Our 'born-again barn': the dramatic ultra-modern makeover of a 16th-century barn in Kent

Instead of moving, this famiily gave their Kent barn a dramatic modern makeover and made a fabulous connection with the countryside around.

After a decade in their Grade II-listed converted barn in Kent, Pam and Patrick Watts faced a familiar midlife dilemma. 

They craved a new, modern living space but, having created five acres of delightful gardens and with a teenager still at school, they preferred not to move.

To satisfy her curiosity, Pam viewed alternatives including an ultra-modern barn conversion, also in Kent, designed by Notting Hill-based architect Thomas Croft. It did not suit their needs, but she and Patrick loved Croft’s work.

“He has a talent for fusing contemporary elements within historic buildings,” Pam says. They asked him to completely remodel and extend their barn. It took a year to get listed building consent and another year to complete the build.

Croft stripped back to the barn’s original frame, which gave him the freedom to install modern touches such as underfloor heating, a built-in Sonos sound system and Lutron lighting, and he built a green oak-framed kitchen extension on to one end.

The building is an L-shape, with the main entrance leading to the centrally located original barn. This has become a large, open-plan living space divided into sitting and dining areas that can be closed off with internal sliding doors.

The existing single-storey extension at the other end, which forms the L-shape, became the main bedroom and bathroom. There are three further bedrooms.

The completed barn has robust, raw textures, with old oak beams wire-brushed and repaired, limestone flooring and specially commissioned steel staircases leading to two mezzanine rooms — a bedroom and a study. “We didn’t want it too perfect,” Croft says.

Planks from the original barn floor have been laid in a bold strip from the front to the back of the building, in a reminder of its past.

A Scandi-cool vibe
Interior designer Sarah Delaney introduced a neutral palette with off-white walls to balance the timber beams. She suggested a cool, loosely Scandinavian aesthetic.

Modern furniture, including the B&B Italia sofa, was teamed with vintage pieces found by Pam, who realised outsize furniture was needed to balance the 24ft-high ceiling and the 3,606sq ft of living space.

Remodelling the barn has been a huge project, and sometimes on such jobs, tempers can fray and opinions clash. But Croft and the owners agree nothing went wrong.

Says Pam: “Staying put has been the right decision. We’ve now got the perfect home for our phase of life, where reception rooms are more important than multiple bedrooms.”

Thomas Croft Architects: thomascroft.com
Sarah Delaney Design: sarahdelaneydesign.co.uk

Photographs: Sharyn Cairns
Locations Editor: Liz Elliot

The full version of this article appears in the July issue of House & Garden,  out now.


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