Drive Around Rutland & Leicestershire and it won’t be long before you come across unloved old farm buildings which have seen better days. Even in their formative years these were utilitarian structures, intended to be practical, not pretty.
But where the rest of us see function, Simon Lewington sees form… and potential. That’s because he heads up Natural Structures, the Leicestershire-based design-led building firm which specialises in the creation of unique buildings the latest building methods combined with materials like French oak ,glass , steel and stone to create beautiful buildings from concept to completion.
Traditionally when we’ve shown off Simon’s talent, it’s been to demonstrate his team’s ability to create oak-framed extensions, usually on period properties, to add modern usable spaces to older buildings, typically in conservation areas and adjacent to listed properties – in other words, achieving modern structures whilst ensuring these remain in keeping with their surroundings.
This project, though, along with two other similar projects now complete is designed to show how Simon and his team can create an entire structure and a stunning contemporary home in even the most utilitarian setting.
“The owner and I both loved the building and saw its potential right from the start,” says Simon. “From a planning perspective it would have been difficult to gain permission to remove the building and start again with a conventional development.”
“Quite aside from the fact that the existing structure itself was huge, its location was great. We felt it had great potential as the starting point for a spacious, modern family home.”
“Because it was an old farm building we were able to achieve planning permission on the basis of the Permitted Development rules (‘Class Q’) which apply to rural buildings. One of the many parameters that the existing building must fit with in is the rule that stipulates that the property created must be of the same footprint and utilise the existing structural elements of the building. Suits me!”
“The underlying structure was a concrete portal frame, which meant there were no material intrusions into the large vaulted ceiling space. However it also meant that the roof structure had to be lighter than those created with conventional building materials.”
“That plays into our strengths as we have a keen understanding of the structural demands of these utilitarian farm buildings, the roof structure we designed was well within the advised weight calculated in pounds per square inch, despite having no fewer than 11 layers.”
“We stripped away much of the existing construction, so now the property is created with modern energy efficient equivalent SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) that provide excellent insulation.”
“Together with the lightweight roof design , concrete portal trusses , oak-clad roof, and the bespoke windows engineered especially for us, the whole structure is strong, light and doesn’t compromise the architectural drama or the practicality of the huge space. It also remains warm in winter and energy efficient – despite its size and open plan nature – with just underfloor heating required in the very coldest months.”
The main structural element was also the main visual element, that being the concrete skeletal trusses that have purposefully been left exposed, this then makes most of the building’s clean lines and pared back look with large expanses of windows providing natural light, polished concrete floors and no skirting boards or architraves. Even door handles were hidden to avoid them breaking up the property’s clean lines. Its location provides a 180° panoramic view of the surrounding farmland and natural light, which is another
aspect of its success.”
“We styled the property with powder coated metal doors and window frames, a monochrome colour palette with black, white and natural oak, plus neutral linen fabrics to diffuse hard light.
The whole house is around 460m2, and took less than a year to create. It has four bedrooms with en-suites and dressing rooms plus a separate utility, open plan living space and a separate snug and additional mezzanine reception room to the first floor.”
“I believe that a space can be designed in such a way as to stifle or to inspire and I would not want to create a space that doesn’t feel special. What’s more, the way we’ve minimised material choices ,used the latest construction methods along with contemporary materials means we’ve managed to ensure continuity through minimal design . It has far better environmental credentials and offers more space than a conventional barn conversion. The whole building works structurally and practically whilst feeling inspiring and beautiful. The client expectations were exceeded and we’re proud of it too!”
Please call the office to discuss any of the details or images that may have caught your eye, we look forward to hearing from you.