Family home worth the wait

This barn conversion is an architectural triumph and its thoughtful design makes it the perfect family home. Sharon Dale reports

Amanda Wills with baby Jackson in the kitchen

Converting barns is a tricky business and it’s rare to see one where the space has been carved up perfectly to blend the building’s past with the needs of a modern family.

Steve and Amanda Wills were well aware of this, which is why they conducted a rigorous search to find the right architect.

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“Luckily the business I run had done some work for the developers Urban Splash, so I asked them if they knew of anyone suitable and they did,” says Steve.

Urban Splash is renowned for using architects who can transform derelict old buildings into striking, contemporary homes and they recommended Snook, a Liverpool-based company.

“Snook were absolutely brilliant. They came up with some really good ideas and had experience in what can go wrong on and how to spot it,” says Steve, co-founder of B&W Studio, a brand and communications agency in Leeds

That experience proved invaluable during what became a difficult and lengthy project that saw the couple, and their two eldest children Jacob, 14, and Jenson, 13, squashed into a static caravan for the duration. They were there for two-and-a-half years, during which time Amanda became pregnant with Jackson, now six months old.

The delays began with planning when officials turned down an application to convert the barn next to Amanda’s parents’ house, near Penistone, on the basis that it was in the vicinity of a grade two listed property. After 18 months and an appeal, permission was eventually granted.

“The opportunity to buy the barn came along and we couldn’t refuse. We lived in a standard four-bedroom detached a few miles away and this was a chance to create something special, although we didn’t realise quite how stressful it would be, and how complicated the construction phase would be” says Steve.

He and Amanda employed a local builder but also retained Snook to help oversee the project and they were on site for meetings once a week.

“Some people just employ an architect to do the design but we spent extra to retain them and that’s the best money we spent, though if I did it again I might also employ an independent project manager,” he says.

The barn was in poor condition and there were a few unforeseen issues, including the back wall, which had to be re-built and the chimney breast, which was built in the wrong place by accident

The conversion took 11 months and was three months late but as it evolved, it was clear that the space was shaping up to be sensational.

The ground floor features a corridor that runs from end to end creating a full-length view of the building. At one end there is a sitting room is partially divided by a huge, stone chimney breast with a storage area for wood to feed the stove. Behind this is a lies the open plan kitchen dining room.

By the entrance is a wet room, boot room and utility room and at the other end of the barn is a second sitting room, games room and a guest bedroom.

The floor downstairs is polished concrete, which works well with the underfloor heating.

Windows were confined to the original barn openings, apart for three extra roof lights and permission was also won to glaze the barn door opening and take it up to the full height of the building. Internal windows in the boys’ bedrooms help bring in borrowed light.

A stunning staircase leads up to four bedrooms and two bathrooms, including a large master suite with a Laura Ashley bed and a bath in the corner of the bedroom overlooking the garden.

Jackson’s surprise arrival meant that Jenson’s room had to be halved in size to make way for a nursery, so as compensation, Steve and Amanda got the joiner to build him a space-saving platform bed suspended from the ceiling.

The cost of the construction work for the whole project was £250,000 and the fitting out was extra and went a little over budget so the family could to do the property justice.

They wanted bespoke full-height, 
oak doors and invested in a Poggenpohl kitchen plus new furniture, though 
they had find a middle ground 
between Steve’s minimalist tastes and Amanda’s love of Laura Ashley.

Downstairs they agreed that the 
furniture should be recessive but 
lifted with colourful accessories and cushions and most of it came from Ferrious in Manchester.

“They were really helpful and it 
helped to buy almost everything 
from one place.

“Along with the architect, they also helped us plan the lighting, which was really important,” says Steve.

The family moved in six months ago just as Jackson was born and they discovered that the hardships they endured were all worth it. The barn has been shortlisted for an RIBA award and they have a home that works perfectly.

The two-and-a-half years in a caravan were tough but the memory is fading, and adds Steve: ““It works brilliantly and we love it to bits. It was a million per cent worth it.

“This place is amazing and it has changed our lives.”

Useful contacts

Snook Architects, Liverpool,

Ferrious furniture and lighting, Whitworth Street, Manchester,

Poggenpohl kitchens, Leeds,

Williams and Kaye Joinery, Penistone,

Wett and Windy builders, Penistone,