Paul Lavelle and Sarah Anton rennovate Cotswold stone barn
PUBLISHED: 11:04 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013
Inspired by its stunning countryside views, Paul Lavelle and partner Sarah Anton turned their derelict Cotswold stone barn into a home of absolute quality
As Paul Lavelle was cycling through the lanes near Cirencester with his friend sportscaster Tim Russon they spotted a very striking, although derelict, Cotswold stone barn for sale.
"It was standing among an assortment of farm buildings, some modern, some old but all were up for sale as one lot to be sold by sealed bid through the County Council," says Paul a businessman, environmentalist and Arctic explorer.
As it happened Paul and his partner Sara Anton, a psychology teacher, were looking for a building project and Paul was very much attracted by the 400-year-old barn which turned out to have a Grade 1 listing.
However Sara found it huge and creepy and would have preferred to convert the smaller cowshed next to it.
"The barn was overwhelming but then I looked out through an opening and saw there were amazing views over the countryside with cows grazing peacefully; I could see this part would make a perfect bedroom with such a lovely view," she says.
The couple made a successful offer then spent nine months demolishing the surrounding modern tin-roofed sheds, deciding on how to preserve the barn and getting planning permission.
Although up to the time of purchase cows were still using the barn it turned out that the roof timbers were so rotten it was too dangerous even to enter it. "So we decided to put on a brand new roof but to our horror the listed buildings officer told us we could not. At one point it looked as though all we'd done was buy a very expensive farm just to look after some cows. Then eventually we realised that we could strengthen the roof using steel girders and disguise them behind the existing timbers."
It took two years to renovate the barn and they did a lot of the work themselves with the help of Steve Barton a master carpenter who became their project manager and who sub-contracted when necessary.
As environmentalists the couple were determined to rebuild the barn to the highest quality. So they not only have cutting-edge plumbing and wiring systems but insulation up to Swedish standards and hidden from view are miles of wires and pipes providing under-floor and in-wall heating.
"But to avoid having a stuffy building we've put in an air system called Heat Recovery Ventilation System. This changes the air in the property every two hours but in such a way you get fresh air without losing heat," says Paul. "The humidity is now like that in a desert and makes it extremely pleasant as dust mites cannot survive in such an environment, there are no problems with condensation or radon, nor with household fumes from paints etc and the temperature is spread through the building evenly."
Sara, it emerged, had an amazing eye for design. "On the strength of our barn she's been offered a commission to convert nine barns in Italy and a six-storey house in Notting Hill," says Paul. "Yet she's a psychology teacher with no formal training."
One of her successes was the kitchen. "I wanted a country kitchen with a modern twist," she says. "So I chose colours that reflected the lovely Cotswold stone shades all around us. Steve made the kitchen units then I had them spray-painted in a high gloss biscuit-coloured paint which we mixed ourselves using shades from Dulux. I also chose the creamy coloured worktops of composite stone with glass splashbacks. The composite stone is made so you can't see the seams, it stays cold and doesn't scratch or stain. There's no variation in the colour either which means you can place brightly coloured objects on it such as our bright pink glass from Ceramica Blue without the effect looking too busy."
All the appliances are Miele and include three ovens ( convector, steam and microwave) an instant hob, a hood, two dishwashers, two fridges, two freezers, a wine cooler and an automatic coffee maker.
The kitchen has oak lintels above the windows, an oak floor and the island is set on an oak plinth, all of which tones in with the biscuit shades of the units. The drawers are oak-lined too and self-closing. "I find these colours very soothing to the eye, they're tranquil like the Cotswold countryside," says Sara.
In fact while Sara says there were no worst moments during the rescue of the barn there was definitely a best moment.
"We were living in Paul's other house at the time and we came round one evening to see the progress," she says. "We walked in and the kitchen looked so pretty it made me cry. The lights were on and it was like a fairy tale; we could actually see what happens when you visualise something and finally it comes true."
Sara also designed the bathrooms which again are in the same creamy biscuit shades of Cotswold stone. Here T J Carpenters made the cupboards to her design and in the main bedroom Sara and Steve designed the bed and Steve handmade it from oak. Then Sara had the headboard covered in a ROMO linen mix fabric.
The barn obviously had few period features so the couple created a stone-lined fireplace in the living area with a stone slab as base which could also take a woodburner.
There are no curtains at the windows as the barn is isolated and the couple want to enjoy the views. This leaves wall space for a great many paintings as the couple are very much into art.
"We recently held an exhibition for both local artists and those further afield," says Sara. "More than 400 people came along to see it, many of whom had known the barn in its original state. Luckily they loved what we had done."
"We wanted to create something out of the ordinary, something that would take this most classic of barns and give it a life and look for the future," explains Paul.
" The raw ingredients are Cotswold stone and oak and we've used a team of local craftsmen to restore, rebuild and re-invent everything. We think and work in a totally different way. The only thing we strive for is absolute quality."