Glen and Gabrielle Williams

When an experienced builder and property developer acquires a disused church building, and sets about converting and extending it to create his family’s dream house, the results are bound to be something pretty special.

‘The Church House’ in Brisbane is home to Glen and Gabrielle Williams and their children, Samuel and Georgia. This truly spectacular home, with sweeping views across the Brisbane River to the CBD, was designed in collaboration with architect David Hansford, and interior designer Georgia Cannon.

Our Brisbane contributor,  Jo Hoban, spoke with the team involved to get the inside story of how it all came together, with home photography by Cathy Schusler and portraits Mindi Cooke.

Jo Hoban
Supported by Dulux

The Church of Transfiguration was built in 1924 on a prominent hilltop position in Norman Park. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The family live an active lifestyle and the tennis court cater for all sorts sports and activities. Apparently, Sam’s Grandma gives him a run for his money at tennis! Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The zinc-clad link creates a transition from the existing heritage church to the contemporary house addition. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Views to the South across Norman Park. Hay Palissade outdoor collection furniture from Cult and beach towel designed by Stephen Mok for Row Faster George. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

First floor bedrooms look down into the living areas from a walkway above. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

View from the butler’s pantry through to the kitchen and living area. Beautiful brick facings reference the red brick church and a Cassina Tre Pezzi chair sits in the background. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The house sits on an elevated platform with unobstructed views to the hinterland. Living spaces feel private yet open. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Existing heritage church entry door in Norman Park, Brisbane. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

‘It was such a treat working with Glen – he was open to all of our suggestions and it was great to turn up on site and have a discussion about how each detail was going to come together with the person who was not only building it but planning on living with it – he even poured his own concrete bench top for the kitchen,’ mentions interior designer Georgia Cannon. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The custom central stair and balustrade sit against off-form concrete Glen and his team poured on site. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Custom shelving in the central sitting area displays artwork, ‘Two Thirds’ by Andy Harwood, and books as well as knick-knacks. Gubi Beetle lounge chair and Gubi G10 floor lamp both from Cult, Tibet floor cushion by Jardan, and Studio Twocan pots. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

A home office mezzanine and caterer’s kitchen are the only interventions within the existing church. Artwork ‘Redact 128’ by Max Presneill. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

A custom spotted-gum bedhead with built-in bedside tables sits below a louvred wall. Hand-painted pillowcases from The Vallentine project and bedding from Jardan. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Sheer curtains provide privacy in the master ensuite without compromising Northern light and breeze through the louvred wall behind. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The stair, looking down from the bridge link connecting the main house to the home office. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

The master bedroom flows seamlessly into the master ensuite. The whole material palette is layered throughout this space. Linen towel by Kara Rosenlund and ‘Double Happy Stool’ by Nathan Goldworthy from Cult. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

A framed view of the original entry to the church from the kitchen. The amazing, chunky, recycled timber jamb was sourced by Glen and matches the timber used in the stair treads. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Glen and Gabrielle Willams’ son Samuel and his dog Billy enjoy the infinity-edge pool perched on the hillside. The cantilevered roof frames the church in the foreground and the Brisbane cityscape beyond. Photo – Cathy Schusler.

Sitting high on a hill in Brisbane’s inner-eastern suburb of Norman Park is a striking new iteration of an old Anglican church. Built in 1924, this property was once known as ‘The Church of Transfiguration,’ which is fitting, given the metamorphosis the heritage-listed building has recently experienced. The original church makes up part of the residence that Glen and Gabrielle Williams, their children, Samuel and Georgia, and their two dogs, have called home for just over a year.

Working in development and construction, Glen originally looked at the site of their new home for its development potential, but within five minutes he could see himself living here!  The church had been sitting empty on the 2356-square-metre block for 10 years before Glen jumped at the opportunity to purchase and regenerate the property. With wife Gabrielle, the first step involved discussing suitable form and finishes with architect, David Hansford, of DAH Architecture and interior designer, Georgia Cannon. ‘It was important to us that the theme was strong inside and out’ explains David. Between them, David and Georgia came up with a design scheme and masculine palette of finishes that resonated strongly with the owners. The resulting home is grand, angular and assertive – it’s modern, industrial aesthetic is reinforced by a considered, minimalist decorating style.

‘We basically built a new house that joins onto the heritage-listed church, with a link between the new and the old. The new house is a very modern design as we didn’t want to compete with the church – the contrast is quite striking,’ explains owner/builder, Glen. The main living section of the home is a two-storey, off-form concrete and glass extension that is linked to the old church by an above ground zinc ‘box’. The church space is used as an entertaining room (great for birthday parties) and Glen has his office on the mezzanine floor. Behind the church sits a tennis court and an infinity-edge pool that looks across the front of the property, as well as the city and mountains.

The building incorporates some impressive structural feats, including a huge cantilevered roof over the pool, and upper-level living quarters, which are hung from the roof structure over the kitchen rather than supported by columns. This has allowed for a generous open-plan living, dining and kitchen area. It’s also one of Glen’s favourite features: ‘When you’re in the living area it looks like it’s suspended in mid-air with no support – it’s very cool.’

Lending the house some serious ‘Get Smart‘ appeal, there’s also a subterranean garage, cellar and workshop, with tunnel access below the church and tennis court to the new extension!

The home suits the active family’s lifestyle to a tee – they enjoy the pool area, with its privacy and elevated views, and the tennis court, which they’ve been using for all kinds of sports. When they’re all worn out, they can plonk down in the breezy sitting area, with it’s beautiful custom-built cabinetry, and chill out with a book. ‘There is a lot to love about this house,’ says Glen. ‘It was fun to build, for both myself and my team…David and Georgia also worked very well together too; it appears we got this one right!” We concur – a truly remarkable transfiguration!

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