To boldly go
PUBLISHED: 11:01 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013
When it came to decorating a beautiful barn conversion near Amersham, the only rule was there were no rules, says Tessa Harris...
While Paul and Helen Merrington loved the 17th century Grade 11 listed barn conversion on the fringes of Amersham that they moved into in 2003, they felt that design-wise the interior was distinctly less than cutting edge.
"The property is part of a little community of three barn conversions, a farmhouse and a farm cottage. It is quite secluded and very friendly," explains Paul. However, when it came to the interior it lacked imagination. "It was converted in 1999 with very much the middle ground in mind," says Paul.
One of the features that the family most disliked was the pine spindlework on the landing of the mezzanine floor. The wooden balustrades fought with the beautiful original 17th century oak beams throughout the barn.
As with so many conversions, the original beams are a huge feature and the vaulted ceiling in the main living area is magnificent, but the installation of the ordinary timber spindles was a big design mistake on the part of the original developer.
"We took the pine out and put clear glass panels in their place and the whole barn was lifted. The glass certainly set off the oak beams and allowed more light into the interior. It really changed the aspect of the whole space," says Paul.
Inspired by design magazines, the couple decided to be bold in their approach to redecorating the barn. "Looking around and seeing what new and exciting materials and ideas that were out there really gave us the confidence to do something bold," says Paul. "Just because you live in a four hundred year-old barn doesn't mean you can't put in contemporary fixtures and fittings. There really are no set rules."
They also called in the expertise of designer Su Chases, who's based in Amersham. Paul agrees. "Barns are totally unique. They've been haylofts and stables and they've never been lived in by humans before, so the same decorating rules don't apply. This barn was a blank canvas."
When it came to choosing fabrics, Paul and Helen also decided to be bold. "You need to be very brave with your fabrics and the use of colour. Because you can't hang pictures on the walls you need to make statements with your choice of fabrics. Prints need to be bold because when your windows are 25 ft high, small patterns tend to get lost."
Fabric from Zoffany's opulent and elegant Campania collection, featuring a sophisticated selection of botanically inspired silks in satin, taffeta and embroidered designs, was chosen for the curtains in the main living space, to add vibrancy to the whole scheme. The richly figured daisy motifs make a very bold design statement.
Deep crimson and cerise were chosen for fabrics and rugs as the accent colour and to highlight the oak beams.
The Nina Campbell sofas were covered in Zoffany's Rossini fabric, Andrew Martin's Georgia and Jasper Velvet by Mulberry. The whole scheme was enlivened with a selection of cushions in Mulberry and Zoffany fabrics with GP&J Baker trimmings.
The couple also replaced the original kitchen, enlisting the skills of local craftsman Robert Corradi, now based in Thame. He built the hand-crafted units which surround a central island with a unique Pyrolav surface, made from volcanic rock which is then French enamelled. Robert also made the large dining room table and crafted bespoke pieces for the three new bathrooms which have Philip Starck sanitary ware.
Another notable feature is the large master bedroom suite, accessed via its own staircase. It incorporates a large dressing area which has a lovely view from the galleried landing over the vaulted living space.
Says Paul: "My advice to anyone moving into a barn conversion would be to be brave. Use contemporary fittings and fixtures and plenty of glass to allow natural light to flood into the large spaces. It will really lift the whole interior."
"Take advantage of the space and light in a converted barn by using fabrics with bold designs and vibrant colours that work together to give a contemporary yet warm feel to the home."
- Su Chases, Su Chases Interiors, Red Lion House, High Street, Old Amersham, HP7 0DP. Tel: 01494 721626.
"I have two favourites. I love the kitchen, which is so light and airy and I love our dressing room area on the mezzanine level because of its wonderful views over the rest of the living space."
- Owner Paul Merrington.
Wagtail Barn is for sale for £1.35 million through Knight Frank Beaconsfield, tel: 01494 675 368 and Hamptons International Amersham, tel: 01494 725 707.