Preaching to the converted

When Sarah Garforth decided to convert a tiny derelict barn and adjoining tin shed into a live work space she faced two major limitations: space and budget. Summoning her artistic abilities and honing her bargain-hunting skills, she found brilliant solutions that have made her first self-build project a huge success.

The property in the pretty hamlet of Ramsgill, near Pateley Bridge, doubles as her home and a studio/gallery open to the public, and, despite a shoestring conversion, there is no shortage of

"wow factor".

A big chunk of her budget was spent on a spectacular Gyrofocus stove made in France, which is suspended from the ceiling in the studio. It cost about 10,000 and Sarah and her builder had a battle figuring out how to install and hang it, but it was well worth it.

"When people visit it always gets lots of 'oohs' and 'aahs' and it's very practical. It rotates and is very efficient in heating

the space," she says

Her open-plan living area in the barn next door also has an unusual feature – a carved oak staircase and pulpit reclaimed from a Scottish church by Elland-based Andy Thornton's. It cost 2,000 and had to be okayed by building inspectors before she could buy it.

It's among a raft of reclaimed items that Sarah sourced for the conversion, which began when she bought the property from her father in 2005. "I was lucky he let me have it for the price he paid a few years before, otherwise I could never have afforded to do it," says Sarah. Using profit from her previous home sale she had a total of 100,000 to convert the 18th century barn and the pre Second World War shed. "I knew exactly what I wanted and I designed the plans to scale," says Sarah, who used architect Chris Robinson to redraw and submit them for planning approval.

The layout maximises every inch of space. The 12ft by 40ft single storey barn has one long, narrow open plan living/kitchen area with the pulpit and stairs in the middle.

Beyond the kitchen is a tiny utility and a contemporary bathroom and walk-in shower. She created extra height by digging down so she could squeeze in a small mezzanine with a snug and a double bedroom.

The shed next door was re-roofed and insulated and an internal door links it to the barn. It is one large open space downstairs with bi-fold doors at the back leading to a small patio. It's a multifunctional, light-filled area that is a gallery, Sarah's studio and her second sitting room.

A spiral staircase that came as a flat pack from Italy and cost 800 leads to a tiny mezzanine office. "It all worked out really well in terms of the way I live and work, but I had never done anything like this before and I was really lucky to find a fantastic builder Paul Ripley, who was helped by Colin Chandler.

"Paul was here for the best part of a year five days a week," says Sarah, who pitched in sanding floors, reupholstering sofas and painting. While Paul made the buildings habitable, Sarah spent hours hunting down materials, fixtures and fittings. "I splashed out on the fire and a good kitchen but I really needed to economise in every other area because the build itself and connecting to the services took most of the budget." She found mahogany floorboards, reclaimed from an old badminton court, for sale in the local paper for 12 a square foot. The panelling to hide the damp course in the sitting room is from Andy Thornton's. Searching online, she found oak doors from the heritage collection and a cut price Smeg fridge from Secondtek. She also visited salesrooms and bought rugs in auctions at Thompson's in Killinghall. The kitchen, which incorporates the pulpit, is from Ripon Interiors

Fellow artist/maker David Stephenson from Pickering designed the wrought iron and fused glass balustrade based on a passion flower complete with tendrils holding candles. Sarah designed the fireplace herself and found an old lintel for it at Machells in Guiseley.

A lot of the ornaments and are from her travels – she has been all over the world including India, which inspired her most recent collection of paintings. Sarah's work shows scenes from colourful Rajasthan and is complemented by mosaics from travel companion Ruth Wilkinson. They are part of a special exhibition at the studio, which also houses work of other local artists and makers.

To show off the work at its best, the walls are painted in Farrow and Ball's old white and many of the exhibits are hung from suspended tension wires.

"People seem to enjoy visiting, which is great and for me the barn and the studio are exactly how I imagined them," says Sarah. "It's a wonderful place to live and work."

Sarah's useful contacts:

David Stephenson artist/blacksmith from Pickering who made balustrade,

Tel: 01751 460252

Oak doors from www.heritagecollection.co.uk

Ruth Wilkinson Mosaics, Pateley Bridge, www.ruthwilkinson.co.uk

Machells in Guiseley, Leeds for reclaimed timber, www.machells.co.uk

Secondtek for cut-price, seconds appliances, www.secondtek.com

Andy Thornton, Elland, near Halifax – pulpit and panelling, www.andythornton.com

Thompson's salesrooms in Killinghall, Harrogate, www.thompsonsauctioneers.com

Diligence International, Devon – for Gyrofocus fire, www.diligenceinternational.com

Ripon Interiors – kitchen units, www.riponinteriors.co.uk

Ramsgill studio open Thursday-Sunday, 11am-4pm, tel: 01423 755098, www.ramsgillstudio.co.uk

YP MAG 29/5/10