Great British Conversions

Great British Conversions

For decades, conversions have been a popular way for people to create their dream home. In recent times, their popularity has gained momentum, with conversions becoming more and more popular each year.

Here, OPEN architecture looks at some of the most popular conversions and offers advice on what to look out for if you decide to undertake one of these projects for a client.


In the UK, we??re completely spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful architecture. Our island is steeped in history, spread across many celebrated periods, each of which have left behind architectural gems. From Norman to Tudor to Georgian, just about every town and village has at least one beautiful building with captivating stories to tell.

At the same time, the UK is a nation that is quite limited in terms of viable space for new housing developments. In a country full of charming historic buildings that are no longer being used for their original purpose, it can make absolute sense to convert these buildings into homes.

For architects with clients looking to create something a little different for their next home, a conversion might be the perfect answer. Conversions afford architects the opportunity to transform an historic building, and its purpose of days gone by, to create a modern and thought-provoking living space. It??s a often huge project that requires a talented and trustworthy architect, because a lot of the time, these buildings were not built with the intention of having people live in them.


All throughout the country, you??ll see stunning examples of converted barns. These are the most sought-after option for residential conversion, as there is no shortage of beautiful, abandoned barns dotted across the countryside, suitable for transforming into a home. A barn conversion is the perfect opportunity to create an open plan and contemporary living space within the breathing walls of history.

When guiding a client on selecting a property to renovate and convert there are a few things to watch out for. The soundness of the structure must be heavily taken into consideration, as well as the practicality of updating the building with regulation electric, gas and plumbing. There are also sometimes particular planning permissions that need to be considered when undertaking a barn conversion, especially if the building is listed. These need to be investigated in plenty of time and incorporated into plans from the beginning.

Oast Houses
After barn conversions, oast houses are the most popular choice for residential renovation. You??ll see these mainly in the south east, where hop farming and brewing are deeply ingrained into the history of the region. These large and spacious buildings exude character, making them a very popular choice for clients who are keen to convert an interesting building into a living space. Oast houses are typically comprised of a two-storey square section which is called the stowage, and at least one kiln, which is the round structure (though some earlier examples have square kilns).

Any architect planning to tackle a oast house conversion for a client should be prepared to face the same challenges they would for a barn conversion. Additional challenges can include finding a practical way to transform a round kiln into a workable and functional living space. This is an excellent project for an adventurous architect who is willing and able to think outside of the box.

A schoolhouse is another popular and undeniably attractive building to consider for residential conversion. As another excellent opportunity to create a large and open living space, school conversion projects can range from village school houses to stately sized boarding schools in the country. This variety also means that school houses can be found to accommodate clients with both smaller and larger budgets.

Converting a school house presents an architect with significantly fewer logistical challenges, especially since most schools that have been used within the past century are already fitted with plumbing, gas and electric. However, planning permission can still be a hoop that will have to be jumped through, especially if the school is listed.

Since the reign of Henry VIII and his reformation, abbeys have been converted into stately homes for the elite nobility. Today, church and chapel conversions are one of the most popular options for individuals looking to create a unique home. Brimming with period architectural elements, large windows and open spaces, churches make a quaint and idyllic home for those seeking something a little different.

With many churches closing their doors each year, the market is bubbling with possible projects for a creative architect. The difficulty with a church conversion is that they make for a complex project and most of them are listed. Before setting out on a church conversion, it??s important to research all the necessary planning permissions that will be required in order to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.

OPEN architecture is a firm of Kent-based architects and designers who strive to create beautiful and functional spaces.

Jade Tilley
Jade Tilley

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