Right at home in Alresford

PUBLISHED: 11:46 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:21 20 February 2013

Simple lines, stone floors and lighting in the bathrooms prove that, sometimes, less is more

Simple lines, stone floors and lighting in the bathrooms prove that, sometimes, less is more

It's not often you find your new home right next door, but the Naismith's did in Old Alresford. The problem was how to turn a dilapidated barn in to a contemporary home

Tucked away in the pretty village of Old Alresford, The Threshing Barn is a Grade 2 listed farm building which dates from the 16th century. Through the sensitive work of owners Janine and Roy Naismith, and their architect the Haddow Partnership, it has been transformed it into a striking and award-winning home.
The barn lay derelict for many years before its current owners spotted its potential.
"The character and history of old wood combined with the opportunity for open-plan living attracted us to this old barn," said Roy. "But we wanted to put a contemporary
home inside the old timbers, not a faux farmhouse."

The perfect property
For a long time, the Naismith family, who were outgrowing their existing property, searched for a barn to convert. Eventually a magnificent but badly dilapidated barn right next door to their own home caught their eye.
The barn was originally a traditional English L-shaped threshing barn with double height openings and exposed oak trusses, plus a tractor shed. Built in the local brick and flint, and clad with horizontal timber weatherboarding, the building had once been thatched. The roof eventually collapsed, along with the short L of the barn.

The barn before
"Our dream was to create a contemporary interior within the old wood of the barn," said Roy "but we are both accountants with no previous building experience and this was not the easiest project we could have chosen."
The Haddow Partnership was appointed and set about re-assessing the design and conservation issues in line with the Naismith's brief.
Work started in March 2005. Steel brackets and shoes were specially designed for junctions where damage had occurred, and were left exposed and painted black just as they would have been had the repairs been for a working barn.
The rafters and oak framing were carefully surveyed and only replaced where absolutely necessary. This led to some strange shapes and awkward junctions that now add character to the interiors.

Crowning glory
The east gable or short leg of the 'L' had collapsed altogether and was rebuilt in a similar manner. The strength and stability of the new trusses provided support for a new mezzanine floor with space for a master bedroom suite and a study.
The magnificent new thatch that crowns the barn was the subject of intensive debate and investigation. By the time that the Naismith's purchased the property all the original thatch was lost. The conservation department advised that long straw was the traditional thatching material in that part of the country, but the Master Thatcher felt that it would have a poor life expectancy on such a large roof. Fragments of the original roof were found on the barn floor, and these, linked to some old photographs, suggested that the roof had been thatched in water reed, which was then used for the new thatch.

Heart of the home
By June 2005 the barn was re-thatched and the shell completed so work on the interior could begin.
All the new work is in a contemporary style with clear, simple lines. This approach separates old from new at a glance.
Most of the new walls are curved, helping to visually and structurally separate the old from the new and accentuating the organic feel of the natural wood. A curved wall sits as a fulcrum between the two wings of the barn, enclosing a library below and an open plan study area at mezzanine level. From this viewing point it is possible to see the complete length of both wings through the trusses.
By placing the freestanding kitchen centrally, Johnny Grey, the kitchen architect, was able to give the owners a double panorama from the hob - views out of the double height windows on either side of the barn to fields and a church spire beyond.
"The heart of the house being the central circular kitchen is spectacular," said Ray, "and ensures everyone is involved in the ongoing life of the house."

Campbells soup?
A cosy stepped down sitting area is separated from the kitchen by a free-form curved wall that acts as a safety barrier and a design feature. The media room is encircled by a brick wall that supports the cantilevered oak staircase leading to a sound proofed 'balcony' above where the Naismith children can play drums. Roy loves the fact that the added elements are all very clearly additions to the historic barn. "The media room is the best example," he said. "Stand back and look at it and it looks like a big can of soup that has been put down in the middle of the barn. I think it would look great with the Campbells logo painted on it."
The downstairs main living areas are floored in light coloured stone tiles, adding to the overwhelming sense of light and space. In the bedrooms and upstairs oak is again used. Underfloor heating is supplemented by two contemporary fires by Focus, whose sculptural black shapes, suspended from the six-metre high vaulted ceiling, punctuate the spaces.
Across the space and past a family area with a wall of folding glass doors, is a second encircling wall supporting a second cantilevered staircase leading to a balcony study and the master bedroom suite.
From the family area the occupants move into a contained passageway or 'secret tunnel' leading to the bedrooms where even the guest room door follows the curved line.
In May 2006 the Naismiths moved into a 357sqm new home of immense character and space where they have found a contemporary style of living which suits their 21st century lifestyle, yet integrates perfectly with the robust rural vernacular of a building which was built more almost 500 years ago.

Client: Mr and Mrs R Naismith
Architect: Haddow Partnership
Planning Authority: Winchester City Council
Contractor: Philip A. Coleman Builders
Kitchen Designer: Johnny Grey Ltd
Cost Consultant: Chris Newman Associates
Structural Engineering: Stephen Penfold Associates

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