Barn Conversion, West Kent

Client Brief

The client owned a large property in the West Kent countryside. Within the grounds, about 40m from the main house was a small corrugated and timber-clad steel framed outbuilding with an attached stable block. There was planning consent to demolish the stables, then convert the barn and an attached triple garage.

They were aware of similar projects Vernacular Homes had worked on in Kent and were looking for careful advice in relation to planning and design issues.
One of their main requirements was a turnkey design and build solution for their £500k budget.

We were asked to make some alterations to the planning application which required a resubmission, then work through the planning conditions and detailed design before moving into the build phase.

The Project

Following a careful appraisal of the client’s brief, it was decided to add additional residential space to the barn by utilising some of the garage area for a utility room. By moving the utility room out of the barn area, it freed up some of the barn space, enabling the creation of a more workable and aesthetically pleasing kitchen and reception area.

The barn required complete demolition apart from the existing steel portal frames.  However, these needed careful restoration as in order for the works to meet the planning criteria of a conversion, elements of the existing structure had to be retained. We used this as an opportunity to turn them into an attractive feature in the form of some retained historic steel framing, internally visible in the conversion which tells a story of the building’s past agricultural use. The steel frames had to be left in-situ during the conversion to fulfil planning requirements.

The walls of the building were clad in vertical larch boards and the roof was finished with natural slate. The huge new windows really open it up to the outside by effectively extending the internal space onto the decking and making the most of the lovely views over woodland and farmland.

The project involved the full range of trades, including a contamination consultant to test the ground around the barn and provide reports. As with all buildings originally built prior to 1999 that require significant building work including demolition, an R&D (Refurbishment and Demolition) survey was required. This must be carried out by approved specialists which we arranged as part of the project. It is a detailed survey that involves taking samples that are sent to a laboratory for testing. In this case, asbestos was found in the roof sheets and wall cladding; we ensured that it was removed safely by specialist contractors.

It was also a planning condition requirement to test and analyse the soil around the barn for contaminants (none were found), which is not an unusual condition where existing buildings are to be converted.

Completion took around seven months, plus a delay due to availability of the windows and doors. (Read on for further details..!)


The windows and doors were subject to a lengthy 22-week timeframe from order to delivery. This effectively added about 6 weeks to the contract period. It is often possible to order windows and doors from plan, however, in this instance, the precise opening sizes were uncertain until the openings were formed. Also, the aluminium windows, screens and doors were an expensive specialist item that required the careful measurements of the actual openings prior to order and fabrication.

Keeping the steel frames in place, and effectively building a new house around them created an additional challenge and careful support was required.

The client was fully aware of the complexities of the project, which is why they approached us in the first place. They were, therefore, understanding when such challenges arose; it was our job to resolve them, which we did with no detrimental impact on the build.


This was a great project to work on, and all involved were very happy with the final build.
We were particularly proud of creating an interesting, contemporary home from a most basic and uninteresting building.

The main house, owned by the same client is only 40m away from the barn and is of significant size and quality. The barn needed to be a conversion of an exceptionally high standard to complement and add value to the site. A shoddy or ill-designed conversion would have been detrimental not only to the barn itself, but to the main house and the site in which it sits.

The client has also recommended us to friends which is always nice to hear.

What the client said…

“I could see from their previous work that Vernacular Homes was just who we were looking for. Trevor was so personable the first time I spoke to him, and I could tell straight away that he was very knowledgeable and trustworthy.

We’d already been granted planning permission through an architect but with a number of constraints. Trevor helped us extricate the designs from the architect and took the project forward, discharging all the conditions and adapting the design. We were facing challenges such as ground contaminations, asbestos removal and ecological surveys and Vernacular Homes knew all the right people to navigate all of these and make the whole process easier.

They were highly competent right from design, through planning law to the build. They also made lots of suggestions and changes to the plans that I wouldn’t have thought we’d be able to do, but they made it all so straightforward.

The whole team was lovely and our project manager was brilliant; whenever we asked him a question, he’d already thought of it – everything was ordered and organised in advance.

It was a really stress-free project and we’re delighted with the end result; I would recommend them to anyone.”

Our views on the project…

“Our clients were great people to work with. They had a clear understanding of what they wanted to achieve and spent the required time thinking and talking about their project.  They inputted significantly and usefully into their project and helped make the finished home what it is.”

Contact Us

For an informal conversation about your project please call us on 01233 861177 or E-mail us using the form.