The Crow House Barn Project
First, a little history…
Thirty one years ago, we (which, at that time, was my beloved, our two-year old daughter and me) bought a 17th century gamekeeper’s cottage surrounded by fields with a goodly smattering of semi-derelict outbuildings. Skip on a few years and there were six of us – my beloved and me and four children – plus dogs and cats and rabbits – and our cottage was bursting at the seams. Time to convert one of the outbuildings which could serve as a teenage dormitory.
The Barn was roofless and derelict but it had been a great place for dens and the trampoline for our children. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful building and somewhere (though we’ve never found it) there is a date stone which confirms its 17th century construction. It appears in an ancient book about the history of this area which is full of gems about the ruins of a flax mill just across the fields and the paths taken by local monks to St Mongah’s Well near the stream at the bottom of our field.
So fifteen years ago we converted the Barn into a brilliant two-bedroom annexe for our older children with a stunning bathroom and big downstairs place for parties and play.
Fast forward a few years and the children were all away pursuing careers somewhere that didn’t involve living at home. The big bedrooms upstairs in the Barn were still full of the stuff the children didn’t need in their new adult lives. Downstairs was an office for my beloved and a dumping ground…for our stuff, for stuff belonging to any relatives who have moved (“Can you just look after this for now?”) never to be retrieved, and stuff belonging to family members who were no longer with us in any sense.
And then, number 1 daughter (the one-time two year old who moved here with us thirty-one years ago) announced that she and her husband would like to have their forthcoming baby in God’s Own Country, rather than London. And they wanted to live in our Barn – as a proper home.
So twelve months ago, a lot of the heavy lifting was done by number one (great with child, of course) and her husband and the barn became a habitable place and first home to my gorgeous grandson. And then after eight months, they moved out…
So, at last, my long-held ambition to turn the Barn into a bed and breakfast place could become a reality. But, like innocents abroad, we genuinely had no idea how hard it would be to get from ‘nice place for family to stay when they visit’ to a luxury somewhere with that real ‘wow’ factor.
We started in earnest in February with floor sanding and varnishing. Floor sanding is not for the faint-hearted and with every floor – upstairs and down – needing the full treatment, and, not being in the first flush of youth, our joints took as much of a pounding as the floor! And in the course of the last few months, we have discovered that we can actually do all sorts of DIY projects ourselves – replace windows, fix pipes and even plaster ceilings – who knew!
We’ve had lots of help and encouragement from family and friends and we appreciate that more than we can say. And friends who have come round and been asked to look with a critical eye, yes, we have taken your comments on board – very useful indeed!
Our aim, right from the off, was to create a space that really does exceed expectation. We’ve stayed in enough hotels, bed and breakfasts and rental properties to have very high standards. Long ago, when we used to take our young family to Devon each summer, the aim was always to stay somewhere at least as nice as home. We didn’t often succeed, and, when we didn’t, there was always that disappointing sense of ‘it’ll do’. We hope to do better than that.
So over the last four months, every bit of the barn has been painstakingly sanded, varnished, painted, plumbed, wired, glazed, washed, scrubbed, cleaned and dusted. We’ve got wi-fi, flat-screen tellies and sound systems. We’ve invested in an egg boiler which we’ve so enjoyed playing with in our own kitchen that we may have to buy another! The Egyptian cotton bedding nearly broke the bank and all sorts of ‘small stuff’ has been added to our endless list of ‘to do’ and ‘to purchase’. And most of all, we try to look at everything thing from an outsider’s perspective. We hope we’ve succeeded. It turns out it is a lot harder than it looks to create something really good.
We live in a beautiful place that has been a lovely home for our four children to grow up in. Now we’re ready to share. Please come!