Posted by Erdem Gorgun at

They were used to decorating new builds, but refurbishing an old stone barn was a true challenge for Helen and Rob Harry

WWhat made them buy their home is an easy question for Helen and Rob Harry to answer. ‘The views, its character and, in particular, the exposed stone, wooden beams and numerous charming features,’ says Helen. ‘Also, the location on the Welsh coast makes for the perfect family home, being near the seaside and countryside but also easily accessible to the motorway for Rob’s work.’ The couple were already living in the area in a modern house. ‘But as our family started to grow and Rob’s career took off, we decided we wanted more space and for the kids to grow up in a rural setting,’ says Helen. ‘I’d always really wanted to do up an older property, especially after having previously refurbished two new builds, so when Rob spotted the barn for sale, we viewed it and, to be honest, the moment we saw it we imagined enjoying cosy nights in with the children and years of memory making. Plus, on a practical level, it allowed us to remain close to our family, friends and good schools.’ Although originally converted in 1999, there was, as is often the case, more to do to the place than the couple anticipated, so although it was not their original intention, they ended up completely renovating the barn from top to bottom. This included replastering, adding new plumbing and electrics, replacing the bathrooms, relocating the staircase and totally refitting the kitchen and utility room. ‘But we took the long-term view that if something needed fixing, we’d rather tackle it now and know we’d done it well. Then when it was finished, we could sit back and enjoy the home we’d created together without worrying about future problems cropping up.’ The couple were heavily involved in the renovation; when the building work began Helen was on site every day and Rob was always on the end of the phone. ‘We employed an experienced family-run building company that we had used before,’ says Helen. ‘Our builder project-managed the co-ordination of all the tradespeople, but the structural changes, design and interior styling were very much a team effort led by Rob and me. Rob has a great eye for detail and knows exactly what he wants when it comes to creating a space that works for us, and my role is choosing the colours, textures, fixtures, fittings and furniture, and pulling the whole scheme together once all the dust has settled. We make a good team. ‘We started by knocking a bedroom and old bathroom into a luxurious open-plan main suite for ourselves, complete with freestanding bath. The kitchen followed shortly afterwards as I knew exactly how I wanted to modernise that space as soon as I saw it. Both our bedroom and the kitchen are linked by a huge glass wall so the decor in both had to complement each other.’ However, outside wasn’t as simple. The property is a Grade II-listed building, so even getting an additional kitchen window meant negotiating for months to secure planning permission. ‘We contacted a highly experienced local stonemason, who we knew understood these buildings and he did an outstanding job of blending in the new window to look as if it had always been there,’ says Helen. The family lived in the barn during most of the work, apart from three weeks when the majority of the place was gutted and the ‘Beast from the East’ decided to make an appearance. Helen admits, ‘I’d be lying if I didn’t say the early days of the build were stressful and long, especially living on site with a young family. But with a great building team and my pragmatist husband by my side, I just kept thinking about the end game and why we started the journey in the first place and it was that attitude that got us through.’ The work took about a year from start to finish. ‘A house this age and size rarely comes without its foibles,’ says Helen. ‘So we genuinely feel we’ve earned our stripes on this one. But the barn deserved to be a beauty again and I believe that’s what we’ve made it.’

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