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A Dunedin couple transform a church into a family home


An enterprising Dunedin couple transform this ex-church-turned-dance studio into an impressive home by reinstating its heritage features

The church that Jaimee Whiston and her husband Ryan now call home hasn’t been used as a place of worship for over a quarter of a century. Instead, the lofty space was home to a local dance school. “Inside, the church was made up of two massive rooms which were empty aside from 25 years’ worth of dance props, kids’ costumes and other memorabilia,” says Jaimee. It had no heating and it was absolutely freezing.

Leaving the church after viewing it for the first time, the couple went on a self-proclaimed “mission” to try to secure finance for the unique property.

The couple took possession of the church in January 2011, but as it wasn’t fit to inhabit they continued to live with Ryan’s family until April. Ryan, who is a builder and joiner by trade, worked on the church full-time for four months, pulling long hours to get it to a stage where the family could move in. When they did move in, it was still needing a proper kitchen and a fireplace, but it was home.

With Ryan’s expertise, the couple didn’t feel the need to engage an architect. Instead, they designed every aspect of the conversion themselves. They have remained sympathetic to their home’s heritage, keeping the original windows and exposed beams.

Words by: Annick Larkin
Photography by: Emma MacDonald

An enterprising Dunedin couple transform this ex-church-turned-dance studio into an impressive home by reinstating its heritage features

The church that Jaimee Whiston and her husband Ryan now call home hasn’t been used as a place of worship for over a quarter of a century. Instead, the lofty space was home to a local dance school. “Inside, the church was made up of two massive rooms which were empty aside from 25 years’ worth of dance props, kids’ costumes and other memorabilia,” says Jaimee. It had no heating and it was absolutely freezing.

Leaving the church after viewing it for the first time, the couple went on a self-proclaimed “mission” to try to secure finance for the unique property.

The couple took possession of the church in January 2011, but as it wasn’t fit to inhabit they continued to live with Ryan’s family until April. Ryan, who is a builder and joiner by trade, worked on the church full-time for four months, pulling long hours to get it to a stage where the family could move in. When they did move in, it was still needing a proper kitchen and a fireplace, but it was home.

With Ryan’s expertise, the couple didn’t feel the need to engage an architect. Instead, they designed every aspect of the conversion themselves. They have remained sympathetic to their home’s heritage, keeping the original windows and exposed beams.

Words by: Annick Larkin
Photography by: Emma MacDonald

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