A Converted hideaway
PUBLISHED: 13:17 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 February 2013
Lower Barn near St Ewe near the fishing village of Mevagissey is a chic conversion hidden in the unspoilt Cornish countryside. We pay it a visit in this May issue.
Rebecca Matthews visits Lower Barn near St Ewe, a chic conversion hidden in the Cornish countryside
Surrounded by the south coast, The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of Cornwall's famous treasures. With the fishing village of Mevagissey a short distance away and the Roseland Peninsula a few miles to the west, this unspoilt corner of the county is a real attraction. Close to the gardens, at the end of a winding country lane, lies another treasure.
Surrounded by lush Cornish countryside near to the small village of St Ewe, Lower Barn lies in a secluded spot. A million miles from the pace of modern living, the atmosphere is laid-back and the property is welcoming and cosy. Lower Barn is one main barn conversion and a series of smaller buildings are scattered around its perfectly landscaped garden.
Anyone stumbling across this spot would have encountered a very different picture 16 years ago. When Janie and Mike Cooksley discovered the site back in 1992, the mere shell of a barn stood alongside the farmhouse. Falling in love with the idyllic surroundings and recognising its huge conversion potential, Janie and Mike purchased the land from the Tremayne Estate (the owners of Heligan, to whom it had belonged for some years) and set to work on designing their dream home.
Three years passed before the couple started work on converting the former cart shed. For four years, Janie and Mike lived in a caravan on the site while they gradually brought their dream to fruition, designing and building the property themselves. Lower Barn has grown steadily over the years, its meticulously designed development has certainly come a long way from the ramshackle barn that greeted their arrival.
A number of factors ensured the building's design was sensitive to its environment. Reclaimed materials were used extensively. "We wanted a good combination of old and new," explains Mike, "Many of the beams were sourced from a former jetty in Torpoint, and if you look closely you can still see the blackened marks caused by years of being submerged in water. Features like this certainly give the building a sense of character." The floorboards are also sourced from reclaimed wood, and much of the stone came from a local quarry; this was supplemented by reclaimed bricks and slate flagstones sourced from an old house nearby. Some of the bedrooms and bathrooms have a series of glass panels built into the walls, which were also reclaimed.
Large windows ensure the house is light and airy. The conservatory opens onto wooden decking - a real sun trap which, bordered with Cornish hedging and foliage, is an ideal spot for al fresco dining. The overall look of the property is very much a natural one that complements its countryside setting.
The sumptuous interior is easily a match for Lower Barn's exterior. Each room is a credit to Janie's keen eye for stylish design, and each room has an individual character. The choice of fabric and furniture in the rooms is a mixture of vibrant colours, rich textures and kitsch, retro touches.
A delightful medley of old and new, vintage chairs are upholstered in flamboyant fabrics, stripped wooden bookcases and dressing tables are adorned with trinkets, while the bathrooms contain modern fittings and finishes. It might be a relatively new conversion, but Lower Barn has a warm character, typical of a family home that has been lived in. As tribute to the property's previous life, the granite walls and oak beams are exposed in places, enhancing the contrast between the aged barn and the chic modern styling.
The colour schemes are broken up by bright splashes of pink, warm reds and cool touches of turquoise-blue in the cushions, towels and upholstery. Ethnic artefacts and other finishing touches, be it a heart-shaped wall decoration or a bright red retro radio sitting on a bedside table, enhance the charm of the property.
"I love to nose around the shops, particularly in
St Ives and Fowey, and pick up knick-knacks," says Janie. "Whether it's a new ornament, cushion or fabric, I'm constantly on the lookout for pieces that will complement the design of the individual rooms."
Fairy lights are a common theme. They are placed above a huge round table in the conservatory that opens onto the decking and makes the perfect setting for a dinner party. The assortment of seats in the adjoining sitting room includes a chaise longue and leather sofas with a colour scheme of warm reds and moss-greens. From the mirror above the fireplace to the lamps, candles, decorated branches and plants, it is a snug and inviting part of the property.
A further dining space can be found in 'The Shack', a small building in the garden. It has large windows with views over Janie's meticulously kept flowerbeds. Candles and lanterns are scattered around the fireplace; fairy lights at the eaves and colourful bunting strewn above the windows add colour. Surrounded by an assortment of brightly coloured cushions, a large table is the centrepiece of the room - a perfect place to spend some time in front of a roaring fire in winter or to watch the sunset in summer. The Shack opens onto an outdoor space ideal for sun lounging, and at its centre is a hot tub. Lower Barn's secluded location ensures light pollution is minimal, so on a clear night a soak comes complete with a starry view.
Much of Janie's inspiration for her taste in décor comes from travelling. This is particularly apparent when you climb a series of winding stone steps - the sunny-yellow walls adorned with colourful Peruvian hats and woven wall hangings collected on a visit to South America - to the homely kitchen. This room has stripped wooden cupboards and is perhaps the most striking example of the Mediterranean style, which, reflected in the warm and vibrant colour schemes, is a common theme throughout the house.
Janie and Mike tentatively began welcoming guests into their home in 1998. The feedback was so positive that the couple decided to make the accommodation a larger enterprise. This entailed adding a conservatory, en-suite facilities and more sunny sitting areas at the front of the property. The developments also involved adding another wing to the house, comprising a two-storey 'hideaway'.
The master bedroom is decorated in vivid colours, the rich red of the feature wall reflected in the huge textured headboard of the bed and in the elegant drapes and rugs. African-style prints enhance the warmth of the room.
The couple also built a small dwelling in the garden. A pretty combination of white-washed wood, heart-shaped décor and splashes of hot pink make it a cosy and romantic space. One of the most striking features is the headboard, which, upholstered with a multicoloured striped fabric from The Designer's Guild, adds a centrepiece to the room. The deep bath tub finishes this relaxed and secluded space perfectly. A tipi, where Janie sees clients for a range of therapies and massages, and a gym, are also tucked away in Lower Barn's garden.
Is there a drawback to this rural isolation?
"We haven't got Broadband and this dial-up internet is a pain!" says Janie as she sits patiently at her laptop, although seated on a deep leather sofa surrounded by the warm ambience of her sitting room, it is quite apparent that this technological inconvenience is a small price to pay for her chic, rural hideaway - and she wouldn't swap it for the world.