‘We took on a converted chapel’
Using their shared love of period properties and quirky decor, Sarah and Karl brought an old church up to date
Our house chose us, rather than the other way around,’ says Sarah. ‘My husband Karl and I were looking for a larger home – we both love older properties, but also crave modern, light space and clean lines. We’d looked at a number of houses, including a couple of church conversions, but we weren’t sold as most had layouts that just wouldn’t have worked for us as a family home. When we saw the old chapel, on the other hand, it seemed to be the perfect compromise.
Originally an old Methodist chapel, built in 1807, it has loads of history. It had been rebuilt and converted into a domestic dwelling, which meant it had many of the modern features we wanted, like straight walls and a fantastic open-plan layout inside. The location itself was a massive draw too, as it’s in the centre of a village, with two schools, a brook running through it and a friendly community.
Falling in love
We only saw the house for 45 minutes in the dark before we knew it was the one! It opens from double doors into a vestibule, has a main open-plan living and dining space, a kitchen and snug, and upstairs are three bedrooms (one with an en suite) and a small L-shaped bathroom.
Buying the house was a bit of an ordeal as it was listed with two estate agents but we finally had our offer accepted on Valentine’s Day 2014, and we moved in the April of the same year. There were
aspects we had to tweak but structurally no changes were needed – it was more a case of stamping our identity on to the interior. The front steps were collapsing, some windows needed replacing and whenever we started a project, we would soon find another issue. For example, when we replaced the glass in Ava’s bedroom window, we found out the frames weren’t even attached to the house!
Mostly though, we had a wonderful blank canvas with loads of quirky spaces that were begging for us to add some character. Time and money meant it was a slow, bit-by-bit process. A few previous occupiers had added upgrades of their own, like solid oak flooring with a drop-level living area and old school-style radiators throughout. After moving in, we painted a few of the smaller rooms and
‘be creative and repurpose vintage finds - the shoe last i found on ebay is now a loo roll holder!’
then just spent a year enjoying the house and getting to know the village.
We’ve spent the last few years slowly getting the house to where we want it. Our style is a mix of modern country and English quirkiness, which balances the history and age of the property, its rural environment and our own personalities. We’ve tried to stay sensitive to the property without going down a themed route – we only have a church pew dining table bench and small donation box as a nod to the property’s religious origins.
We did most of the decorating ourselves, with a little help here and there. Instagram is a source of inspiration, as is travel – we spend a lot of our holidays on city breaks, where the style in the local bars and interior design shops play a big part in helping us come up with ideas.
We also like staying in boutique hotels, and each anniversary we book somewhere that looks a little quirky and find at least one thing that we replicate in our own home. It’s a great way to remind ourselves of all the good times that we’ve shared together.
We love finding quirky and vintage pieces to display. We also wanted a few statement pieces for our dining room wall, but couldn’t find the right thing – in the end, we picked up some large
‘make every corner count by creating a cosy space with comfy cushions, throws and appropriate lighting’
potato riddles from the Peterborough antiques fair, and after a good clean up we attached some custom-cut round mirror glass and they became exactly the statement pieces we were after.
During the winter, the living room can get pretty cold due to the high ceilings and double-height windows so we’ve made it as cosy as we can, with faux fur throws, blankets, plenty of chunky knits and candles. We still have lots more to do but we’re confident that the style foundations are in place to let our home evolve as we grow as a family – it’s exactly what we wanted.’
talking point ‘Our small telephone area has a chaise from ebay, a wire and linen basket from Truffles & Twine and a star cushion from Perfectly Lovely Interiors’
hat trick ‘Karl made the bowler hat light in the vestibule himself’
making do ‘We inherited this reclaimed kitchen and we’ll probably update it in the future as we’d like something a bit more modern’
top drawer ‘The apothecary drawer wallpaper is by Debbie Mckeegan’
idea to steal ‘Turn antique potato riddles into unique round wall mirrorsõ man’s work ‘our sofa is from next and the coffee table is from Made.com. Karl made the industrial table light from an old workman’s lamp’
Take a pew ‘We upcycled the church pew as a nod to our home’s past’
‘the gallery bridge running between the bedrooms makes the whole house feel connected’
idea to steal ‘If you’re not handy with a paintbrush, cheat the look with oversized wall stickers’ think pink ‘We chose soft greys and pinks for a girly scheme. The bed is from Argos and Karl and Ava hand-painted the tree wall mural’
man cave ‘In the spare bedroom we used a bookshelf wallpaper from Amazon to create some depth’