The Househunter: Room by Room

7th June 2019

To the country as the sun is shining (at the time of writing) and there is an alarm going off outside my city garden and I wish I was lying on my back under a tree looking up at the clouds scudding by. In silence.

Instead I’m on the sofa typing and occasionally shouting/pleading/cajoling with the 15yo to do some more revision for his GCSEs, which finally finish next week. So this. Well it’s crazy expensive (£3,250,000) with The Modern House, but we’re playing Fantasy Friday so it doesn’t matter.

It’s a converted dairy cattle shelter and the reason it was so fancy is that it was built as part of a Ferme Ornée, which means it was part of a country estate that was laid out partly for farming and partly for ornamental principles. There were a few notable English examples but the most famous belonged to Marie Antoinette in Versailles.

Inside there are 4,500 sq m of space but it’s the original brickwork and louvred windows that first draw the attention. The renovation and conversion was done by McLaren Excell and it’s a beautiful job. On their website they explain that this barn wasn’t really a barn  – “not in the common understanding of the word… [but an] extravaganza of artisanal brickwork and cast iron tracery and louvred windows – the apotheosis of agricultural architecture.

“Aspiring to the rural ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement, the buildings embody the great exuberance and confidence of the age and are a case study of how such detail and craft graced even this most lowly of edifices: the humble cow shed.”

The property is arranged over two levels but it’s the 30m long open plan living space on the ground floor that we’re mainly going to look at. It’s all polished concrete floors and exposed rustic beams. I really like the contrast although when I win the lottery and move in I will either add more colourful sofas or warm it up with lots of rich cream and biscuit shades.

The building is listed and was, remarkably, used as a cattle shed until a few years ago with a hayloft on top. The architects had to work around that (and the windows) which was the primary reason for sticking to the open plan layout. That also allowed the light to penetrate further into the space.

There are two central pods that act as partitions – with corridors either side – one houses the stairs and a larder and the other has a bathroom inside. It’s such a clever way to divide up a large space and you wouldn’t have to live in a 30m long barn to use the same principle.

Having said that, there is a sitting room at either end and while it’s all sort of open, you would feel quite private in each one as there’s enough space between them. Possibly not enough space to prevent you hearing the heavy rap  that the 18yo has taken to playing while doing A level revision but then he does alternate it with The Beatles so you know… win some lose some.

This is the other sitting room and you can see how the neutral, rather industrial, palette of concrete, black steel and wood is softened with addition of the blue armchair and orange cushion. You might not think it, but this style of architecture is easier than you think as it’s just as happy sitting next to a floral chair and a bunch of cow parsley as  a leather chair and marble table.

Now upstairs there are two bedrooms, although the agent reckons you could add doors to the second downstairs sitting room to create a third, but it does seem that the ratio of space to price to bedroom is slightly off here. Mind you, this en suite bathroom below is huge and luxurious and you could, probably, squeeze another bedroom out of this space if you were so minded. Although I suspect that once you’ve got used to bathing in here you wouldn’t want to give it up.

What do we think? I reckon the cows had it pretty good until the architects took over. We can only hope they have retired to somewhere just as nice. More spacious perhaps, with room to roam.

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  • Anna 7th June 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Having searched the web I see I am wrong it was a man and his psychotherapist wife who took on the challenge to restore the barn. It seems they did not live there long before putting it up for sale.
    I also spotted two wood stoves!

  • Anna 7th June 2019 at 7:27 pm

    Attractive outside but inside it’s very masculine, so I wonder if it was designed around men being the occupants?
    Hope the underfloor heating is up to the job because these huge open areas of concrete are cold and draughty in winter. Saw lots of logs so possibly there are 2 wood stoves to heat the two seating areas?
    Axel Vervoordt would have to take on the challenge of making it desirable!

  • Barbara Khachane 7th June 2019 at 1:43 pm

    A very cool space in every sense of the word, and maybe a bit too cool in the winter months. I agree that warmer tones would be a necessary addition to offset the gray concrete, which reads COLD.

  • William 7th June 2019 at 11:01 am

    Love it, love it, love it, one of the nicest conversions I’ve seen in a long time. Love the armchair and jug too, any ideas where I can buy similar?

    Many thanks Kate.

  • Nicola 7th June 2019 at 10:11 am

    Hmmmmm…I was on the fence initially because, like Elaine, I felt it lacked light but then I discovered it is at Remenham. I used to live near there and it’s beautiful – worth every penny.

  • Elaine Fraser 7th June 2019 at 9:16 am

    Nice but Nah!

    Think the materials suck the light – concrete , wood ceiling , is that brushed metal in kitchen?
    Maybe an antique mirrored splash back might have reflected more light? I’m with you on the need for some colour somewhere.
    Then again if I won it in a lottery I wouldn’t say no!

  • Melanie 7th June 2019 at 8:43 am

    Well thats it! It s perfect. I am off to buy a lottery ticket for the first time…

  • Susan 7th June 2019 at 8:20 am

    Great house. Any idea who makes the blue armchair? I’m looking for a modern but plush chair just like that, which I can’t seem to locate in France.

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