This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Elise Pioch Balzac and Pablo Chappell

Homes

Please humour me me whilst I recount for you a sweet little love story.  It’s a romantic tale about a French fashion buyer (now creative entrepreneur), and an English industrial designer / inventor (now bicycle designer), who met in a bar in Bondi five years ago. It was love at first sight.  Just six months after that first fortuitous encounter, the pair had purchased this house, a disused weatherboard church in Lower Portland, NSW, about 2 hours from Sydney.

30th April, 2014

‘The cockatoo lamps with Edit lamp shades were a wedding gift. The log burner is an original NECTRE made in Australia – our only source of heat in Winter!’ says Elise. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The Rural NSW Home of Elise Pioch Balzac and Pablo Chappell. Elise and Pablo’s outdoor setting and vintage car next to their home, a converted church. ‘The bell and black board both announced mass and celebrations, we love to use them often too’ says Elise. ‘The old MK1 Jaguar was purchased for Loulou when she was born, and suits the place so well,’ says Elise. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living room details. ‘The raised section is where the priest used to give mass, the charcoal velvet curtains were imported from Belgium,’ says Elise. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Original signs from the church alongside Chappelli bike which was custom built by Pablo especially to go fishing (spot the fishing rod holders!). Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Elise Pioch Balzac at home. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Light filled kitchen. All surfaces and walls in the kitchen have been tiled, inspired by French and Spanish homes. The gloss black glass cabinet is from 1940 and displays Elise’s collection of French plates, glasses, tea cups and wine decanters. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen details. The antique leather chair was purchased in Bowral. The kitchen was custom made and built by Elise and Pablo, then tiled with Spanish beveled ceramic tiles. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The dining table, with historic pew. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The master bedroom is a sweet open mezzanine above the main living area, designed and built by Elise and Pablo. Sconces purchased in an antique store in the south of France, and the bed head hides a walk-in wardrobe. The bright yellow linen pillow covers come from Merci in Paris, and the cross blanket is by Pia Wallen.  Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The view from the stairs with original 1880’s floorboards made of Sydney blue gum. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living room details. ‘The living room is the best place to appreciate the volume, light and acoustics of the church,’ says Elise. Framed photographed by Tobby Burrows, chaise longue by Crate & Barrell and most of the pillows and lamp shades by Edit. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A surprise bathroom! ‘The church had 3 double doors overlooking the garden and the river before the veranda was added in 1960. This is one of the double doors, now closing the bathroom and its surprising bath,’ says Elise.  Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files

Elise and Pablo’s latest addition – a hanging tree nest, picked up second hand, where friends can rest or sleep during balmy evenings. Photography – Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 30th April 2014

Recently Sean and I had the great pleasure of spending a morning with this lovely creative couple – Elise Pioch Balzac of Maison Balzac Candles and her husband, Pablo Chappell of Chappelli Cycles, at their beautiful country home.  I don’t know if it was the peaceful surroundings or Elise’s amazing French accent (!!), but being here really felt a world away from urban Sydney!

Elise and Pablo’s home is a converted weatherboard church, perched on a block of land near the Hawkesbury River.  The church dates back to 1880, and was operational until 10 years ago. ‘It has seen many floods and bush fires, and we hope it will brave Australia’s hazards for a few more centuries’ says Elise.  As outlined above, the pair purchased the church 5 years ago, but in Elise’s own words, it was ‘a derelict weekender’ until they decided to move here full time a year ago, just before the arrival of their daughter LouLou (now 10 months old).

When asked to outline the renovations they have undertaken here, Elise doesn’t quite know quite where to start! ‘Oh God, we’ve done so much to the church!’ she says. The first big job was to weatherboard the whole inside of the building, and paint throughout. The pair also demolished internal walls on the back veranda to create their big, bright kitchen which looks out to the garden and trees beyond. The most recent works were completed last year whilst Elise was nine months pregnant (!) – ‘my nesting instinct made us build the mezzanine bedroom!’ she says!

Elise and Pablo’s decorating approach is relaxed and refreshingly frugal. ‘We have added things slowly and carefully’ says Elise. The pair have a knack for finding hidden treasure at antique auctions, and during their travels. The antique kitchen bench was purchased at auction and refurbished by Elise’s parents during one of their stays here. The sweet sconce lights in the mezzanine bedroom are one of Elise’s favourite details, having been salvaged from a chateau near her hometown in France. ‘They make me feel like a princess when I turn them on in bed’ Elise says.

