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

A Magical Converted Church In The Hepburn Shire

Homes

Right now across Australia there are dozens of churches sitting idle, just waiting for an enthusiastic owner to transform them.

This is the story of The Church at Lyonville, which was deconsecrated in the 1950s, then converted into a residence in the early 2000s.

When this property went up for sale in 2017, Sasha and Tim von Ess jumped at the chance to purchase it as their holiday home. When they’re not there spending quality time with their kids Drew (11) and Audrey (8), they rent it out as short-term accommodation.

26th February, 2020

The church has been successfully updated without overshadowing its history. Secondhand dining chairs from Red Cart Vintage in Kyneton. The dining and side tables are also secondhand, sourced from Gumtree. Pendant lights from Lucretia Lighting. West Elm sofa and side table. Freedom Furniture rug. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Secondhand dining chairs from Red Cart Vintage in Kyneton. The dining and side tables are also secondhand, sourced from Gumtree. Pendant lights from Lucretia Lighting. West Elm sofa and side table. Freedom Furniture rug. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The whole family. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Secondhand dining chairs from Red Cart Vintage in Kyneton. The dining table and bucket armchair are also secondhand, sourced from Gumtree. Pendant lights from Lucretia Lighting. West Elm sofa and side table. Freedom Furniture rug. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Original wood wall panelling makes the vaulted ceiling feel less cavernous. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The cathedral-like nave has been converted into a living space. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Sasha in the kitchen. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

‘The original confessional has now been converted into a walk-in pantry!’ says Sasha. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Fruits of the forage. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

A window seat retains the original church glazing. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Beacon Lighting lamp. House of Orange artwork and cushions. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The front bedroom looks out over the garden. Bed linen from In Bed and Cultiver. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Bed linen from In Bed and Cultiver. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The bathroom contains darker and more modern finishes. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The kids’ room has a view of the moss-covered treetops. Bed linen from In Bed and Cultiver. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Original windows in the loft bedroom. Sasha’s sister-in-law painted the artwork that sits beside it of birds indigenous to the region. Bed linen from In Bed and Cultiver. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Bed linen from In Bed and Cultiver. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

A humble timber country church built in the 1920s. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Photo – Marnie Hawson.

‘Spa country’ doesn’t get more picturesque than father-son woodchopping. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The country idyll. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Picking native flora. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Drew plays on the woodstack. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

When they aren’t spending quality time with the kids there, Sasha and Tim rent out The Church at Lyonville to holidaymakers. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 26th February 2020

‘The confessional has now been converted into a walk-in pantry, and the humble stained-glass windows are still in place’ – Sasha von Ess.

Lyonville is a character-filled town, located between Trentham and Daylesford in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire – about an 80-minute drive from Melbourne. Sasha and Tim von Ess had been coming to this town for years to visit friends when the local deconsecrated local church went up for sale in 2017, and they decided to purchase it as a unique weekend getaway. Attracted to the magical feeling of the town and its location on the fringe of the Wombat State Forest, ‘We couldn’t resist!’ says Sasha.

As you might expect from a church conversion, the property has a rich history. After the original church built on site in 1883 was destroyed by fire, the local community came together to rebuild the current structure in 1927. Due to a dwindling congregation, the church was deconsecrated in the 1950s, and then converted into a residence in the early 2000s. The timber chapel is a humble structure by religious building standards, but with many detailed features that remain today.

Recent renovations undertaken by Sasha and Tim include a full repaint of the interior, the installation of new fittings and doors, bathroom upgrades, and new tiling. The couple worked with their friend Rachel at Hello Colour to develop a new colour scheme that would complement the original building, using Dulux paint Fair Bianca Half for the walls, and Vivid White for trims. ‘Rachel created a fresh, simple colour update to showcase the rich timber colours and work in with the golden afternoon glow from the stained glass windows. We are so happy with the result,’ says Sasha.

The renovation has succeeded in updating, without overshadowing, the church’s original features. ‘For instance, the confessional has now been converted into a walk-in pantry, the humble stained-glass windows are still in place, as is the original timber paneling which hugs the interior of the nave,’ says Sasha.

When Sasha and Tim von Ess aren’t enjoying this house themselves with their children, Drew, and Audrey, The Church at Lyonville is rented out as holiday accommodation. If you’re looking for a place to stay near Victoria’s ‘spa country’, look no further!

