i-on Homes: Take a look inside this unassuming church in Portobello...
We take a look inside an apparently unassuming church on a Portobello residential street... photography David Barbour
On the search for a home in 2010, Zoë and Richard came across a disused church in Portobello.
“Richard had always joked about converting an old church,so when he came across it online I didn’t take it too seriously at first. Then one evening we got chatting to an architect in the pub who had drawn up plans for the place after having seen it himself.
“I’m at a lovely point where I’m living in the right place,surrounded by the right people,in an environment that makes me happy every day. I’m in my dream home.”
A week later we bought the church and hired him. Richard is a civil and structural engineer so he’s extremely practical and hands-on; I love interiors and am good at project management,so we were a good team. It was far too good an opportunity to miss.”
The church and associated outbuilding hall cost just £180k, but that soon increased.
“We made all the mistakes you see on TV shows”, Zoë says. “We went over budget, and kept changing our minds about things at the last minute.
The build’s timescale went to plan as we had great builders (HM Raitt), but the drawn-out stuff was planning, listed building consent, and fielding the opinions of various heritage groups who suddenly became interested in the plans for an old church in Porty.”
However the labour of love has reaped the benefits ever since, even if the early days were a little daunting.
“We had our first baby during the process. I felt overwhelmed at the beginning, trying to juggle being a new mum with making decisions on the build. It was challenging designing a kitchen and bathroom for a space that didn’t exist yet.But it’s working on the house and it’s interior that honed my skills and made me realise I could do it professionally.
At Life/Edit I help people with all aspects of organising their home. I also do interior design and project-manage home makeovers, whether it’ss for living in or ‘staging’ for sale.”
“We replaced all the windows, opened up an arch at the back to form a double height window and installed ground floor and first floor rooms.
We replaced the railings, laid a driveway, knocked down the hall at the back, planted and landscaped the garden.
We took out all the church furniture: 47 pews, an organ pit, the pulpit and even the minister’s calendar, saving what we could: the globe lights in the sitting room are original, we’ve incorporated some of the pews, and we restored the old stonework at the front of the building.
We know every inch of the property and literally shed blood,sweat and tears over it.”
“Inside, I chose colours which speak to our seaside environment; teals, greens and calm tones. I’ve enjoyed making the porch very kitsch; I love tongue-in-cheek religious iconography and I have gold glitter wallpaper to go up next.
But the kitchen/dining room is my favourite as it’s been the focus of so many events: my boys’ birthday parties,dinner parties and long lunches with friends; it’sa great space for entertaining.
The huge map of Portobello from the 1800s on the wall is a great talking point. It’s developing all the time as our family grows (we now have three children) and it’ s exciting to keep playing with the décor. But right now I’m busy working on other people’s homes!”
Above: We bought a piece from local artist Edd Scape and turned it into wallpaper for the study. Richard is currently working on the Queensferry Crossing so we wanted to reference that. eddscape.info
ZOE'S RENOVATION ADVICE
Have a contingency plan and budget,and expect the unexpected:whether it’s coming up against a difficult planning issue, uncovering a load of damp, or the 200 year old cross falls off the top of your church and bashes in the porch roof two months before completion
Find out more about Life/Edit at Life-edit.me