This Rustic, Stunning South Australian House Used to Be a Church

published Jan 10, 2023

This Rustic, Stunning South Australian House Used to Be a Church

published Jan 10, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Bedrooms
Square feet
1500
Sq ft
1500

Name: Sarah and Adam, kids Story and Arlo, and dog Alfie 
Location: Willunga, Australia
Size: 1500 square feet
Type of Home: A church converted into a house 
Years Lived In: 5 years, owned

House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

After the death of their mother, sisters Sarah Hall and Emma Read shared a “vision of living close to each other, our kids going to the same school, and just having fun renovating our houses, something we both love to do,” explains Sarah. Emma already lived in Willunga, and so in 2017 Sarah and her husband Adam moved from Adelaide to the small town, purchasing this former Church of Christ built in 1870.

“I love living in a home with history, original rustic character, and the fact that it was unconverted when we bought it meant that we could add our own ideas to it to do the building justice,” Sarah continues. “When we bought the church, it was deconsecrated but used and beloved by the community. It took me a little while to feel confident in making the interiors ours, without feeling the weight of community opinion. As well as a church, it’s been the local Country Women’s Association, a command centre during the second world war, a yoga and dance studio, and a Masonic Lodge. We love its rich history in this town.

Sarah is a stylist, designer, and co-owner of Read & Hall with her sister, who’s also a stylist. Together they own two South Australian rental properties, @mysisterandthesea and @loveandmutiny. “We also trade in vintage wares, and work on others’ interior projects via @readandhall.” 

“We still have many passersby that just walk in if the front doors are open, but mostly the locals know it’s our family home,” Sarah continues. “We have a swing inside and at Christmas time we have a 5.5 meter fresh pine tree all the way to the ceiling that takes us two days to decorate with three ladders of different heights. We love making use of the large space and creating our own traditions while it’s our time to own this beautiful old building.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, rustic, comfortable, maximalist, individual

Inspiration: Creative homes, usually owned by artists, thrifters, antique dealers, etc. I am always seeking out individual interiors which really reflect their owners’ lives and own aesthetic as opposed to the sameness of interior trends. I want to champion your space reflecting you.

Favorite Element: The high ceilings, incredible old gothic windows, the way the windows filter the light through the space, the soft hum of reverent quiet from the old stone walls and its church history, the pink lime-washed walls of the kitchen, and our bed made from two Swedish single beds joined to make a king size.

Biggest Challenge: We converted the church by adding the mezzanine (built by Adam) for $60,000, which was the amount of Sarah’s redundancy payment from leaving work as a government lawyer. We needed to add three bedrooms, install a fully functioning kitchen, and install the front windows so the church wasn’t so closed off from the street. 

Proudest DIY: The mezzanine, which houses the three bedrooms. We had a custom modern staircase made to contrast the heritage building, the internal windows came from a factory in Amsterdam, which we bought from a Melbourne vintage seller. We added the front windows in for more light and to match the existing gothic windows on the side of the building. This opened the building up to the High Street and had an instant impact, like the buildings’ eyes were finally open! We hope that we have sensitively converted this building which was really important to us. 

Budget: We spent $60,000 on materials for the mezzanine and that included the staircase, and putting the front windows in. We did as many jobs as we could ourselves, including painting, and subcontracted the rest. We lived in tents in the other half of the church (behind a huge curtain made of painters drop sheets) while the construction was going on! It kept our sleeping spaces relatively dust free and the church felt enormous when we finally joined the two halves up again.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The fact that we converted this old church is the unique part about it I think, taking a building that was never meant to be lived in and creating a comfortable and creative family home whilst honoring its heritage. 

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I’m not much of a home organizer but I would say that smaller bedrooms and using most of your space for communal living areas was well worth it when we set about dividing the space. 

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Be you, make your home what you like, try everything, and trust yourself. No two homes should be the same. 

Resources

PAINT & COLORS

  • Church Exterior — Porters Paints “Jersey Grey”
  • Main living area — Walls: Dulux Paints “Antique White USA”, Ceiling: Dulux Paints “Vivid White” with the trim in Porters Paints “Riverstone”. Bench seating in Porters Paints “Grey Pepper”
  • Master Bedroom — Limewashed Baerwerk Colour “Catkin”
  • Kitchen — Limewashed Porters Paints “Majolica”

LIVING ROOM

KITCHEN

  • Oil paintings — Collected over many years from Scammells Auctions, Facebook Marketplace, and inherited from my mum

BEDROOM

  • Bed — Vintage ones found on Facebook Marketplace, sourced and made by @readandhall 
  • Side Tables — Sourced secondhand shops by @readandhall 

Thanks Sarah, Adam, and sister Emma!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form