"It is hard to describe this truly extraordinary space, the scale of which is very rarely experienced in a private residence and is more often seen, as the architect suggests, in ecclesiastical or public buildings."
This incredible barn conversion on the border of Essex and Suffolk extends to over 5,500 sq ft and is, in the words of the architect behind the design, “of cathedral-like proportions”. It has recently won the prestigious Restoration of the Year at The Sunday Times British Homes Awards.
The conversion was overseen by David Nossiter, a celebrated London-based architect, and incorporates five bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and dining room all arranged around a spectacular central reception hall. The kitchen occupies a portion of the central space and there is also an enclosed utility room / second kitchen, pantry and WC.
Two of the five bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. Particularly impressive is the master bedroom suite, a large room arranged over two levels that incorporates a dressing area, shower, WC and freestanding bath as well as a seating area overlooking adjacent fields. The bespoke joinery in this room, which can be seen throughout the house, is one of the most appealing aspects of the conversion.
The central reception space has elegant poured concrete floors and soaring ceilings with exposed original timbers (one of which is carved by one of the original carpenters with the year of construction, 1836). It is hard to describe what is a truly extraordinary space, the scale of which is very rarely experienced in a private residence and is more often seen, as the architect suggests, in ecclesiastical or public buildings.
Large expanses of glazing throughout give views of the surrounding agricultural land. The adjacent field, home to a herd of rare breed cattle. On the other side of the house is a walled garden with areas of terrace and lawn and, beyond, a private driveway with agricultural buildings that have been converted into a multi-car carport and garden stores. Beyond the walled garden, on the road side, is another area that has been planted as a wildflower meadow.
There is a further building, a former stable block, that has planning permission to be converted into a home office / studio or other use.
A full description by Nossiter of the recently-completed project can be read on the History section. It has been widely published in the UK and abroad, appearing on Dezeen, in Elle Deco and Dwell among others.
The Grade II listed buildings here have a quite an interesting history, having been part of the home farm for Assington Hall. In the mid 19th century, the Hall was owned by Sir John Gurdon, a progressive landowner who set up his farm as a co-operative and experimented with other radical ideas as part of the Model Farm movement. The unusual cruciform plan of the main barn is derived from the idea that it is beneficial to keep a number of different farming activities under one roof.
Assington is a thriving Suffolk village, close to the Essex border. Rural in character, the village has a farm shop, popular pub (Shoulder of Mutton) and a beautiful 15th Century church. It lies five miles from the town of Sudbury in one direction and less than ten miles from Colchester in the other and is located just next to the the Dedham Vale (now an A.O.N.B.), an area made famous by the paintings of John Constable.
Trains run direct from Colchester to London, Liverpool Street in approximately 50 mins.
Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.
The below project description was written by the architect, David Nossiter, in December 2016.
The site, situated on the Essex/Suffolk borders within the landscape immortalised by Constable was originally the home farm of the nearby estate. It consists of a collection of farm buildings forming a courtyard. The centrepiece of the site with views over the rural landscape is a large barn of cathedral-like proportions.
Cruciform in plan with a collection of smaller spaces surrounding it, the arrangement sought to provide shelter for different farming activities under a single roof. The barn complex is the legacy of the model farm movement.
The barn is a Listed structure and the contemporary refurbishment required lengthy agreements with the local planning authorities.
A large component of the renovations consisted of the refurbishment of the roof. Roofing slates and timber materials were salvaged from the other agricultural structures on the site. In order to allow the existing structure to be viewed internally but still conform to modern standards of thermal performance, the roof is a ‘warm roof construction’ meaning that all of the insulation is located on the exterior of the roof above a new timber deck.
The external walls were insulated with sheep’s wool and clad with larch timber, which has been left to weather naturally. The original openings have been simply fenestrated with glazing set back from the external wall line. Oversized bespoke glazed sliding doors fill the hipped gable porches, allowing views from the courtyard towards open fields. Two three-metre square roof lights allow day light deep into the interior of the eight-metre tall central spaces.
It was decided early on during the design process to keep the spaces as open plan as possible. Where necessary partitions and screens are designed as over scaled freestanding furniture. Constructed from birch faced plywood sheets, they organise the spaces, providing privacy for bathrooms and sleeping areas.
A reminder of the barn’s agricultural past, lighting is operated using existing switch boxes and concealed within the existing structure, existing metal grilles and new joinery.
Polished concrete flooring flows throughout with 10mm floor joints aligning with the spatial demarcation. A biomass boiler is assisted by a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system that recirculates warm air stacking in the taller spaces.
Landscaping and planting reflects the internal spaces and is kept simple with wildflower planting and brick paving salvaged from the existing barn complex.