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7 Unusual Self Build Conversion Ideas from Real Homes

Title image: Rhiannon Slatter

Building your own home is an opportunity to create the home of your dreams and use your imagination. Here we look at seven unique self build conversions to spark inspiration.

Finding an already built home that ticks all the boxes is no easy task, and most people discover they have to make a few compromises. However, if you decide to make the jump and convert a disused building, it’ll be a lot easier to put your stamp on the building and make sure it’s exactly what you want.

From old mills and stone bars to a vinegar factory featured on Grand Designs Australia, take a look at these new home owners’ dream home conversions.

A Converted Oat Mill

a converted oat mill with a modern build addition

Photo credit: Nigel Rigden

Clad in rusted metal, Gavin and Angelique Robb’s former oat mill is a strikingly modern, eco-conscious family home.

The big idea was to construct two energy-efficient houses that would share the entrance courtyard, but have private aspects and gardens.

‘Renovating the granite building and combining it with a new double-height living space within a Corten steel-clad agri-industrial wedge would fulfil the owners’ brief for ‘a joyful dwelling,’ says Glasgow-based architect Andrew McAvoy.

Featuring three bedrooms (including a master with en-suite bathroom), a family bathroom, and an office, the result is a cleverly constructed combination of a retained and rebuilt granite farm building with roof slates and stonework and a contemporary extension, connected internally by a reinforced glass floor.

Read more about this converted mill property on Grand Designs Magazine

A 19th century stone barn conversion

a large, open plan living area in a stone barn conversion

Photo credit: Nigel Rigden

This sensitive transformation of a dilapidated nineteenth century stone barn in the Scottish Highlands has given Linda Wilson and Peter Quicke their dream home with a spectacular view to the loch.

Influenced by Scandinavian simplicity, the restoration of the barn consisted of creating a modern living area with double height living room with added little structural quirks throughout, hinting at the barn’s original features.

For example, the joists in the ceiling have been left exposed, as has some of the thick stone wall (a theme that runs throughout the property), plus a little chamfer that’s been turned into a sitting nook by the bedroom window.

Read more about this barn conversion property on Grand Designs Magazine

A loft conversion in an old Berlin factory

a berlin factory converted into a unique home

Photo credit: Werner Huthmacher

Eva and Gerald Rücker transformed an unloved factory in the heart of Berlin into a spacious loft dwelling of their dreams.

They were keen to keep as many of the characterful loft features as possible and make the most of the light flooding through the dual-aspect windows, so the original plans were reconfigured to place an open-plan living area on the second floor, while bedrooms were positioned on the level below.

Their favourite spot is the top floor, with its limestone-floored sauna and shower and large living space, leads out to a 50-square-metre private roof terrace.

‘In summer, we’re surrounded by the green of the trees; it feels like a nest in a treetop,’ explains Eva. ‘We open the big doors to the terrace and let the breeze and the sound of the birds in – it’s so peaceful, it’s like being on holiday. In wintertime we love to relax in front of the open fireplace or in the built-in sauna.

Read more about this attic conversion on Grand Designs Magazine

A half-submerged house in America

exterior of submerged unusual house converison

Photo credit: Paul Bardagjy

Inspired by the Native American pit houses that were traditionally built in this part of America, this stunning modern house by US architect Bercy Chen Studio belies the fact that it is partially sunk into the ground.

But the dramatic impact of its half-submerged appearance is not just an aesthetic tool. The building uses the thermal capacity of the surrounding earth to heat and cool the interior, which helped it win an Architizer 2014 Architecture+Sustainability award.

If sinking your house two metres underground sounds too ambitious, take a cue from this property’s green roof, which helps to regulate the internal temperature without the need for heating and air conditioning systems.

Read more about this American property on Grand Designs Magazine

A converted derelict vinegar factory

a derelict vinegar factory converted into a unique home

Photo credit: Rhiannon Slatter

Australian TV grand designers Adrian Light and Liz Murdoch turned a derelict vinegar factory into their dream home.

With the idea of using the dwelling as a live-work space, Adrian designed a series of modern boxes within the walls of the original factory building, with the basement level containing his architecture studio and three levels for living perched above this space.

Every surface of the industrial building had to be treated, restored and waterproofed, which took a considerable amount of time and immediately pushed back the completion date. But Adrian was committed to doing as much work as possible himself, producing a home with zero waste as well as upcycling and recycling everything on-site.

Read more about this Grand Designs Australia conversion on Grand Designs Magazine

A former sanatorium conversion in East Sussex

the exterior of a former sanitorium converted into a unique home

Photo credit: Jefferson Smith

With meticulous attention to detail, British designer Terence Woodgate transformed a former sanatorium in East Sussex into a modern minimalist family home.

Terence’s own creations are often simple and clean-lined as he believes that good design needn’t shout, but should be subtle, functional and quiet. And his own home is just as pared back and minimalist; except for the imposing monolith of a fireplace in the living room, which draws the eye up towards the high ceiling.

The house serves as a living showroom for Terence’s designs, with most of the furniture being his own handiwork. From the grid-lined floor tiles to the sleek handleless kitchen, the precision and careful planning is evident and the original corridor feels like a gallery space with Terence’s collection of contemporary artwork dotted along the walls.

Read more about this converted sanatorium on Grand Designs Magazine

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