Stone Barn Conversion

Curry Rivel, Somerset

On the edge of a group of farm buildings, this small barn has been converted into a sustainable 2-bedroom cottage. What appears from the outside as a traditional barn conversion is an artist's unusual home inside. The outside of the barn remains extremely simple with re-used clay roof tiles and repointed blue lias stone walls but with a fabricated zinc box gutter giving a hint of the unusual interior.

With sustainability in mind, the project retained as much of the original materials as possible and O2i Design carefully married  old and  new. External construction materials were re-used or locally sourced while interesting features and existing imperfections retain the character of the building. A new addition was a slot high up on the gable wall to provide an owl roost for the now resident barn owl.

The barn is open plan with the exception of one bedroom and the wet room. The original roof trusses are retained and one internal gable wall remains exposed blue lias. Having installed internal insulation to all other surfaces the unusual choice of oriented strand board (OSB) with a clear finish was used as the internal lining on walls and ceilings. This finish has since become quite popular in the more unusual interiors that are seen in the media. It is a highly sustainable material as it is made from small pieces of timber that would otherwise have been disposed of as waste, bound together with natural bonding agents under high pressure. It is FSC certified, manufactured from sustainable fast-growing renewable timbers, energy-efficient and carbon negative.

The staircase leading to the first floor was an interesting design challenge as it is made of anodised aluminium scaffolding poles with Key-clamp connections and OSB treads, all complying to the strict requirements of the Building Regulations.

The kitchen worktops are made of recycled floor boards and the flooring throughout the ground floor is a recycled gymnasium floor from an old school sports hall. The timber staves have been installed in a random order which means that the original floor markings for the various sports courts create a colourful pattern on the re-varnished timber. New conservation roof lights were fitted to flood the open plan sitting room and kitchen/diner with light.

Once the internal fit out was completed, a small team of young artists were asked to decorate the interior with their graffiti style work that can be seen in the photographs. All the paints and finishes used are water based and do not give off Volatile Organic Compounds.

The clean up of the site was also taken into consideration by ensuring that the site was cleared of rubble and debris, building stones recovered and waste was used in the infill of the disused slurry pit. There are few mains services nearby which led to choosing an air source heat pump to provide space heating and hot water. Waste water passes through a reed bed filtration system and eventually discharges into a rhyne known to be frequented by otters so the water is extremely clean and complies with an Environment Agency licence.

The barn was finished in September 2011 and used as an artist's gallery for Somerset Art Weeks.