Barn again: beautifully restored and modernised farm building

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Not so long ago, a farmer kept his horses here. Now, thanks to an owner and an architect both determined to maintain its agricultural heritage, this building has been resurrected as a warm, welcoming family home.

“These traditional farm buildings are at risk of disappearing in Scotland. So from the outset it was important to us to strive to retain its original character,” says Alan Dickson, an architect with Skye-based Rural Design. The building in question, Leachachan Barn, once a byre for horses, is now a bespoke family home for Linda Wilson and Peter Quicke and their two teenage children. But if you view it from the road outside or from the shores of Loch Duich which lies before the building, it still looks to all intents and purposes just like a barn.
“What tends to happen when these traditional agricultural buildings are converted into houses is that new windows are punched through and new doorways are introduced, and immediately you lose the underlying character. It becomes something that is obviously a house rather than a barn,” explains Alan. “So what we did was maintain the three open­ings that were already on the main loch-facing façade. And we retained the shutters – actually, they’re new, but they are in the spirit of the originals. We were also pretty mean in terms of inter­vening in the roof. We didn’t put Velux windows in, as that would have destroyed its character. Instead, we went for smaller, traditional rooflights. I’m pleased with the results – I drive past the building quite often, and it really does still look like the barn that has always been there.”
Alan’s modest account of his laissez-faire approach to the design isn’t the whole story, though, as the conversion of the barn also required some fairly full-on interventions before it re-emerged as a deceptively spacious single-storey home with a double-height living area at its heart. The reinvented space also features an open-plan kitchen and dining area and a ground-floor master bedroom. Additional living and sleeping accommodation is included in a newly created mezzanine, while a new lean-to extension provides storage and an area for utilities.
“I’m pleased with the results – I drive past the building quite often and it does still look like the barn that has always been there”The journey from dilapidated barn to bespoke but’n’ben was quite an adventure for Linda and her family, who now split their time between the Highlands and their London base. “My family are Scottish – I was born in Dumfries,” says Linda, who works as a set decorator for film and television. “About five years ago we spent a holiday near Fort William and had a really magical time. It was then that I thought that it would be a dream if I could eventually settle in Scotland.
“So I started searching on Plotfinder to see if there was anything suitable for us. It was nothing more than a gentle browsing process for around a year, but then one Saturday after­noon I came across a plot that overlooked Skye. I got very excited – it looked so idyllic – so I showed it to my partner Pete. The barn had been used as a byre for working horses and the previous owner had won outline planning permission to turn it into a house, but he had decided to sell rather than develop it himself. So I booked the sleeper and headed north. I picked up a hire car and drove to Loch Duich – it was mid-October and I was driving through horizontal rain. But it was worth it: when I arrived I thought it was too good to be true, even though the barn was derelict and full of wood and coal and bits of old machinery, with nesting swallows and other things evidently having a good time!”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 82-90, issue 89.

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DETAILS

What A stone-built barn, completely restored and modernised
Where Kintail, Lochalsh, in the Highlands
Architect Rural Design, Skye, 01470 521555,
Construction Approximately eight months
Words Caroline Ednie
Photography Nigel Rigden