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At home in a converted pig sty:

At home in a converted pig sty:

From the Evening Standard

How one creative couple converted a spacious barn home and gallery from a rundown barn in Great Ellingham East Anglia after falling for the Fens

Artist Fred Ingrams and his interior designer wife Laura converted a rat-infested outbuilding into a sleek house-cum-gallery flooded with Fenland light.

The Fens don’t fit the ideal of a rolling green and pleasant land, says painter Fred Ingrams, 55.

The only sounds are distant tractors and the call of birds. And yet they are anything but flat and featureless.”

Fred lived above Soho’s Coach & Horses pub in his twenties, mixing with artists such as Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst. Bacon became a regular drinking partner and, against his own maxim of “owning virtually nothing”, bought one of Fred’s large oils.

When the Nineties recession hit, Fred — son of Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye and The Oldie magazines — supplemented his income by working as a graphic designer and art director on magazines and newspapers, including the Evening Standard. At House & Garden he met Laura Arie the magazine’s decorations editor, who became his wife.

They lived in Laura’s one-bedroom Notting Hill flat but it was bursting at the seams with a new baby, and with Fred’s children from his first marriage, Otis and Queenie, coming to stay.

Fred was looking at images of Norfolk and the Fens on Google Earth one day. “I came across this long, green feature in the landscape, surrounded by regimented fields. I couldn’t work out what it was so I started driving and found myself on the 100ft bank of the Ouse, looking out over the flooded washes at all the wildlife and birds. I was blown away and realised I’d found the landscape I wanted to paint.”

Not only did Fred fall in love with the abstracted beauty of the Fens, East Anglia’s iconic coastal plains, he and Laura decided to build a house there. Today they live in a modernist glass and metal-roofed barn conversion in the Norfolk village of Great Ellingham, near the Cambridgeshire border.

When they first saw it, it was rat-infested and used for keeping pigs. “We felt it had potential,” says Fred.

With London architect Jeremy Walker, they drew up plans to convert the Seventies asbestos-clad, steel-framed barn into a spacious, contemporary home, allowing an adjoining 16th-century barn to be saved from conversion.

The cement fibre-sheet roof was replaced with a Kingspan roll-formed metal roof. They kept the frame and foundations of the 40ft-square prefab and the house was assembled kit-style. “This house is entirely made of wood and glass. No cement or brick,” says Fred.

“The foundations were fine and we clad the outside in Siberian larch, which fades to a beautiful grey, and added insulation and plasterboard on the inside. All roof pieces and joists came in sections, so there was little labour-intensive building work.”

The house won a Campaign for Rural England Design Award — and it’s no surprise that the decor is so stylish. Laura has worked with everyone from Colefax and Fowler to Gucci and Burberry. Decorated in shades of grey and white, the house is a modern, flexible space that doubles as a gallery for Fred’s colour-saturated canvases.

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