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The Modern Barn in Cornwall: Two Designers Use Local Materials and Traditions to Build Their Family Home

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The Modern Barn in Cornwall: Two Designers Use Local Materials and Traditions to Build Their Family Home

December 4, 2023

Were you raised in a barn? Flo Millard is one of the few people who can answer that old wisecrack affirmatively. She grew up in a 300-year-old converted farm building in Essex, England. And she liked living with a central open space and old beams so much that when she and her husband, Chris Millard, had the opportunity to build their own family home, they borrowed from barn vocabulary.

Flo is an interior designer and Chris is an architectural lighting specialist. Together they run Millard & Flo, a firm they founded in 2011 when they relocated from London to Cornwall—their first client was the real estate agent who initially showed them around: “he was building a house and needed lighting and interior design help,” says Flo. “It’s really just snowballed from there.”

The two now have a son and daughter, and were desperately in need of more space when they were offered land in the town of Rock, in North Cornwall, near the old cottage they had settled in. “We were then faced with the challenge of designing a new house from scratch as Covid was hitting,” says Flo. “It was a scary time to leave our beloved home and buy a field.”

The goal for their new place was to match the cottage in terms of character and longevity by making use of natural, and when possible local, materials and workmanship. Specifies Flo: “We wanted the structure to bed down into the landscape, and for the interior to feel communal and light.” We’re delighted to be the first to present the house that Millard & Flo built.

Photography by Daniel Scott, unless noted, all courtesy of Millard & Flo (@millardandflo).

on the roadside elevation, a hazel hurdle and fledgling hedge rise over a dry s 12
Above: On the roadside elevation, a hazel hurdle and fledgling hedge rise over a dry stone wall, aka a Cornish hedge.

The roof tiles are local, reclaimed Delabole Slate.

constructed in nine months on a tight budget, the house is clad in larch— 13
Above: Constructed in nine months on a tight budget, the house is clad in larch—”it needs time to silver off and for the garden to mature,” says Flo. The glazing, she notes, is “characteristic of the large openings in traditional English barns originally for wagons.”
the front porch is cornish granite with a slate walkway and a dutch door— 14
Above: The front porch is Cornish granite with a slate walkway and a Dutch door—”it helps to contain small children and dogs.” The outside light is the Finsbury Lantern from Jim Lawrence. Photograph by John Hersey.
the vaulted living room has exposed supports à la a traditional english oa 15
Above: The vaulted living room has exposed supports à la a traditional English oak-framed barns, but with a cleaner, contemporary look: Flo tells us she “loved the idea of a cruck frame for the central space, but wanted straight beams rather than curves to allow maximum scale.”

The fireplace is lined with same Cornish granite as the porch and leftover oak framing was put to use as the mantel beam. The wood-burning stove is a Charnwood C-Seven. The artwork is by Danny Rolph, an artist friend of the couple’s.

chris and flo worked separately for various london art and design firms before  16
Above: Chris and Flo worked separately for various London art and design firms before teaming up. They wanted their living space to have “the sense of scale that comes with a barn.” The wide-plank flooring is white oak and has under-floor heating via an air-source heat pump, but Flo says, thanks to their two log burners and Everhot stove, they rarely need it. The Squishbag Occasional Chairs are from Loaf. Photograph by John Hersey.
the &#8\2\20;snug&#8\2\2\1; off the living room doubles as a guest room 17
Above: The “snug” off the living room doubles as a guest room. The walls throughout are painted Little Greene Slaked Lime and the windows and doors are Little Greene Slaked Lime Deep. The circular wall lights are the Eclipse 300 LED from Astro. Photograph by John Hersey.
&#8\2\20;we designed the windows and doors to allow maximum light into each 18
Above: “We designed the windows and doors to allow maximum light into each space and with some gentle detailing to ensure their integrity,” says Flo. “They were beautifully made by a local joiner and are one of the aspects of the house we were determined not to scrimp on. The bulk of our budget was spent on the ‘fabric’ of the building with the view that the interior is an ever-evolving organism that will grow and change as we do.”
chris and flo requested that the oak for their house be left outdoors to age be 19
Above: Chris and Flo requested that the oak for their house be left outdoors to age before being sent to them.
a print by ronan bouroullec hangs outside the kitchen. photograph by john herse 20
Above: A print by Ronan Bouroullec hangs outside the kitchen. Photograph by John Hersey.
fronted by a marble topped island, the all white kitchen has bespoke cabinets a 21
Above: Fronted by a marble-topped island, the all-white kitchen has bespoke cabinets and white-oiled oak countertops hand built in Cornwall by kitchenmakers Treyone. The bone china sconces are Original BTC classics.

The range is an energy-efficient induction Everhot, made in Gloucestershire in a carbon negative factory.

&#8\2\20;our pantry is a huge part of the kitchen/hallway design,&#8\2\ 22
Above: “Our pantry is a huge part of the kitchen/hallway design,” says Flo. “It acts as a cold(ish) store room (marble worktop/no under floor heating), and the glazed screen keeps it connected to the other spaces while giving us the ability to hide cupboard food. It also houses a drinks fridge and microwave.” Photograph by John Hersey.
flo and chris&#8\2\17;s builders dubbed the pantry &#8\2\20;the sweetie 23
Above: Flo and Chris’s builders dubbed the pantry “The Sweetie Shop.” The brass doorknob and cabinet hardware are from Rowen & Wren.
there&#8\2\17;s a sitting area alongside the kitchen and dining table. the  24
Above: There’s a sitting area alongside the kitchen and dining table. The colorful jute rug is from The Conran Shop.
the downstairs loo has a vanity built to flo&#8\2\17;s design with a marble 25
Above: The downstairs loo has a vanity built to Flo’s design with a Marble Countertop Basin from Lusso Stone. Ansum, the map over the Duravit toilet, is by Dave Buonaguidi and came from the nearby Drang Gallery—translates Flo, “In Cornwall ansum means handsome—people say it when something or someone is lovely.”
flo and chris&#8\2\17;s room is one of three bedrooms upstairs. the bedside 26
Above: Flo and Chris’s room is one of three bedrooms upstairs. The bedside tables are made from leftover framing oak. The linens are “vintage The White Company,” and the adjustable bedside light is the Enna Surface Round LED from Astro. That’s an oak-framed Georg Mirror next to the bed.
an &#8\2\20;off the shelf ledged oak door from howdens with a white ceramic 27
Above: An “off-the-shelf Ledged Oak Door from Howdens with a white ceramic knob” leads to the family bath—says Flo, “we had this combination in my childhood barn and in the cottage. They remind me of home.” The freestanding Cloud bathtub by Waters is made of a composite stone.
the company car is a land rover defender 90 td5, here overlooking the sea in ro 28
Above: The company car is a Land Rover Defender 90 TD5, here overlooking the sea in Rock minutes from their house—in addition to being a lighting designer, Chris is on 24-hour standby as a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a highly trained volunteer crew that responds to emergencies on the water.

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