Of course, like any industrious creative couple, Elise and Pablo are always hungry for the next project.  Their next plans for the church include (in this order!): a black and white bathroom, a timber deck out the back and a plunge pool.  ‘We’re hoping the plunge pool will be done by next summer, as it gets awfully hot out here!’ says Elise.

Similar Stories

Homes

An Artist’s Spanish Mission Home In Newcastle

The recently-renovated home of artist Annie Everingham and family feels like a piece of California… in Newcastle!
Lucy Feagins
  14 hours ago

Homes

A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

The Sydney apartment of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher is equal parts refined home, design studio, and weekend surf shack!

Homes

A Bright + Happy Family Beach House

The Palm Springs-inspired, Mornington Peninsula beach home of Wowhaus artist Kate Jansen and family.

This Week

Creative People

Meriam and Yupungathi Man Chris Bassi On Capturing The Nostalgia Of Home

In her latest column Koorie woman Jirra Lulla Harvey visits artist, Meriam and Yupungathi man, Chris Bassi.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Homes

A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

The Bronte apartment of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher is equal parts refined home, design studio, and weekend surf shack!

Studio Visit

Inside Bianca Pintan's Vividly Colourful Ceramic Practice!

The Brazilian-born artist now works and lives in Byron Bay, pushing the boundaries with her bold and bright ceramics.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Thoughtful Native Garden Anchoring A ‘Floating’ Home In The Byron Hinterland

Explore the diverse and lush landscaping of Coolamon House, perched on ancient volcano crater with uninterrupted views to the ocean.
Christina Karras
  6 hours ago

On The Market

The Most Glamorous 1970s Melbourne Beach House Is For Sale

The 1975 ‘Saade House' designed by modernist architects Holgar & Holgar is for sale in Black Rock.

Food

Julia's Handmade Strozzapreti With Tiny Meatballs

Julia Busuttil Nishimura shares a recipe from her new cookbook 'Around The Table' – an instant family favourite!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Homes

An Artist’s Spanish Mission Home In Newcastle

The recently-renovated home of artist Annie Everingham and family feels like a piece of California… in Newcastle!
Lucy Feagins
  14 hours ago

News

Bid On Spectacular Contemporary Art From Australia's Best At The IMA's Benefit Auction!

Snap up works from award-winning artists thanks to the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane’s glamorous annual gala and online auction!
Christina Karras
  3 hours ago

Architecture

A New Timber Home Inspired By Music + Performance

Music Box by Multiplicity is a new Elwood, Melbourne home inspired by its musician owner, and the surrounding landscape.

Art

Announcing The Winners Of The 2022 Telstra NATSIAA!

We share the winners and finalists from Australia's most prestigious award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, the 2022 Telst...

Architecture

A Contemporary Barn-Style Home On A Working West Gippsland Farm

Green Hills Farm owners Neil and Kristy Plumridge share their barn-inspired West Gippsland home designed by Slap Architects.

On The Market

A Textile Factory Turned Family Residence Hits The Market

This North Melbourne property has been transformed into a grand family pad over two decades, and it's finally for sale!
Christina Karras

News

Treat Yourself To A Better Sleep With DOMO's Epic Bed Promotion

Now’s your chance to upgrade to your dream bed – DOMO are offering 20% off all King and Queen beds in stock!
Sponsored

Interiors

The Colourful, Creative Home Of Adelaide Designers, Daniel + Emma

The renovated home of Daniel To and Emma Aiston is perfectly playful, complete with a charming yellow kitchen, and plenty of personality!
Christina Karras

Stays

A Nostalgic Mid-Century Beach Shack On Victoria's Coast

Escape to Miles Away, a dreamy 1950s accomodation in Ocean Grove, filled with retro details and coastal vibes!
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Homes

An Artist’s Spanish Mission Home In Newcastle

The recently-renovated home of artist Annie Everingham and family feels like a piece of California… in Newcastle!
Lucy Feagins
  14 hours ago

Homes

A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

The Sydney apartment of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher is equal parts refined home, design studio, and weekend surf shack!

Homes

A Bright + Happy Family Beach House

The Palm Springs-inspired, Mornington Peninsula beach home of Wowhaus artist Kate Jansen and family.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net