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Labour of love

Sue and Richard Cansdale had a very special reason for using new government legislation to convert their cattle barn into a compact, characterful rural retreat

When Sue and Richard Cansdale decided to convert their cattle barn in Northumberland, they knew they’d have to maximise every inch of space to create the home they imagined. Thanks to Sue’s clear vision and practical design ideas, the couple have successfully utilised every nook and cranny of the 84m2 building to develop an abode that feels twice as big as it really is. However, this bright, spacious house looked destined to fall at the first hurdle when the planners objected to the Cansdales’ proposal from the outset.

A fitting tribute

The couple had originally built the barn in memory of their daughter, Zoe, who died in a motorbike accident when she was 22. “We had just bought the field when the accident happened,” says Sue. “Zoe would have loved it here. It’s much more than just another barn conversion.”

A glass and oak staircase in the centre of the building draws light through the house

When the Cansdales originally purchased the plot in 1999, it contained a rundown timber agricultural structure. Three years later, the couple spent £27,000 building a more attractive traditional stone barn in its place to house their Dexter cattle as well as Zoe’s ponies. “When the last two died of old age, the barn looked so sad and empty. We were pleased at the thought of converting it into a little house for ourselves when we retired,” says Sue.

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About Build It

The September edition of Build It magazine will help you get your self-build, renovation or extension project off on the right foot. It’s packed with inspiration and advice, including: • Britain's best self-builds and renovations (page 19) • A contemporary, low-maintenance home (page 30) • Prefab homes: The future of self-build? (page 70) • Why underfloor heating makes sense for renovations (page 73) • How to create the perfect kitchen-diner extension (page 94) • How to get value for money (page 106) … and more!