A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to ‘Weekend:In‘, a fantastic event organised by the lovely Olivia Tripp to bring together bloggers, influencers and independent brands based in the South West and Wales. I’ll talk more about the event itself in future posts, but first I want to share a look at the venue: a stunning contemporary cabin in the rolling Monmouthshire countryside.
It’s called the Chickenshed, and I’ve been Insta-stalking it for while now. As the name suggests, it’s a former poultry barn, but you’d never guess otherwise. Owners Sue and Nick have transformed it into a minimalist, 5-bedroom holiday rental that’s packed with sleek design, and I couldn’t wait to see it in person. It was just as beautiful as I’d expected, so I took the opportunity to snap plenty of photos and chat to Sue about the story behind it…
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
“Nick and I both trained as lawyers – he’s still a practising barrister and has chambers in London, but I gave it up quite a while ago. We moved to Monmouthshire nine years ago with our two daughters. They’re almost grown-up now, and our eldest has just gone away to university. We bought a house that needed work and that’s how we met Chepstow-based architects Martin Hall & Kelly Bednarczyk, who later designed the Chickenshed.”
How did the Chickenshed start life?
“It began life as a poultry barn – it was used to incubate eggs and rear chicks. When we bought it, it was a wreck – collapsing and overgrown, with a dirt floor, no electricity and no water supply. But there was sufficient structure remaining for the former owners to persuade the planners that it could be converted into a holiday let. We saw the auction particulars, recognised that the planning drawings had been done by Hall & Bednarczyk, and decided to take it on as a project.”
What was your vision for the building?
“We wanted to create a contemporary cabin which retained a sense of its agricultural past – hence the onduline roof, the wooden cladding, the huge internal doors, and the roof lantern which mimics the ventilation shafts of the old barn. We also wanted to keep the footprint of the original structure, while transforming it into an elegant, light-filled space.
“We’ve always loved the way Hall & Bednarczyk use wood (especially cedar) and glass, and the way their modern buildings fit into the Monmouthshire landscape, so this very much guided us. In fact the Chickenshed was shortlisted for the Eisteddfod prize for architecture, so it has excellent credentials!”
Were there any highs and lows along the way?
“There were a couple of lows – difficulty securing an electricity supply, and some planning issues which at one point meant we had to stop work altogether. But there have also been plenty of highs – particularly the incredibly positive way in which visitors and guests have responded to the building.”
Where did you source the furniture and accessories?
“We tried to keep our sourcing local where we could, but we couldn’t resist a bit of Scandinavian design. The sofas came from HAY, which has a great showroom in Bath, and the shelf and side tables are by Vitsoe. But the bedroom furniture, dining table and boot room furniture were all designed and made for us by the talented Rob Barnby, who is based in Hay on Wye. The antique Welsh blankets came from Jane Beck in Ceredigion, and the mattresses are from The Headboard Workshop just up the road from us.”
What’s your favourite corner of the building?
“I suppose my favourite corner is the snug – you can curl up on the sofa at the end of the day (after you’ve watched the sun set from the big sofa or the terrace), and look right down to the other end of the building. It’s the perfect spot for admiring the symmetry and simplicity of the design, which never fail to please me.”
How would you like guests to feel when they stay?
“I’d like them to experience the sense of calm which I get whenever I enter the Chickenshed. I’d like them to feel that – for a little while at least – they can leave behind the stress and clutter of everyday life, and just relax and enjoy the view.”
Finally, why Monmouthshire? What makes the area special?
“It’s special for many reasons. A lot of it is to do with the fact that it’s a border county, and its mixed English and Welsh heritage is evident in the castles and place names. And then there’s the landscape – the glorious Wye Valley, the hills and woods… Although there are visitors, you can walk for hours and hardly meet another soul. And on a practical level it’s a great location – it’s not far from Bristol but it feels a world away.”
Head over to the Chickenshed’s website to see more of the house and book a stay.
Most photography by Abi Dare; exterior photography and bottom three images by Michael Sinclair for the Chickenshed