News Article

Barnstorming Location

News Article

Barnstorming Location

A cavernous old Essex barn has been transformed into one family’s quick getaway from London and a vast and versatile shoot location.

When it comes to interiors we’re bombarded by ideas for small space living but there isn’t as much advice available when your problem is how to create a home in an overwhelmingly large and lofty space.

Of course, there are worse problems than that faced by Sara, the owner of our exclusive ‘Greenstead Barn’ location house but it’s one that she faced head-on and with stunning results.

In this cathedral-like space, the walls are lined with the original wooden beams that soar up, leading the eye towards the vaulted ceiling above. Below, a relaxed atmosphere of low-key luxe prevails, ‘the barn seems to have a jaw-dropping effect on everyone that comes here, because it really is a vast, awesome location, but we’ve managed to make it cosy too,’ explains Sara. The style here mixes a moody colour palette with warm woods and tactile textures while the atmosphere changes from season to season – making it a versatile addition to our location library. From the long, light-and-airy days of summer to the ‘fire up the woodburners and snuggle up on a sheepskin throw’ vibe of midwinter.

For Sara, who works in fashion, her accountant husband, their five children and three dogs, this converted barn is the ideal second home, ‘we decided that we needed somewhere in the UK, because of the dogs, and we wanted an easy getaway from London. This place is somewhere between an hour to 90 minutes from our home in Hampstead – depending on who’s driving!’ says Sara. Set in its own four acres of paddocks amidst the surrounding arable farmland, it’s an instant antidote to the clamour of the city and perfect for location scouts looking for a rural property and setting that’s within easy reach of the capital.

The couple happened upon the barn at the perfect time, its owner had spent many years securing planning permission to convert it from agricultural use into a home and was just starting work when they came onto the scene. ‘We got there in the nick of time to halt the gold-taps-and-fancy-marble look that was underway and were able to have it completed to our own spec.’

The building is ‘L’ shaped, the bigger part is the vast original 18th century barn, which is Grade II listed, while there’s a Seventies addition at one end. This gave them the best of both worlds, glorious original features that they are happy to preserve and cherish, but scope to make their own mark with lots of glass and a more contemporary look too, ‘it meant we could bring in the light with lots of bi-fold doors and roof lights,’ explains Sara. The result is a versatile location house that combines the best of traditional and modern.

The four bedrooms, including a stunning master suite, sit at the modern end. As well as these, there is also a separate lodge with three further bedrooms, perfect as a site base for crew, hair and make-up etc and a major asset for location clients and visiting family alike. The main space has been kept double-height and is dominated by the beautiful aged oak beam, ‘they’re stunning pieces of carpentry, it’s wonderful to contemplate them and consider how long they have stood here.’ Sara kept the main spine of woodwork in its original dark colour but quietened the effect of the majority of the beams by lime-washing them, ‘before that they were overpowering, it looked like a cage of zebras in here,’ she laughs.

Sara also opted for a lot of black-painted walls to up the intimacy-factor, ‘because of the vastness and the amount of light it actually makes it a bit cosier in here.’ She settled on a wonderful blackboard-like shade, ‘Javelin’ by Dulux. ‘It’s a lovely soft sooty black, the colours of the furniture look wonderful against it.’ In the kitchen, black cabinets, Norwegian pine countertops, a huge concrete island and similarly massive bespoke kitchen table create the perfect space for food shoots, ‘you can really personalise the display shelves on the island and the place is big enough for any film or photography crew.’

The furniture has been chosen and configured with great thought to cope with this cavernous space, ‘We learned that what looks impressive in The Conran Shop might not be able to hold its own when it gets here,’ laughs Sara. But her keen eye has enabled her to create a warm and comfortable look that mixes antiques with industrial pieces which all suit the space equally well.

Once the barn was finished, a friend suggested it that she register it as a location property, ‘you should give it a go, “it’ll pay the oil bill!” she told me.’ Because of Greenstead Barn’s impressive size and large plot of land, it works well for a wide variety of types of location shoot; the size makes it suitable for film while the quirkily beautiful kitchen is perfect for food and lifestyle shoots, ‘It’s good for fashion shoots too because there are lots of cool props to borrow,’ adds Sara, ‘And we’ve had quite a few interiors shoots here, both commercial and editorial – it works well for furniture shoots because of all the space.’

Unsurprisingly, the family all love it here and its size means they can gather everybody together in one place, ‘so we have amazing parties and Christmas celebrations,’ smiles Sara. And all the factors that make it a great family home have also helped to create a unique and versatile addition to our locations library…