Thursday, 21 October 2021

Let these barns convert you to countryside living

WHO doesn’t love a good barn conversion? Think stone walls, exposed beams, unique character and fascinating features, all wrapped up

WHO doesn’t love a good barn conversion? Think stone walls, exposed beams, unique character and fascinating features, all wrapped up in a high-spec comfortable modern package. Standard property correspondent Lucy Boon found two very high-end properties that take some beating as most people’s dream homes.

RIGHT in the heart of Ewelme, behind the 15th-century church, is an agricultural building conversion that is as delightful as it is imposing.

Two-storey six-bedroom Church Barn, which comes with around 6.5 acres of land and its own paddock, has both style and character. Even the “clunch” stone used in its construction is said to be lucky.

The original building was part of a local farm. More recent history finds it in the hands of occupations company director Richard Althorp and his wife Sarah, both in their 40s, and their two teenage children.

The family bought the former barn in 2000.

“It was all farm equipment, animals and a great big hole in the roof back then,” said Mr Althorp. “But we could immediately see the potential in converting it into a home that we could put our stamp on.”

Working with a team of architects, the Althorps converted the building to include a host of sitting areas, meaning the opportunities to entertain are endless. From the formal dining room to the home cinema, it is hard to know where to begin; and throughout the Althorps have cleverly and creatively mastered the art of converting a barn to play to its strengths, without losing any modern luxuries.

The size, versatility of construction, high-spec modifications and attention to detail were all part of Mr Althorp’s vision to shape a stylish but comfortable, contemporary family home which manages to cherish its heritage rather than obscure it.

Other stand-out spaces include the beamed drawing room, which has an eye-catching Portland stone over-mantel, a 40ft games room, which comes with its own bar, and the interesting ‘loggia’, which surrounds the south west of the house a bit like a long, narrow conservatory.

“I call this the ‘garden room’,” said Mr Althorp, who wanted to bring as much light into the property as possible. “It’s south facing, so that helps. Originally, there was a 20ft lean-to here and we simply reworked the idea.”

The dining room and two other reception rooms hug the loggia on the other side, but thanks to ‘indoor windows’, light pours in.

“The daylight from here filters through down the side of the barn, plus you have a wonderful view of the French-style courtyard,” adds Mr Althorp.

He continued: “Both my wife and I love the area around Provence, and that was our inspiration for the garden here.”

The couple invited some Chelsea Flower Show winners to experiment with the garden. “They planted several species that hadn’t yet been introduced to the UK at the time. With the stone paving we’ve put in, we’ve managed to lovingly install a bit of France here.”

Accommodation also includes a family room, sitting room/bedroom five, study/bedroom six, kitchen/breakfast room, utility room, master bedroom with ensuite and dressing area, guest suite, and two further bedrooms with family bathroom.

“Our family has enjoyed living here,” said Mr Althorp. “We love everything about the house, but for me it’s the home cinema I will miss the most!”

Although he admits the drawing room comes a close second. “My wife loves that room, too. We call it the ‘rock room’,” he said, referring to the six-and-a-half-ton rock above the fireplace. “We designed that ourselves. It’s one large, natural boulder. We didn’t have to change it — it is naturally shaped like that.”

Despite being in the countryside Ewelme is ideally situated, just 20 minutes from Reading, Oxford, the M40 and local schools. Plus Cholsey train station is a 10-minute drive.

Church Barn is on the market at a guide price of £2,950,000 with Hamptons International. Call senior residential sales manager James Butler at the Henley office on (01491) 572215.

A mile or so from Binfield Heath lies a little hamlet called Crowsley.

It is beautiful and so is the five-bedroom barn conversion with two-bedroom annex that lies on the edge of it.

As the name suggests, Harvest House was originally a large barn with associated agricultural buildings. Nestled in-between fields and woods in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the various buildings were converted into two properties around 18 years ago.

In recent years, new owners with a particular eye for design and interior decoration set about transforming it into the superb, contemporary home that it is today.

The current vendors, a family with two teenage children, said: “The previous owners joined the main barn to the annex with a beautiful double height space. Now, one wing is the main house and the other is a guest annex.”

This comes complete with its own kitchen, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, “plant room” and a large living room which opens out on to the courtyard terrace.

The other wing comprises snug, dining room, kitchen, utility, living room and two downstairs cloakrooms. Upstairs is a large master bedroom suite with a galleried dressing room and an ensuite bathroom with shower.

There are two further bedroom suites and another two bedrooms served by a family bathroom.

As the vendor says: “I have two teenage children and the set-up is ideal as it means I can have one at each end of the house!”

Harvest House is set within an acre or so of its own land, and is approached along a private driveway through two sets of security gates. There is ample parking on the gravelled area to the front of the house.

The entrance hall is both elegant and modern with a limestone floor and unusual glass walling which turns it into a ‘cellular space’ without losing any of the open-plan barn feel.

The main kitchen/breakfast room has a distinctive ‘modern farmhouse’ style which fits with the history of the building, and there are solid oak cabinets and granite work surfaces designed and hand built by Griggs & Mackay. Fittings include an electric AIMS Aga and a large fridge/freezer surrounded by further wooden cabinets and units.

The dining room and living room both have inglenook-style fires as well as vaulted ceilings with numerous timber beams. Full-height windows and French doors allow for plenty of natural light. The living room also has bi-fold doors, on the north side, which lead out to the swimming pool courtyard — the wow factor of the property.

With the main house and outbuildings set around all four sides of this courtyard, it means there is complete privacy here, as well as a bit of shelter if a breeze comes up.

There is also a barbecue area as well as space for sun loungers and coffee tables, overlooked by the living room.

The living room, described as elegant and tranquil by the vendor, is characterised by its large spaces.

That feeling of tranquillity runs out into the garden, which is divided into several distinct areas, the largest being to the north and south of the plot. All have well-stocked shrubs, borders and mature trees.

In the centre of the north lawn is a large wooden gazebo with a thatched roof and ample sofa seating. It has both light and power which enable it to be enjoyed all year round.

Towards the far end of the garden a grain store resting on saddle stones, is a reminder of the property’s roots. There is also a gym, which is just off the swimming pool courtyard and which has its own changing room with shower, and stairs leading up to a galleried games room.

Crowsley is four miles from Henley and three miles from Shiplake, both of which have a mainline train link to London. There are numerous schools in the area and Reading is a 12 minute drive away. To drive to central London (M4) takes approximately 40 minutes.

Harvest House is on the market at a guide price of £3,650,000, through Hamptons International. Call James Butler at the Henley office on (01491) 572215.

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