AJ Field Developments Ltd was appointed to transform a former schoolhouse in Staffordshire, which was built in 1862, into an open plan family home, combining sensitive refurbishment of the Grade II listed building with a contemporary extension.

“The uniqueness of this project is the successful marrying of listed features such as sandstone window and door surrounds, timbered vaulted ceilings and magnificent windows with ultra-modern, frameless glazed balustrades, polished concrete floors, open plan living areas and a contemporary extension,” said Jim HadfIeld, Managing Director of AJ Field Developments Ltd, an FMB member firm.

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The extension features a corner-less, folding door system, opening up on to a new patio area sheltered by an overhanging roof. The downstairs interior has been opened up, creating a modern kitchen and living space with underfloor heating, polished concrete floors and glazed galleried viewing areas above.

As with any listed building, care was taken to ensure that work was carried out sympathetically. It’s important with any old property, but listed especially, to keep in touch with the conservation officer and make sure the architect’s doing the same. Everything needs to be approved before you steam in and start knocking everything to bits,” explained Jim, who has worked on dozens of listed buildings.

“It’s about making sure that you don’t knock something down that shouldn’t be knocked down or cover something up that shouldn’t be covered up and employing sympathetic cleaning methods approved by the conservation officer.”

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The building had undergone several transformations over the years, as a memorial hall, cinema, community centre and private house. “All of these different functions had differing requirements from the building and so major transformations took place over the years,” explained Jim. “Exposing and getting to the bottom of all of these transformations took expertise and time. You are unpicking all sorts of unknown things that you are finding that you can’t see initially when you first tendered for the job.” Years of paint build-up around the existing sandstone windows and doors were stripped using non-destructive specialist cleaning techniques, including a combination of steam stripping and applying non-aggressive chemicals.

“We had to liaise closely with the conservation officer to ensure we were meeting their requirements,” said Jim. “This was a messy, time-consuming operation made harder by the stage of the project as we had to be careful not to damage new finishes.” An existing swimming pool was repaired and refurbished, posing technical challenges including tracing leaking pipework and threading a new mechanical ventilation and air handling equipment into the listed structure.

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Jim worked closely with the architect, structural engineer and client on the design development throughout and the end result is a unique family home. “On a job like this it can become quite emotional because clients don’t always appreciate that things can change, so it is important to make sure that communication doesn’t break down between the architect and client,” said Jim. “It was nice to bring it all together and for the client to be happy at the end of it and we are very proud of it.”

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