A 2012 trip to the South Coast proved a revelation for Sydney woman Sharon Saville when she stumbled upon an old run-down church and immediately had a vision of what it could be.
The result is a beautiful, painstakingly renovated property that maintains the ambience of the original structure and creates some unique spaces.
Commanding magnificent views from a hill above the Clyde River, 1 Runnyford Road, Nelligen sits on a large 1,558 square metre block, with the triple-brick building surrounded by a cottage garden ideal for quiet reflection.
L.J. Hooker agent Karen Van Der Stelt said the owner had stopped for a coffee at Nelligen and driven up the street to find the dilapidated church and a fading For Sale sign.
A phone call later and she was buying a church.
“I think she always had that vision of unusual properties and something special and has a real knack for doing things like that, and thought ‘I can do this’,” Ms Van Der Stelt said.
After spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars transforming the property, the owner is heading back to Sydney to be with family after becoming a grandmother, and it goes under the hammer this Saturday at 1 pm.
Asked what price range it occupied, Ms Van der Stelt said the appraisal was the most difficult she had ever done, because there was nothing like it to compare with. She believes the bidding will be in the $900,000’s.
Heritage-listed in 1997, the building was originally St Joseph’s Catholic Church, designed circa 1896 in late Victorian Gothic with Moruya granite base footings and an operating copper bell tower and spire.
The Catholic Church gave up any ideas of restoring the building in the 1970s, before it was bought by a Perth couple who ran it as an art gallery and studio for many years.
They installed a hardwood floor and replaced the vandalised stained glass windows.
It presented more than a few hoops to jump through but working with a specialist builder from Sydney, she was able to stay within heritage parameters and install a carpeted mezzanine floor, accessed by a spiral staircase with decorative iron balustrades, that contains the main bedroom, tiled bathroom, wardrobe and study space.
The ground floor retains the hardwood floorboards and includes an open plan guest bedroom.
The kitchen, with its cabinet doors carved in Bali, has been elevated to the original altar space, with the second bathroom/laundry in the original Vestry.
Ms Van Der Stelt said a wood stove exhaust in the back right-hand corner of the kitchen had been converted into an oven with a specifically designed copper pipe instead of an exhaust fan.
She said the owner went to great lengths to match doors and windows, installing two sets of French doors leading East and West to outdoor terraces, as well as sourcing lights, ballustrades and having the building rewired.
The mezzanine was designed so the whole internal space would still capture the light from the leadlight windows.
The triple-brick structure provides excellent insulation, and in summer the property’s hilltop position captures sea breezes.
The owner landscaped the property, installing rock retainer walls and filling the garden with cottage plants. A monkey pine in the front yard dates from the 1800s, lending further character to the property.
Ms Van der Stelt said the property was self-sufficient for water with two 22,000 litre tanks and has a newly installed automated sewerage system and gas connection.
She assures me that there are no grave sites on the block, although its sacred qualities remain, inspiring quite a few to ring the church bell to good effect.
Interest has been mainly from early retirees looking for something distinctive and special as a holiday home, and some have seen it as a potential Bed and Breakfast.
For more information call Karen Van Der Stelt on 0413 221 504 or go here.