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

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!

This Week

Gardens

A Miraculous Floating Garden + Pool in Brisbane

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

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

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...

Roundup

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

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

An Architect’s Handcrafted Home + Bathhouse Turned Unique Accommodation

Take a look inside Liptrap Loft—a one-of-a-kind cabin with a Japanese-inspired bathhouse in Walkerville, Victoria.

News

See Ethiopian-Norwegian Artist Olana Janfa's Colourful, Debut Solo Show!

The Melbourne-based painter’s first solo show is opening tonight, exploring themes of language, race and status in his playful works.
Christina Karras

Architecture

A Floating House Entangled In Brush Box Trees On North Stradbroke Island

The tree canopy takes precedence over ocean views in this holiday home for three families, designed by Conrad Gargett architects.

Interiors

How To Turn Home Inspiration Into Reality, With Style Sourcebook

This free web-based mood board tool is the perfect place to refine your interior design vision. We show you how it's done!
Lucy Feagins
  1 hour ago

Interiors

A New Kitchen Designed To Look Old, With No White Joinery In Sight!

A Reservoir, Melbourne kitchen with the look of the past and functionality of the present.

Shopping

These Deliciously Colourful Picnic Rugs Are Made From Recycled Plastic!

The season of picnicking has arrived, and we've found the best rugs to see you through pizzas in the park and fish and chips on the beach.

Shopping

Say Hello To Your New Favourite Summer Shoes With This FRANKiE4 Giveaway!

Everything you need to know for your chance to win one of five pairs of shoes (of your choice!) from Australian label FRANKiE4!

News

Don't Miss Major Discounts On Designer Furniture At DOMO's Black Friday Sale!

Here’s everything you need to know about DOMO’s Black Friday Sale, with 20% off iconic designer brands, for one day only!
Sponsored

Shopping

11 Of The Best Places To Score Vintage Furniture + Homewares

Hunting down everything from 70s modular sofas, to retro gems from Europe, see the 11 vintage sellers and stores we love!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

The Melbourne Designer Creating Clever Furniture, For Small Spaces

Meet designer Katrina Ramm of Ka Ra Studio, who's playful pieces that that make the most of the ‘precious space’ inside our homes!
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Kate Reid, Founder Of Lune Croissanterie

A peek into the inner workings of Lune's ‘croissant Formula One team’ - and what this impressive entrepreneur gets up to in a day!
Christina Karras

Design Eye

Architect Luke Fry, On Modernising A Heritage Home

Architect Luke Fry shares his advice on sensitively balancing old and new, when modernising a heritage home!

Homes

A Melbourne Family’s Ever Changing ‘Light House’

An innovative, sculptural screen invites dynamic shadows into the family home of Andrew Jaques, and Christina Chiodo, renovated by Layan.

Interiors

A 1915 Horse Stables Turned Family Home In The Adelaide Hills

SpaceCraft transformed a circa 1915 horse stable into a family’s elevated version of a traditional farmhouse in the Adelaide Hills.
Amelia Barnes
  17 hours ago

Gardens

A Sensitively Built Coastal Garden, Designed To Look ‘Untouched’

The Garden Social carefully designed a garden, built into waterfront sand dunes on NSW's South Coast, where the serene seascape beyond takes...
Christina Karras

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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net