Best of est | Barn Conversions

    • Italian Barn Conversion by Studio Wok

      Forget the typical farmhouse, we’re escaping to the country with five barn conversions fit for modern living.

      Barn conversions have long been a source of fascination around the globe. Combining the equally challenging and rewarding mission for restoration, reinvention and reuse, we’re always curious as to how these agricultural structures are transformed in new and unique ways.

      We’re honouring the dedicated efforts of designers with five old barns, unique by their story, size and the way they’ve been respectfully revived. Favouring the barn’s character-filled, lofty and highly textural qualities, these five are exactly our kind of ‘barn find’.

      We recently uncovered the Brick Barn by McLaren Excell located in Berkshire, Southern England. The London-based firm converted a 19th century barn into a Brutalist home for a couple committed to its painstaking restoration.

      The old brick structure was once the estate’s dairy, but its brickwork and steel frame windows made it exceptionally suited to a barn conversion. That wasn’t without restriction; McLaren Excell had to ensure the barn still appeared as it once did, included the existing built materials and did not interfere with the spaces within.

      Always working towards simplifying complexity, McLaren Excell proposed two black ‘pods’ to enclose the interiors, create zones and be unobtrusive to the timber-beamed ceiling overhead. Cumulatively, the success of the Brick Barn is revealed in both its minimalist and material beauty and celebration of its own agricultural heritage.

      A timeless favourite here at est is this Belgian barn, first published in est magazine issue #25. The collaborative efforts of Belgian designers Frederic Kielemoes, Vanessa Cauwe and CAAN Architects have brought to life an 18th century flax mill in the historic area of Kortrijik in Belgium.

      Located on the French border, this formerly obsolete barn is now characterised by polished concrete floors, raw cement walls and elegant shades of taupe. The kitchen is the standout space in the home, with its Lacanche oven and warming Flemish oak cabinetry. Opening the barn up is also an addition at the rear, constructed from glass and timber, showing off framed views of the vast surrounding countryside. Trust our Belgian friends to lead a highly refined barn conversion.

      While barns aren’t typically what you’d find in Australia’s architectural history, the Barn Hobart is the ultimate exception. The boutique accommodation was converted by architects and owners Liz Walsh and Alex Neilson, sitting at the rear of the former Bulls Head Hotel in Hobart’s West.

      Built in the 1820s, the petite barn was in complete disuse before Alex and Liz discovered it. They saw what some would find drawbacks (small dimensions, raw interior) as central opportunities. For instance, the bathroom was transformed out what was originally a wooden-framed horse stall, to separate the kitchen, dining area and reading nook. Above is a mezzanine level once used to store hay, now a cosy bedroom and study area.

      The pair kept to the existing palette of sandstone, floorboards and wood panelling while introducing Tasmanian oak floors and floating-framed windows to harness natural light. It’s a truly respectful barn conversion that captures the building’s heritage to a tee.

      Located in Chievo on the outskirts of Verona, this formerly neglected barn became the project of Milan-based Studio Wok to convert into a country home. Made from plaster-coated river pebbles, Studio Wok has prioritised these stone bones by stripping back the plaster from the walls inside to show off its rustic history.

      Studio Wok converted the barn into a three-storey home with one full-height living space. The ground floor includes Vincenza stone pavement and a brick fireplace, while the upper levels have been described as wooden volumes hanging from the ceiling. These upper storeys in pale birch plywood house the new bedrooms with inserted skylights above. In this way, Studio Wok has made a clear distinction between the modern intervention and authentic charm of the barn structure.

      Italian Barn Conversion by Studio Wok
      Italian Barn Conversion by Studio Wok
      Italian Barn Conversion by Studio Wok

      McLaren Excell are quite the experts when it comes to barn conversions, making our collection with not one but two barn homes in the UK. One of the firm’s earlier projects, the Park Corner Barn is set amongst beech-wooden farmland high in the Chiltern Hills in Oxfordshire. By drawing from the traditional materials and building processes of the barn, McLaren Excell created a character-filled barn conversion.

      Built as an agricultural and cattle barn in the late 18th century, the Park Corner Barn is composed of traditional brick and flint. It was expanded with a Victorian addition in 1864 and converted into a residential building in the mid-90s. The 90s conversion crowded the barn with spaces, but McLaren Excell chose to do the exact opposite, taking the building back to its basic structure with open spaces and a greater emphasis on materiality.


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