Brick Barns I McLaren Excell

590H 111 T39

Photographed by Simone Bossi


Brick Barn is an exceptional example of the atypical buildings that once formed part of a late 1900 Victorian model farm situated high in the Chiltern Hills, UK.

McLaren Excell’s design process takes a discerning and innovative approach to the bespoke heritage restorations that they have built a reputation on. With a great reverence for craftsmanship and natural, tactile materials, Brick Barn is imbued with an exacting level of detail and sensibility.

Sitting within a large rural estate, the barns are not barns at all – not in the usual understanding of the word. They are exhibitions of fine artisanal brickwork and cast iron tracery and louvred windows – the apotheosis of agricultural architecture. Aspiring to the rural ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement, the buildings embody the great exuberance and confidence of the age and are a case study of how such detail and craft graced even this most lowly of edifices: the humble cow shed. The building is Grade II listed.

Working to strict heritage regulations, McLaren Excell strived to meet the criteria in every respect: ensuring Brick Barn continued to appear as it once did, drawing on its existing built material and not interfering with interior spaces. 

Simple, resilient and robust materials and fixings were chosen to complement the crafted origins of the building, with a muted palette befitting the whitewashed floor structure. The ground floor is divided into zones by the low level concrete kitchen worktop showcasing a VOLA 590H in matt black which blends into the over-scaled black steel furniture. The two ‘pods’ are panelled in muted sheet material to stand silently as objects, allowing the building to breathe around them. The walls of these pods do not touch the ceiling so that it appears to float above them, with service risers set well back to avoid being seen. Black steel has been used for the kitchen, staircase and fireplaces – a raw and burnished finish to sit alongside the cast iron windows and glazed brickwork. At first floor level, the larch trusses have been left intact with simple larch boarding applied to the pitched ceilings and walls.

McLaren Excell’s environmental commitment was integrated from the outset, resulting in a reduction in the overall build’s energy consumption and thereafter the building’s energy footprint; everything possible was included. From using the pitched roof’s large expanse to collect for a rainwater harvesting system to using the large polished concrete flooring surface area to provide a huge amount of thermal mass; from internally encasing the original cast iron louvre windows retaining the building’s listed character to upgrading the thermal performance.

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