The very things that make this barn so special – its intricate brickwork and many mullioned windows – have also contributed to its neglect. Built as the focal point of a wealthy landowner’s Arts & Crafts-style model farm, Noble Barn’s restrictive listed status meant that it would take a very ambitious developer to turn it into a home. Luckily, John Bateman, part of a team that spent years transforming the Berkshire estate, and his wife Bridget Seager, a fashion buyer turned psychotherapist, had just the skills required. ‘The barn’s design was so exceptional, we knew it could be a special place to live,’ John explains.
Award-winning architecture firm McLaren Excell was brought in to realise the property’s potential. ‘A lot of conversions panel over the original beauty of these agricultural buildings, but they had the vision to draw it out,’ says John. The firm’s innovative approach to planning restrictions was to leave the barn’s structure untouched and divide the vast, 30-metre-long space by adding two black pods, which contain the cloakroom, laundry area and pantry. Situated on either side of the central entrance hall, they separate the cosy snug from the living and dining area. Upstairs, the old hayloft has been transformed into two beautifully simple bedroom suites.
Throughout the house, the colours have been kept low-key, with the focus falling instead on the material palette – black steel and concrete, rough wood and the tactile textures of linen, velvet and sheepskin. Both former antiques dealers who share a passion for trawling markets and sale rooms for unusual finds, John and Bridget have embraced the scale of the house by sourcing large pieces – such as the oversized terracotta olive jar used as a planter in the living area – that match its rugged grandeur. Sleek Flexform furniture then acts as a counterpoint to the more rustic touches, maintaining this home’s contemporary edge.
The couple’s love of renovation has left them hungry for the next project and, with reluctance, they’re planning to sell Noble Barn. In the meantime, though, they are loving life here. ‘We’ve had some wonderful times,’ says Bridget. ‘This house lends itself to long, relaxed lunches and drinks parties that drift on deep into the night.’ mclarenexcell.co.uk
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2019.
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