Vernacular Homes - barn conversion - West Kent, Sussex, Surrey

Barn Conversion, West Kent

We first approached Vernacular Homes when we were in the process of buying the barns. The main barn had planning permission but the second one didn’t, and we wanted to be confident that we could get permission to convert it. I specifically wanted builders with experience of atcost barns and they came up in my search, so I got in touch.

“I was so impressed with Trevor and I’m really happy I got him involved before the sale. He offered so much advice on the planning application. The original company we were talking to said that we would not be able to get permission to convert the additional barn on the land, and were very negative. But Trevor knew that we would have a good chance and advised us to try to gain permission to convert it into a separate, detached dwelling. He just had such good relationships with the council and knew the planners by name. He had great experience and understanding of all the covenants involved, and the minutiae of dealing with the local authority. The land is also in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and I had assumed we would get conversion rights under agricultural rules, but Trevor rightly advised me otherwise.

When it came to planning, Trevor also advised us to get consent for the temporary mobile home we’ve built to live in during the build. We didn’t know we’d need permission, but he said it would be advisable, just to be ‘squeaky clean’ and stay on the right side of the planners. We’ve got a lovely four-bedroom, two-bathroom log cabin which is great for us, our three children and dog, and we can sell it once the barns are finished. Having the planning permission just gives us that peace of mind.

“He’s also helped us and dealt with all the ‘boring’ but important details such as insurance, and tax advice. He advised us about the VAT we could reclaim at the end of the build which has been incredibly helpful. We have a self-build mortgage and we’ve had to satisfy various requirements for lenders and for the insurance, and he’s been so helpful with that. We’re dealing with substantial sums of money so it’s so reassuring that we have confidence in him and the team; they’ve helped us to save money and add value to the site.

“I’d never heard of a design & build company before I came across Vernacular Homes; most people normally hire an architect to prepare drawings and then find a builder. So I was sceptical at first, but they’ve just been incredible. For example, initially I thought the virtual models that they create sounded a bit gimmicky but they are absolutely invaluable – particularly in a barn where there are lots of differing heights and unusual angles. I wanted a double-height ceiling but couldn’t visualise it so they rendered the drawings and it was amazingly helpful. It enabled us to make some design changes and understand exactly how they would look. What was also lovely was how much they shared our excitement in the design – my mum actually made the comment that they were as enthusiastic as if they were building their own home.

“Day to day, it’s just a pleasure having them all on site. Every member of the team is polite, tidy, friendly and reassuring.

“So far, the second smaller barn is finished and is now a lovely, cosy two bed detached cottage for my mum who has emigrated from Canada. The finish is excellent – we only had two minor items on our snagging list and they’ve been dealt with very quickly.

“The larger barn is very close to having windows and doors and the team are cracking on over the pre-Christmas period to get some of the inside finished too. I’m most excited to see the vaulted ceiling and my walk-in dressing room. I’ve also got some amazing over the top, very heavy chandeliers coming and the team has been great getting the roof ready to make sure it can hold the weight!  

“Overall, I’m just so pleased we’re working with Vernacular Homes. They’re on time, on budget, give incredible advice and are just lovely people to work with. I’d recommend them to anyone.”  

Last updated November 2023

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