This charming farmhouse, nestled in an idyllic rural setting, provided a perfect location for our clients to bring up their young family. However, as is often the case, the way the house had developed over the years meant that the kitchen was small and remote.
As a listed building, there were limited options to connect the kitchen with the dining and living space. The clients’ brief was therefore to convert an ancient barn adjacent to the main house, to give their family a spacious kitchen, dining, and living area.
Originally an agricultural building, the long barn has a timber structure raised off the ground by a stone plinth and foundation wall. Typical to this area of the southern Home Counties, the timber structure is closed by weatherboarding and painted black. Adapting a very old barn into a domestic space is not straightforward. It required expert intervention to maintain the heritage of the building whilst achieving modern building regulations.
Our early surveys revealed that the height of the foundation wall needed painstaking planning and coordination with the builders to plot new window and door apertures so our furniture could sit squarely into a building where nothing was square! Our challenge was to accommodate the uneven frame and find solutions to resolve the changes in floor level between the original house, the barn, and the gardens on either side.
The striking feature of the barn is the oak roof structure with its complex struts and trusses. Though beautiful they were ergonomically troublesome in planning the kitchen – as a barn it did not matter where these braces were located – not so in a domestic space. We had to make sure they were incorporated seamlessly into the kitchen design without becoming an obstacle.
The long, relatively narrow shape of the room dictated a galley kitchen design which can be a very efficient way of organising a kitchen. Furnished on one side, a galley route provides a practical run between the washing up area and the electric AGA. The kitchen island provides additional work surface and storage as well as an electric oven. Generous refrigeration and larder space is located opposite the sink – convenient for unloading the shopping.
There is no doubt that the exposed rafters are the hero of this rustic oak kitchen, bringing warmth and atmosphere to the space. Our task was to design furniture that complements the exposed structure rather than competes with it. We chose oak for the cabinetry, with a subtle antiqued colour wash that emphasises the natural honeyed tones of the beams above.
Seating was created beyond the dining area, and, at the client’s request, we added a chimney and open fire. We raised the level of the fireplace so that it could be seen from the other end of the room, with timber stored below. To make the chimney-piece feel consistent with the rest of the stonework we specified whitewashed reclaimed bricks.
Introducing modern extraction without interfering with the lines of the beams was a conundrum resolved by using reclaimed rafters to create a chimney gather that looks like part of the original structure. We dressed the area with handmade Moroccan tiles for practicality and visual interest.
The whole idea for this project was to create a large, peaceful family space to cook, eat and relax in. The barn, set perpendicular to the house, was an imaginative choice, and with Artichoke’s intervention has become the heart of the busy household.
Improving how the barn conversion connected with the outdoors, provided easy access to the surrounding gardens – lawns on one side and on the other, raised terrace for outdoor dining, with a swimming pool beyond in the formal courtyard garden.