Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Father-Andson Team Rescue Barn from Its 'Suburban Nightmare'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Father-Andson Team Rescue Barn from Its 'Suburban Nightmare'

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Bloomfield

PARK Corner Barn, which stands in Oxfordshire farmland seven miles from Henley-on-Thames, was a working threshing barn until 1986 and was first converted into a house in 1996.

When David McLaren discovered it, the barn came complete with a crazypaved conservatory, an interior of terracotta and puce paintwork, with bright pink carpets and eight cramped bedrooms almost devoid of any natural light. He hated it, of course.

"People used to try to turn barns into ordinary suburban houses, putting in lots of floors and fitting in as much as possible, suffocating the building's history," he says. "Yet the glory of a barn is that you have got this huge space."

However, David could see the potential in turning this "house-like" barn back into something more barn-like.

Today the property is an impressive space, where wide oak beams and surfaces in tasteful off-whites and greys abound.

A new statement fireplace is the focal point of a now open-plan living area, which has a calm, Scandinavian feel. A dramatic beamed and pitched roof has been, in part, exposed. And all traces of the suburban have been banished.

David, 68, a businessman, and his wife Maria, 63, had previously owned a Tudor manor house while their four children were at home, and the grand plan, when they sold it to a film producer, was to downsize to somewhere smaller locally and, perhaps, to buy a London flat. The project was still continuing five years later after David had looked at 120 properties. When he found the brick-and-flint barn it had been on the market for more than a year -- with a price tag of [pounds sterling]3.5 million. By the time he began making serious enquiries about it the market had fallen and cash buyers were thin on the ground. He was able to secure it for less than [pounds sterling]2 million and took possession at the start of 2009.

He liked the idea that he could rescue the barn from the indignities it had suffered and asked his son, Luke, an architect and co-director of McLaren.Excell ( to take on the job.

The brief was straightforward. David wanted to sweep away the clutter of walls and have fewer, larger rooms, and a space he could use as a library/ music room. Structurally the barn was reasonably sound and, since it is neither listed nor in a conservation area, the internal refurbishment needed no planning permission.

The first task on Luke's plan was to demolish most of the internal walls on the ground floor, carve out a roomy kitchen and install a Shaker-style kitchen in grey, with an L-shaped basalt work surface to divide kitchen and living room, stripping plaster off some walls to reveal the texture of the original brick and stonework.

When David bought the barn the full height of the building was largely concealed by a first floor. …

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