On a quiet block in the Pyrenees town of Lexton, Grayling’s Gift is a church conversion that encourages quiet contemplation.
With original stained glass windows, a cavernous peaked ceiling, no TV, and very patchy internet, owners Annie and Shane Brereton say it’s an atmosphere that inspires people to relax.
And the boutique accommodation has a vintage clawfoot bath, wood-burning heater and king-sized bed with luxury linen, just to nudge that unwinding process along.
“Everything’s slow,” Annie says. “There are no teabags, everything’s about brewing tea, beautiful watercolour paints, books, and things to really encourage people just to slow down.”
It took about 10 months for the Breretons to turn the run-down, 19th-century church into a luxurious open-plan guest house.
“The floors were termite-ridden – you couldn’t even walk on the floor,” Annie recalls.
The couple would drive up from their Melbourne home on weekends, sleeping overnight in their converted van so they could do all the work themselves.
Annie and Shane were enamoured with the church from the moment they saw it. Found via an internet search of Victorian properties under 100K (though it sold for more), the couple became its owners within 30 minutes of arriving to see it in person.
“Absolutely no due diligence,” Annie jokes. “We got home and went ‘what have we done?’”
But Shane, who’s “an absolute jack of all trades”, was soon at work cleaning bat droppings out of the roof, replacing the rotten floors with salvaged boards from two old houses in Melbourne, and fashioning kitchen cabinetry out of the leftover timber.
Recycled materials are the couple’s first preference when renovating – the church is their second project together.
Annie says their approach is based on “the overarching ethos of reuse and repurpose”, despite the extra time that requires.
“We’re both very focused on sustainability and reuse of materials, so renovating old places is right up our alley.”
A closer look at the individual pieces inside the church confirms the lengths the couple went to in finding salvaged pieces they loved.
Corner seating where guests take their meals was made from two original church pews, which Shane transformed into a bespoke piece of furniture. “We’re really proud of using those again,” Annie says.
The square kitchen sink “we pulled out of a house in Brighton”, and the tiny timber shelf that holds dishwashing detergent was once used to support parishioners’ hymn books.
“That’s what we do,” Annie says. “[The timber] was there, it needed to be reused, and we just saw no need or no value in buying new things.”
And she was thrilled to find a hymn board at the Amazing Mill Markets, 40 minutes away in Ballarat, after searching far and wide for the right thing.
“It’s actually got our little arch windows – exactly the same shape – so it really looks like it’s an original piece even though it’s not. It was such a great find.”
Annie says many of the original church’s artefacts had been removed prior to sale, but there are some pieces they’ve managed to retain, such as bibles from the 1800s.
Members of the local Lexton community have also helped them preserve historic church pieces, particularly their next-door neighbours, former parishioners now in their 80s and “just beautiful souls” who’ve enjoyed seeing lights back on in the church.
Annie says she and Shane are very grateful the community has been supportive of what they’ve done. On auction day, when “pretty much all of Lexton’s population of 200 were at the auction”, she understood how invested locals were in the future of the church – formerly St Mary’s Anglican – after almost 150 years.
“Everybody came up to us afterwards and they were so excited.”
Although the Breretons don’t live there, Grayling’s Gift (named for William Grayling, donor of the church’s land) has become central to Annie and Shane’s lives.
This year they left Melbourne to move closer; their home is now a rural property outside Ballarat, where they can be hands-on hosts and offer a personalised experience for Grayling’s guests.
Bookings have been solid, and Annie’s had to block out a few days in the calendar so she and Shane can do some maintenance at the church, and drink in some of that serenity for themselves.
“It has an energy in it that is just divine,” she says.
Thank you for visiting My Local Pages and reading this story on “What’s On in the City of Brisbane” titled “‘Everything’s slow’: Behind the doors of a church converted into a luxe staycation”. This post was presented by MyLocalPages as part of our local and national events & news stories services.
#Everythings #slow #doors #church #converted #luxe #staycation