Instagram is my homegirl, I know we all have our ups and downs with her but when I wanted to start a series of posts whose foundations (no pun intended) were based on the homes I love, I knew I had to start there. So I set to messaging some of my favourite Instagram accounts and a series of questions to talk about their homes. My first is with Naomi Page who has the beautiful account of @barnconversionblog if for whatever crazy reason you don’t yet follow Naomi, you should, immediately. But in the interim you can get to know her a little more below!
Please can you start by telling me a little about you and your family?
We are Naomi and Danny Page, and we have three daughters aged 15, 4 and 2. We enjoy food, hosting parties, lazy days and traveling (we are hoping for a Californian Road Trip with the kids in tow this Summer, must be mad!)
What made you decide to convert a barn to your current home?
We loved the idea of designing and building our own home (too many hours dreaming away watching Grand Designs!) but planning restrictions put us off. Danny’s parents own a farm and we were looking into building a house in one of the fields but were told there was no chance by the Planning Department, but around the same time we heard about Permitted Development Section Q – this is a government ruling to try and ease planning restrictions and enable a smoother run to be able to get permission when converting an agricultural building into a dwelling. We thought it was worth a shot: there was a large barn on the farm which would be the perfect size, so we felt we had nothing to lose by exploring the chance to convert it.
How long did it take you to complete your build?
Work properly started at the beginning of September 2017, and we moved in at the end of April 2018. There was a huge amount of snagging, not least because we ended up with a cowboy window company who left everything unfinished! Finding a company willing to take this on was very challenging, and there are still elements of it which need finishing off.
What’s your favourite thing about your home? And can you tell me more about how the opportunity arose for you to convert the place you got married to your home? (I love that!)
We love the open plan space: we can all be together without being under each other’s feet. Part of the Permitted Development rulings state that you cannot change the footprint of the building, so we were lucky we had such a flexible space to work with. We love the dark ceilings too: anyone who’s done any sort of project on their home will know the sleepless nights over different decisions which, to anyone else, would seem so trivial. We had seen dark ceilings on our endless Pintrest and Instagram trawlings and definitely wanted to go with it, but choosing the shade was such a task as we knew it had the potential to be very imposing on the space. We finally decided, decorators painted it…and it was way too light! So we knew we just had to go for it, and went for the darkest colour on the palette. It absolutely defines the space now, and yet is so in-keeping that it would look wrong if it was any other colour.
We had our wedding reception in the next field so we can see it from our bedroom windows. Something very poetic about that! I had always been adamant I didn’t want to move up to the Farm as it is quite remote (except for the in-laws!) but once we had children my views on this changed as we wanted to give them a life outdoors as much as possible.
What was the most challenging thing about the process?
Snagging is such a frustrating part to building. We had originally been told we would be in end of January, then it moved to February but we didn’t actually move in until April. But even then, there was so much still to do. For weeks after that we still had trades turning up at 7am every morning, and only this week have some final issues been addressed which have been causing problems since April. This overshadowed what should have been such an exciting time as we had waited so long to move in, but as time goes by and we love it more and more <3
Did you change/think up elements as you went or did you have a plan from the start and stick to it?
Originally we were going to go for more of a Rustic Industrial style: Danny works with motorbikes so we thought about having rusty signs around, quirky ornaments etc but in all honesty we didn’t know if we could pull it all together to pull it off! And actually, to fight my natural hoarding/clutter-grabbing instinct, our plans evolved to be more of a dark-minimal style. It was all a bit up in the air until we nailed down our decision for the kitchen. We had considered a blue shaker with white top which seems crazy now. That would have been the safe option: all along, when we have aired our ideas and plans with friends and family they were all very concerned that our answer was always “black”! We came across @quirkyinteriors on instagram and thought one of their brass walls would be the perfect antidote to the dark. With it being an open plan space, we knew that once we had made the decision on the kitchen, the rest of the downstairs had to tie in so that when we started adding more brass elements etc.
Were you involved in the building and design process? Or did you hire others to do it for you?
We worked alongside the architect to come up with the plans, and then we did hire an interior designer to work with us to design the open plan space and our bedroom. This was really early on in the process, when we had first been given planning, so by the time we actually started work over a year later some of our ideas had changed, and then through the build they evolved further.
Did you manage to remain within budget?
We have watched the bills and amendments like hawks and as a result have stayed within a couple of % of original budget. Question everything!!
If you did it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
In the depth of the build, when all trades were here every day, it was absolutely overwhelming with all the decisions that had to be made. It was all consuming: every thought, conversation and dream was about the barn. I’m not sure how this can be avoided, as even if we had made these decisions previously we would have probably changed our minds by the time it came around to making them, but thankfully there’s nothing major we would change. An extra socket here and there, and choosing a better window company, but that’s about it!
The creativity and flare you have for the interiors in your home are breath-taking – Do either of you have interior design experience ?
We own and run a web design business, https://dlzdesign.co.uk so I guess design is second nature to us. Having said that, our previous homes have always been very ‘safe’ – we wanted to avoid that with this home and have felt much more free to be bold with it as we don’t plan on moving out at any point. The interior of our barn has to reflect the barn in which it sits: we think it would look odd to be anything other than how it has ended up!
I hope you enjoyed reading Naomi’s interview, I have an enormous amount of admiration for anyone brave enough to take on such a huge transformation and create something as unique as this. For me it’s pretty much my dream home! What do you think?