Barn renovation into art studio - plans for the design


I’m seeking thoughts/advice regarding renovation of a stone barn into an art studio. Tile roof is in good shape by the way, as are the structural beams. Stone walls are fairly solid and exposed at present. Basic floor dimension roughly 15 x 10 meters. We just need to create a space in raised part of the ancient stone barn with existing rough floor planks, that allows more privacy and lighting and storage while working. It’s not intended for living space but for work space, year-round, in a region of France where there should be minimal issues in relation to humidity/aridity or changes in temps year-round such as one might have in mountains, desert, or coastal.

No need for fancy surfacing. Water to wash brushes and for other types of clean up. Electricity for lighting after dark and perhaps air flow/heating.

The barn electric and water has to be re-done. We’ve not done any previous renovations to this barn, although we’ve done home renovations (heating, insulation, walls, electric). I’m the helper and the actual lead is experienced as he renovated his house which is adjacent.

I found one previous thread on SFN (Barn to Gite Renovation). It’s got some good information albeit for a reno of a barn into a gite.

Any pros/cons in leaving the ceiling open to the rafters? Air flow for making it cool in summer and warm in winter is something I’m particularly puzzled about. He wants to eliminate the problem by making it a box; I’d like to be able to not have a standard ceiling and let the wall space perhaps reach up to the roof… have you any opinions on the pros/cons of building a standard ceiling versus letting the rafters (insulated) be the ceiling?

Seems good to give him any of your thoughts you might be willing to impart especially from experience. I’d like any pointers to photos or plans for the design of studio/work space for similar projects in France, renovating an old solid stone barn but not perhaps for a gite. The assumption is that for interior renovation for non-living quarters, regulations for review/submission of a plan prior to building this, by/to the local mairie, might be minimal/nonexistent, right?

Thank you in advance.

If it’s a barn, it’s probably classed as an agricultural building at present, so you would need to start by getting the change of use approved (whatever an art studio is classified as, whether habitation or artisan or whatever, it won’t come under agricultural use!) so I think a chat with the mairie before you start, would be a good idea.
You will probably also want to add windows/skylights to let light in?
Sounds an exciting project!


Good luck with your project. It sounds great and like a nice big studio!

I looked at so many places when looking for a studio. We have finally got somewhere and decided on the lower ceiling. The main factor was just being able to heat it if we wanted to during the winter.

I know you said the area you live in is okay temperature wise but I think anywhere in France will be a little chilly during the winter months?

Ps maybe as a painter am more susceptible to cold.


Hi Marijke. I was hoping for exactly the kind of input you’ve provided, as someone who has a studio that you built, and your thoughts on the lower ceiling really help me with perspective.

I agree, with a few exceptions perhaps, it’s chilly in winter. I think I’m more in favor of the lower ceiling now. I was probably being a bit too romantic and not practical.


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Hi Mary… it sounds like a wonderful project.

As Anna says… you will need to speak with your Mairie and get the correct forms completed, asking for change of use. Hopefully, there should be no problem obtaining permission but, you never know…

Regarding ceiling height… please think about: Heatloss, cobwebs and dust, which always go hand in hand with open-plan beams… :thinking:

I know folk who originally marvelled at the height/delight of the exposed timbers “up almost to the sky”… and now they have installed fans, up in the eaves, to try and throw the heat back down…

Some are seeking extendable gadgets to help with the cleaning. (Spiders are useful in a house… but only if you can keep them just a little under control. ) Webs festooning the timbers… mmm… :thinking:

Others have given up on the open look and gradually filled-in (with insulation behind)…but leaving certain exposed areas of wood peaking out from the plasterboard.

For a studio…mmm… you will want light and space I suppose…and how you arrange that will be your own choice… :hugs:

it will be interesting to see some before and after photos…

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Stella, it’s so interesting to get the reality of the situation, versus the fancy pre-use photos I kept finding online… freshly painted, freshly minted; no lived-in look, and most importantly, pre-cobwebs.

I knew it would be good to run it by folks on SFN, given the experience levels of many here.

There seems to be so little that I could find, that is, online beyond just those maddenly attractive high ceilings in the ‘beautiful barn renovations’ photos. Perhaps the silence, eg., lack of photos after these spaces were actually lived-in, is an important portent. I do like spiders and value them… But, probably wouldn’t want to give an open invite, perhaps.

It’s so good to have Anna’s perspective and your reiteration. Thanks.

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Talking about “lived-in”… that has made me chuckle…

One friend is having trouble evicting a barn owl which insists on living somewhere up in the rafters. Every nook and cranny has been blocked in an attempt to stop the bird entering… but… ooops… it’s done it again… the amount of mess that bird makes is awesome.


Time to make it a nest of it’s own, that it will move into and be safe and comfy in!! :sunny:

Owls are every bit as nice to have around as spiders… No?

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Owls are great as they keep the small rodent population down… but, they do mess. We have a variety of owls around us… glorious birds…

Oh… and you will probably find you have bats in the roof somewhere. They are protected, so we have simply lined some of the trusses to shield the stuff we are storing. We’ve left the rest of the roof/loft open for them to come and go at will…


Bats make enough mess, not to mention swallows.

Luckily, the swallows seem happy to nest across the road… :wink:

We had bats in the cellar (as well) at first… we ignored them, but they’ve moved on of their own accord…

Hoping someone might post photos of their studio in their barn… Would LOVE it if we could discuss some more about that? Cheers.

@Mary Wolcott how’s the renovation going? Sounds like an exciting project. Did you make a decision about the ceiling? Also what kind of art will be made in such an interesting space?.. :grin: