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Couple Converts Old Church Into the Charming House of Their Dreams

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For most couples, having three children under the age of four tends to put the brakes on personal projects for a while. Michelle May admits that converting a church into a home wasn’t at the top of her and husband Dave’s to-do list, but after a chance drive past the retro brick church in the hinterland of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, her feelings started to change. And just four days later, it was theirs.

“Everyone thought we had officially lost our minds,” Michelle says. But the huge, light-filled interior sat perfectly with her love of industrial style. The building had great bones, and the fact that no one else was prepared to take on the risk of the associated “change of use” permits required for the project, only made the May family more determined to rise to the challenge.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

Renovations began immediately — and extensively — in order to transform the old church into a workable family home. Though the rear quarter of the building dates back over 100 years, the church that is now the major part of the May’s home is circa 1960s, and Michelle is grateful for the well-considered design that was put in place.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

“The church had been well maintained by the congregation, though through the renovation, the interior has been completely reformatted. To turn it into a home meant lots of altering walls and color changes.” Pulling up the tired, old, cobalt-blue carpet throughout the church unveiled the original wooden floorboards that have been made a feature again.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

The new floor plan now sees the main bathroom where the church entrance once was. The 1970s vinyl bi-fold doors have remained, separating their kids’ — Isla, Billi, and Leon — room and the guest bedroom. The rear of the building houses another smaller living area, more bedrooms, and Michelle’s office.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

After moving in, the May’s very quickly discovered the flip side of soaring ceilings and vast open living spaces, “Insulation, insulation, insulation,” laughs Michelle, recounting the very chilly first winter in the house. Hydronic radiators have since been installed throughout the house, which heat recovered hot water via the wood fire in the living room — though solar power is what the couple is aiming for.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

Aside from chilliness, the church had another surprise in store for the Mays. As neighbors took down some trees, gorgeous valley views, stretching to the waters of Westernport Bay, opened up. Michelle and Dave had never counted on that. “The landscape is just amazing every day,” says Michelle, who has, not surprisingly, turned her career toward landscape architecture and design.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

Michelle and Dave are rightly proud of their hard efforts. “Our country home is an absolute reflection of our personalities — it’s definitely not run-of-the-mill,” says Michelle.

Church House

(Photo Credit: Homes to Love)

Now that they have molded the church into their vibrant home, the May family has turned their attention and weekend muscle toward their next big project: the old church. The classic original weatherboard church sits at the rear of the home. It has already been lifted and turned around to take full advantage of the valley views, and with much more sweat, planning, renovation, and healthy debate, it will also soon be reincarnated.

This post was written by Katherine Jamison. For more, check out our sister site Homes to Love.

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