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A Magical Converted Church In The Hepburn Shire

Stays

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!

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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