US

The Church at Tantawangalo: Couple behind conversion that has withstood fire, flood and COVID-19

The couple behind an incredible church conversion that has withstood the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020, floods and the global coronavirus pandemic have revealed how they brought their dream project to life, despite the odds.

Simon and Marie Partridge, from Cronulla, had been keen to buy and renovate an ‘interesting church’ for years before they stumbled across The Church at Tantawangalo in December 2017.

The church is situated around 40 minutes inland from Merimbula on the New South Wales south coast, and it looked to be the perfect project to renovate and turn into a guesthouse.

The couple behind an incredible church conversion that has withstood the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020, floods and the global coronavirus pandemic have revealed how they brought their dream project to life (The Church at Tantawangalo pictured)

Simon and Marie Partridge, from Cronulla (pictured with their daughter), had been keen to buy and renovate an 'interesting church' for years before they stumbled across The Church at Tantawangalo in December 2017

Simon and Marie Partridge, from Cronulla (pictured with their daughter), had been keen to buy and renovate an ‘interesting church’ for years before they stumbled across The Church at Tantawangalo in December 2017 

The church is situated around 40 minutes inland from Merimbula on the NSW south coast, and it looked to be the perfect project to renovate and turn into a guesthouse (pictured now)

 The church is situated around 40 minutes inland from Merimbula on the NSW south coast, and it looked to be the perfect project to renovate and turn into a guesthouse (pictured now)

‘The Gothic revival building was still functioning as an Anglican church when it came up on the market, and it was in very good condition when we looked at it in early 2018,’ Marie told FEMAIL.

‘It still had its original stained glass windows, pointed-arch doors and stunning eight-metre herringbone ceilings.’  

What it didn’t have, however, was running water, power points, heating or a toilet.

 We had to basically bush camp and put tents up in the church while we re-did it, using a pan toilet out the back

The couple beat out 120 other people at an incredibly popular auction to secure the unique property, and they set to work in transforming it into a guest home like no other.

‘I’m qualified as an interior designer and Simon has experience with landscaping and carpentry, but the church still required quite a lot of work to get it functioning with water and power,’ Marie said.

‘We had to basically bush camp and put tents up in the church while we re-did it, using a pan toilet out the back.

‘We thought we had mice for a while during the renovation, but later realised they were bats.’ 

The couple have kept many of the original features of the church (pictured now), including the stained glass windows, pointed-arch doors and stunning eight-metre herringbone ceiling

The couple have kept many of the original features of the church (pictured now), including the stained glass windows, pointed-arch doors and stunning eight-metre herringbone ceiling

The couple beat out 120 other people at an incredibly popular auction to secure the unique property, and they set to work in transforming it into a guest home like no other (the church pictured)

The couple beat out 120 other people at an incredibly popular auction to secure the unique property, and they set to work in transforming it into a guest home like no other (the church pictured)

The couple beat out 120 other people at an incredibly popular auction to secure the unique property, and they set to work in transforming it into a guest home like no other (the church pictured)

The couple spent the next 18 months and close to double the amount of money they anticipated they would spend renovating the church. 

‘We probably could have done it faster, but we wanted to take our time with it and mainly did the work during the school holidays,’ Marie said.

‘It took staying at the church for a bit to realise that the sun was on the front steps in the morning, and that we would need to knock down a centre wall and install a giant bi-fold door to let more light in.’

The biggest costs were knocking down the wall and installing the floor-to-ceiling door, as well as putting in an underground water tank, the stunning front door and a statement bath tub.  

‘We really wanted to keep it so that the church was the thing that had the “wow factor”, rather than some flashy kitchen with a giant island which wouldn’t be in keeping with the church’s character,’ Marie said.

‘We decided to give the church a bit of a modern interior feeling with brush brass in the lighting and tapware, but I think the church building still speaks for itself.’

