Doherty Design Studio carefully transforms a brick church with a history of overlapping renovations into an inviting home for a family of five.

When Jennifer and Grant Peck sought to relocate to the city from a much larger property in the country, their needs were simple: four bedrooms (two for the couple, and two for their kids still at home), a study, great light, and a functional living space—and no renovations. They had already been through heavy remodels in the past, and really wanted something that was “ready to go,” says homeowner Jennifer Peck. However, when Grant stumbled upon the church that would become the Hawthorn Residence online, it immediately piqued their interest. After seeing it in person, they fell in love with the bones and character of the historic structure, and unexpectedly, a renovation was soon underway.

The embraced original character details of the church, including the arched glass doorway to the tower. When homeowner Jennifer and Grant initially viewed the space, the tower "was just the icing on the cake.

Doherty Design Studio embraced original character details of the church, including the beautiful, arched glass doorway to the tower. When homeowner Jennifer and Grant initially viewed the space, the stunning tower “was just the icing on the cake.”

Photo: Derek Swalwell

Aiding in the transformation were Mardi Doherty and Samantha Deacon of Doherty Design Studio. The first step of the process was to “undo” previous renovations, which had left the space feeling dark, cluttered, and cramped. “We wanted natural light, and all the amazing church features to be able to shine,” says Jennifer.

Since the church was an existing heritage building, the structure could not be altered to add additional windows. Instead, they had to find other creative ways to bring in more light. “Making the home light and spacious was the biggest challenge,” says the Doherty Design Studio team. 

By re-configuring interior spaces, the team created a “void” of volume on all three levels which would allow light to freely penetrate the interior living spaces. Also, since many of the ceilings were low, the team raised them where possible, and introduced a curved ceiling corner that would blur the junction between wall and ceiling—giving the illusion of additional height. “The use of softer curves also gave reference to the subtle architectural details of the church,” explains the Doherty team.

Before: living area
Before: living area

See the full story on Dwell.com: Before & After: A 1930s Church in Melbourne Gets a Dramatic Conversion

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