Vivienne Winborne shares the highs and lows of living in a converted church home with her fiancé Andrew and kids Violet and Amos. But would YOU live in a converted church?
Living in a church sounds heavenly, right? All those high ceilings, open spaces and stain glass windows. We bought a 1926 converted church in Newcastle last year. It is an amazing space with tonnes of potential but when you need scaffolding to change a lightbulb, you realise there may have been a few things you didn’t consider. So, what are the pros and cons?
Some people love shiny, new modern houses. We are all about character. Our church house has original stain glass in the façade, and the original light fittings in the main living space. We loved the metal trusses, the interesting ceiling line where the organ was built in and the stone plaques out the front. When my father-in-law pointed out how wonky the floor was, neither of us blinked an eye.
How many people can say they have a crying room? We are planning to use the 2 x 2 metre room with a window through to the main lounge room as a bike storage area.
Most churches were traditionally built in fairly central locations in the village, so chances are if you live in a church, you will be near cafes, shops and a school. We got really lucky and found a church that is centrally located but not on a main road.
Our church house was previously a church which connected to a large hall via a lobby. It has been converted into a 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom house with two enormous living spaces. When we first moved in we would despair every time we accidently left something at one end of the house and had to go back for it. Our 2.5-year-old rides his bike around, drives his big red car and plays cricket in the lounge room (although I think that has a very limited lifespan!!). It does mean that normal furniture looks like dolls house furniture.
You need scaffolding for EVERYTHING
Light bulb has gone out? Scaffold. Painting the interior? Scaffold. Painting the exterior? Scaffold. Want to take down the disco ball which isn’t really working with the 1926 style? Scaffold. Replacing the ceiling fans? You get the idea.
Like any older house, our lovely church needs a bit of TLC. While I am dreaming of a shiny new kitchen and tracking down a beautiful 1920s wooden door, our money is being redirected towards a new roof. And don’t even get me started on the cost of stain glass restoration…
The graveyard issue
We inspected a charming 2-bedroom stone church in Hinton. But apart from being a bit small, there was a graveyard out the back. Now I wasn’t worried about things that go bump in the night. But we did have a dog who was a bit of a Houdini. And he just loved bones. We kept looking.
Heating and cooling
I heard recently that tide is slowly turning with the open plan living trend. Big open spaces have a lovely feel, let in more light and work really well for entertaining. They also make it easy to cook dinner and keep an eye on the kids at the same time. But they make heating and cooling really tricky. We have installed extra insulation, two giant air-conditioning units and invested in a good quality gas heater.
Overall verdict? Pricey, but worth every penny!
— Vivienne is a freelance writer, blogger, brand manager and mother of two. See more of her church home at www.homesweetchurchhome.com.