Old Yorkshire barn converted into a
modern home by Snook Architects


British studio Snook Architects has overhauled a dilapidated eighteenth-century barn in Yorkshire to create a modern home with chunky wooden trusses, exposed brickwork and a double-height family kitchen (+ slideshow).

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Cat Hill Barn was first built as an agricultural shed, but had been abandoned for years and was on the brink of ruin after previous owners had inserted a truss structure that was too weak to support the roof, causing the outer walls to bow.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Snook Architects was tasked with rebuilding the internal structure and roof of the barn, removing a floor added previously by a local architect, and transforming the space into a two-storey family home.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

"Structurally the building was in a worse state than we first anticipated," architect Neil Dawson told Dezeen. "As well as removing the entire roof, which frankly was on the verge of collapse, we ended up having to secure all external walls by means of a steel structural frame that sits within the existing masonry."

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

The team replaced the existing roof structure with a system of pegged oak trusses that are revealed in the double-height kitchen and dining room at the centre of the building.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

"Spatially we wanted to retain the spirit of the place by allowing the barn to reveal itself and its double-height volume at key points," said Dawson.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

A glazed first-floor gallery overlooks this space from above, leading through to bedrooms at both ends of the first floor, while living rooms and guest bedrooms occupy the end sections of the ground floor.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

"Planning of the project concentrated on creating drama within the existing structure by focusing on the tension and release formed between constricted single-height spaces and the double-height volume of the barn," said the architect.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Interior fittings and finishes were designed to respect the honest utilitarian aesthetic of the old barn and include a stone fireplace, timber-framed windows and a poured concrete floor.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Photography is by Andy Haslam.

Here's a description from Snook Architects:

Cat Hill Barn

Cat Hill Barn is the complete renovation and refurbishment of a previously dilapidated grade II listed barn in South Yorkshire. Originally built in the late 1700's as agricultural storage for the neighbouring Cat Hill Hall, the building in recent years stood neglected and was at the point of complete ruin.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Snook have secured the existing structure of the barn with a new internal steel framework and rebuilt the previously collapsing roof. The project has attempted to retain much of the working aesthetic of the barn utilising a stripped down utilitarian palette of material.

Planning of the project also concentrated on creating drama within the existing structure by focusing on the tension and release formed between constricted single-height spaces and the double-height volume of the barn.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects


Prior to the appointment of Snook Architects the owners of the barn had commissioned a feasibility study from a local rural architect. Despite not having any prior construction experience both Mr and Mrs Wills were disappointed with the outcome. The scheme essentially inserted a new floor throughout the full length of the barn and created a series of boxes over the two floors. All drama and sense of space within the barn structure was destroyed.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Through a mutual client of Snook and Mr Wills, Mr Wills discovered the work of Snook Architects and set up a competitive interview with Snook and another practice. It was the production of Snook's speculative feasibility study that largely set up the brief. In presenting the scheme and having a critical discourse about the previous scheme both the clients and Snook discovered a mutual appreciation and understanding of the essence of the project: a need to retain the sense of the barn in both use of volumetric space and utilitarian finish. It was this mutual understanding that ultimately won Snook the project.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects


However, despite an almost immediate synergy with the client and owners of the barn a less successful understanding was achieved with the local planning authority. Despite repeated attempts at dialogue with the local planning and conservation officer an application was ultimately refused. Reasons cited were numerous but all ultimately pointed to the planning and conservation officers feeling that the scheme was too 'domestic' (despite both the spaces and finishes proposed being anything but domestic). Following the refusal Snook launched an appeal and after removing a small balcony from the gable end permission was successfully granted almost 16 months after initially starting the project.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

The project then stalled for a further couple of years as with the credit crunch in full swing the owners of the barn found it impossible to sell their current home to raise funds for the conversion of the barn. Finally, in summer 2011 Mr and Mrs Wills were able to sell their house, a caravan was purchased, drawings were resurrected, and the scheme began on site later that year.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects


Both client and architect had always been aware of the perilous state of the structure with the architect and structural engineer instructing the owners to seal the barn and keep out. It was no exaggeration to state that the roof could have literally collapsed in at any moment. In short when previous owners had rebuilt the barn they had installed trusses that were both too weak and too short for the cross sectional span.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects
Ground floor plan - click for larger image

To exacerbate matters the completely inadequate trusses were supported on breeze block corbels which were also crushing towards wholesale failure. In short the trusses were collapsing and pushing the perimeter walls out. Walls were seriously bowed out and it was immediately apparent that both the roof and the perimeter walls could literally collapse at any moment.

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects
First floor plan - click for larger image

Method of Construction

Construction of the superstructure was relatively straight forward. The roof and one of the main perimeter walls were carefully taken down, a new steel supporting frame was inserted inside the building and walls and the roof were then re built around the steel frame (using the existing material).

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects
Cross sections - click for larger image

Budget / Programme

Budget on the project was incredibly tight with the project initially tendered @ £231,000 and ultimately delivered for £234,383 - an astounding £710/sq.m (including all finishes).

Construction programme on the project at tender was nine months and it was delivered in just short of ten.

  • Kalum


  • calle wirsch

    I like this projects where old and new meet face to face. Surely ‘high level’ to see here, but the more visible are some points like: f.e. tiles/material in the parents bathroom.

    – it’s always dangerous to connect ‘nearly’ the same material new, to the old one that was already there.

    – organisation of this bathroom with open shower in the middle is questionable.

    – sofa in front of a great window? Perhaps only for the photographer.

    – the big opening sideways has another framing than the big openings in front?

    All in all, surely sensual architecture.

  • Seb H

    Some of the rather questionable details and material choices make you wonder why they moved into an old barn in the first place.

    • iag

      Possibly scale being one of the main draws? That central kitchen/dining space has nice proportions. They also retained the vast majority of the external shell which sits well within the context of the site and contrasts quite nicely with the huge (modern) glazed section.

  • susytg

    Feels a bit too austere inside.

  • iag

    Blah blah blah, everyone’s a critic. I’d live here. Very nice indeed.

    • Seb H

      That’s the idea of the comment function though, isn’t it?

  • Ctr

    Where did they get the sofas? I want.

  • Mr J

    I’d add personal tweaks of course, but in general I reckon it’s a fine piece of work, and very liveable.

  • Ralph

    Beautifully executed. Very crisp and clean. Projects like these always present unusual challenges. I’m also a restoration contractor in the states and I can really appreciate all the efforts that were put into this project. Great job!

    Ralph T

  • rock

    Well done and good control of construction price and site work delivery time.

  • Len Clark

    My kind of home ;-)

  • rich

    Beautiful. Some day.

  • Steffen Bergholt

    Old meets new. Renovated old bricks, with new big windows. Really nice project!

  • Rob Tobin

    Has the sense of space within the barn which was being lost in the local architect’s feasibility study been retained by Snook?

    With what looks to be about 2.2m head room in the living area, I don’t think so.

  • Harbarbar

    Love the balance of old and new, open space and cosiness. Criteria for my dream building. Can’t put my finger on what’s missing though.

  • RichardL

    Nice dog.

  • Lauri

    I’m 99% sure this project was shown on Grand Designs almost a decade ago. Nice project though.