The ancient party barn by Liddicoat & Goldhill

The ancient party barn by Liddicoat & Goldhill


Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this award-winning renovation of a cluster of derelict 18th century farm buildings in Kent by British architects Liddicoat & Goldhill incorporates the clients’ passion for salvaged architectural artifacts and materials.

Previously known as Staple Farm, this cluster of historic agricultural farm buildings near Folkestone, Kent, are a prominent feature from the North Downs Way. After acquiring the threshing barn, cowshed, dairy and stables in a derelict state, the clients, digital designer John Sinclair and fashion designer Deborah Harvey, worked closely with architects Liddicoat & Goldhill to convert them into the Ancient Party Barn, a country retreat, design studio and place for entertaining guests.

Rather than demand specific spaces, the brief focused on atmosphere, and on creative re-use of the existing historic agricultural volumes and structures. A key element was to design a home around the clients’ passion for collecting salvaged architectural artifacts and found materials, incorporating these unique elements into the conversion rather than treating the space as a display bay for the pieces.
As the buildings were in a state of near-collapse, the original green oak framing was disassembled and removed for repair, but while the smaller stable range remains timber-framed, the main barn frame and cladding is largely cosmetic, the original oak timber supported by a super-insulated steel exoskeleton. To it protect from the elements to which it is exposed, the barn has solid stone walls with small windows looking onto the surrounding landscape, but the new structural approach allowed the building to be opened up by installing a series of huge opening mechanisms in the frame, that can fold and rotate the facades, to create openings that access the countryside views and let more light in; On the West side of the barn, massive, insulated shutters echoing the original barn doors can be pushed to either side to reveal a huge rotating window operated by an adapted chain-lift, letting a gentle breeze in on warm summer days. To the East front, an American aircraft-hangar door salvaged by the owners allows the exterior to concertina upwards creating a canopy over the terrace.
In the main barn, a steel and timber mezzanine, supported by the tapering brick chimney of the open fireplace in the living area below, was created to house an open-plan master bedroom and bathroom. The mezzanine is accessed via a helical cantilevered, wax steel staircase that wraps around the flue as it rises through the timber. The kitchen is a composition of new and reclaimed furniture and materials with custom-made steel gantries. A single rooflight, running the length of the main roof’s ridge allows natural light into the living spaces, while the reclaimed light fittings were adapted to use low-energy LED lamps.  A ground-source heat pump harvests warmth from the paddock soil to provide heating & hot water, and the integration of heat, light and security systems allow the clients to manage the building remotely.

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