Thursford Barn and Cottage
A listed cottage and its small barn have been refurbished at Thursford in north Norfolk, 3 miles from Walsingham and 15 minutes drive from Holkham or Wells beaches. A long wall extends from Thursford Village Green up Clarks Lane, becoming variously the old school, the barn, a garden wall, and then the Dutch gable of the cottage, before finally becoming hedges bounding fields. The cottage was built around 1750, and is listed; the barn is slightly older and isn’t listed. We built a new independent timber structure inside the old walls of the barn, insulating the ceiling and the floor, which enabled us to expose the old rubble walls internally. These walls vary between 600mm–1.2m thick, and have been simply treated with waterproofing and painted white. A new structural concrete slab creates a damp-proof layer below the timber floor, which provides heat for the barn via underfloor heating.
There is also an electric age for cooking and for extra heat. A single wall houses the 2 bedrooms, a new staircase and the bathroom. The bathroom is double height in part, and borrows light from the bedroom upstairs. This bedroom is exactly the size of a standard Kings Size Bed, and is unpainted – a hidden, secret, niche-like, timber retreat. These very intimate rooms enable the rest of the quite small building to be a single, double height, open-plan volume defined by a ‘theatre wall’ that opens and closes for practical and playful use. New windows are either glued to the inner face of the barn walls, in an inverted homage to Lewerentz’s later churches, or are large openings creating cross ventilation and a variety of ways to move through the spaces around and inside the barn. In contrast to the barn, we did very little work to the cottage other than to install an electric AGA to provide heat and for cooking. New and refurbished windows are painted the same creamy white colour, and appear deliberately timeless, suggesting that works have been done over a long period of time without a single author.
The cottage and barn sit within the territory described by the garden wall as a series of thresholds, and as rooms in a garden. Summer occupation by large groups of friends means that children wander between the two buildings quite freely, whilst adults can retreat into bedrooms for privacy, and at other times of the day everybody meets in the gardens to eat and drink and play. We purchased both buildings in 2010 and restored and modified the structures over 3 years as vacation accommodation for our practice.