Kim's beautiful barn

Date
Published in
The Essential guide to home improvement (UK)

Eighties pop star turned garden designer, Kim Wilde, shows us her barn conversion.

When Kim Wilde first bought her Grade II listed barn in Hertfordshire, she admits she was inexperienced at employing builders. Although they did a good job, there were a few problems over money. This first experience inevitably made her a little wary and when it came to altering the barn again to suit her young family she was more careful.

Kim wanted to make some structural changes to create a big master bedroom area. By removing a ceiling and a spiral staircase she has created a lovely bedroom with a real feeling of light and space.
"We wanted to change things from what was essentially a single-girl's pad with a small bedroom in the eaves and a huge dressing room, storing rails of 1980s glamour clothes, into a lovely family home."

With a Grade II listed barn there were limits on what could be done and listed building consent had to be obtained for the alterations. Kim spoke to the planning officer at her local council who was very helpful and had a positive impact on the design. "I had planned to put in a large glazed area using a new wood frame made to look old. The planner suggested it would be better to use new oak that would contrast with the old wood which has worked really well."

Kim says that since her first building experience she was cautious before hiring another builder. She had admired the work done at her parents-in-law's house in Cumbria and knew that they had had a good experience.

Although her barn in Hertfordshire is a long way from Cumbria, Kim says that working with builders is a matter of trust and she was prepared to wait for them. In the end she waited for a year and used the time to get the plans agreed.

Kim struck up such a good relationship with her builders that she has invited them back to modernise her kitchen later this year. So she's stocking up on tea bags in expectation of their arrival!

Kim's advice
  • Agree a deadline with the builders and try to ensure that they stick to it
  • If you have a spare cupboard, stock it with catering sized packs of coffee, tea and biscuits and give them their own kettle and mugs
  • Be patient - if you have found a builder you like and trust, they are worth waiting for.
  • Keep the planners on your side - it's good to keep talking to your local planning office, they could come up with some good ideas.
  • If your house is listed, make sure you get listed consent from your planning authority
  • If your builders are working late to meet a tight schedule - set some ground rules from the beginning eg: no radios after 5pm