Barn Conversion, East Sussex

Client Brief

We were contacted by our client, who owned a beautiful house in East Sussex and wanted to convert an old barn that had been moved from elsewhere and rebuilt on her land. It was originally bought by her husband for use as a garage but her plan now was to move into it and sell the larger house she was currently living in.

The brief was for a two-storey, three-bedroom home with a downstairs study which could also be used as a bedroom and shower room, giving her the option of living on the ground floor, should she choose to in the future.

The Project

This project took around 10 months. The barn was a traditional oak frame construction, with a brick outshot, creating an L-shaped building.

The frame sat on a concrete slab, so we had to support the barn where it stood and dig foundations in the ground underneath, building plinth walls underneath to support it.

As we were building these new plinth walls, we were able to remove the existing ones and insulate the house on the outside, allowing us to expose the beautiful timbers on the inside. Barn conversion clients often assume that timbers will be visible on the inside of a property, but this is not always possible, owing to the huge amounts of insulation that are required. This often means the frames must be enclosed, with ventilation added to the outside of the building to prevent the wood from rotting

We helped our client to make the most of the beautiful timbers by talking her through options such as how much plaster to use on the walls in each room so that just enough rather than too much wood was on show.

We worked through the existing planning application to better segregate the barn from the existing house, providing a boundary and an extensive driveway looping around the garden, leading to a parking area.

As the route for the driveway was near several trees, we had to ensure its construction did not damage their roots. We therefore built a no-dig, permeable driveway. This effectively means it sat on top of the top soil, rather than the base being excavated into the ground.


Our client’s one particular stipulation which she did not want to compromise on, was a private driveway to her barn, rather than one she would have to share with the future owners of her existing property once sold. Initially the council refused her permission as they were concerned about emergency vehicle access, so our client asked us to intervene. We have good relationships with the local authority and following a phone call in which we suggested the addition of a vehicle turning point, the planners agreed to approve the driveway.


The brief was to create a practical and sensible, yet beautiful barn conversion for our client to live in, built on her own land. It’s a lovely home that really works for her, providing her with the private driveway that she absolutely wanted.

What the client said…

“We’d had the barn for a long time and only ever used it for storage. Lots of people had mentioned to me that it would make a nice conversion and that if I didn’t do it, then whoever eventually bought my house would. So, I thought I would do it myself, to make sure it was lovely.

My daughter-in-law first found Vernacular Homes online and they seemed to have a lot of experience with barns, so my son got in touch and they sent someone round to look at the site. When someone from Vernacular Homes came to visit, I was so impressed both with his interest in the project and his knowledge of barn conversions. My son then got in touch with Trevor to discuss the business side of the project and again, he too was really impressed. I was told by friends that I should really get some more quotes but there wasn’t anyone comparable in my mind; they were just so nice and it felt ‘right’.

I had strong ideas about some of the things I wanted; for example, I wanted a beautiful staircase that looked out onto the garden. But they came up with some lovely ideas too, such as installing a balcony on the first floor so I could see down to the first floor. Also, their suggestion to insulate on the outside of the house was such a good idea. I really wanted to be able to see the beams and this allowed me to do that. They asked me if I’d like to keep some beams in the bathroom which were originally due to be removed; I’m so glad they did as I kept them and it’s honestly the most beautiful bathroom I’ve ever seen.

There was a marvellous ‘can do’ feeling about the build; no question of ‘We can’t do that because of such-and-such’. Everything that I was keen to do or have was considered. On the rare occasion that a request wasn’t possible, the reason why was explained to me and I understood. Also, the builders came up with good ideas of their own, for example: the conversion of space in the ceiling into two, very necessary, cupboards.

The driveway was the closest I came to upset; when the council initially refused to allow me a private driveway, I nearly lost it! It was so important to me as I know what issues a shared driveway can cause and I just didn’t want any potential problems with neighbours in the future. I got in touch with Trevor and he told me to leave it with him. Within a day, he’d spoken to the council and sorted it all out by suggesting adding a vehicle turning point. I was so grateful. He has so much experience and good relationships with the planners, he just knew exactly how to speak with them and solve the problem.

I can honestly say there wasn’t anybody who worked for them who wasn’t excellent. I think their painter was the best I’ve seen. And the whole team always talked me through everything and were lovely to speak to – I actually enjoyed having them here!.

In the three years I’ve lived here (since 2020) nothing has gone wrong. My favourite thing about the barn is when I sit in the main open area downstairs and look out; I have huge French windows on one side and smaller windows on the other side to see the field and my garden – it’s just fabulous.”

Our views on the project…

“We’re really proud of this project. It was all about creating an ideal home for our client, that meant a lot to her, in a lovely location. Our client was lovely to work with and we’re really pleased to have built such a special home for her.

We did have the issue with the drive but we knew from experience, that the issue was emergency access which is an important safety feature. The turning point was an obvious and simple solution for us to achieve.

The barn has given her everything she wanted in her home for both now and the future, which is all we ever want to leave a client with.”

Contact Us

For an informal conversation about your project please call us on 01233 861177 or E-mail us using the form. Your data is not used for marketing – only to contact you.