Barn Conversions: 19 Innovative & Inspiring Barn Conversion Projects

Barn conversions can make unique, characterful and innovative projects that'll transform a historical build into a modern and comfortable home – look at these amazing barn conversion projects to see what’s possible
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It
3rd August 2023

Barn conversions are extremely popular for UK homeowners, and it’s no surprise. They present the opportunity to create a home brimming with country charm, historic details and quite often spectacular countryside views.

Among their quirks and design details, what barn conversions have in common is a respect for the original features of the building. So, it’s vital to celebrate the original elements of the structure rather than working against them, or you run the risk of stripping out the details that initially drew you to the building.

Adopting a carefully crafted design strategy will ensure that your rural home still radiates plenty of character once the transformation is complete. Think about incorporating design features that enhance the structure’s charm, such as large spans of wow-factor glazing or restoring details like exposed timber beams and trusses.

If you’re thinking about undertaking a barn conversion or are exploring renovation ideas for your next project, take a look at this collection of unique, characterful, and innovative barn conversions and restorations that have each turned a historical build into a functional and modern home.

1. Wow-Factor Barn Conversion Project

This former barn has been converted by HSSP Architects into a contemporary residence that reaps the full benefits of its glorious setting in rural Leicestershire. The barn conversion’s concrete walls remain in-situ, aside from on the principal elevation, where floor-to-ceiling glazing helps to bring the outdoors in.

A traditional palette of local Swithland stone was selected to clad several of the concrete walls, with timber cladding for the remainder. Due to the immense variation in ground levels, the garage was cut into the landscape.

Read More: 14 Steps to a Successful Barn Conversion

2. 1700s Stone Barn Transformation

Barn conversions are a popular route to a new home for their charm and history. This barn conversion by Affordable Architecture in Northumberland dates back to the 1700s. Over time, two lean-to extensions had been added, which have been knocked down and rebuilt to create the bedrooms.

Originally, the property had no central heating, so getting the house weathertight and warm was a priority. The owners decided to retain as many of the stone walls and timber beams as possible to preserve its character. To create a brighter, open-plan and more functional living space, the wall between the living area and an original bedroom was knocked down.

More Inspiration: Period Home Extensions: Design Ideas For Combining Old and New

3. Impressive Agricultural Revival

This barn conversion by Roderick James Architects has benefited from a relaxation in permitted development rights in England, which makes it easier for agricultural buildings to be transformed into homes.

Featuring a sparse palette of finishes, double-height open-plan living spaces and an indoor pool, The Plantation was largely rebuilt with natural timber cladding and full-height glazing to create a sleek, contemporary new house.

4. Sensitive Barn Restoration

Only the stone walls of Milk Moon Barn, restored by Kast Architects, were suitable for retention, enabling a wonderfully creative barn conversion project. The new parts of the building are clad in charred black timber boarding to distinguish old from the new.

Photo: Anthony Greenwood

A new extension allows easy access to the garden, connected via a frameless glass link. Inside, a new roof over the lower barn has been raised to create a generously-sized kitchen-diner.

The barn conversion’s well insulated and comfortable thanks to triple glazed windows and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR).

Learn More: Glazed Links: How to Get the Design Right

5. Medieval Barn Conversion

Maer Barn is a stone-built, slate-roofed Grade II listed building that retains a section of medieval fabric with a raised arch cruck timber roof structure and rubble stone walling. It has been adapted by Bazeley Architets for reuse by keeping the surviving two-storey section as single open spaces at ground floor and first floor levels.

A double pitched roof, constructed using simple green oak trusses with purlins and covered in natural local slate, has replaced the asbestos cement mono corrugated roof. A contemporary design was integrated by bridging the oldest part of the structure with the pitched, glazed extension of the newer barn.

6. Timber Frame Barn Conversion

A timber-framed aisled barn in rural Oxfordshire, Pye Barn was originally converted in 1935. A later redesign by David Nossiter Architects involved stripping it back to the original oak structure of columns and trusses, at the centre of which is an 8m-tall galleried hallway.

