Derelict barn converted into stunning rural retreat in Wales' most expensive county - Wales Online

2022-06-25 03:21:38 By : Mr. Peter L

Sycamore Retreat has gone from abandoned to adored

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Drive past this rural farm site in 2014 and it would have been a collection of characterful yet disused outbuildings and barns once home to a range of livestock, the melee of animal noises now replaced with silence.

Nestled within the glorious rolling rural landscape of Monmouthshire, Wales' most expensive county to buy a house and close to Usk, The Sunday Times best place to live in Wales' winner in 2021, the location has a good mix of charming town and stunning countryside.

Add in the views that cloak the site in breath-taking scenery and this spot in the county, close to access to amenities as well as access to the peaceful and idyllic countryside, is a winning combination for many house hunters.

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Go back in time maybe 40 years ago and anyone who had the foresight to think that converting barns into homes for humans rather than farm animals would be a brilliant idea would most likely be thought of as rather radical.

But now these characterful former industrial barns are many house hunters' idea of a dream home, but only if they are converted with care and thought to preserve and optimise what makes them so special - the open spaces and the very structure of the building.

Add to this the usual rural location and the uniqueness of each barn and its farmyard neighbours and it's not a surprise that some converted barns can command a premium price and can also command envy for anyone who 40 years ago loved the idea of living in a barn but didn't act upon their vision.

There's now even a name for it - barndominium. And there are exceptions too, such as the Barn House that dates back to around 1499 that The Times suggests is the oldest recorded barn conversion - if true, then that really is future vision.

But this Monmouthshire site formerly called Llandowlais Farm Barns doesn't date back that far but is important enough to have gained a Cadw Grade II listing. The farmhouse itself is hard to date but might be 17th century at its small core with 18th and 19th century additions.

The site achieved its listing in 2002 as 'a relatively unaltered, probably 18th century farmhouse with good character'. But fast forward to 2015 via Google map and the site, at least the outbuildings, look abandoned and left to the advances of the undergrowth.

The complex of barns that were once the working engine of the farm were sold for £500,000 with planning granted in 2009 to transform the site into a complex of dream homes, including Sycamore Retreat which in its former life was a two-storey, traditional stone barn.

In 2015 the work began onsite to create the three unit exclusive estate by Bespoke, a company set up in 2004 with a passion for preserving and restoring historic buildings and creating new homes in stunning locations, and the heart of Monmouthshire is surely that.

It's a joy to see that the conversion of the barn from run down to remarkable has been focussed around keeping the spaces as big as possible - no box rooms squeezed into the floorplan here.

So the ground floor is essentially just two huge rooms made possible by the addition of an extension to create an L-shaped layout that, as well as adding space, creates outside a large and private courtyard area that includes a sunken terrace.

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The vast space left by the former huge barn doors on both sides of the former barn are filled with glass - a combination of front door into the central hallway and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the barn to be bathed in light and garden and rural views.

The entrance through the front door within the modern glass structure hits you immediately with the views through internal glass walls that allows views of the inner rooms and the spacious sunny terrace outside to flow through the space.

There are multiple internal views to catch your eye, from the cosy and quiet reading nook opposite the front door, to the bespoke carpentry including beams, pillars and the staircase.

Arguably the most distracting internal view is into the kitchen diner thanks to the clever choice of internal walls constructed from glass.

This choice of glass over solid materials, as well as providing views to tempt you to explore inside the kitchen diner space, creates a feeling of uplifting space and light. It's a genius choice, no solid wall here to block your view makes this entrance to the barn a spectacular one.

The term kitchen diner does this incredible space somewhat of a disservice as it is surely the beautiful heart of the home that easily accommodates a large dining set and a generous L-shaped sofa nestled next to the walls of glass windows before you even get to the kitchen area.

The furthest end of this spacious room is dedicated to a stunning kitchen that combines soft tones with modern shades, classic Shaker-style with luxury additions and appliances plus wall panelling and a central island to add extra layers of timeless style and visual interest.

A door at the end of the kitchen zone gets you into the new section of the building, which is a sunken living room that is so well designed and crafted that it looks like this wing of the property has always been there and has just been treated to a renovation project.

On the outside, cladding this new addition to the property in weathered looking wood is a genius move, as it would be surely impossible to match the old stone of the main barn structure with stone and maybe bricks would visually jar too, so the choice of wood is perfect.

The room has been afforded its own terrace accessed by French doors, and this bonus outside space makes full use of the living room's sunken position.

The addition of a partial wall made from old railway sleepers creates an area that is now a private and intimate space for alfresco dining and relaxing but the sleeper wall is not too high to block views of the surrounding countryside joining you for dinner.

On the inside, the huge space is awash with character that pays homage to the origins of the site, with chunky ceiling beams and a roof rafters structure creating a visual display above. Once the crick in your neck kicks in after admiring the vaulted ceiling above you for too long, the room can reward you with a log burner nestled into a two-storey chimney breast at the end of the space.

Added character and interior design aspects to notice comes from the blonde wood flooring and tactile, timelessly sophisticated furniture, plus oodles of light rushing in via multiple windows including in the roof.

Plenty of space for partying in this space then, with seamless access to the sunken terrace, the massive courtyard and the rural vistas via the French doors meaning the festivities can spill outside and continue well into the night, lit by a shining moon and twinkling stars in a dark sky unpolluted by urban light.

The ground floor also offers the new owner a utility room, cloakroom and boiler room to hide away all the less attractive aspects of day-to-day living. Back to the hallway at the end of the L-shaped property and to the bespoke staircase gets you up to four bedrooms on the first floor.

And there's no low ceilings or dark and dingy corners up here either - the uplifting light and lifted ceilings continue on this sleeping level too. The master bedroom has a ceiling that soars up into the roof structure, with exposed rafters and beams as its travelling companions.

There's a large picture window that takes a chunk out of the side wall and allows wonderful views to be the first thing the occupant in the bed wakes up to see.

One lovely extra touch in here is the tiny little window that still remains in the end wall, above the bed. These little windows found tucked under the roof line of a property is not to add character, although it does, but is designed to add natural light and ventilation into a building's roof space, and in a barn specifically to allow continuous airflow to assist in drying out the hay in the loft space.

At Sycamore Retreat this tiny window is the cutest reminder of this dream home's former life as a working agricultural building.

The master bedroom has a stylish ensuite shower room and this upper floor can also boast a family bathroom with a statement bath placed purposefully under a roof window so star gazing directly from the bubbles can be a regular past-time.

The landing area is partially a galleried landing, looking down at the spaces below where the barn doors used to be and now the replacement glass structure rises up into the first floor space. Another successful design decision, galleried landing sections give the double-height glass in the former barn door positions the space they need to be fully admired.

The remaining three bedrooms all have double-height ceilings into the roof area plus exposed beams, with the elegant and sophisticated country inspired interior design continuing throughout.

Within the grounds of the barn there's a double garage and as there is plenty of parking onsite could make a fabulous annexe for a member of the family or even to rent out, subject to planning consent of course.

This extra building is also hiding one extra bonus space - a separate study. Inside there's a window as a backdrop to the desk which some people might say is a dangerous design as who could resist not looking out over the landscape but also gazing at your beautiful converted barn that is your perfect rural retreat?

Sycamore Retreat is on the market with a guide price of £950,000 with Number One Real Estate, call their Newport branch on 01633 492777 to find out more. And don't miss the best dream homes in Wales, renovation stories and interiors, join the Amazing Welsh Homes newsletter which is sent to your inbox twice a week.