Period Property of the Month - May 2011
Kym Hammond used natural tones to create pure, relaxed elegance in her Kentish barn conversion.
Pale and Interesting
Moving out of town to the heart of a picturesque village in Kent was the perfect lifestyle change for Kym and her ten-year-old son Max, who found themselves fitting into rural life very quickly. In 2008, Kym was invited to view the barn unconverted and, despite being nothing more than an old wooden frame, she instantly knew she could live there.
It was in the centre of the village yet tucked away down a side street, cushioned amongst other characterful properties, overlooking countryside and a meandering brook along the boundary, giving it a peaceful setting with the convenience of a village. Upon seeing the plans Kym began to realise her dream. "My cousin is a property developer and when he offered me the chance to move to this threebedroom barn from my tiny flat in the town, I jumped at the chance. I've always dreamed of a country property and the timing was perfect as I was looking to move somewhere more rural and I desperately needed more space for my ever-growing and very energetic son Max. The only drawback was waiting for the conversion to be completed," she explains.
The barn was designed to have a large openplan living area downstairs, finished in neutral shades ready for individual tastes. Kym was more than pleased to have the barn completed without the need for alteration. "It was already a sensible, well thought out design. I have always been inspired by loftstyle apartments and the barn has a similar feel. The vaulted ceilings in the bedrooms and the galleried landing overlooking the lounge allow more natural light to flood through the upstairs," she says.
Kym's only concern was storage, as there was no loft area, but her builder created a clever solution by constructing fitted cupboards in all of the upstairs rooms. They sit neatly along the bottom of the eaves using the dead space where there is no headroom. "They were purposely painted a muted putty colour to blend in with the oak, as in this instance white would have been too stark. I like the way they are inconspicuous and blend into the walls," she says.
When Kym and Max moved into their newly converted barn in March 2009, it inspired Kym to unveil the style that she had dreamed of for years. "I always knew when I had the house of my dreams I would have a home that was all white with an array of different textures," she recalls.
Kym styled her open-plan living area using carefully chosen distressed French wooden furniture in milky tones and oversized squashy sofas. By way of contrast, she kept the walls a warm shade of ivory white enhanced by polished silver lanterns and lamps. "I'm not a huge fan of ornaments, I like to be minimalist but with a relaxed edge and I adore natural shades of white. I prefer to keep the walls clear and use freestanding pieces, such as the driftwood ladder in my bedroom. To me, it's romantic and calming. The barn has so much original charm – the doors are solid and characterful with beautifully crafted black iron handles, echoed by the stained black exterior weather-boarding. The stained oak throughout the property gives so much depth to the palette of whites, I don't feel the need for vibrant colours," she explains.
Kym specifically wanted to keep as much of the house as possible open-plan to enhance the feeling of space. "Max and I chose the furnishings for his bedroom together. I decided a splash of colour for a ten-year-old boy was actually a good idea and a 'surfer dude' look would suit Max down to the ground. His funky brightly-coloured bed linen and wooden sailing yachts make it a bona fide boy's room and he even has a cushion in the shape of a surfboard!
"One of my favourite features is his bedroom window. I call it the cuckoo window as it sits right between the apex of the roof, and whenever he pops his head out to say goodbye it looks just like the doors of a cuckoo clock," Kym laughs. Moving from a flat to a barn conversion has enhanced family life for Kym and the novelty of having a kitchen and utility room overlooking the rear courtyard will take time to wear off, as it is both practical and pretty. "When Max comes home from rugby he leaves his muddy kit in the utility room, without treading dirt anywhere. It was a different story in our first floor flat!" Kym smiles. "It's so nice to be able to enjoy the space. The open-plan layout works perfectly for us. Max can be doing his homework while I'm preparing supper and we couldn't be happier together."