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Barn conversions: What you need to know

Tackling this kind of project could give you a home with real wow factor – but there will be challenges along the way. Alan Tierney explains the essential considerations
This conversion designed by David Nossiter Architects has been kept as open-plan as possible to preserve the original barn’s cathedral-like proportions. Oversized birchfaced plywood furniture is strategically placed to act as partitions, providing privacy for bathrooms and sleeping areas

Converting barns to residential use is a popular way to create spacious, highly individual homes that are packed with a lot of character. Many old agricultural buildings have no practical use for modern farming, so providing them with a new, viable use is beneficial to both conservation and sustainability.

Getting this kind of project right, however, is far from straightforward. Without sufficient understanding, care and attention during the design and construction, you may not get the result you’re expecting. Here’s what you need to bear in mind before you start your scheme.

Establishing the living space

A classic challenge when converting a barn is finding a way to create the subdivisions and private zones needed to establish a useable home. You’ll be working with a building that was used for storage or similar purposes, so it essentially comprises large areas of undivided space.

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About Build It

In the May edition of Build It magazine, you'll find a wealth of inspiration and advice for your self-build, renovation or extension project, including: - Cover house: A traditional-style new home on a garden plot (p20) - Kitchen design ideas (p72) - Does solar battery storage make sense? (p74) - Driveway design ideas (p80) - Complete guide to loft conversions (p 84) - Modern glazed extensions (p98) - How to keep your project on budget (p110)