One of Otago’s most recent church conversions is nearly completed. Sally Brooker visited the old St Stephen’s Church in Hampden to see how Jay and Dave Lingham have transformed it into their home.
An Anglican church built in 1881 is now a 21st Century home melding modern with historic.
The former St Stephen’s Church overlooks Hampden from the hill at the back of the town. After closing as a church in January 2015, it was bought by Marlborough couple Jay and Dave Lingham.
It will be five years in June since they moved to the site and began the conversion, leaving behind a large new house Mrs Lingham designed at Delta Lake, Renwick.
They had been to Rawene in Northland to look at a church, but missed out on it. Then they bought the Hampden property sight unseen.
Converting a church was ‘‘something we hadn’t done’’, Mrs Lingham says.
‘‘I design houses. I’m not into normal.’’
The external structure has been left intact, except for the addition of a small entrance porch at the eastern end.
Inside, the 7m apex allowed plenty of space for a mezzanine floor accommodating the bedroom at the western end.
A scullery and the kitchen have been installed in the eastern area where the altar used to be, and the bathroom is under part of the mezzanine.
The arched windows have been retained. The three in the kitchen, which had been plastered over in the past, were uncovered by the Linghams.
The structure rests on Oamaru stone piles, which are porous.
‘‘All the bearers had to be replaced,’’ Mrs Lingham said.
The walls were weatherboard that was stuccoed in 1965, presumably because it was easier to maintain, she said.
‘‘We had to take the sarking off. The weatherboard was in good condition.’’
Insulation was added under the iron roof and the kauri ceiling was covered with tongue-and-groove that was painted white.
The white lightened the ‘‘quite oppressive’’ air of the timber.
‘‘I couldn’t bring myself to paint the kauri,’’ Mrs Lingham said.
She did, however, paint the trusses.
She also added narrow strips of lead and painted the glass around the edges of the windows.
A lot of the floor had to be cut out because of rot and the entire former vestry floor had to be replaced. The Linghams went for dark grey carpet and vinyl for a unified and practical solution.
They decided against the pyroclastic fireplace they had planned to install for heating, as they did not want to to poke through the ceiling and have an ‘‘ugly’’ flue in the living room.
It was not hard for Mrs Lingham to decide how to lay out the space.
‘‘We were kind of screwed with the couch. It can only go two ways.’’
The long, low, curved leather couch with backrests that can be raised was an investment from several years ago.
‘‘Too many people do the church thing in churches.
‘‘When we walked in here, it had a really nice feel, not like a church.
‘‘It’s just a very tall building, really.’’
The Linghams did as much of the work as they could themselves, in between working full-time.
The first year was spent waiting for the architect to draw plans and have them approved by the Waitaki District Council.
‘‘Then we’ve had a three-and-a-half-year renovation project.
‘‘We’ve got no mortgage. We’ve paid as we’ve gone.’’
A few interior items were works in progress and the ‘‘racing green’’ colour on the exterior window trims and eaves was being painted dark grey.
‘‘We had the aid of some very good tradesmen,’’ Mrs Lingham said.
‘‘Dan Lucey helped to do a lot of the finishing. He became our problem-solver.’’
Some Hampden residents had called for the former church to be registered with Heritage New Zealand. The Linghams objected, believing it would be too restrictive.
‘‘A heritage listing is like a death sentence for a building,’’ Mrs Lingham said.
‘‘I fully believe we shouldn’t bastardise our historic buildings, but there needs to be something in the middle.
‘‘We’ve allowed the building to live for another 100 years.’’
They had been respectful of the building and the alterations were in keeping with it, she said.
They had named the old church ‘‘Birdsong’’ and placed many bird sculptures and ornaments in and around it.