Through the keyhole: couple’s first home is an amazing barn conversion

PUBLISHED: 11:02 07 October 2020

This beautiful barn conversion showcases the natural material Tom and Polly are so passionate about. Photo: Steve Haywood

This beautiful barn conversion showcases the natural material Tom and Polly are so passionate about. Photo: Steve Haywood

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Building project led to romance as pair in their 20s created beautiful North Devon home

Talented couple Polly and Tom have created a dream starter home together. Photo: Steve HaywoodTalented couple Polly and Tom have created a dream starter home together. Photo: Steve Haywood

You can see the woodpecker holes in the framework of Tom Bedford and Polly Goodman’s kitchen. It’s a quirk of nature associated with the locally sourced, hand selected timber used to build this beautifully rustic home in the North Devon countryside.

Tom, 28, runs a hardwood flooring business and carefully chose every beam and pillar in this extraordinary barn conversion, near South Molton.

“I was trying to find trees in our local wood over there which were long dead – about 30 years dead – where all the sap had rotted off and you’re just left with the trunk,” says Tom, who designed and helped to construct his home, once a rusty old barn made from four bits of steel and corrugated iron. “I don’t like it where you can see sap wood on beams. It doesn’t matter – and structurally it’s perfectly fine – but it’s just me. I didn’t want the colour change.”

Local lad Tom has been surrounded by wood his whole life, taking over the running of the family’s well-established timber firm, UK Hardwoods, ten years ago.

Talented couple Polly and Tom have created a dream starter home together. Photo: Steve HaywoodTalented couple Polly and Tom have created a dream starter home together. Photo: Steve Haywood

While most of his school friends left South Molton for university and then the bright lights of London, Tom stayed true to his roots, working long hours to build his rural-based business.

Buying a barn to convert seemed the perfect way for Tom to showcase the natural material he was so passionate about - and to indulge his architectural side.

“Plus, I needed somewhere to live,” says Tom, downplaying it. “And I never fancied the idea of living in a town.”

Then along came Polly. The schoolfriends had briefly dated before Polly went off to university and then London, training as a chartered surveyor. She came back home to South Molton two years ago and met up with Tom again a few months later. Unlike Tom, Polly, 27, had always dreamed of taking on a barn conversion.

Polly’s stylish taste and upcycling skills perfectly complement Tom’s clever architectural designs. Photo: Steve HaywoodPolly’s stylish taste and upcycling skills perfectly complement Tom’s clever architectural designs. Photo: Steve Haywood

“It sounds really pushy, but Tom said he had bought this place and I asked if we could go for a walk and see it – it was literally our first date!” she says. “I was like, well, you could do this and put the kitchen here. On our second date, we were drawing out the plans on a napkin.”

READ MORE: Modern new-build has sensational views across Torbay

The locally sourced timber is the star of the show. Photo: Steve HaywoodThe locally sourced timber is the star of the show. Photo: Steve Haywood

We laugh at how it must look: boy meets girl, girl finds out he’s converting a barn, girl wants to design interior, move in etc. And yet it’s all worked out so well. Polly is incredibly talented; her stylish taste and upcycling skills perfectly complement Tom’s clever architectural designs (he imagines buildings in 3D while walking around the neighbouring field).

And, by Tom’s own admission, Polly has saved this place from being too, well, wooden.

“I asked Tom how he imagined the kitchen and he said wooden floor, wooden cabinets and the ceiling was going to be wood – like a treehouse!” says Polly. “We would have been like two squirrels going around the place.”

“I’m really glad we didn’t do that,” adds Tom. “The way we’ve done it actually shows off the wood.”

A polished concrete floor in the kitchen highlights the hardwood floor in the living room while white-washed interior walls make the timber take centre stage.

“I thought white was white, but apparently not…” says Tom, describing his fast-track education in the world of paint shades. He’s also learnt a lot about restoring furniture, something he didn’t have much experience of growing up because his skilled father made everything from scratch.

“Polly is brilliant at taking something that’s second hand or run down and just repainting it,” says Tom. “It wasn’t something that we did in our family because everything was about showing off the timber.”

The couple have learnt so much from this process – and they’re only in their twenties. Imagine what they could do later on down the line?

I feel a little bit blown away by it all, especially when I think back to the rented flat filled with cheap Ikea furniture I lived in during my twenties. I try not to sound too patronising when I tell them…‘but you’re so young…’

“A lot of people say that to us, don’t they?” says Polly, turning to Tom.

“We have just been very, very lucky in a way to have had the opportunity and been in the right place,” he says. “Lots of things have just come together and we’ve been fortunate enough to do this now.”

Fate might have played some part in it all but it’s determination, hard work and skill that brought it all together.

The couple are now concentrating on the garden, establishing a vegetable section with raised beds before creating a wildflower meadow out the back. Polly spent lockdown putting the finishing touches to a spectacular pergola, with a wooden floor inspired by a similar one she saw in Prague on a hen night. (She laughs at the fact she stopped to take a picture before carrying on partying.)

There are also plans to create an extension. “Maybe in about ten years’ time,” says Polly. “I really can’t imagine selling this place. For us, it’s perfeCT.”

See more here on Tom’s work

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