Surrey

Ann had been down a couple of dead-ends before coming to us. She and her husband had a Grade II listed barn in their garden. There was space in it for a pool, but they didn’t know the barn’s structural condition. They had been to one or two local architects and surveyors but hadn’t been able to agree on how best to move the project forward.

The main challenge was whether we could make Ann’s husband feel comfortable. He was in construction himself and was worried about the figures. In other words, we had to produce a detailed budget for him at an unusually early stage, to reassure him on the question of cost.

In the case of this project, the uncertainty related to the barn renovation and the amount of new timber that might be required. We prepared a schedule of dilapidations for Ann’s husband, and presented him with a budget broken down into something like twenty headings. We were able to tell him that eighteen of the items were firm prices, and that only two were unpredictable. From that point, he was happy to proceed.

The other main challenge with this project was gaining planning and listed building consent. As always, gaining permission to tamper with a listed building was difficult. We had to understand the concerns of the local Conservation Officer.

What were we planning to do with the old timbers? What about the carpenters’ marks, carefully engraved on the original beams? We undertook a detailed survey of the barn, timber by timber, with the help of a professional.

When the planning officer then told us that she was concerned about setting a precedent and felt that it was not appropriate to put a pool into an old barn, we were able to show her instances of similar projects where planning and listed building permission had been granted – i.e. to demonstrate to her that she was not setting a precedent – and she relented. That process alone took five to six months.

For the pool surround, we put down a fossilised limestone floor imported directly from Jerusalem. At one end of the barn there was an ancient brick and flint wall with small lead studs in the pointing which we put behind glass making an interesting focal point. For the pool tiles, the client selected a very fast-drying grouting called Epoxy Grout. It was a nightmare to apply – a bit like Araldite.

However, when the elderly craftsman – who worked on the project with his grandson – had finished, he declared that he thought it was the best job he’d ever done. It was also the only time that he had ever asked for a photograph of him and his work – a fitting finale, we thought, and due testament to the team’s work on this project.

“Nothing was too much trouble for Pool Architecture. They took the fear factor out of what was a very complex project from start to finish. We had regular meetings to ensure I was kept up-to-date and my personal requirements were always of the utmost consideration. I am overjoyed with the final product.”

Ann