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Home inspiration: a rustic barn conversion in Ware

PUBLISHED: 16:20 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:20 08 May 2018

The vaulted oak-framed dining room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, is a stunning new addition.Table and chairs: John Lewis. Coolicon industrial copper pendant lights: Artifact Lighting. Walls are in Natural Hessian by Dulux (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

The vaulted oak-framed dining room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, is a stunning new addition.Table and chairs: John Lewis. Coolicon industrial copper pendant lights: Artifact Lighting. Walls are in Natural Hessian by Dulux (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

© Andreas von Einsiedel 2016, All Rights Reserved

When fate intervened, Nichola Trayler-Barbrook seized a golden opportunity to transform a barn conversion near Ware into a stunning home

Nichola Trayler-Barbrook finds it hard to believe that she once turned her back on the home she now adores.

‘When I first viewed this barn conversion, I immediately dismissed it as being far too small and completely lacking in potential. It was a decision I’d live to regret.’

In 2013, Nichola and her husband Alex had just tied the knot and were living in a three-storey modern townhouse on the edge of Hertford.

Extending at the rear of the property has transformed the previously modest barn, creating the space that Nichola and Alex initially thought would be impossible (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) Extending at the rear of the property has transformed the previously modest barn, creating the space that Nichola and Alex initially thought would be impossible (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

‘After the wedding we decided to look for a house with a better layout, and set our hearts on a barn conversion,’ Nichola explains. ‘Sadly, I lost my father several years ago, so I was looking for a property in Hertfordshire where I could live close to my mother.’

Having trawled the internet, that July Nichola discovered a quaint-looking barn that was off the beaten track in the pretty hamlet of Wadesmill north of Ware.

‘I was feeling incredibly excited when I drove up the gravel path and saw the converted cow byre,’ remembers Nichola with a smile.

A pale pink throw and pink and rose gold accessories give a feminine touch to the otherwise industrial vibe of the cleverly-designed master bedroom (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) A pale pink throw and pink and rose gold accessories give a feminine touch to the otherwise industrial vibe of the cleverly-designed master bedroom (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

Although the rural setting was undoubtedly idyllic, having strolled from room to room, the house-hunter had a feeling that the barn wasn’t quite right.

‘It just didn’t seem spacious enough,’ Nichola explains. ‘The fact that it was in a conservation area was also off-putting since I reckoned any kind of an extension could be problematic.’

To her surprise, the same night the barn was sold to other viewers. During the next three months, she painstakingly continued searching for a suitable home.

Nichola created a feature wall of family photographs and mementoes in the vaulted hallway (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) Nichola created a feature wall of family photographs and mementoes in the vaulted hallway (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

‘As time wore on, nothing better materialised, she says. ‘I realised that rejecting the barn had been a mistake.’

Thankfully, all was not lost. That October the property came back on the market.

‘I instantly set up another viewing,’ says Nichola. ‘This time I visited when it was dusk. The owners had turned on the lamps and lit the candles, and the barn looked charming. Having chatted to the estate agent, I discovered that there was scope to extend, at least to the permitted development limit, so there was the possibility of creating the large walk-in larder and utility room I was after.’

Nichola with chihuahua Jax (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) Nichola with chihuahua Jax (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

With Alex in agreement, the couple snapped up the property and they moved in during December. Several months later, family friend and builder, Dan Rowley, called to do some work and planted a seed about how the Trayler-Barbrooks could totally change the layout.

‘When he suggested putting the boiler into the roof space it was a eureka moment,’ Nichola recalls. ‘This idea prompted us to ring architect Craig Humber of Croe Architects and, from that moment, everything spiralled out of control. We ended up discussing ambitious plans to extend at the rear.’

With planning permission granted, work began in December 2014 to create, not only Nichola’s sought-after larder and utility room, but also a vaulted oak-framed dining room, stunning master bedroom with en-suite, a small terrace linking the new spaces together and a compact loft bedroom.

A leather chair from Indigo, eye-catching cushions, throws and a pair of chunky knit stools from Cox and Cox, add texture and depth to the restful living room scheme (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) A leather chair from Indigo, eye-catching cushions, throws and a pair of chunky knit stools from Cox and Cox, add texture and depth to the restful living room scheme (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

‘It was a major project that lasted until July 2015. While the work was going on, we also decided to substantially alter the kitchen and the main bathroom. The project cost more than we’d anticipated but the end result has been worth every penny,’ Nichola says.

After the building work was completed, Nichola began considering schemes for every room, choosing chalky grey paint as a unifying theme.

‘The aim was to strike a balance between being sympathetic to this character property and injecting contemporary touches,’ she says. ‘We’ve teamed furniture from our old house with new, more rustic pieces. I went to great lengths to achieve the look we were after. Finding the rose gold fixtures and fittings was definitely one of the biggest challenges!’

Nichola transformed the kitchen by painting the units in Lead Colour by Little Greene, fitting new taps and handles, installing an island, as well as bi-fold doors and new windows, allowing light to flood the space (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) Nichola transformed the kitchen by painting the units in Lead Colour by Little Greene, fitting new taps and handles, installing an island, as well as bi-fold doors and new windows, allowing light to flood the space (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

There’s no denying that Nichola and Alex have created a striking home that they’re justifiably proud of.

‘We both love our barn,’ says Nichola. ‘From the outside, you’d never guess what lies behind the front door, and people often comment that it’s a bit of a Tardis.’ She adds, ‘It’s a tranquil hideaway, but we don’t feel isolated as we have the perfect balance of just enough neighbours.’

Nicola says she is so glad that fate intervened to give the couple the chance to create a special place in rural Herts. ‘This time, we didn’t hang around and snapped up a property that’s become such a special home.’

The Carron wood-burning stove from Period House Store makes a statement in the corner of the dining room. Log basket, Rockett St George (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) The Carron wood-burning stove from Period House Store makes a statement in the corner of the dining room. Log basket, Rockett St George (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

The updated bathroom, with its freestanding bath and exposed brickwork, exudes plenty of rustic charm.The walls are painted in Light Grey by Albany (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel) The updated bathroom, with its freestanding bath and exposed brickwork, exudes plenty of rustic charm.The walls are painted in Light Grey by Albany (photo: Andreas von Einsiedel)

The cost

Kitchen £15,000

Bathroom £5,500

Extension oak frame £52,000

Master bedroom and en-suite £30,000

Dining room, including woodburning stove £22,000

Utility and larder £15,000

Windows £2,310

Flooring £2,800

Garden £1,000

Decking £2,000

Pond £2,000

Decoration £2,000

Total £151,610

Purchase cost in 2013 £570,000

Estimated value now £950,000

Potential profit £228,390

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