The couple spent the next 18 months and double the amount they anticipated they would spend renovating the church (pictured ahead of removing the wall to put in steel bi-fold door)

The couple spent the next 18 months and double the amount they anticipated they would spend renovating the church (pictured ahead of removing the wall to put in steel bi-fold door)

'It took staying at the church for a bit to realise that the sun was on the front steps in the morning, and that we would need to knock down a centre wall and install a giant bi-fold door to let more light in,' Marie said (pictured during the renovation)

‘It took staying at the church for a bit to realise that the sun was on the front steps in the morning, and that we would need to knock down a centre wall and install a giant bi-fold door to let more light in,’ Marie said (pictured during the renovation)

The couple and their daughter would bush camp and put up tents in the church during the school holidays while they did the work (pictured)

The couple and their daughter would bush camp and put up tents in the church during the school holidays while they did the work (pictured)

While there were a lot of foreseen issues along the way, what the couple could never have planned for was the nearby threats from multiple bushfires and floods throughout 2019 and 2020, as well as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At one stage during their renovation, bushfires ripped through the nearby town of Tathra, where they destroyed 60 or more homes.

‘The fires came to within 10 kilometres of us, and I remember us being up there just watching and hoping,’ Marie said.

‘The neighbouring community were so kind, and really helped out lending us water when we had none.

‘Fortunately, the wind changed and we were so lucky to be unaffected by fire.’

Today, the church features a dramatic entrance hall with original timber double door and an expansive open-plan kitchen, dining and living room (living area pictured)

Today, the church features a dramatic entrance hall with original timber double door and an expansive open-plan kitchen, dining and living room (living area pictured)

Guests can enjoy a wood-burning fire, a luxurious bathroom in the original vestry with a free-standing bath and a queen size bed with handmade merino wool blankets (interior pictured)

Guests can enjoy a wood-burning fire, a luxurious bathroom in the original vestry with a free-standing bath and a queen size bed with handmade merino wool blankets (interior pictured)

While the church was mercifully unaffected by the bushfires, it wasn’t long before Tantawangalo was hit by the floods in 2020.

‘The worst went to about three metres above the levels of the river,’ Marie said.

‘We’re lucky, because we’re situated quite high up on the hill, but it was another time which proved to be quite scary.’

The Church opened to the public on 1 March 2020 on Airbnb and Riparide, before Simon and Marie were promptly forced to close on account of the pandemic. 

It later re-opened in June 2020, and has been almost fully-booked ever since.

‘It has been one thing after another, but thankfully we haven’t been as badly affected as some,’ Marie said.

‘Perhaps a silver lining of COVID is that the church has been almost solidly-booked since restrictions have eased, as I think people are looking at different places they can travel to in Australia, now that we can’t go overseas.’ 

It still boasts the eight-metre wooden ceilings, original stained glass windows, and a floor-to-ceiling steel bifold door - which lets the light flood in when it's sunny (pictured from above)

It still boasts the eight-metre wooden ceilings, original stained glass windows, and a floor-to-ceiling steel bifold door – which lets the light flood in when it’s sunny (pictured from above)

The church (pictured from the outside) has a dramatic entrance hall with original timber double door and an expansive open-plan living area

The church (pictured from the outside) has a dramatic entrance hall with original timber double door and an expansive open-plan living area

'Perhaps a silver lining of COVID is that the church has been almost solidly-booked since restrictions have eased, as I think people are looking at different places they can travel to in Australia, now that we can't go overseas,' Marie (pictured with her family) said

‘Perhaps a silver lining of COVID is that the church has been almost solidly-booked since restrictions have eased, as I think people are looking at different places they can travel to in Australia, now that we can’t go overseas,’ Marie (pictured with her family) said

Today, the church features a dramatic entrance hall with original timber double door and an expansive open-plan kitchen, dining and living room.

It still boasts the eight-metre wooden ceilings, original stained glass windows, and a floor-to-ceiling steel bifold door – which lets the light flood in when it’s sunny.

Guests can also enjoy a large wood-burning fire, a luxurious bathroom in the original vestry with a free-standing bath and a queen size bed with handmade merino wool blankets. 

‘I’m a big believer with interior design that you don’t have to spend thousands always to get something looking great,’ Marie said.

‘While there are several quite expensive pieces, there is also plenty of Freedom, Kmart and Bunnings dotted around the house.

‘It’s all about blending the high and the low to give it a seamless finish.’

To find out more about The Church at Tantawangalo or to book it, you can visit Airbnb or Riparide here. You can also follow the church on Instagram here.




Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button