A canny conversion combines with a creative couple’s treasures – and the result is simply heavenly. By Lucy Feagins.

Tessa Blazey and Steven Blick’s Northcote conversion

This distinctive apartment in Melbourne’s Northcote retains the grace and serenity of its former life as the Northcote Presbyterian Church. 

Originally built in 1894, the church was subdivided and converted into four residences in 2001. The design work was undertaken by local firm Inarc Architects, which preserved many of the building’s original features, while creating four particularly contemporary homes within its walls. 

The front unit, comprising two bedrooms, a versatile mezzanine space and the original bell tower, now belongs to Melbourne jeweller Tessa Blazey, hair salon owner Steven Blick, and Tessa’s nine-year-old daughter, Mila. After making a surprisingly easy transition into the space, the family has been here now for just over 18 months.

A prolific and talented couple who each run their own creative businesses, Tessa and Steven are visual people and passionate collectors of beautiful things. At the heart of the home is an impressive industrial dining table, which seats eight. Centrally positioned in the living space, and framed by original stained-glass windows, its prominence far outweighs the adjacent and comparatively modest sitting room. 

Other treasured pieces hold nostalgic appeal – Tessa and Steven are particularly fond of their Holmegaard vintage glassware collection, and a haunting watercolour painting by Melbourne artist and close friend Ness Flett.  

With its lofty ceilings and clever use of vertical space, the church’s proportions are deceiving.

“It’s light and airy and the high ceilings make the interior feel huge, when it is in fact a pretty modest footprint,” says Tessa.

Inarc’s clever conversion presents an inspired interplay of old and new, giving this space a unique character rarely seen in renovated Victorian homes.

The unmistakable history of the building is perfectly balanced with the necessary modern elements to create a relaxed, functional family home.

Yet despite its contemporary details, the family is reminded daily of this building’s previous life.

“The sun projects a cobalt blue dot of light through the stained-glass window, which slowly pans across the kitchen every morning,” Tessa says.

And then, of course, there’s the tower, an ever-present nod to the past – and one of the most impressive vantage points in Melbourne.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 28, 2014 as "Tessa Blazey and Steven Blick’s Northcote conversion".

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Lucy Feagins is founder and editor of The Design Files. She is The Saturday Paper’s interiors editor.

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