Burgred Barn in Blockley - The architecture of happiness

  • Burgred Barn, Blockley
  • Burgred Barn, Blockley
  • Burgred Barn, Blockley
  • Burgred Barn, Blockley
  • Burgred Barn, Blockley
  • Burgred Barn, Blockley

A stunning Cotswold stone barn conversion in the much sought-after village of Blockley.

£895,000 (SSTC)

The importance of the design of buildings and location to our wellbeing is the philosophical debate taken up by Alain de Botton in his seminal 2006 work, The Architecture of Happiness. In it, he proposes that the most enduring happiness might be found most easily “in a run of old floorboards or in a wash of morning light over a plaster wall - in undramatic, frangible scenes of beauty...” If so then Burgred Barn - a single storey stable barn conversion that was once part of a working farm, blessed with over an acre of garden and orientated to enjoy the most beautiful views over the surrounding hills, gives what great design should always seek to achieve, a sense of profound wellbeing and the promise of happiness in the fabric of day-to-day living.

As such, perhaps it is no surprise to find that a sculptor and a complimentary therapist have made their home here. “When we found the property in 2004,” explains the current owner, “we could immediately see it as a place to create a wonderful family life, to provide an escape from the pressures of our busy lives, somewhere we could address our need for creative expression, a better sense of mindfulness and peace, if you like. As such, it has more than fulfilled its brief. This house allows us to connect fully with nature and the outside world in all seasons. Everyone who comes to the door says the same thing – ‘Look at the view!’” 

Surrounded by rolling hills, the property looks over the most magnificent Cotswold countryside. It is, without a doubt, breathtakingly, overwhelmingly beautiful.

“We can see all the way to Pasture Farm in the far distance. It feels as if we are on perpetual holiday in Provence or Tuscany. We have placed a bench on the top terrace just outside the kitchen planted beneath with a thyme bed, to capture that wonderful feeling of time standing still where we find the opportunity simply to sit and absorb that feeling, to relax as often as we can. From inside we are also immediately connected to that same view as the principal rooms all look out upon it too, with double doors leading out from the kitchen and lounge which we throw open to enjoy the fresh air, as if we are in the garden without even stepping outside.”

The happiness derived from great architecture is as much in the structure and fabric as the outlook and Burgred Barn resonates again with de Botton’s view that it is not the complexity of design but the clever appearance of simplicity that matters – “…a love of irregularity rather than symmetry, the impermanent rather than the eternal and the simple rather than the ornate…”  All arranged on one level, the original conversion was both intelligent and empathetic, ensuring that the structure and rough, honest materials of the eighteenth century barn were left on view as integral, tactile, necessary pleasures, with so much beauty in the details - the exposed herringbone brickwork, a beamed ‘A’ frame in a plaster wall, a tiny stone alcove above a sink and a soaring roof space - the whole combining to produce a sense of beguiling, luxurious simplicity.

“There were a lot of small rooms when we arrived but we have opened everything up to create a much more practical, open-plan design - now all of the rooms are of a really good size, with loads of cupboards and shelves equipped to contain all our accumulated belongings and hobbies. For us the important thing was to move easily from space to space -a success testified by the regular Nerf gun battles and games of hide and seek that take place throughout the whole building! Above all, the house encourages an easy, informal and sociable atmosphere, a place where we can enjoy high days and holidays with our friends and family, seated around the kitchen table or stretched out on the sofas in front of the fire, relishing the pleasures of a simple country lifestyle.”

Nowhere is this more evident than the kitchen / breakfast room, the epitome of country living at its best. Hand-crafted, a range of natural materials and textures in wood, stone and brick all give colour and warmth, the windows look out over the garden and views beyond, doors are open to waft in the scent of herbs and fresh air. It’s somewhere to take time, to cook slowly and to congregate together, to unwind over convivial family meals. The garden room and the courtyard that lies beyond provide a more sheltered, contemplative sanctuary. 

