Barn turns couple's life upside down

Some properties are so powerful that they can literally change your life.

Old Cragg Hall is one of them and so potent was its appeal that Steve and Angela Marchant abandoned plans to live in Yorkshire's "golden triangle" within minutes of seeing it. After moving to the 17th century property in Cragg Vale, near Hebden Bridge, Angela gave up a high-flying career in banking and Steve sold his main business so they could spend more time at home.

"We had spent months looking for something with character and around Harrogate and Ilkley but when we saw Old Cragg Hall in the Yorkshire Post we immediately made an appointment to see it and we offered to buy it on the spot," says Angela.

The area around Hebden Bridge, known as a hippy haven and a magnet to those who embrace alternative lifestyles and eco friendliness, couldn't be more different to their original choice of area, but Angela says: "It's a great place to live. Cragg has a very strong community and we have lovely, friendly neighbours. We are really pleased we found it."

Steve, an entrepreneur and electrical engineer, and Angela first concentrated on renovating their new home before turning their attention to the detached grade II listed barn that came with the property.

It was an ugly single-storey structure with a flat roof that was put on after fire damaged the original building.

"It was used for storage, but we knew it had potential and would make a great holiday let," says Angela.

Initial ideas for the conversion came from student architect Lizzie Webster, who suggested that it should be an "upside down house" with bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor, with a newly-created roof giving an open plan, loft-style living area. She also suggested that the gables of the new roof should be glazed and switched to the front and rear of the building rather than the sides, to make the most of the views.

Philip Ryley architects in Halifax ran with that and added a host of other details including an understairs utility room, more windows, green oak gables and stepped levels on the first floor.

Steve and Angela, meanwhile, were busy researching green technologies as they wanted the building to be energy- efficient, and their efforts have just won them the West Yorkshire LABC (Local Authority Building Control) Excellence Sustainability Award. They included huge amounts of insulation and installed a heat-recovery ventilation system, which uses the warm and stale out-going air to warm up cool fresh air as it is pumped into the house. They also laid a ground source heat pump that fuels the underfloor heating and are considering a micro hydro- electricity generation system using natural springs on their land.

"Steve is very interested in green technologies and was one of the first people in Britain to have a hybrid car," says Angela, who acted as project manager. She and Steve also used local tradespeople and materials from the area.

"It takes a bit longer because you have to co-ordinate everything and everyone, but we wanted to keep the money we spent within the local economy.

"We were lucky as our main builder was fantastic and he happens to be our neighbour. The plumber was also from Cragg," says Angela.

The only hiccups came getting deliveries up the steep, narrow hill and handling the large sheets of glass. "One delivery driver refused to come up altogether, which was a problem, and it took 12 men to carry one of the biggest pieces of glass, but there weren't any catastrophes," says Angela.

After starting in February 2008, the 14-month build was finished in April and ready for decorating. Angela, who painted everything herself, decided on a white background brightened by some original contemporary art she and Steve have collected. Each bedroom also has a single feature wall of Osborne and Little wallpaper.

She sourced most of furniture from the internet, the window seats are Ikea TV niches with cushions on top, an expensive-looking kitchen came from Howdens and was a snip at 2,500, sanitary ware was from Bathstore and lighting from Habitat and from Radiance in Hebden Bridge.

The property, which has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, is bathed in natural light thanks to the glazed gables and some ingenious windows devised by Philip Ryley Architects. Its good looks are bound to win it

five-star status from the tourist board, but thanks to Angela's logical thinking it is also a masterpiece in well-considered design. She has thought of everything, from the bedside cabinets, which she bought with shelves rather than drawers to minimise the risk of guests leaving something behind, to the bedside lights, which are wall-mounted so there are no trailing wires.

In the spacious hallway, she designed a coat rack made from MDF panels with enough Ikea hooks for coats, and a large shoe rack underneath that has its own little radiator for drying out soggy boots. Upstairs, the wooden ledge around the top of the stairs has been bevelled to prevent people putting their drinks on it.

"I could just see that it would be too tempting to put a mug or glass on there with obvious consequences," says Angela, who worked in the insurance side of banking.

Her first guests are set to arrive soon and they won't be disappointed. In fact, it's so good that Steve and Angela may even move in there themselves eventually.

"I love it, and in the long-term we might even live here.

"I don't think we will ever leave this area. They say once you move to Cragg you don't want to leave."

Old Cragg Hall Barn, Cragg Vale, near Hebden Bridge,

Steve and Angela's useful numbers:

Architects: Philip Ryley & Co, Halifax, tel: 01422 356520,

Steelwork: Broadcliffe Fabrications, Hebden Bridge, tel: 01422 884030.

Joinery: Yorkshire Pine, Sowerby Bridge, tel: 01422 834487.

Tiler: John Ridout, tel: 01706 816762, www.yorkshirekitchensandfurniture.

Green Oak structure: Altham Oak and Carpentry, Altham, tel: 01282 771618,

Oak flooring: Prestige Flooring, Huddersfield, tel: 01484 325246,

Glass: Skipton Glass, Skipton, tel: 01756 799318,