Shape shifters: the dramatic barn that’s a live-work space for two sculptors | Interiors


The Matt Black Barn is a “forklift-friendly” live-work space belonging to the famend British sculptors, Laura Ford and Andrew Sabin. It sits between the villages of Emsworth and Bosham, simply north of Chichester harbour. “To the south are timber, a area or two after which the sea,” explains Sabin. “To the north, some fields after which the South Downs.” It’s a world aside from their earlier live-work space – a transformed pianola manufacturing unit in Kentish City, London.

Earlier than the Matt Black Barn, there was (and nonetheless is) the Brown Barn – a beaten-up, 6,000sqft industrial barn that the couple purchased in 2014. It served as a huge storage space for their collected works and was conveniently positioned between their London dwelling and their family-owned vacation dwelling in Selsey. “We simply actually began to take pleasure in working there,” recollects Ford. “We labored there increasingly more in the summer time months, and located that it gave us a lot extra freedom. We additionally simply loved the bits between work – having a cup of tea exterior and the birds. It was this utterly completely different environment.”

A yr later, the freeholder determined to promote the two adjoining mechanics’ workshops, giving Ford and Sabin the alternative to completely relocate. After a prolonged planning battle, the couple offered their London property, razed the two workshops and commenced work on a new live-work space with the native architect, Roger Lilley. As they had been doing so, the the rest of the web site – a historic lake and 14 acres of land – got here on to the market. “We’re unintentional property homeowners now,” says Sabin.

Laura Ford and Andrew Sabin.
Throwing shapes: Laura Ford and Andrew Sabin. {Photograph}: Rachael Smith/The Observer

The foundations had simply been freshly laid when the pandemic struck. “We had been about to place up the metal body when the web site successfully closed,” recollects Sabin. An skilled metalworker, he had constructed the body with a good friend in the Brown Barn. With a crane and a forklift truck, he determined to hold on alone. “It was stunning climate,” he recollects, “and unusually fairly serene.” For Sabin, the circumstances had been supreme: “Nobody was watching.”

The Matt Black Barn is a minimal two-storey constructing on an industrial scale. On the floor ground is a gallery space with views out throughout the beginnings of a casual sculpture backyard. (The couple plan to open the gallery for occasional academic visits, open days and occasions.) Behind that is their “messy studio” – a hangar-like place for work in progress and archival materials. The studio is lit by excessive clerestory home windows. Ford explains their significance: “When Andrew and I met many, a few years in the past, we had been each on an MA at the Chelsea Faculty of Arts. We had been based mostly in a constructing on Manresa Highway that was designed particularly for sculptors. It had these excessive home windows that gave you pure mild with out taking over an excessive amount of wall space.” The outdated faculty constructing has since been demolished and Sabin has created a memorial sculpture as an alternative.

At the aspect of the barn, a flight of metal steps ascends to the first-floor residing space. Whereas industrial in scale, there’s a softness to the space, which has been organised by the considerate placement of bespoke joinery made by the furnishings and kitchen designers Uncommon Projects. A free-standing, oak-veneered cupboard creates a display between the entrance door and the residing space, making the space really feel extra enclosed and intimate. The double-sided cabinets have been designed particularly to show the couple’s smaller sculptures, whereas black sliding doorways permit them to vary the show and conceal the tv.

Glass walls overlook the internal garden.
Inside out: glass partitions overlook the inside backyard. {Photograph}: Rachael Smith/The Observer

Sabin additionally labored with Unusual Initiatives to create the 5m kitchen island, designing and welding the pink metal body earlier than craning it into place throughout the construct. It was then fitted with a concrete worktop and drawers. Behind, bespoke cabinetry conceals kitchen home equipment whereas additionally performing as one other show shelf for the {couples}’ smaller artworks.

“While you’re making work in the studio, it’s good to carry it up and dwell with it for a whereas,” explains Ford. “Then you possibly can slowly get to know what’s proper or incorrect about it.”

A glazed courtyard backyard that includes certainly one of Sabin’s sculptures encourages mild into the centre of the higher ground. It additionally separates the residing space from Ford’s open-plan yoga studio and the bedrooms past.

The master bedroom with views out on to surrounding fields.
Relaxation simple: the master suite with views out on to surrounding fields. {Photograph}: Rachael Smith/The Observer

In the master suite, a luxurious ensuite lavatory is organized behind a half-wall and a daring, geometric tiled ground unifies the space. “We visited India years in the past and cherished seeing everyone washing out their homes with a hose pipe,” Ford recollects. “I sort of wished a little bit of that right here. In addition to, these are the sort of footwear we’ve to cope with right here…” We peer down at Sabin’s dust-coated, steel-toe-cap boots.

Past the yoga studio is Ford’s first-floor drawing studio. The plywood ceiling that demarcates the home space is stripped again to disclose industrial corrugated metal. To the left is a big floor-to-ceiling window that was designed to allow a forklift truck to manoeuvre awkward objects from the exterior world in, and vice versa. Ford describes the space as “a entire different world” – albeit one she will be able to nonetheless enter in her slippers and pyjamas at the finish of the day.

The Brown Barn, “messy studio” and drawing studio are all locations by which this tirelessly inventive couple could make and retailer their work. However there’s, Sabin explains, a fourth workspace: the paved space between the barns, the place concrete is combined and sculptures are rotated, examined, washed or floor down. Right here, Sabin is experimenting with a new sequence of water sculptures that make use of the rain runoff saved in the drainage swales beneath the automobile park.

The placement and constructing are inspiring and facilitating new work. “I’d love to switch the whole lot we made in the previous with issues we’ve made right here,” says Sabin. “That may be very thrilling.”; @mattblackbarn