“This garden room and courtyard were really practical when our son was a toddler - we used them as a safe, confined indoor-outdoor play area. Now we both work from home far more and the garden room has become Rob’s study, so we always use the courtyard for morning coffee breaks being south facing and completely private - it’s very warm even when it’s too cold to venture into the main garden. After supper, we all make our way into the lounge together. In summer it’s another indoor-outdoor space connecting us with the night skies and the balmy elongating evenings, whilst in winter it’s a cosy place to settle down in front of a roaring fire, to play board games, enjoy a glass of wine, relax and chill. It’s a great place to have friends down for the weekend and as a party house it’s perfect, Christmas particularly.”

Throughout the property is the same stamp of simple, understated luxury. With a stunning kitchen / breakfast room and garden room, wide internal halls, a large vaulted family lounge and three double bedrooms (each served with bathroom / shower room) the whole building functions perfectly as a free-flow of pleasurably light-filled, beautiful, airy living spaces. Whilst they secured planning permission to extend, they have never felt it necessary to take up. [see Cotswold District Council’s website, planning reference 09/00561/FUL & 12/02108/FUL]. “We haven’t once felt short of space although it’s eminently possible to extend quite substantially given the property sits at the top of a very large plot. One could push up the square footage without impacting on the garden at all bearing in mind the barn sits at on a large, flat upper terrace – in itself that’s somewhat of a rarity, given the generally hilly terrain of Blockley!”

They did not stop at creating a wonderful interior but commissioned Rupert and Nick Williams-Ellis (also residents in the same village) to design and build an equally stunning landscaped exterior, making the most of the broad, long and gently sloping grounds. The property is now approached by an immaculate gated and gravelled driveway, with plenty of parking and turning space leading to a three-bay timber garage. Stretching out beyond is a series of interconnected garden spaces, each of different character and function, including a hidden garden at the very end, wherein lies a veritable paradise. 

“We were both working very hard and often away when we first moved here, so the whole garden was purposely designed to be low maintenance. The top third has an Italian-inspired theme with a wide, flat, manicured lawn and stone-built terraces, surrounded by a profusion of seasonal colour. We loved the idea of growing vegetables as a nod to self-sufficiency. The greenhouse and raised flowerbeds were installed to make gardening much easier - we can potter about quite happily, needing only a few hours a week to keep on top of things and to mow the lawns. The middle section is the antithesis of the top terrace as a spreading, naturally unstructured space with a spinney of elegant mature trees, where we located two timber studios – one for Rob’s sculpture and the other one serving as my Garden Retreat. We both really love being down here, centred within the garden and hidden away from daily life, somewhere we can easily embrace the beauty of changing seasons.”

Beyond is the hidden orchard, a delightful secret garden complete with a large sweet chestnut tree framing views towards the distant hills, generously planted with walnut, plum, apple, damson and quince trees. “There’s a profusion of blossom in spring and loads of fruit to make excellent jams and chutneys. Whatever the season, it is a really special place - we often hold family campfires down here, roasting chestnuts or barbecuing our supper. Complete with a tree house and rope swing it’s absolutely idyllic for children, of course.”

Whilst Burgred Barn has all the prerequisite ingredients for a happy family life, it is suited to a wide number of potential purchasers. Given the luxury of single storey accommodation and the surprising ease of garden maintenance, it would be just as suited to a retired couple or equally as a second home / holiday let investment. Once the centre of a thriving Georgian silk mill industry, today Blockley is a highly desirable and tranquil Cotswold village that attracts many visitors and has a very sociable community served by two public houses, a renowned primary school and a wonderful shop / café managed by local residents. For more amenities there is the nearby ancient market town of Moreton in Marsh and, of course, easy access to the regular mainline Worcester / Paddington train service into central London.

Burgred Barn was offered to the market by the Moreton in Marsh branch of Fine & Country North Cotswolds; for further information on similar properties, simply telephone 01608 651000.