When the owners of Bix Farm (since 1980) were ready to make some changes to the farmstead, they had two key aims: to meet the changing accommodation needs of their family’s three generations and to rescue the derelict and partially collapsed old farm buildings from ultimate decline.
Bix Farm lies deep in a Oxfordshire valley, surrounded by fields and woodland, in striking distance of Henley-on-Thames. Bordered by country lanes, with open views to the fields and the rolling hillside, the farmstead is incredibly picturesque and wonderfully secluded. With renovation of the main farmhouse billed as Phase 2 (watch this space), Phase 1 was to repurpose the farm barns and outbuildings, with a view to creating four separate but interconnecting entities.
Firstly, a listed stable barn, in serious need of repair, would be converted into a dwelling for a senior family member, freeing the main farmhouse for the next generation and their young family. In the safe hands of structural engineer Daniel Ball of Centre Space Design, the barn’s centuries-old rotting timbers would be re-enforced and replaced, to allow the new two-storey layout, complete with statement spiral staircase, to become a reality. The sensitive aesthetic and structural designs for the barn conversion were rewarded with heritage approval, in conjunction with rigorously assessed planning permissions. From there, the project team worked collaboratively with Barr Build to ensure the careful and exacting delivery of this precious commission.
Secondly, a row of low brick and flint barns, ‘the byre’, would be converted into holiday-let accommodation, providing income which would contribute to the upkeep of the farmstead in coming years and help fund renovation works to the main farmhouse. Again, a sympathetic conversion was required, with matched slate tiles, dark timber cladding and restored brick and flint walls. Inside, English country-style décor with a modern twist features decorative Pooky light fittings, a high-spec bijou kitchen and oak-beamed ceilings. The conversion, as with every part of the Bix development, was designed with sustainability front of mind. An air source heat pump provides underfloor heating and hot water, with a heat recovery system to enable maximum heat retention. The end result is an utterly charming holiday home, where guests can make full use of the pool and terrace in the summer months (available to let from Luxury Cottages and booking fast!).
To the west side of the courtyard was another old out-building (currently used as garaging) which would be rebuilt and re-purposed, restoring it to its former brick and flint glory, as portrayed in old photos of the farmstead. The original clay-tiled pitched roof would be reinstated, with a new-glazed gable to the first floor, offering wonderful light and views to the rolling countryside. The structure was to become an entertaining/play space downstairs with a designated home office above. A pergola-style timber-framed entrance provides a shaded poolside dining terrace with an accessible balcony above.
Lastly, a row of stable-style functional outbuildings would be situated to the north side of the pool, finishing the three-sided courtyard effect and housing changing rooms and shower rooms, as well as the pump room and a store.
The pool itself, with traditional cast concrete roman end, and its surrounding landscaping was an integral part of the project: tie-ing the individual structural elements together through new and restored brick and flint walls.
The overall scheme is one of synergy and oneness. George, owner of Bix Farm, as well as Director of Kambos Consulting, aimed to create a natural flow between the buildings whilst rescuing the fabric of the whole farmstead. In both of those aims he has wholeheartedly succeeded. George made working on Bix a highly rewarding experience for the wider project team and for Barr Group. His care and attention to the finer details of the build were second to none. Salvaging every possible piece of the old buildings, the place in which he had played as a child, and reintroducing them into the new scheme gave life and meaning to the project for everyone involved.
In speaking about the building works, George payed the highest possible compliment, “the Barr Build team weren’t just here to get the job done, every member of the team clearly cared about what they were doing”. It is often a meeting of minds between client and builder which makes the project something exceptional; we thank George, and the wider project team, for making it possible for us to ‘make the magic happen’ at Bix!
Architectural designs by Nichols Brown Webber were further developed by Shape Terrain Studio. Project Management throughout was by Kambos Consulting Ltd, with Structural engineering by Centre Space Design.