This converted barn provides a first class degree of comfort and modern facilities whilst changing the external appearance minimally and keeping the feel of an old barn internally

It is encouraging that there is a lot of quiet work going on although there is a plenty of scope for more widespread use of these materials, techniques, and attitudes

Our aims, in converting the old barn which is adjacent to our home to a self catering unit, included keeping the character of the place, leaving no one in any doubt that this was once a working barn, and doing it in as environmentally friendly manner as possible, both with regards to materials and methods used and future running costs (financial and environmental).

We did a lot of research looking at all manner of aspects, from insulation to paint finishes and wood treatments, lime pointing to types of washing machine and boiler to use. Lots of people were extremely helpful and we were steered from one to another, and one organisation to another. It is encouraging that there is a lot of quiet work going on although there is a plenty of scope for more widespread use of these materials, techniques, and attitudes.

We reused materials or obtained second hand goods locally when available. We were helped enormously by the fact that our architect, Dave Corson was happy to change the building as little as possible, and our builder, Adrian Le Page, was enthusiastic in doing the job in perhaps a different way than is standard at this present time (although many techniques were commonly used in the past).

The unit is essentially the upstairs in the barn (downstairs is still relatively unchanged and used for the boiler, storage etc). The design is open plan with a large bed platform overlooking the high pitched roof sitting/dining area, and with a separate bedroom, bathroom and kitchen under the platform.

The granite walls are exposed as are the roof beams. Other walls are of local elm (as are most of the floors) or painted tongue and groove. The electric wiring is encased in black metal pipes and exposed. Quality furnishings and fittings (for example brass light switches, granite worktop, solid cedar fire doors and iron light fittings and cast iron gutters) have been used. Some of the modern facilities are purposely noticeable. For example, one cannot “hide” radiators on granite walls (there is no room for underfloor heating). So we have much admired obvious claret radiators which are a feature in themselves.

Following is a list of some of the features which helped us achieve our aims:

  • The use of natural materials – wood, cork in roof and internal walls for insulation, linoleum, lime etc
  • Paints and wood finishes made from plant oils thus reducing toxic emissions, boron for wood treatment, lack of glues which give off formaldehyde (no plywood, mdf etc)
  • Large heat retaining wood burning “ceramic” stove
  • Condensing boiler and micro heat pump hot water cylinder and Air Source Heat Pump Bivalent system
  • Low flush toilet connected to an underground pit which collects rainwater to use for flushing
  • Good quality less energy consuming refrigerator and other appliances
  • Warm roof
  • Reuse of materials if possible e.g. roof pantiles, windows (all different!)
  • Low energy light bulbs

For some years I have wanted to build a home from scratch and this is manifested in Les Petits Fries, which was finished in 2019

I endeavoured to make it as eco-friendly as possible

To my mind an Eco build:

Uses materials which are less detrimental to the environment, both in their manufacture and transport and avoiding toxic products. This includes reusing materials, and minimising waste. Is eco friendly in it’s use – well insulated, way of heating, not off-gassing, and gives pleasure and comfort to people using it. Enhances it’s environment and sits well in it. Nourishes the Soul.

Les Petits Fries is of a very simple rectangular design, 6×10 metres. Downstairs is a garage, used for the laundry and wood store and storage,  and the living accommodation, with entrance hall, cloakroom and open plan kitchen diner sitting room. Upstairs are the bathroom and hallway and 2 large bedrooms with vaulted ceilings. I was partly inspired by Sarah Susanka, an architect who introduced the “Not So Big ‘ philosophy of residential architecture – to build better, not bigger.

A lot of the furniture and other items are second-hand and often upcycled.  I love the large dresser I bought in a charity shop- they painted it for me. I was in another charity shop one day looking for a replacement dining table when a couple came in with one to donate. His grandfather had been a Quaker and in the First World War had volunteered as a medic. He was traumatised and as part of his recovery made the table and chairs. The family had used it for decades. And now it is in Les Petits Fries.

People have commented on the lovely atmosphere in and around Les Petits Fries. I am interested in but not an expert in energetically clearing spaces and Feng Shui.

I am lucky in that the situation is so beautiful – quiet and rural. The French doors lead to a south-facing patio, which is also overlooked by the Juliet Balcony in one of the bedrooms. There is a wildflower meadow next door, and another patio to the north of the building where one can sit on a bench or lie on the hammock in the trees in the summer and just relax.

Les Petits Fries is of Oak Frame Construction with natural wood-based insulation- Pavatherm, and breathable membranes. Wood treatment and paints used are from Osmo, as well as chalk-based paints on some furniture.

There is an air source heat pump to provide electricity and heat water, and Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the shed in the garden. There is an Everhot stove – ( a bit like an Aga but it runs off a 13 amp plug and temperatures are adjustable including eco-mode).

It also serves to heat the building and the downstairs underfloor heating and upstairs radiators are rarely used.

The wood-burning stove is there as a feature as it is lovely to have a fire to sit before and to look at. Much of the wood for burning comes from my property as trees or branches fall.

The Oak cladding has already weathered and looks as if it has been there for a long time.