Real home: the smarter barn

One of the barns is now a beautiful sitting roomOne of the barns is now a beautiful sitting room
One of the barns is now a beautiful sitting room
It took patience and hard work to turn a ramshackle farmhouse and buildings into a fabulous family home. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Andrew Kelly.

It’s easy to be envious of Paul and Karen Newsome’s beautiful rural home. A blend of rustic charm and modern day comforts, it is exquisite inside and out.

But any feelings of jealousy are quashed when the couple reveal their long and arduous journey to property perfection.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Renovating the semi-derelict farmhouse and extending into adjoining barns took them 11 years, countless hours of hands-on hard work and a significant amount of stress.

The sensational kitchen with Shake-style unitsThe sensational kitchen with Shake-style units
The sensational kitchen with Shake-style units

It began when they bought the farmstead in Gringley-on-the-Hill, near Doncaster, in 2007 just before it was about to go under the hammer at auction.

“We thought it had potential and we really liked the location so we made an offer and the owners accepted it with the proviso that we completed the purchase within two weeks, which was a real push but we just managed it,”says Karen.

The plan was to have a live-work property, which would also act as a base and a showcase for their smart home company, Intelligent AV and Electrical Ltd, which specialises in lighting, security and audio visual systems.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The sale of their old home was to help fund the mammoth project but the Newsomes suffered a setback when their buyers pulled out due to the banking crisis in 2008.

The games room in one of the barnsThe games room in one of the barns
The games room in one of the barns

“It couldn’t have been a worse time to sell or to buy but we eventually managed it,” says Paul.

He and Karen began by devising ambitious but phased scheme of work, which began with the renovation of the old farmhouse.

“We had put extensions on houses before but we’d never done anything like this and there were times when I questioned our sanity in taking it on,” says Paul.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Within six months they had made it into a cosy, four-bedroom family home for them and their three children, now aged 13, 16 and 22.

The staircase is a main featureThe staircase is a main feature
The staircase is a main feature

The next job was to create a separate, single-storey annexe built for Paul’s parents.

Then, in 2010, they converted a former stable into a stunning kitchen and an old lean-to into a light-filled orangerie.

The kitchen cabinets were made by Andy Crossland and painted by Karen in Farrow and Ball colours. The centrepiece is a seven metre long, granite-topped island.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The latest and most architecturally exciting stage of the project was to extend the house into an adjacent, two-storey threshing barn.

The master bedroomThe master bedroom
The master bedroom

The couple hired architect Neil Cooke, who is based in Doncaster, to design the conversion and its integration into the existing dwelling.

Neil came up with a plan that gave them a sensational sitting room, an office, boot room, a laundry and three ensuite bedrooms, including a stunning master bedroom suite with floor-to-ceiling windows inspired by houses in Venice.

There’s also a sculptural oak staircase, designed by Neil, the Newsomes and Darren Elton Carpentry

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s almost like two houses linked by a kitchen,” says Neil, who adds: “I had to work with engineers and joiners when developing the design as barns are not straightforward but the idea was to retain as much of the original character as possible.”

Planning permission to convert the barns was granted after the Newsomes assured the local authority that the buildings would have a commercial use.

“The house isn’t just where we live, it’s the headquarters of our business and it is a showhouse for what we do.

One of the en-suite bathroomsOne of the en-suite bathrooms
One of the en-suite bathrooms

“It’s been great for clients to see how our smart home system works in practice and people can see how we make it very easy to operate everything from the lighting, heating and security cameras to the TV, multi-room audio and alarms, all from a tablet.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It puts people’s minds at rest because often you’ll have one half of a couple who really likes the idea of having a smart home and another who is scared that they won’t be able to work the system,” says Paul, who saved money on the barn conversion by doing the underpinning himself.

“I was surprised that building regulation inspectors asked us to do it and the quotes we got from contractors were about £50,000.

“I took some professional advice on how it’s done, bought the steel and the concrete, hired some men and managed to do it for £10,000.”

The couple also saved money by tackling everything from plasterboarding to decorating themselves.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They also cut running costs by replacing oil heating with an air source heat pump from JKN Renewables and by using wood-burning stoves and installing solar panels.

Karen planned the decor and designed the lighting, which is one of the major features of the house. “It makes a difference to the feel and mood of a room and having intelligent lighting isn’t just for looks, it’s for convenience and security,” she says.

The fittings are from Jim Lawrence, Industville and Huddersfield-based Harvey James.

The furniture is a mix of old and new with plenty of vintage finds to add character.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I enjoy upcycling things and I also bought lots of old chests as I like the way they look and they are good for storage,” says Karen.

She also sourced accessories from Laura Ashley, TK Maxx, John Lewis, Dunelm and The Range.

The walls are in Farrow and Ball colours with Lamp Room Gray a particular favourite and the curtains and blinds are by The Curtain Shop in Ossett.

“This project took us about three times longer than we expected but we have enjoyed the process and we’ve got the live-work home we wanted,” says Karen.

Useful Contacts

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Intelligent AV and Electrical, Smart Home systems, tel: 01777 816806,

Neil Cooke Architects, tel: 07719 626827 ,


Yourhome Construction Ltd,

Staircase was made by Darren Elton Carpentry…..

Chandeliers, Harvey James Lighting, Huddersfield,

The Curtain Shop, Ossett,

Kitchen units by Andy Crossland,

Air source heat pump

Related topics: