Before & after: a 19th century barn conversion

James Rippon James Rippon
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Nestled into the woods of Trentino in northern Italy, at the foot of the Dolomites, lies this once unused barn from the 19th century. With new owners came a new lease on life, which saw the once dilapidated barn converted into a home. Curated by Milan architectural firm Supercake, the architects wanted to emphasise the combination of tradition and modernity through a balanced mix of already present raw materials such as as iron and wood, and modern fittings suited for the 21st century. The rooms of the now liveable home are simple and functional, and the exterior has been restored to look just how it may have done when it was first built, allowing the home to hold that revered charm of European mountain homes. As they say, a picture can speak a thousand words, so let's see the images that take us through an amazing transformation.

Before: a dilapidated space

  by supercake
supercake

stato di fatto, il fienile originario

supercake

This first image shows the state of the barn before anybody arrived to start clearing and begin work. Obviously the barn was not going to be in any shape to be liveable; a lot of time was invested to allow this barn to become what it is today.

Signs of its previous life

Here we see the ventilation windows of the barn, which help keep air flowing through the space to prevent it from becoming damp. Following the pre-drying of hay in the fields, drying forage in a ventilated barn is the ideal way to complete the process.

Before: an ageing roof

  by supercake
supercake

stato di fatto, il fienile originario

supercake

The near 200 year old roof was certainly showing signs of ageing, with misplaced tiles and an uneven roof. To transform a barn into a dwelling, or indeed the building of any conversion project, making sure the framework is structurally sound is obviously of utmost importance, and must be dealt with before the interior is considered.

After: the finished exterior

modern Houses by supercake
supercake

facciata principale

supercake

Now we see the barn after restructuring: the exterior of a new three-level home, with the ground floor reserved for a living area, kitchen and fireplace; second floor with bedrooms and lounge area, and a third floor mezzanine space, accessed with a ladder, and used as a sleeping space for guests.

After: room to move

country Houses by supercake
supercake

vista sull'esterno

supercake

From this angle we get more of a feel of the space afforded for each level, and just how well the original character of the centuries-old building has been gracefully restored, tying in with the mountainous landscape of this beautiful part of the world.

After: the new interior

modern Living room by supercake
supercake

soggiorno

supercake

Wow, what a transformation! The interior has been designed with great care for the original use of the barn, emphasising the timber and steel of the original structure, only now it has been given a facelift to give it a more modern and fresh look. No bold colours are present in the new interior, keeping it raw and muted, and honouring the age of the structure. Here we see the second floor lounge area, which feels roomy and spacious due to the high ceilings afforded by such a home.

After: modern yet rustic

modern Dining room by supercake
supercake

sala da pranzo

supercake

The muted tones and modern simplicity of the upstairs is echoed on the ground floor, with timber, steel and stone reigning supreme. Part of the wall that separated these two spaces has been removed to allow the downstairs to feel spatially fluid without interruption, with the remaining parts of the walls hiding the skeleton of the original structure.

After: a new loft space

 Corridor & hallway by supercake
supercake

osservatorio

supercake

Here we see the small mezzanine space that has been added to one half of the second floor, adding a small third floor space reserved for guests staying the night. It is accessed by a naval-inspired ladder similar to that of a navy ship. Above the mezzanine is a disparity in the ceiling beams, which allow for a little more standing room for guests, and offers a view out onto the surrounding landscape.

After: the kitchen

modern Kitchen by supercake
supercake

cucina in cemento a vista

supercake

The ground floor kitchen, in perfect rustic style, is equipped with all the modern comforts in a structure of exposed stone and render. Modern appliances are housed in benches of stone, complete with the lovely feeling of timber underfoot. The stone arch we can see in the left of this image is a part of an entryway to a storage room of the old barn, left exposed to honour the past.

Hopefully this project has opened your eyes to the possibilities of a conversion project, showcasing the possible transformations of any building no matter how old, dated, or decrepit. Conversion projects should always honour the previous use and history of the existing building, be it as a central design point, or in subtle hints that aren't so obvious. This project in the foothills of the Dolomites perfectly honours the centuries-old barn, yet retains modernity and style.

Want to see another incredible barn conversion? Then take a look at this barn in the Cotswolds.

Would you be brave enough to tackle such a mammoth task of converting a barn? Let us know your thoughts on barn conversions below.
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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