Photo: Lyndon Douglas

Situated on three acres of land, it was important to reconnect the barn conversion with the landscape. wide glazing characterise the garden elevation, reflecting both the ground floor living area and first floor master bedroom. On summer evenings, full height windows can be opened to enjoy the garden.

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7. Rebuild & Conversion Project

The walls and roof of this barn conversion, masterminded by Clare Nash Architecture had to be almost entirely rebuilt, leaving only a small part of the original structure still standing. South Oxfordshire council allowed these improvements under its conversion policy.

Photo: Claire Williams

With large areas of south-facing glazing, the Passivhaus Planning Package modelling tool ensured there would be no overheating issues. The cavity was widened for extra insulation so that the house could be warm in winter despite the floor area of around 370m2.

Photo: Claire Williams

A flint and brick exterior sits beautifully against the impressive window arches, completed by a local craftsman.

Learn More: Creative Brick Design: Using Bricks Innovatively in Your Self Build

EXPERT VIEW Planning & design considerations for barn conversions

Clare Nash, founder and director of Clare Nash Architecture, looks at the planning and design process for barn conversions

Are barn conversions an easy win for planning permission?

With most barn conversions, we opt for a pre-application followed by a full planning application. This allows you to test design nideas with the planners before applying (which neighbours will also be able to see). The advantage of planning permission over Class Q permitted development is that it gives you three years to start building.

Under Class Q you must complete building within three years. This can be tricky to achieve with contractor timeframes and generally high workloads in the industry at the moment. It’s also less attractive to potential buyers if you intend to sell.

How do you approach retaining a balance between old and new?

There are two types of barn: modern steel framed with concrete; and traditional barns with stone, brick or timber (or a combination). Traditional buildings carry a regional flavour that you don’t see in volume housebuilding, making them attractive barn conversions.

Barns make fantastic contemporary homes because you have the traditional envelope which provides a textural base to work from. After that, it’s up to you and your own personal taste. Some like to emphasise traditional aspects with timber trusses (restored or new insertions), while others like an industrial look (with dark window frames and exposed steel). We are usually very inspired by the barn itself – and its limits and opportunities – and will combine that with the client’s own tastes.

Should barn conversions follow a specific layout design?

Traditional barns tend to have big cart door entrances, while planning often limits window numbers and size. This dictates how the layout could work. Modern barns have a lot more flexibility, but sometimes you need to be clever about the headroom around the eaves at first floor level.

In our project in South Oxfordshire, ensuites are at half-landing height with storage below, so you take a few steps down from the bedrooms to access them. Typically, barns are long and fairly narrow, which reduces the bedrooms at first floor level as you’ll need headroom in corridors.

What is a realistic barn conversions budget?

A realistic starting budget for a barn conversion would be around £2,000 per m2 (calculated using internal floor area, across all storeys). Then, it depends a lot on personal taste, individual barn characteristics and complexities and, of course, the rates of local tradespeople. It’s important to consider the extent of works that will be needed and if they’ll need upkeep over time.

How do you prepare for any difficulties that barn conversions can present?

I would suggest working with someone familiar with barn conversions, since these buildings have certain planning stipulations and unique limitations. A pre-application with the local council is always a good idea. A structural survey, including trial pits to establish existing foundation depths (if any), will help to ascertain costs.

Although the barn conversion’s shell is already there, we find that barns cost the same as a new build per m2. So, knowing what you can achieve with your finances and devising a budget that you can stick to – along with a contingency fund – will help prepare you for any pitfalls.

Looking for planning advice? Read planning expert Julia Riddle’s complete guide on How to Get Planning Permission in the Countryside

8. Barn Reconfiguration

Higher Dorsley is a Class Q barn conversion that’s comprised of reconfigured redundant single-storey structures. The home’s finishing touches include larch timber cladding, glass and local granite, and the whole roof structure is covered in standing seam zinc.

Photo: Richard Downer / Panoptic

The barn conversion, designed by VESP Architects has been well-insulated and is fitted with underfloor heating (UFH), powered by efficient air source heat pumps. The main volume’s gable-end frames the striking entrance between two sections of granite walling.

Learn More: Heat Pump Guide: What are Heat Pumps & How do they Work?

