Buy Of The Week: East Sussex

The transformation of an old barn into a contemporary home so often leads to tears. But Alice Black finds one project with a truly happy ending
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The Independent Online

At The Barn, in Fairlight, East Sussex, the opposite is the case. The house stands halfway up a hill, with views overlooking Rye Bay, minutes from a country park and the beach.

The finished result represents an inspired restoration of a historic building which dates back to the 1600s and, inside, it feels like a real home, not a cold shell. Situated in the sleepy village of Fairlight, The Barn overlooks the rugged, unspoilt coastline and is within striking distance of Hastings Country Park, with 600 acres of cliff walks and wooded countryside - an area granted both Site of Special Scientific Importance and Special Area of Conservation status because of its extraordinary biodiversity and geology.

For the current owner, an interior designer, the restoration project has been a labour of love, although he didn't initiate the process. "There has been a barn on this site since the 16th century, and the oak frame is original, but the building has undergone many changes since," he explains. At one point, in the 1930s, it was converted for residential use, which makes it one of the earliest barn conversions. "During this time," he says, "a lot of ancilliary accommodation was added around the edges of the building, and a Lutyens-style roof was built, which lent the edifice an Arts and Crafts feel, marrying well with the original 16th-century elements. All the additional work at that point, including the inglenook fireplace, built from reclaimed brick, had been beautifully and thoughtfully executed."

In the 1950s, the barn was developed as a dining club for Fairlight, a popular nightspot for many years. In 2001, it was bought by a team of "top-notch local builders who undid all the less-than-happy alterations that had been inflicted on the barn over the decades". When the current owner bought it, the barn was 85 per cent finished and just required some tweaking.

Over the past four years, the four-bedroomed building has been given a new lease of life, and it's the extraordinary quality and subtlety of the fittings and interior decoration that make the barn so special.

On the outside, the majority of the walls are clad in horizontal laps of dark wood. The entrance to the building is up a wide, gentle staircase, also constructed from dark-stained wood, punctuated with large pots of lavender, which leads to a magnificent double-height glass portico.

The drawing room is overlooked by a galleried landing, which is original to the barn. The stairs up to the gallery are screened by a wall that blends into the upper floor, and then continues round to form the balcony edge to the gallery. From here, the magnificent proportions of the living room can be fully appreciated, as can the drama of the heavily beamed vaulted ceiling.

Central to the living room is a huge inglenook fireplace extending along one wall, complete with a hearth the size of the average London garden. All the internal doors have been made from oak. The original cart entrance has been converted to a full-height window, incorporating the main entrance to the house. The custom-built wooden conservatory, drenched in sunlight even in October, is painted inside and out in soft sage green and cream, matching the exterior woodwork of the windows. The kitchen has handbuilt cupboards in a swampy green, echoing the tones of the granite worktops.

Most remarkable are the gardens.There's a jungle area with a large koi pond, a rhododendron and camellia area, an architectural garden hedged in hornbeam, a Mediterranean garden, and a yew tree border. There is a separate annexe with double garage and sauna below, and a large bedroom with ensuite bathroom on the floor above.

Just a few miles away from the ancient historic towns of Hastings, Battle and Rye, the village is an ideal location for those who want both shopping and good schools nearby. Rail connections are good too.

Get the spec

What's for sale: Five bedrooms, three bathrooms, brick-built, timber-framed barn, dating from 16th century, with galleried landing, inglenook fireplace, surrounded by exquisite landscaped gardens, with sea views.

Serious kit: Double garage, sunken hot tub, sauna, original oak beams, koi pond, conservatory.

How big: 1,914 sq ft.

Buy it: £625,000, Country Property, 01580 211888.