The Old Dairy or the Old Farmhouse?
Renovating This Former Workshop Wasn’t a Simple Project
Written by Victoria Jenkins
Photos by Lisa Lodwig
Back in the 1880s, a small red brick building was built as a dairy for an old farmhouse in Stratford-on-Avon. “At least we assume so as The Old Dairy is one of its names,” says Richard Ball, who bought the building. “But confusingly its other name is The Old Schoolhouse and there was still an old-fashioned metal Children Playing sign attached to the end wall.”
However, when Richard came for a viewing it had obviously last been used as a workshop as it had a mezzanine level with old workman’s tools left abandoned there. “A lot of people had been interested in the building but it was very small and although there was a water and electricity supply it wasn’t at all habitable,” he says.
However, it also came with planning permission to convert and extend and as Richard had always wanted a project he bought it in the summer of 2013.
“I was able to carry on living in my own house in Birmingham for most of the build and then after selling up I rented a flat nearby, then later into the flat I’d built above my new garage nearby.”
Richard began by employing architect Martin Smart of Hayward Smart in Shipston-on-Stour and between them, they readjusted the plans. “The original plan had a first-floor arrangement which wouldn’t work because of the low height of the roof while the proposed two-storey extension would have changed the whole character of the building. This was because its pitched roof was designed to intersect the roof of the workshop.”
Instead, Martin designed a single storey, very contemporary extension linked to the workshop by a glazed entrance lobby. As for the workshop the builder Rob Berner ended up excavating the old concrete floor and removing the mezzanine to give more headroom upstairs. Even so, it took two years for the planners to pass the amendments.
As Martin explains, “The planners were keen to ensure that the new extension remained subservient to the old – which was challenging as the workshop was very small. But we designed it to cut into the sloping site to reduce its impact on the setting and built a garden wall of reclaimed brick on the drive side to screen it from public view.”
Work began in January 2015 and took two years to finish. The workshop was gutted and the roof removed to put in a high level of insulation, then replaced using a mix of original and reclaimed tiles. Two skylights were added to allow in as much light as possible. All new wiring was installed and the plumbing extended, and then the whole interior was plastered.
On the ground floor, the builder Rob laid underfloor heating and then poured a concrete screed above it. Porcelain tiling was laid above that which also extends throughout the new extension and a handmade oak staircase was built to the upper floor which is new oak floorboards.
The extension is built of breeze blocks, clad in brick which came from a demolished old pub in Stratford via a reclamation yard.
“There’s also a ground source heat pump with two boreholes at 110 metres deep, underfloor heating, solar panels in the garage roof and a rainwater tank to supply the loos and the washing machines. It’s all very economical,” says Martin. “There is also a mechanical heat recovery system whereby fresh air comes in without any loss of heat inside.”
Two RSJs had to be installed in the new extension to hold up the flat roof and allow for the floor to ceiling sliding glass doors which look onto the terrace.
Finally, by December 2016 the converted workshop and extension with glass link were completed and then by the following Easter the kitchen was installed and Richard could move in.
“But as it has only two bedrooms – both in the old workshop, one downstairs – I converted the upper floor of my double garage into an extra en suite bedroom plus an office and small kitchenette,” he says. “I added an external metal staircase for access.”
The extension contains a big open-plan kitchen-diner-sitting room with German units from Rotpunkt and V Zug appliances, all supplied by Bower Willis Designs of Shipston-on-Stour. Outside the glass sliding doors is a wide terrace looking onto the garden which attracts all sorts of wildlife from muntjak deer through to pheasants, rabbits, and squirrels.
There are also many subtle additions such as the pocket doors which slide into the walls. They save space and, although of opaque glass, still allow in light. And all the lighting and lamps– designed and supplied by Lightmaster Direct – are wired into the floors so no wiring can be seen and, impressively, they and other appliances are controlled by Richard’s phone. “So I can tell the bath to fill up at the right temperature and correct level without moving from my seat – which might be miles away in my car as I’m driving home,” he says.
“I travel to America a great deal where I stay in boutique hotels,” he finishes. “So I knew what I wanted. A look that is comfortable, luxurious and totally uncluttered.”