There is a sweet spot that many forever-home seekers aim for in their search. They want somewhere that feels rural, a haven, away from the traffic and the hurly-burly of life, but close enough to amenities and transport routes to ensure it does not feel remote or cut off from civilisation.
This is what Becca and John Farrar were after five years ago, and this is exactly what they found in Heron Barn, a renovated former Dutch barn in a peaceful pocket on a hillside above Sowerby Bridge.
Becca, a retired A&E sister, and John, a semi-retired builder, bought the property when they relocated from Lightcliffe, where John had built their own house in the garden of the home they had lived in for 26 years. “John did the most amazing job,” says Becca. “But they built a load of new houses all around us and it changed the vibe, so we decided that we wanted to go and live somewhere rural.”
Location, therefore, was the biggest box to be ticked. “We wanted to be private, but we didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere, with nobody else around,” says Becca, adding that the barn has a set of neighbours on each side.
“Everywhere is accessible – Manchester, Leeds, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax,” she says. “But when you are here, you just feel like you are in the country.”
An added bonus is that their grown-up daughters, Charlotte, a conference and events manager, and Lucy, an actress who has appeared in Emmerdale and Coronation Street, now live five minutes away in Sowerby Bridge.
Heron Barn had already been converted from a Dutch barn, which had probably stood for about 150 years, into a home by the previous owners 25 years ago.
“It was really well-built and solid,” says Becca. “John had had enough of doing anything major. We knew we could put our stamp on it.”
They moved in two weeks before Christmas and Becca made sure she booked a decorator to start immediately on the living room, using paint that they already had from their previous renovations. The feature wall paint was mixed at B&Q and is a rich yet tranquil mid blue. It works well with the rustic beam fireplace that houses a wood-burning stove.
There is a round Habitat mirror on the chimney breast and pictures in the alcoves either side, including a print of St Mark’s Square in Venice. Becca says: “We had a fantastic holiday for one of our special birthdays. I’ve got quite a selection of prints dotted about that house that I have collected on holiday, little pictures of India, Barcelona, usually by street artists.”
The first major change they made was to create a kitchen-diner, introducing new windows to let in the light. “The kitchen was very dark,” Becca says. “We knocked through the dining room into the kitchen, so we have a large L-shaped kitchen-diner. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s dual aspect, so on one side of the dining room, we have put French doors in, which open onto the front garden, and John has built a lovely patio there. And we have French doors at the other side that open onto the back patio, which we tend to use in the evening in the summer.”
They have owned much of their furniture and decorative pieces for many years, some handed down from family members. “My mum had lots of nice pieces, which she gave to me,” Becca says. “But I do like a Facebook Marketplace find.”
Plants, flowers and greenery are a particular feature, and Becca’s way of bringing the outside in. Most are from her garden. She grows her own and buys from Nord Green Nurseries. “I absolutely love plants,” she says. “If I have a big watering day and take them all away, it looks so naked. I can’t imagine a house without plants and fresh flowers.”
The kitchen is from Howdens. “We looked at lots of kitchens and, for the price and the quality, they are spot on,” says Becca. “We completely ripped the kitchen out, changed the layout, put a breakfast bar in, changed the windows. We were in absolute chaos when we were doing all the work. It took about two months. It’s John, he doesn’t hang about.”
One of their lockdown projects was to introduce panelling in the hall and in the master bedroom. “It was just a blank space behind the bed and it has really livened it up,” says Becca. “Panelling is a great way to add interest, and I’m really glad I did it. Plus, it’s so easy to paint, if you want to change your colour scheme.”
The bedding is from Dusk and the bed is from Russell Dean in Mytholmroyd (John actually fell asleep on the bed in the shop while Becca went to get an assistant).
There are always herons about, often looking for fish in the large pond they have in the grounds, hence the name of the barn. John has also done a great deal of landscaping and put in a wall and a gate at the front, to keep in Archie, their labrador.
The back of their perfectly rural home looks out over the fields going up to Norland. “It’s an interesting view. We are quite high up, and you can see for miles,” Becca says. “This is our forever home – that’s the idea.”
Follow Becca at Heron Barn on Instagram @heronbarn
For beds, Russell Dean Fine Furnishers, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge HX7 5LN, russelldean.co.uk
For kitchens, Howdens.com
For bedding, cushions, throws and soft furnishings, Dusk at dusk.com
For mirrors and other interiors accessories, Habitat at habitat.co.uk
For plants, Nord Green Nurseries, Leeds Road, Halifax HX3 8PT, nordgreennurseries.co.uk