9. Striking Contextual Conversion

Taking inspiration from vernacular architecture, this modern project by Vine Architecture Studio involved a mix of renovation and new build work. The main farmhouse and masonry barns were restored, strengthening the centuries-old stone and brick structures, while the rotten timber frame barns were replaced.

Photo: Nicholas Worley

The barn conversion’s new extension introduces a contemporary volume that complements and enhances the existing traditional architecture. It comprises a timber-clad upper storey that contrasts with a fully glazed ground floor, giving way to views of the landscape beyond.

Photo: Nicholas Worley

Local reclaimed stone was used in the house and landscaping, as well as locally sourced larch cladding for the extension.

10. Characterful Barn Conversion on Sloping Site

VESP Architects carried out the design for this conversion in Dartmoor. The original barn was built with a slope in the structure, which the owners wished to retain as a celebration of the building’s character. They also kept the granite columns that support the internal oak structure.

barn conversion on sloping plot

Photo: Richard Downer

Previously, these had been covered with newer stonework walling, which was removed to reveal the columns beneath. Glazing was inserted in between each of these to recreate the appearance of the open-sided linhay barn.

barn conversion interior with exposed stone wall and oak beams

Photo: Richard Downer

11. Sensitive Barn Restoration

KSR Architects & Interior Designers masterminded the restoration of this agricultural building in an Oxfordshire area of outstanding natural beauty.

carefully restored barn conversion in Area of Natural Beauty

Photo: Tony Murray

Many of the key changes involved stripping out poorly conceived 1970s additions, including low ceilings, false panels and tight corridors. Without these elements carving up the floorplan, the living area has been opened up to its full double-height glory.

carefully restored barn conversion with exposed stone walls and decorative interior

Photo: Tony Murray

The elm trusses and original stone walls were carefully restored, too, allowing the historic features of the building to take centre stage.

Thinking about your planning application? Read Mike Dade’s guide on How to Get Planning Permission for Rural Conversion Projects

12. Barn Conversion with Exposed Timber Structure

The restoration of this grade II listed barn was conducted by Gresford Architects. The project sought to undo many of the unsympathetic alterations from when the building was originally converted in the 1990s.

grade II listed barn conversion with exposed timber structure

Photo: French + Tye

Removing the infill plaster and studwork between the kitchen and the open-plan living area has allowed the original timber structure to shine, as well as establishing a seamless link between zones on the ground floor of the house. To make the most of the building’s height, the kitchen was opened up to the roof space above, reinstating the barn’s lofty feel.

More Inspiration: Open Plan Living Ideas – Kitchen, Living & Dining Rooms

13. Striking Barn with Curved Wall Transformed

The unusual circular living room in this Cotswold barn conversion has evolved to become one of the property’s key design talking points. Millar + Howard Workshop, who hatched the plan for the conversion, chose to maintain the dramatic scale of the space rather than partitioning the zone.

barn conversion with high ceilings and exposed beams and white walls

Photo: Thomas Miller/Good Spaces

Furniture was chosen carefully to complement the proportions of the room, including bespoke curved sofas. New entrance doors were made to fit the large existing openings, rather than boarding them up and introducing smaller doors.

barn conversion with curved walls and exposed beams

Photo: Thomas Miller/Good Spaces

14. Standout Steel Frame Shed Conversion

Once a container for tractors, this former agricultural shed in North Yorkshire has been transformed by Tonkin Liu. The original steel frame and ground slab were both reused and enlarged to retain the original form of the building.

Converted tractor container barn with steel frame and exterior cladding

Photo: Greg Storrar

The exterior was updated with fresh new cladding; varying lengths of shot-blasted timber have been laid between galvanized steel fins. This standout finish has given the barn a streamlined, contemporary feel, informed by the silver birch trees that are peppered across the site.

Tractor barn conversion interior landing with extensive book shelves

Photo: Alex Peacock

Read More: Contemporary Construction Systems to Inspire your Self Build Project

15. Colourful and Contemporary Dutch Barn Conversion

Sandy Rendel Architects have given this 1930s agricultural Dutch barn a new lease of life. The project was carried out under Class Q of permitted development rights.

