Sarah and Adam Fairhead Hall knew of this old church in Willunga, South Australia, having regularly visited Sarah’s sister in the town. When they learned the property was for sale, they put in an offer and crossed their fingers, and finally five months later, their offer was accepted!

The heritage listed former Church Of Christ building has a rich history, having functioned as a Masonic lodge, WWII control centre, Country Women’s Association centre and more since 1870.

‘It had been lived in by others since 1991, but no internal structure like the mezzanine was put in place,’ says Sarah. ‘When we bought it, the church was hired out as a yoga studio, for belly dancing classes and chanting, along with party hire. So A LOT has happened in this space!’ Sarah says. 

The couple and their children Story, (now 12) and Arlo (8) moved into the space in 2017, initially camping in tents, while they decided how best to divide the space.

‘It had to include a swing for the kids, internal windows that could look in a main space, and leave as much full height space as possible,’ says Sarah. ‘Once we figured out the layout it was a lot easier, then we could work out how big we wanted each room and kind of made it up as we went along… Eventually we just needed walls!’

Among significant additions include north-facing windows (in place of previously bricked up niches), a new kitchen, and the mezzanine built by Adam, containing three bedrooms. 

Even with some walls now in place, the house retains somewhat of a studio feel, which is continually being arranged. Sarah is the owner of styling and vintage furniture business Read&Hall, and has furnished the space to adopt a rustic feel filled with vintage signage, tableware and other treasures proudly on display against a Dulux Antique White USA backdrop. The religious backdrop above the record player was found rolled up in a shed, and is believed to have come from a church in Copenhagen. 

Being a heritage structure, Sarah says there are always compromises to be made, but that all comes with the territory of living in a church! ‘It was not a house and not designed to be one. The kitchen is very long and narrow and has a door into the master bedroom!’ she says.

In future, the family hopes to expand with an addition off the kitchen, under the guidance of a state heritage appointed architect. ‘We can’t wait to get to that bit!’ says Sarah.

This is the exterior of the church on the High Street of Willunga. The family added the windows after obtaining permission from State Heritage. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The fam! Large Margaret Preston exhibition banner bought when Sarah worked at the Art Gallery of SA bookshop. Painting found in a Swedish op-shop. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The front courtyard houses a vintage outdoor setting bought on Gumtree. There is a cafe on one side and a glass studio on the other. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The mezzanine with steel staircase, designed and built by Adam. The family clad the newly built walls in v-groove panelling to contrast with the stone walls, which are painted in Dulux Antique White USA. The long picture above the dresser is a vintage temple rubbing. The coffee table is from @danishvintagemodern. The ‘Tessa’ chair was bought on Gumtree. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The dining area is tucked under the mezzanine; it has been kept deliberately art-free. Black Danish chairs found on Gumtree find and re-painted. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The original jarrah floors were a non-negotiable keeper! Swing from Etsy. Linen couch from Living By Design. Rug by Armadillo and Co. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The large wall hanging to the right of the window are lithographs made by the Religious Tract Society in London for churches and Sunday schools. Sarah and Adam found the large European processional staff at Scammells Auctions. Linen couch from Living By Design. Rug by Armadillo and Co. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

A print of a William Blake etching that used to hang in Sarah’s bedroom when she was growing up.  The tiny church lamp was a gift from Sarah’s sister Emma (the other half of Read & Hall) when Sarah bought the church. Floral painting from the Camberwell market. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Adam and Sarah built the shelves from recycled Oregon timber and Bunnings brackets. Vintage ‘Sebel’ table, still-life and bentwood bench found on Gumtree. Freedom rug. The theatre sign was from the State Theatre Company auction. Lanterns from The Society Inc. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

In winter the family move the couches closer to the fire on the other side of the living room. The painting of the fairground (top right on the gallery wall) is by Cornish artist Michael Quirke. The tin horses were found in an antique shop in Tilba Tilba, NSW. The lady holding the teacup painting is by South Australian artist Zoe Freney. The castle on the cliff is by G. W. Hill. Green hills screenprint by Svenston Ehmen (1957). Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Adam mixes records in this room where the acoustics are amazing. The painting is an altar backdrop painted by Karl Forup in 1932 for the Church of Daniel in Copenhagen, which is no longer there. Sarah found it for sale in someone’s shed contents when sourcing for Read & Hall Traders and looked up the history. Vintage Ikea rocker recovered in boucle fabric. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Giant lamp is from Pottery Barn Australia. Large nautical signal flag bought on eBay. Large Bauhaus print found on Etsy. Textile artwork near lamp is by Irish artist Rosemary Cullen. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Pepper grinder by Alexander Mill bought at Mr Kitly. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

One of the three original arched doors in the church. The screenprint was a gift from Adelaide printmaker Georgia Cheeseman. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Original Baltic pine doors. The painting to the left of the window is by Danish artist Orla Petersen bought at Scammells Auctions in Adelaide. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Kitchen details. The painting to the right of the banner is by T. Ringdahl and was bought at a charity shop in Sweden. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The vintage shop banner was purchased years ago from Scammells Auctions . Sarah and Adam hope to put a window here to the backyard when they do the next extension. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The long skinny kitchen is 9 x 3.5 metres. Sarah designed the kitchen island after watching Sense & Sensibility and saw one she loved. The female portrait is by Sandra Rose and belonged to Sarah’s mum. The male portrait above her is by Anna Po painted int 1972.  Painting of a girl writing is by A. Bredsdorff in 1928 and was bought by Adam at Scammells Auctions. The painting on the right is by Adam’s sister Alex Linden while she was at art school and is a copy of Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conder. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Alfie on the kitchen day bed. The french style cushions are made by Sarah and her sister Emma from vintage French fabric, which they sell at Read & Hall Traders. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Our petite bedroom with original carved Baltic pine door. The wall lamp by the bed was bought Vintage Carousel SA. The tiny white staircase on the chest of drawers is from a flea market in Paris. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Old windows from a factory in Amsterdam bought from Fossil Vintage. This window open to the fireplace in the main living space. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The bed was made by joining two Swedish single beds found on marketplace into a king size bed. Covered in Society of Wanderers linen. The side table is an old washstand with a terrazzo top. Painting was bought in an antique shop in Copenhagen and is by Danish artist Louis Moe. Brass Russian lamp from Gumtree. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Arlo’s bedroom with another of the Fossil Vintage windows. The print was bought at a gift store in Stockholm. Tiger cushions made with fabric from The Drapery. Animal-printed vintage curtains from Gumtree. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

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