Lunch with Finn Beales

We catch up with photographer and director Finn Beales on the extension of his 17th century Welsh longhouse over a bowl of freshly made pasta.

Finn Beales is celebrated for his award-winning travel and lifestyle photography and the cinematic style he brings to his work. 

His unique pictures from across the globe have gained him a loyal Instagram following of half a million and he’s published two best-selling photography books. 

Yet when we stopped by, it was to talk about a project much closer to home. His Welsh longhouse, in fact. 
So, where does this renovation story begin? 

‘We've lived in the original house here for twenty years, although it’s been in my wife’s family for longer than that, so it holds a great deal of sentimental value.

‘But with two rapidly growing kids, we either had to move or make the house bigger. We looked at so many properties, but couldn't find anywhere that compared, so we chose to extend.’ 
Finn drew on his travel experiences to inspire the project, but he was also mindful of preserving the beauty of the family home. 

‘With the help of some excellent architects, we designed a modular-style extension that mimics local farm building vernacular.

‘Although it’s a contemporary build, I didn't want a modern interior. The new needed to respect the old, so we chose natural raw materials throughout – all beautifully imperfect. 

‘We have plaster walls – there's no paint – sealed with beeswax. All the windows are lined with oak, and the gable end of the original house, which is now an interior wall, was repointed with lime and left exposed. 

‘The kitchen’s also oak, with Welsh slate worktops, and the floors are concrete – an alternative take on flagstones.’
He was also set on creating a large, open living and dining space with far-reaching views where the family could come together. 

‘The rooms are pretty small in the old part of the house, so the kids would often disappear up to their bedrooms, separating the family. The new space means everyone now hangs out together, which is really lovely.’

‘I shoot a lot of food and farming projects through my work, which often inspires the food I cook. And we love to entertain. 

'We kept the kitchen in the old part of the house as a food preparation area. It’s just across the hallway from the open plan area and doubles as a pantry and houses the fridge freezer, washing machine and so on too. 

'That way we can keep all the mess and clutter out there and just enjoy cooking in our lovely new family space.

‘A local school was being refurbished at the time, and they were stripping out the old science labs, so we repurposed their units and countertops. They’re beautifully made, weathered and unique.’ 
We asked Finn if any other aspects of his job have influenced the build. 

‘As a photographer, I pay a lot of attention to light. We orientated the new building east-to-west with large, glazed areas on these elevations to take advantage of the golden hours at either end of the day.

‘I also knew I wanted to create a really relaxed atmosphere. I work all over the world, and the pace can be frenetic, especially leading a team of people on set far away from home. As much as I love it, it can take a lot out of me creatively, so I love coming back here to unwind.’

The environmental impact of the renovation was another key consideration – and specifically, choosing materials mindfully. 

‘We sourced materials from as close to home as possible. The wood cladding came from Wales, and the roof is corrugated tin, from down the road in Herefordshire. We insulated the building using cellulose fibre insulation which is manufactured from recycled newspaper and fire-retardant salts. 

‘Although concrete, the flooring acts as a giant heat sink, storing heat from the daytime sun and releasing it in the evenings.’ 
Finally, before our bowls were empty, we had one last question to ask: how important were the small details? 

‘They come together to make the project whole, so they’re critical. We interact with door handles, switches and sockets every day, making them almost more important than anything else. 

‘I opted for Corston’s Bronze finish because the more you use it, the more the patina develops. You can't buy time – people tend to want to have everything now, but the best things in life come to those who wait.’