Unloved outbuildings and rundown stables provide the perfect opportunity for some imaginative updating. Case in point: this 18th century stable block which, with a little hard work, became the perfect place to host a festive celebration. Anna Tyzack investigates.
With a little imagination and a significant investment, unloved outbuildings can be given a new lease of life. The limits set by planning laws, which encourage use of existing openings and preservation of the original structure, can create a challenge, but, in some ways, make the process quite simple.
Indeed, such is the current mood for open-plan living and double-height ceilings that many modern homes are actually modelled on former cow sheds. Danny Lodge, the new family home in West Sussex of architect Matt White, is a case in point: a 4,300sq ft modern Sussex barn, tacked onto a Grade II-listed Victorian gamekeeper’s cottage.
‘It’s a hard-working family home that combines practicality with charm and personality,’ concludes Mr White.
When Steve and Jules Horrell moved to an 18th-century cider barn near Bruton, Somerset, in 2016, they didn’t give much thought to the rundown stable block across the courtyard. However, when it deteriorated further over the winter, they decided to convert it into a party room.
‘The barrel-top roof was the only stable part and we were going to lose it if we didn’t do something,’ says Mrs Horrell, manager of Roth Bar & Grill at Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Somerset, where her husband is head chef. ‘As we’re both passionate about entertaining, it made sense to have a party space.’
Planning permission wasn’t required, as they weren’t adding new walls or windows. ‘We could have converted it into a proper house, but we restored it to preserve what was there – we like the way the structure is open-fronted,’ Mrs Horrell explains.
They replaced the oak posts, which had been chewed by numerous Shire horses over the years, and repaired the roof, then installed an outdoor kitchen and fire pit, plus a long dining table.
The Horrells have used their party barn on numerous occasions, including barbecues and New Year’s Eve celebrations. ‘Once you’ve decorated it with candles and lit the fire, you can use it in winter as well as summer,’ says Mrs Horrell. It’s also a useful sheltered workspace: this autumn, Mrs Horrell has been making blackberry cordial and, at Christmas, Mr Horrell heats vats of mulled wine on the stove.
‘We use it to store our tractor and to process everything from our smallholding,’ continues Mrs Horrell. ‘Even when the rain is hammering on the tin roof, it’s a lovely place to be.’
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