Nicholas Rupolo, Narrandera Argus
It’s the perfect blend of luxury and elegance. This old church built in 1890 was recently converted into a luxurious retreat by Melanie Absolom and her husband Kevin.
The church features its original stained glass windows, an open and elegant living area and a mesmerising cache of history in its walls.
A while ago the Absoloms sold the Charles Sturt Hotel and Melanie’s yoga teaching needed a level up. They decided to seek out the old church which hadn’t been used for 25 years.
“The church became available and I said to Kevin ‘can we have a look?’,” Melanie said.
“It has a hall I can do my yoga in and the church we can convert into an airbnb, he wasn’t all for it but (Kevin) said ‘well we are selling the pub’ so let’s try something else.
“We converted the back part first into the studio and then we had an architect come and have a look and my daughter is in interior design. It all unfolded from that.”
The effort to repurpose and renovate the chapel took almost six months, but it was a family effort.
Local tradies, architects and builders were primarily used and the grunt work cleaning up the inside of the church in July was done by the extended family.
“Georgia (Melanie’s daughter) did all the interior design, she chose the kitchen and all the bathrooms and all furnishing,” Melanie said.
“My dad did the painting outside a lot of it needed to be scraped back by hand and sanded down.
“Kevin’s parents helped with gutting the interior, I don’t know how many loads his father did to the tip it would have been a huge amount.
“The studio took almost four to five months, we started in July this year and we finished a month ago.”
In her research into the chapel Melanie found it was originally a Methodist church and was converted into a Baptist church.
Two marble plaques can be found which were donated by the Roach family as a tribute to Private James Alfred Roach, a soldier in the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion who died in the summer of 1916 in France.
There is also an honour roll for servicemen from 1914 to 1918 in the first World War.
While it has a fresh face and a homely feel, the chapel still has 130 years of history embedded in its walls.
The stained glass windows and floorboards are all original from the 19th century.
In a show of good faith, the Absoloms gave the honour of the first stay to their builder and his wife but their first official guest completed the circle of life for the historic church.
“Our very first official guests were a couple that were married in this church 46 years ago,” she said.
“They travelled from South Australia and had two nights with us. He travels six months of the year and he said he has stayed in some beautiful places and this was up with the best.”
The restored building is now known as la mia capella – my little chapel.
This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 25 November 2021.