A barn-style family home with a hint of Scandinavia in Kent

Project overview:

Area: Kent
House Type: Barn home
House Size: 267m2
Finance: Private warranty
Build Cost: £412,000

Words from homeowner, Sophia


It had been a long-held dream of ours to design and build our own home, and in 2005, we sold our house and rented while we began what was to be a year-long search to find the perfect plot of land. We were looking for a building plot in a rural position, ideally with a couple of acres, and with beautiful views. One agent laughed at me on the phone when he heard our request and told me that I would never find it. This was like a red rag to a bull and made us even more determined! Ironically, it was a year later that the same agent advertised an open day for something that exactly fitted our requirements, and more! It was an equestrian property, with five and a half acres of land on a quiet country lane near the village of Benenden in Kent, with planning permission attached for a replacement dwelling. The icing on the cake was the stunning countryside view surrounding half of the land, and the beautiful ancient woodland on the other.

After two crowded open days, there were 18 serious buyers who wanted it. It went to sealed bids and having stretched ourselves to the limit, we were overjoyed when we received the phone call to say that it was ours. The planning permission came with a house design that we found very ordinary and uninspiring, so we set out on a year-long journey to try and change both the design and size with the Council, which was not to prove an easy task. After a shaky start with a local oak frame company and their recommended planning consultant, we decided to take a complete change of tack.

The beautiful interior touches were inspired by Sophia's profession as an Interior Designer

Choosing to build with oak

We knew we still wanted to go down the oak frame route, and as Oakwrights had a good reputation, I rang Tim Crump for a chat and explained we were very frustrated that we had this lovely building plot with no house on it, we were homeless having given notice on the rented property and had moved in temporarily with my mother, and that we needed to get back on-course fast! You can imagine our relief and encouragement when we received a call back within the hour from one of Oakwrights’ designers based near us in Kent, and a meeting to move things quickly was arranged for later that week. From then on, things started to fall into place.

As an Interior Designer by profession, I had strong ideas about how I wished my new home to look, and my husband Andrew also has a strong sense of design. Darren Blackwell (one of our Architectural Designers) was extremely patient and accommodating and really listened to what we said we wanted to achieve, so worked closely with us on our overall design. He in turn worked with Alex Edey, who designed our oak frame, to produce plans for a frame that would work with our design and the production of a 3D model, taking us around our future home which was very exciting and inspiring.


The planning application process

The permitted footprint was not really large enough for what we wanted, so we decided to design a two storey house but with the addition of a single storey L-shaped wing which was to borrow most of the space from the footprint of a no longer required large stable block on-site. At first the Council were very negative about this plan and said that policy might possibly allow us to convert the stable and add it on. Darren and I attended several meetings with the Council together to try and gently persuade them to allow the demolition of this to enable us to start again with a beautiful oak frame to match the rest of the house. Eventually the policy was overridden and permission was granted for this as the overall consensus from the planning committee and especially the Parish Council, was that they loved the design and we were greatly improving the site which is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a ‘Kent Special Landscape’ area.

Their plot is situated within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Kent

Key design features

As a family, we spent eighteen months living in three mobile homes on-site which was certainly an interesting experience! Not exactly something that we relished but surprisingly turned out to be a lot of fun and very grounding. It also proved invaluable to the overall success of our house build. I didn’t need an excuse to check on the builders and could keep a sharp eye on the quality and detail of the work.

Our design is of a two storey barn home, with a single storey wing created in an equestrian-style to remain in-keeping with the original stable block it replaced. We found it relatively easy to choose the main materials which would give the house the right look. We love the white weatherboarding we chose, which is traditionally used in this area of Kent and also ties in with the ‘New England’-style of properties we both love. Hoskins Farmhouse bricks were chosen for their gentle colouring and lived in texture. Handmade Heritage dark blend clay roof tiles were used on the main house roof, with Brazilian slate for the single storey wing.

In my job, I have enjoyed the scope to work with an array of tastes and interior styles over the years, with the majority of my commissions being for traditionally-styled period country homes in Kent and Sussex. However, building a new larger house for ourselves gave me the opportunity to really indulge my own particular love of Scandinavian-style homes. This probably stems from my Swedish family roots and is such a wonderfully calm, fresh and uplifting look which we felt showed off the beauty of the oak frame perfectly. We kept the downstairs of our new home completely open-plan, with the exception of the cloakroom and boot room. The L-shaped single storey extension houses our kitchen, a second sitting-room and dining room areas; all with large expanses of windows/French doors, taking in the glorious countryside views.

A step down into the main two storey part of the house leads to an open-plan hall and more formal drawing room area. A separate entrance porch space is a practical addition. Cream limestone flooring throughout with underfloor heating and a neutral colour pallet on the walls and also for the kitchen and bathrooms has given the house an incredibly light and bright interior: a relief after having lived in dark older properties previously!

Darren was extremely patient and accommodating and really listened to what we said we wanted to achieve, so worked closely with us on our overall design.


A home to last a lifetime

It was a very exciting day when our oak frame arrived down in Kent from Herefordshire with Oakwrights’ crew, who were very professional and efficient. The frame went up in about a week without a hitch. The construction side of the build was carried out by local builders, and all interior finishes were completed by my own team of trusted trades who I have worked with for many years on client projects, so could confidently guarantee a perfect finish!

We are thrilled with our new home and although we had a few ups and downs with some of the contractors, everything has been more than worthwhile. Without a doubt, the oak frame has been a huge part of the success of the house. Not only is the frame stunning, it gives our home the character and interest of an older property, while also incorporating all the benefits of modern materials and design. If it wasn’t for the fact we want to stay here forever, we would most definitely build again; so I shall just have to indulge my love of creating beautiful homes for other people!

A barn-style family home with a hint of Scandinavia in Kent

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