The Classic Barn Company designs and manufactures beautifully detailed oak framed barns, garages and outbuildings. We caught up with Director Andrew Guppy to find out more.
LM: What are your career highlights?
AG: It’s not often I’ve stopped to think and look back. A couple of highlights spring to mind, the first being a sporting achievement from way back in my twenties. Both my brother and I pursued a professional football career, lived, trained together and pushed ourselves on all levels to reach our goals. My brother, who started at a much younger age, reached the highest levels in both the Premier League and England, whereas I reached semi-professional in four years. Good times.
Later down the line came the development of property, domestic and commercial, so much hard work including manual labour in pursuit of the property development dream. I learnt a lot throughout the process; having built my portfolio, the banking recession wiped ten years of hard work off the balance sheet overnight.
The highlight for me was stabilising everything and starting again, which leads me to my next highlight…With very little finance, I launched The Classic Barn Company right in the middle of the recession, had twins and moved house that required adopting a slightly higher mortgage. Making all of this work and building this oak framing company to what it is today is I guess a highlight. However, as is often the case, it’s the next developments within the business that gets me up each morning.
AG: I wanted to create buildings suited to my rural background and structures that clients would find attractive, beyond the mainstream, which was and still is rather dull and boring. It’s the outbuilding concept that, for me, gives us the opportunity to have so much variety in usage.
I wanted to use creativity in oak garage and outbuilding designs that are suited to the country environment and stand out by pushing the design detail. When I came up with the name and secured the brand, it felt like it set the tone, and since that moment, we have tried to uphold this high-end ethos in both design and service.
LM: What products do you offer?
AG: We offer both product and service; we create an architecturally-led design that is accountable through to a turnkey build presentation, and this in itself is a rarity. Our product is classical oak-framed garages designed for a purpose and often with an aesthetic relationship to the styling of the principal residence. We uphold this by delivering our designs with a fully managed build solution for our clients, from planning and design right through to completion.
In most cases, we are commissioned to design garages with living quarters; often in a room situated above the garaging space, combined with stabling, utility, storage also comes into the design.
LM: Are all your barns made bespoke according to a client’s requirements, or are they “off the shelf” solutions?
AG: We offer both, and there is a cost-benefit in relation to this. We have developed a range of off the peg modular oak frame garage buildings that come with engineering already in place. This often becomes the starting point where our architect and clients can explore a process that deploys bespoke features within these modular designs to stamp unique results in a cost-effective manner. In some cases, clients see a design we have created for others, and this leads to a starting platform to create a new bespoke version, In fact, we have never built two garages with the same design.
LM: How do you stand out from your competitors?
AG: Design and craftsmanship are what catches the eye. If for instance, you were to search ‘Classic Oak Barns’ online, you will experience an array of standard, dull oak framed garage designs. That represents a cross-section from the industry, whom in the main, deploy softwood and thin cross-sections with less emphasis on craftsmanship or aesthetics. Yet at the same time, you will see our Classic Barn designs among these that should stand out in comparison.
In fact, I would invite your readership to try this as the results should be revealing. Beyond the imagery, we had at the last count, ten USPs with our design and service and this information is explained within our brochure and other marketing material. It’s always enjoyable to take potential clients on a journey in demonstrating the differences and integrity crafted within our oak framed designs.
LM: What are you working on currently?
AG: We currently have some bespoke designs on the go, one is in its build stages and being filmed, so we hope to roll that our on our YouTube channel later in the year. My key designer and I have been developing two new oak framed outbuilding concepts that will appeal to homeowners seeking large high-end habitable space that can lend itself to various usages with an array of oak features in the design. This has been in development for a year, and we are very excited about being able to bring this to the marketplace.
LM: How much maintenance do the barns require over time, as wood is known to degrade?
AG: The beauty of oak is that it doesn’t require any maintenance – you will see this throughout historic oak buildings stood for centuries. The cladding does have a lifespan, and in most cases, this doesn’t require treatment either as we utilise select timbers that hold a high natural oil protection. Some choose to paint the cladding, and this will prolong its longevity further.
Cladding is cost-effective and is therefore easily replaced after 15/20 years in which time weathering may deteriorate. Our joinery is handmade from a beautiful South African timber called iroko, sealed with two coats of high-quality oil, and these hardwood units do benefit from periodic maintenance with a varnish every couple of years.
LM: Who are your main customers?
AG: They are proud homeowners living in rural country homes and estates who seek a reliable, trusted oak garage builder, often through referrals. My clients tend to be very busy people running businesses. On occasions, they are well-known or in the public eye.
In many cases, it’s a team effort between husband and wife, and this makes the design process more enjoyable as there is a wider scope of input, plus a wider scope of design interest.
Because garaging features within our designs, people automatically assume car collectors are the number one client type, but this is not the case at all. It’s the country homeowner looking to expand habitable space combined with practical outbuilding usages within an attractive presentation that approach us in the main.
LM: How have you adapted your business in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
AG: In hindsight, structuring my business to ride out any variations in market conditions was a good move. This mindset was embedded in me from my experiences during the recession. However, in the first couple of weeks of the lockdown, we had to shut down sites and protect buildings that were in mid-stages. We have quickly turned our objectives to starting these sites back up again safely – this has been made easier due to the nature of our builds where single trades can work independently and isolated from the client.
The most surprising element has been the unprecedented volume of enquires, as the focus has shifted to the front end. With an increase in enquires and design, it appears lots of clients are sat isolated at home and turning their attention to their build project. We have even taken orders to secure a diary slot for those who choose to get ahead of the game in our increasingly busy build diary. This, of course, is all very positive, but I must confess to needing a holiday. As soon as travel is permitted once again, I will reset.
On a separate note, the health and safety aspect has become heightened, and we are rolling out safe practices with our workforce to deal with this. Because we handle the entire design and build process, we assign the client domestic CDM health and safety liabilities across to our remit for the duration of the build. We have also started conducting client presentations via video conferencing, and this has turned out to be very productive, a change that we plan to embrace and carry forward as standard to speed up some of the processes that involve the client’s input.
AG: I would say I am a little selective. I don’t have the finances to support a lavish lifestyle, but I tend to buy quality and look after my little luxuries – cars are where I tend to indulge or nice holidays. I have young children, and we like to go on outings to the Countryside, and as I work long hours, this has become one of my luxuries.
When I switch off at the end of the day, I enjoy reading luxury outlets and social media, mainly high-end property developments as this feeds my inspiration. This magazine is an excellent example.
The Classic Barn Company – Where and How?
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