Interior Design and Layout Inspiration for Barn Conversions.

A Beginners Guide to Barn Conversions

If you’re searching for your dream barn conversion – or already live in a barn needing an update – you’ve come to the right place.

With fascinating history, superb character and dramatic open spaces, it’s not hard to see why barns make such fantastic homes. They’re unique places to live, letting you enjoy the delights of country living and create a building perfectly tailored to your needs.

Stunning barn conversions are entirely achievable with the help of a specialist architectural team and plenty of careful planning. So, let’s look at 12 approaches to interior design and spatial planning, to help you create a spectacular transformation.

We’ve also created a step-by-step guide to barn conversion projects, so do have a read. Once you know how to get your project off the ground, it’s time to prioritise great design.

1. Work alongside your barn.

This is the first and most important design consideration to bear in mind.

Take a step back and ask yourself what attracted you to your barn in the first place. Was it the beautiful stone walls, quirky metal roof, countryside views or opportunities for open-plan living?

Keep this excitement with you throughout the design process and work alongside your barn. 

These projects often bring a fantastic sense of purpose and satisfaction. After all, you’re rescuing and repurposing a slice of living history. Protecting and championing your barn’s unique features (while also introducing modern elements) will ensure your design choices stay on track.

2. Understand your own needs.

While great interior design needs to respect and enhance your building, it’s also essential to understand how you live from an early stage. This will impact the layout options you choose, the rooms you include and how the internal interacts with the exterior.

To do this well…

It’s all about finding a balance between working with the building and creating solutions that genuinely improve your life. 

Is there any way of retaining those double-height gable doors and vaulting atrium while also incorporating the bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces you need?

With this in mind, ensure you’re happy with the floor plan before starting any interior alterations.

3. Including modern materials.

If you’re renovating a barn, great interior design will enhance its unique features. Despite this, any conversion will also need some new materials along the way… so it’s about skilfully introducing modern materials.

If you’re working on a bathroom design – could you incorporate any nods toward the building’s agricultural past? Think reclaimed stable doors, corrugated iron or metal taps and pipes. Alternatively, if you’re working on a brand new kitchen – what about emphasising the difference between old and new with shining zinc or bold colour choices?

4. Combining old and new.

Barn conversions are some of the best platforms for showcasing contemporary design. So think about how modern artworks and statement pieces could enhance a rustic barn. What about a plush velvet sofa or leather armchair sitting on your reclaimed wood flooring?

To combine old and new features, you could visit reclamation yards for stone tiles, timbers and flooring with age and patina. 

While the “new” is down to you, it’s great to research the “local vernacular”. By this, we mean looking at what materials are most common in your area.

5. Use the best spaces for your main rooms.

When thinking about the layout of your barn conversion, it’s all about using the best parts of the barn for the rooms that are most important to you

For most people…

The central double-height space will probably be the thing that attracted them to barn living in the first place. 

So it’s essential to not sacrifice this space for secondary functions like guest bedrooms, hallways and utility rooms. You could always think about smaller, cosier rooms (for instance, snugs and studies) off to the side or in a modern extension.

6. Make the most of any views.

Depending on your building plans and the barn’s existing windows – you might be lucky enough to enjoy some stunning views. So how can you tweak the layout to make the most of this?

Because of a barn’s wide, open spaces, you have a fantastic opportunity to highlight the landscape around you. You can do this through layout, window placement, and positioning key art pieces and sculptures.

As part of this, garden design is just as crucial as interior plans. Think carefully about where you’ll place patios, garden furniture, hedges and planting schemes to draw the eye. It all helps create one cohesive space.

7. Retaining natural light.

Capitalising on natural light should play a big role in interior design and layout decisions.

While renovations might incorporate large, glazed areas or skylights, some farm buildings can have scarce window openings. There are planning limits on the number and size of new openings you can make (especially for listed buildings), so let your original structure guide your choices. In terms of window materials, simple steel and bronze glazing systems look incredibly stylish and unfussy.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to window placement and natural light. With open-plan spaces, you’ll probably find a lot of light flowing across the areas. If there are any darker areas with smaller windows – what about making the most of these for a cosy snug or private bathroom?

8. Working with artificial lighting schemes.

Artificial lighting is just as important as natural light for your interior design scheme. 

You could uplight vaulted spaces, mounting lights on beams and trusses to highlight your stunning ceiling. Subtle spot lighting can also highlight any attractive structural features. What about considering dimmer switches and statement pieces such as lamps and hanging lights? 

An experienced architect or lighting designer can help you with these choices – creating clever and discrete solutions.

9. Open plan, broken plan and “zoning”.

Barns are appealing for their open-plan spaces and soaring ceiling heights. But really imagine living in your barn, though. Will the space always work for you? 

One issue with open-plan layouts is noise. If you’ve got young children who go to bed early (for example), would the TV keep them awake? You might be better off partitioning rooms to some extent, while maintaining the character and feel of your barn. 

Broken plan and “zoning” are two further options to consider – maintaining an open-plan feel while cleverly sectioning off areas with movable partitions, different finishes (for instance, paints, materials and flooring), or split levels.

10. Less is more: a simple, stylish approach.

When it comes to furnishings and interior schemes in barn conversions, often less is more

Let the beauty of your building shine through, staying true to its history and natural aesthetic. Too much colour or patterns can detract from the innate character of these agricultural and industrial spaces. 

With this in mind, sticking to a simple and neutral colour palette is a great place to start. You can always add pops of colour with soft furnishings and artwork as you settle into your home.

11. Layering interior textures.

If the less is more approach isn’t for you, consider layering textures and finishes. This can be a fantastic way of building on your barn’s industrial and agricultural past. 

For instance, contrast a natural fabric rug (say sisal, jute or seagrass) with a hard stone floor. Suppose your walls are relatively rustic and full of character. Could you juxtapose this with a smooth, polished concrete floor or a shining metal kitchen? 

Whatever textures you go for, organic materials and natural colour palettes work well in these spaces.

12. Remember the practicalities.

Always remember you’re creating a home you have to live in. If it doesn’t work for you and your family (no matter how beautiful it looks), it won’t work long-term. 

With large design-led spaces, practicalities are still key. For instance, think carefully about storage. There’s nothing worse than clutter detracting from those uplifting spaces and views. What about a walk-in pantry or secondary utility space if you’re planning an open-plan kitchen and entertaining area? If you’re based in the countryside or keep animals – do you need a boot room off the main space for all those coats and muddy wellies?

With a combination of beautiful aesthetics and practical functionality, you can create a home that truly works for you.

If you’re considering a barn conversion, get in touch with our experienced team at EV Architects. Let’s take the first steps towards making your conversion a reality.