This Week

Interiors

Ten Things Lauren Li Loved At Stockholm Design Week

TDF interiors columnist Lauren Li recaps her visit to the famous Stockholm Furniture and Lighting Fair earlier this month!
Lauren Li

Gardens

A Miraculous Floating Garden + Pool in Brisbane

A contemporary, low-maintenance interpretation of the Australian suburban dream!
Sasha Gattermayr

News

Inside Some Of Australia's Most Significant Modernist Houses With Tim Ross

A new live performance combining film and comedy, Designing a Legacy explores the lives shaped inside the walls of these modern masterpiece...

Interiors

An Interior Designer's 'Tactile And Feminine' Canberra Home

An interior designer transforms a 1950s brick cottage into a modern and colourful townhouse!
Sasha Gattermayr

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Revered Melbourne interior designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

Stays

A Driveway-Turned-Boutique Accommodation In Daylesford

A small-footprint country retreat designed by Lynda Gardener – her first property designed from the ground up!
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

Living The Regional Dream In Strzelecki, South Gippsland!

Treechangers Shelley and Tom Banders share their charming home, surrounded by rolling hills in regional Victoria.

This Week

Stays

A Moody Slice Of Paradise In The Byron Hinterland

The Dairy is a magical accommodation that feels like it could be in Tuscany...but in reality, it's only 15 minutes away from some of Austral...

News

A Sunny New Storefront For Not-For-Profit Design Organisation The Social Studio

The not-for-profit organisation has a new sunshine-filled space designed by Studio Goss at Collingwood Yards!

Studio Visit

Inside The Dreamy Garden Shed Studio Of Emerging Ceramic Artist, Anni Hagberg

Introducing the graduate artist who was the recipient of The Design Files Emerging Maker Award at Craft Victoria's annual 'Fresh!' exhibitio...
Sasha Gattermayr

Studio Visit

An Innovative New Collaboration From MIMCO, Featuring Boundary-Pushing Sustainable Materials

As a result of their longstanding partnership with the NGV, MIMCO has teamed up with biomaterial designer Alice Potts on a limited-edition c...

Studio Visit

The Young Designer Using Traditional Leather-Working Techniques To Create Accessories Inspired By The Australian Landscape

Leather craftsman Liam Dillon shares the detailed history behind an ancient trade - and the ways he uses traditional techniques in his moder...
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

A Blissful Art Deco Apartment Up In The Trees

This carefully curated rental in East Melbourne of friends Lauren Everett and Frances Normoyle is the ultimate 'grown up' share house!

News

A Starlight Summer Festival To Begin In Heide’s Sculpture Park

Get your socialising mojo back with this cultural program of dance events, music acts and Indigenous storytelling at Heide Museum of Modern
Sponsored

Architecture

A Victorian Terrace That Plays Design Gymnastics!

Melbourne's colour masters Wowowa are back with another clever Victorian renovation!

News

Swoon-Worthy Luggage For The Perfect Weekend Escape

Local luggage experts July prep us for the summer of local travel with the slick new ‘Daybreak’ range.
Sponsored

News

Relax Into The New Year With The Perfect Bath Accessory

Adios 2020, we’re heading into the new year with a totally new vibe courtesy of these sustainable timber bath trays from The Wood People.
Sponsored

Creative People

Keep Your Eyes On These 8 Emerging Makers!

From a magazine editor-turned ceramicist, to a fashion and homewares brand using fabrics direct from Africa, these were some of our favourit...

On The Market

Mid-Century Magic On A Bushland Block (And On The Market!)

Originally built in 1967, this absolute dream home features terrazzo floors and an entire facade of floor-to-ceiling windows!
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

An Equally Functional + Lush Suburban Garden Makeover

The stunning garden of landscape designer and owner of Ballast Landscape, Julian Bombardiere, in Kings Langley, NSW.
42:51

Podcast

TDF Talks with Plant Designer, Jenna Holmes of Plant Mama

In this podcast conversation, Jenna of 'Plant Mama' and 'Pasta Mama' shares how she has built and grown two very different businesses from t...

Architecture

A Sleek, Surprising Reworking Of A Victorian Cottage

A humble but innovative extension by Blair Smith Architecture has totally modernised this Victorian cottage in Brunswick.

Similar Stories

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Interior Designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

Stays

A Driveway-Turned-Boutique Accommodation In Daylesford

A small-footprint country retreat designed by Lynda Gardener – her first property designed from the ground up!
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

Living The Regional Dream In Strzelecki, South Gippsland!

Treechangers Shelley and Tom Banders share their charming home, surrounded by rolling hills in regional Victoria.

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 – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.