Opting for an upside-down living arrangement, with bedrooms and a home office on the ground floor and an open-plan living area above, has had multiple benefits.

Dutch barn conversion with curved roof

Photo: Richard Chivers

It allows the occupants to maximise their elevated views of the countryside in the zone where they spend most of their time.

Dutch barn conversion with red and blue surface details and curved vaulted ceiling

Photo: Jim Stephenson

Plus, the vaulted ceiling on the upper level has become a design feature in itself, with the overhead steel supports finished in red as a standout reminder of the building’s origins.

16. 1800s Granite Barn Conversion

Built in 1858, this two-storey granite barn has been revitalised by SOUP Architects’ sensitive conversion and extension. A double-height void sits at the heart of the floorplan, accommodating a wow-factor staircase that leads up to a galleried walkway on the first floor.

granite barn conversion and extension with stone wall exterior

Photo: Soup Architects

The flight has been clad in black timber panels, creating continuity with the exterior finish of the new extension. The charred wood stands out beautifully against the stone walls, as well as complementing the white oiled joinery.

Granite barn conversion with exposed stone wall interior and statement staircase

Photo: Jean-Cristophe Godet

17. Contemporary Restoration to a Listed Barn

When Louis and his wife Ingrid first viewed their future home, it was nothing more than an a Grade II listed barn that dated back to 1422.

It is linked by an 1800s grain store to an assortment of farm buildings of the same age, which had all been converted into living space in the 1970s, when an extension had also been added.

The tithe barn came with planning permission to extend, and in order to save money Louis decided he would be as hands on as possible. The couple took off the front wall from the original 1970s build to reface it with stone, just as it would have been originally.

Photo: Heather Gunn

The builders did all the structural works in the grain store while Louis built the stud walls, which were lined with plywood over insulation. He also laid the engineered oak flooring.

The five tiny bedrooms have now been reduced to three larger, plus a study. “As for the extension within the barn, there were a number of different ways of creating this,” says Louis. “But having a free-standing steel frame with insulated timber frame walls was my idea; it doesn’t affect the original ancient building in any way and is easily dismantled.”

Photo: Heather Gunn

The barn conversion has been completed with a sophisticated and contemporary interior that  remains in keeping with the historic detailing of the build. The kitchen has been installed with a Shaker-style design in an open-plan layout and the glazed sliding doors bring plentiful light into the living areas.

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Thinking about how you’d insulate a barn conversion? Read our guide on How to Insulate Your Renovation Project

18. Agricultural Barn Transformed with Wow Factor Glazing

Double height glazing has been employed to dramatic effect in this Northamptonshire barn conversion. Multiple sliding glass door systems from IQ Glass draw attention to the impressive height of the former agricultural structure. Installing floor to ceiling units has allowed the internal living spaces to be flooded with natural light.

barn conversion with statement full-height double-storey glazed sliding doors

The dining area in particular benefits from this contemporary glazing setup, thanks to its position between two of the double-height expanses.

interior view looking out over the full-height double-storey glazed sliding doors

A suspended walkway sits above this zone, connecting rooms on the upper level of the dwelling while benefiting from plenty of daylight.

Read More: Window Design & Choosing the Right Glazing for Your Project

19. 400-Year-Old Barn Transformed into Ideal Home

This spectacular country conversion by Sam and Grant Risley remains in keeping with its barn character and has given the family everything they had in mind.

The 400-year-old barn had holes in the walls and a leaky corrugated iron roof, but a worthy proportion of the original oak frame still stood strong. There were double-height openings, front and back, originally for the horse and cart to pass through.

Photo: Tony Timmington

To renovate the barn successfully, the build was wrapped in two layers of super quilt multi-foil insulation, counter battened, a breather membrane, and then clad with treated sawn feather edge timber weatherboarding finished in black, just as it had been hundreds of years before.

Photo: Tony Timmington

The couple really liked the look of the exposed timber frame inside the house as seen in other barn projects and asked their builder to do the same. Sheets of 50mm Celotex went between the existing vertical timbers with vapour check plasterboard and a plaster finish.

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Learn More: Choosing the Right Materials for a Period Renovation

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