Client: Gareth and Sian Price
Style: Commercial contemporary barn complex
A large stone barn and surrounding outbuildings presented Gareth and Siân Price with the chance to have a complete change of lifestyle – and spend more time with their three children. For many years they’d commuted to their respective jobs in business development and teaching; this was a chance to start a business closer to home.‘We live in the heartland of Wales near Aberystwyth and the tourist destination, Devil’s Bridge,’ says Gareth. ‘Back in 2008, we did our research and our goal was to develop the barn and buildings into a multi-purpose holiday and leisure complex.’
The Prices are the fifth generation of Siân’s family to live on the 13-acre smallholding in Wales and their home is the old farmhouse. The 19th-century barn was a substantial building and had once been used to house farm animals. The couple loved the character of the stone and oak and wanted to retain the traditional look and feel.
Gareth and Siân had heard of Welsh Oak Frame, being fairly local to them. The company appealed because they could drive the design, do the planning application and building regulations, and build the oak frame structure.
‘We spoke to a few building contractors but we didn’t have the same confidence in them,’ Gareth explains. ‘Welsh Oak Frame had lots of positive testimonials and from the start they really understood what we were trying to do.’
The couple wanted to preserve as much of the old barn as possible and rebuild on the footprint of the outbuildings that couldn’t be saved. ‘We gave Welsh Oak Frame a fairly blank canvas,’ says Gareth. ‘We needed flexible space to host business conferences, corporate events, wedding receptions, as well as accommodation for large groups or families who simply want to come here on holiday to experience all that our area has to offer.’
An outline proposal followed and in the final design stages, the Prices saw a 3D walkthrough of the building. ‘Welsh Oak Frame pretty much got the design spot on first time around,’ says Gareth. ‘Fundamentally we could see different kinds of people using the building and that’s exactly what we wanted.’
Planning permission was granted and in autumn 2011. Welsh Oak Frame began work on the frame in their workshop and the groundworkers started. However, flash flooding in February 2012 put a sudden and upsetting stop to the project. The footings of the stone barn were undermined and the barn collapsed.
‘We were hugely disappointed because we had to take the barn down and build it from scratch,’ says Gareth. ‘Siân and I spent months dismantling and bagging all the stone so it could be reused. But the upside was we were able to achieve a better thermal performance in the new barn.’
Welsh Oak Frame revised the design and resubmitted the new build barn to planning. In October that year they had permission to proceed again and in January 2013 the project re-started. The following month, Welsh Oak Frame arrived with the frame.
‘The crew were really committed to getting the work done and were here through a range of different weather conditions from early morning to late at night,’ says Gareth.
The Prices project-managed the remainder of the build themselves, sourcing local trades, materials and suppliers all within an hour’s drive. They dug a bore hole to reach water from a well and installed a biomass boiler to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.
Tynrhyd Retreat officially opened in July 2015 and is a striking 720m² building on the landscape. The barn has been carefully reconstructed with the original reclaimed stone and a new Welsh slate roof; either side western red cedar cladding blends sympathetically. More window openings improve the light, particularly the roof lantern in the central communal space and large doors that can be opened up on summer days.
Unsurprisingly, the retreat has already been a resounding success, hosting weddings, Sainsburys, Admiral Insurance associates, 200 walkers from the Welsh Ramblers Association, bootcamps, and health and wellbeing retreats. Up to 50 guests can stay here either as an exclusive whole property booking or in smaller family groups. Guests have travelled from as far afield as Dubai and South Korea.
Gareth says the large communal area between the two buildings is key to the design success. ‘This is the space that ties everything together and gives us the flexibility to attract different markets,’ he explains. ‘Our biggest satisfaction is hearing all the positive feedback we’ve had from customers – Welsh Oak Frame’s design has excelled our expectations.’
Tynrhyd Retreat is graded five-star by Visit Wales. Gareth and Siân’s latest project is a new amenity centre for the complex, which they’re raising money for through crowdfunding, see: www.kickstarter.com/projects/retreatspace/state-of-the-art-healthwellbeingleisureperformance.