Somerset Interiors - Barn Rescue
PUBLISHED: 12:05 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013
How a Somerset furniture-maker sensitively created a beautiful home from a derelict barn, with 'local' at its heart. Words by Victoria Jenkins, photos by Nicholas Yarsley.
When Dominic Thyer bought a derelict 1720s barn in Somerset there were holes in the roof, an earthen floor and a collapsed wall. Old farm machinery was littered about including an old stone wheelwright's table, but despite it all Dominic thought wow! "That was because it had wonderful elm A-frames in the roof," he says. "I could see that if I put in an upper floor, it would be like two separate galleries so we could look straight up from the ground floor to the exposed beams." More period features include an elm hatch in a wall where workers once queued to receive their pay, and the oak frame of one of the old barn doors.
The first job to tackle was the roof, which Paul Trebble, a friend from Somerton, repaired by removing all the terracotta tiles and then re-laying them, with some extra from a reclamation yard. Builder Nick Shore then did the remedial work on the blue lias walls, especially the back wall which had fallen down, while the others needed repointing.
Once the shell was ready, Dominic and a friend built the two upstairs gallery floors (one in ash, one in oak) and the two elm staircases leading to them, using old A-frames from a local barn. They put up the timber-framed partition walls to create the various rooms, and Dominic installed the underfloor heating throughout the ground floor and laid American red elm flooring above it. He brought in Bob Pitman to do all the electrical work and Nick Clark to do the plumbing but then Dominic took over the plastering. Under the tutelage of Tony Taylor, an old friend from Shapwick, Dominic made all the oak window frames and doors.
"I used all the existing openings as I didn't think it necessary to make new ones," Dominic says. "I wanted to change as little as possible about the look of the barn." He also did the tanking and tiling for the ground floor wet room. Nick the plumber did the pipework and Dominic fitted the bathroom furniture for both the wet room and the mezzanine bathroom.
"In fact Dom did three quarters of the work," says his partner, Diana More, who met him in 2004 when she moved down to Somerset from London. "It took him two years on and off because he had a full-time job as a kitchen designer and maker. In fact he designed and made our own kitchen using English oak cabinets with door panels of English burr elm. The worktops are of Gialli Imperiale granite, which reflect the pattern of the burr elm, and the ingenious wire cabinet fittings were supplied by Hettich, a German company."
The couple chose a DeDietrich cooker, hob and extractor fan, a Fisher & Peykel two-tier dishwasher and a Smeg fridge. Because the kitchen space is so small, Dom tapered the worktop containing the sink to maximise the space, then angled it out to create a peninsula to hold the cooker and hob.
Dom also designed the lighting, much of which utilises old cast-iron cattle-feeding bowls, which came both from a local barn and an agricultural auction. Then Dom built a stainless-steel flue for their new woodburner, which is perched on two slabs of blue lias. Outside Diana designed the garden and patio of Indian limestone from South West Reclamation of Street, and she also did all the planting.
As if that wasn't enough, Dominic also made quite a lot of the furniture to Diana's design, and she now sells it through her interior design company More Blanchard, which she formed in October 2007. "I have been working in interior design for more than
20 years, but this is my latest venture," she says.
Once the barn was finished, the couple moved in with their Patterdale terriers, Phoebe and Flynn, and Ollie the springer collie. Then they set about furnishing it using an eclectic mix of the smart and the standard. Take the sitting room. Diana designed the sofa but the antique chair was found in a junk shop and covered in an Andrew Martin fabric. The 1970s G-plan coffee table came from Dominic's mother. "The astonishing thing was that long before Di and I met, her ex-husband bought my mother's house and Di did it up," says Dom. "Mum had chucked the coffee table out on a skip and Di pounced on it as a design classic. When she met me some years later and produced the table I could hardly believe it, but at least I can put my feet up on it now without retribution!"
The dining table came from a junk shop and the chairs are French antiques and have been covered in Mulberry velvet. They brought the antique kelim back home after a Turkish holiday.
"I have tried to use local suppliers and craftspeople wherever possible," says Dom. "For example, in the wet room, the Welsh slate on the floor came from the belltower of the old Mendip Hospital. The slates all had a ventilation notch in them, which I have infilled with lead crystal for a softer effect, which came from OPB of Moorlynch."
Dominic is the first kitchen and joinery maker to have a carbon-neutral company in Somerset. "I have a very small carbon footprint and use environmentally friendly products," he says. "Carbon Zero of Taunton work out my carbon debt and then plant trees to offset my wood intake. In fact, I am thinking of using recycled wheat boxes for future kitchen projects."
Wheelwrights Design for kitchens and furniture 01458 210446 and 07977 079484
More Blanchard Lighting and Furniture Design 07711 56630;