduced a neutral palette with off-white walls to balance the timber beams. Colours come in restrained bursts, including apple green in the main bathroom and smoky blue in an enclosed, second sitting room opposite the dining area. It takes guts for owners to revamp a property so radically, especially one they have lived in for years. It is even more challenging to commit to almost completely new furniture. 'But we're not sentimental,' says Pam. Sarah suggested a cool, loosely Scandinavian aesthetic. 'It felt appropriate because, although the beams give it a rustic feel, the glass doors add a modern look.'
Those sliding glass doors suffuse the barn with light, and are mostly left open on summer days, giving Pam and Patrick the indoor-outdoor fusion they wanted. Modern furniture, including the B&B Italia sofa, was teamed with vintage pieces found by Pam, who realised outsize furniture was needed to balance the 7.5-metre-high ceiling and the 335-square-metre living space.
With the living space dominated by beams, the bedrooms and bathrooms required a visual change of gear. Consequently, the main bedroom and en suite are off-white, and the indoor-outdoor aesthetic here is particularly pronounced. 'We're fans of the Maldives,' says Pam. 'I couldn't recreate an open-air bathroom, but I can slide open the doors, sit in the bath and hear the birds.'
Remodelling the barn has been a huge project, and sometimes on such jobs, tempers can fray and opinions clash. But Tom and the owners agree nothing went wrong. 'Drew Meakin, the project architect, was amazing,' Pam concludes. 'Staying put has been the right decision; we've now got the perfect home for our phase of life, where reception rooms are more important than multiple bedrooms.'
Thomas Croft Architects: 020-8962 0066;
Sarah Delaney Design: 020-7221 2010;