April 15, 2017
In 2010 I had the opportunity to take on a major barn conversion project, transforming a collection of derelict stone buildings into a beautiful family home. However, I didn’t quite reckon on the true impact of embracing such a project and allowing myself to follow my instinct to design and build.
An old building like this needs respect, love, and a great deal of cash. As with all things this starts with design – how do we make this a comfortable family home, while retaining the character and qualities that buildings of this age ooze at every turn.
I found the planners at Wealden District Council very helpful, through discussion we built a sound relationship that enabled us to protect the integrity of this building while creating beautiful open plan living spaces. It is this approach of collaboration with planning that has helped me secure subsequent planning permissions for clients of Dewlands Garden Design, where perhaps before they held little hope.
Sourcing and matching quality materials is critical, I’ve seen so many botched extensions where the bricks just look awful versus the original house. I think finding the right brick and tiles took more time than choosing the kitchen and bathrooms. Which is how it should be, given that the building will be there for hundreds of years, whereas the kitchen might last 20 years at a push. A great place for quality materials is Roundwood of Mayfield – oak, roof tiles and fittings, also Lambs Bricks (Philpots Quarry) is worth a mention, the only commercial source of new Wealden Sandstone out there…please contact me if you know otherwise!
Finding the right people to help you realise a project is critical, experience and skill is key. While I personally undertook a great deal of the work, David Webb builder and carpenter was my right hand man, bringing years of experience in construction and with a patience and care that made a real impact to the quality of build. Ian Burgess, bricky and man of stone was key in thoughtfully restoring and blending new with old, all with a lime based mortar. There were many others too, to whom I am most grateful of their assistance, notably Sussex Oak Structures who rebuilt the main roof.
Not only a transformation of a home, but a major change in my life and mindset. I had spent 25 years following an Engineering, IT and senior management career, all the while sketching and designing gardens and homes, some of which I realised in my spare time.
2010 was the year I took the plunge, started building a house and started a postgraduate diploma in Garden Design with the Oxford School of Garden Design. From the daily commute to London or some far off land, I changed to working and living in our corner of England, forging real relationships with our neighbours and local businesses. No more endless meetings and being welded to a laptop, now I find myself drawing, designing, digging, lugging, carving, shaping, laying, cutting, sculpting and creating. I loved every minute of it, and while I briefly returned to the old life and still do some consulting work, I set up Dewlands Garden Design in 2015 and have not looked back.
Please check out my portfolio to see some of the projects we’ve undertaken since, below are some pictures of the finished barn…Dewlands Barn!