New Zealand

Church conversion has been a labour of love for vendors

Rob and Kaaren Thorpe of Clive in Hawke’s Bay have put in the hard yards with their immaculate church conversion.

Formerly St Jospeph’s Church (Catholic), their Category 2 heritage-listed home built in 1889 was an art gallery when they took it over eight years ago. Rob Thorpe says they had originally tried to buy it when it first went to tender, but lost out to an Englishman who established the gallery.

But when it came back on the market a few years later, they were lucky enough to secure the property, which was essentially a bare shell. Thorpe says he lived in the building by himself for three months, while they worked on getting the bathroom, a new kitchen and balcony installed.

The former St Joseph's Church in Clive, Hawke's Bay has been converted into a character-filled private home, which has come on the market for the first time since its conversion.

NZ Sotheby’s International/Stuff

The former St Joseph’s Church in Clive, Hawke’s Bay has been converted into a character-filled private home, which has come on the market for the first time since its conversion.

“We have absolutely loved living here. We consider ourselves caretakers, not owners. We have just finished painting the whole place from top to bottom. But we have made the decision to downsize, with a view to semi-retirement.”

Thorpe says the couple had planned to sell earlier this year, but then Cyclone Gabrielle swept through. The grass and gardens received some flooding, but not the church, probably thanks to the foresight of a priest around the turn of the last century, who raised the floor level so it would be above the highest known flood level.

The owners have added a pergola and extensive planting, creating a picturesque outdoor entertaining area.

NZ Sotheby’s International Realty

The owners have added a pergola and extensive planting, creating a picturesque outdoor entertaining area.

Pruning and harvesting the olive trees is a family affair.

Supplied

Pruning and harvesting the olive trees is a family affair.

“We are 6ft off the ground, and we were perfectly safe here,” Thorpe says.

The church is listed with Sophie Sheild-Barrett and Neal Andersen of NZ Sotheby’s International Real Estate. Their listing says the church represents a rare opportunity for “visionaries, character lovers, history buffs and investors”.

The Thorpes have been careful to retain all the traditional character, right down to the arched stained glass windows, the vaulted ceiling featuring native timbers, and matai flooring.

Happy family times in Clive include swimming lessons in the river. Celia and Oscar (centre) enjoy the run of the property.

Supplied

Happy family times in Clive include swimming lessons in the river. Celia and Oscar (centre) enjoy the run of the property.

The church doors now open to a beautifully decorated home that has retained many traditional features, including the painted timber lining in the former vestibule.

NZ Sotheby’s International

The church doors now open to a beautifully decorated home that has retained many traditional features, including the painted timber lining in the former vestibule.

They have carefully subdivided the space, using existing structural elements. The kitchen, for example, is enclosed in the former altar space, two steps up from the main floor (former nave). The main bedroom is adjacent to the kitchen, with the bathroom mirroring this on the other side. One of these rooms may have been a vestry.

The mezzanine floor is currently used as a second bedroom.

The owners have also been busy outside – the land covers 1012m². They have established two outdoor seating areas, one on the sunny side of the church, and the other beneath a pergola and arbour, with formal hedging either side.

The property, at 7 School Rd, Clive, is for sale by tender, with a deadline of November 22, 2023.

The former altar is now occupied by the kitchen and island.

NZ Sotheby’s International

The former altar is now occupied by the kitchen and island.

Doors on either side of the kitchen lead to the main bedroom and bathroom.

NZ Sotheby’s International

Doors on either side of the kitchen lead to the main bedroom and bathroom.

Once the nave, now an open-plan living space with ample room to display the owners' collected treasures. There is a second bedroom on the mezzanine level.

NZ Sotheby’s International

Once the nave, now an open-plan living space with ample room to display the owners’ collected treasures. There is a second bedroom on the mezzanine level.

Furniture serves as dividers in the former nave.

NZ Sotheby’s International Realty

Furniture serves as dividers in the former nave.

The owners have put their own stamp on every room.

NZ Sotheby’s International/Stuff

The owners have put their own stamp on every room.

Even the bathroom has plenty of character with black fittings adding drama.

NZ Sotheby’s International Realty

Even the bathroom has plenty of character with black fittings adding drama.

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