EURO VI­SION

French tastemaker Elise Pioch Chap­pell has brought her stylish eye to a con­verted church.

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS AND STYLING BY AMY STARR

LOVINGLY CON­VERT­ING A CHURCH

from the 1880s into a sweet fam­ily space that’s both warm and stylish is no mean feat. But that’s what French-born Elise Pioch Chap­pell, her hus­band Pablo and daugh­ter Loulou did with this unique home, lo­cated on the banks of the Hawkes­bury River, just an hour out of Syd­ney. The fam­ily spent nearly a decade turn­ing the com­pact coun­try chapel into their per­fect oa­sis in the bush, with a bath­tub that sits be­hind a huge din­ing ta­ble and gi­ant win­dows over­look­ing the gumtrees and rolling hills out­side. “The green of the sur­round­ing na­ture is my favourite colour,” Elise says. “It’s why we chose to paint the en­tire inside of the church a very pale grey – it’s a colour that’s sim­i­lar to the bark of the eu­ca­lyp­tus trees out­side.”

Elise, who founded can­dle and home­wares line Mai­son Balzac, utilised her reg­u­lar busi­ness jaunts to the north­ern hemi­sphere to source an ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion of ob­jects, each jam-packed with a his­tory of their own. “I travel to France for work a lot and love bring­ing back small an­tique pieces such as re­li­gious paint­ings, glass­ware, plates, cut­lery and table­cloths,”

she says. “It’s all so ut­terly per­sonal. Ev­ery sin­gle item in the house has a story linked to a mo­ment in time.”

The fam­ily added a green­house and an ad­di­tional tim­ber out­build­ing to host vis­it­ing rel­a­tives (or guests keen to check it out – you can find the en­tire house on Airbnb), which make the set­ting even more charm­ing. “I par­tic­u­larly love the St John’s Angli­can Church sign that was orig­i­nally dis­played on the out­side of the build­ing,” Elise says. “We brought it inside and hung it on the kitchen wall, where we could look at it ev­ery day.”

The his­tory of the build­ing isn’t just con­fined to the house. It has a mean­ing­ful and ro­man­tic as­so­ci­a­tion for the peo­ple who live around it, too – a neigh­bour once proudly pre­sented his wed­ding pic­ture, cap­tured decades ear­lier in what was the door­way to a bed­room. It only added to the re­spon­si­bil­ity that Elise felt in restor­ing the place. For their next trick, this creative fam­ily are turn­ing their hands to a 1900s manor house in Elise’s old stomp­ing ground in the south of France.

Of all the cov­etable cor­ners in this del­i­cate con­ver­sion, Elise’s favourite is the one that’s filled most with the his­tory of her fam­ily. “We put in the up­stairs bed­room when I was nine months preg­nant,” she says. “We fin­ished it just in time to wel­come baby Loulou. It’s a space that feels so serene – like a tree­house – with the sound of rain drop­ping on the roof above the bed mak­ing it even more per­fect.”

“We painted the inside a very pale grey – sim­i­lar to the bark of the sur­round­ing eu­ca­lyp­tus trees”

HOME­MADE HE­ROES: When the fam­ily couldn’t find a din­ing ta­ble long enough for the space, Pablo, an in­dus­trial de­signer, made this one out of mer­bau wood

NEAR AND FAR: Made in Morocco, the kitchen is­land was dis­cov­ered in an an­tiques store in Bowral, NSW Hooks, from $50 each, POP & SCOTT, popand­scott.com Chair, $195, click­on­fur­ni­ture.com.au SKETCH, Light, $908, ORIG­I­NAL BTC, orig­i­nalbtc.com.au

KRISTINA SOLJO

HOUSE BOAT: A small wooden boat – bought from a man who taught his chil­dren how to fish on it – pays trib­ute to the house’s river­side lo­ca­tion PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY

HID­DEN GEM: The three arches that used to open out onto the church’s gar­den have been main­tained, with one leading to an ul­tra-chic bath­room

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