Brick Barn by McLaren Excell

  • A 19th century brick barn conversion by McLaren Excell shows us the gentle, Brutalist way of celebrating a barn’s agricultural past.

    We first discovered the work of London firm McLaren Excell through their Park Corner Barn project. Honing in on our penchant for barn conversions, they’ve served up another outstanding example of how agricultural buildings can rival their grand estates.

    The Brick Barn is located in Berkshire in Southern England, built at the turn of the 20th century. Formerly the hub of the estate’s dairy farm, its steel framed windows and brickwork makes it seem far more of an old home than a barn. For this reason, while the historic estate underwent several years of restoration the barn remained untouched – because, what on earth could they do with this beauty? Enter passionate new owners and a fitting design team to realise its potential, without any compromises.

    When we spoke to co-founders and directors of McLaren Excell Luke McLaren and Rob Excell, they emphasised their focus on craftsmanship and natural, tactile materials. Taking an innovative yet sensitive design path, they’ve built a reputation on quality, bespoke heritage restorations like the Park Corner Barn. They’ve taken this previous experience to the Brick Barn to address its strict heritage controls. These restrictions included that the barn must still appear as it once did, draw on its existing built materials and not interfere with the spaces within. Fortunately, both designer and owner were aligned on striving to meet this criterion in every respect.

    McLaren Excell are all for simplifying complexity. So what they proposed for the heritage restrictions was two black ‘pods’ enclosing the interiors, that don’t touch the walls or ceiling but creates zones within. An open plan living area, entrance, cloakroom, boot room and laundry are all housed here on the ground level. Upstairs, the bedrooms replace the old hayloft and enjoy some quaint countryside views. All of the pipes and cables throughout have been concealed, making the timber-beamed ceiling really sing.

    True to form the interiors are highly minimalistic, letting the original features tell old barn’s story. A palette of grey, charcoal and white bring black accents to the fore, including the black pendant lighting and the impressive fireplaces that warm the residence. Concrete flooring connects every space and lets the cast concrete kitchen bench feel like a sculptural hero of the home. The predominantly concrete kitchen space is one big reference to Brutalism – while also honouring the agricultural history with hardwearing steel cabinets. The material of Valchromat (a clever form of timber panelling) is used wrap around the pod in the kitchen and for the doors throughout the home, in a soft black.

    The Brick Barn by McLaren Excell reveals how an owner-designer commitment to the original building ensures both integrity and an authentic place to call home.

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