There can’t be many people who would be thrilled by a for sale sign outside a huge, neglected church. Dean Keyworth and his husband Gavin Hilton looked at the disused church and decided it would make the perfect renovation project. They were looking for a second home close to the coast and the church was in a quiet village almost as far north as you can go into Scotland without crossing the border. That was 14 years ago and unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan. Their offer was outbid and Dean and Gavin continued their search.
In 2018, the two discovered the church was up for sale again and had barely been touched since then. “I didn’t want to miss it this time,” says Dean, and set about making plans and figuring out what was possible, since the former church was a Grade I listed building that dates back to 1821.
It shows that a lot was possible with flair, creativity and courage. And the dramatic results of Dean’s church renovation project make it one of the finest homes in the world.
There’s plenty here to inspire anyone tackling a major renovation project. However, the creative transformation of the building is packed with ideas that can just as easily be applied to smaller projects, especially for those looking for kitchen ideas
before starting a conversion.
Interior designer Dean Keyworth took over this neglected building, which he says was just “a huge main room with twenty-foot ceilings and an old bathroom with a tree growing through the wall.” Dean, founder of Armstrong Keyworth and former President of the British Institute of Interior Design, has stylishly brought the former church back to life with its original space and period features.
We’ve picked our favorite corners of this unusual remodel. Here are some of the most inspirational design elements.
1. A former choir stall has been converted into a mezzanine kitchen
A kitchen in the choir stalls – why not? We definitely sing his praises! Looking for smart kitchen cabinet ideas? These sleek grey-blue cabinets were handcrafted by 1909 Kitchens and Dean added the unusual distressed mirrored splashback. An island breakfast bar has also been incorporated into the scheme and a door opens onto a Juliet balcony to make the most of the room’s elevated position which offers great views and additional natural light. A curtain of Manuel Canovas balangan fabric provides additional pops of color.
2. A modern kitchen has been given color
Dean came up with a burnt orange, green and caramel palette that he uses throughout the project that works equally well in the old and new parts of the building. All those looking for kitchen color ideas take note: Dean’s mezzanine kitchen is a masterclass in color blocking.
The eye-catching tongue-and-groove wainscoting is painted Craig & Rose’s Russet to contrast with the units but reflect the downstairs dining area, while the Robert Langford chairs at the breakfast bar are finished in Scottish leather and Armani Casa fabric in green are covered with the palette. A glass balcony was added to the existing mezzanine, but the couple insisted that the central space be retained as one area. “I hate when you see beautiful stained glass windows that are cut in half with floors,” says Dean. An expert was brought in to restore the windows to their original splendour.
3. Embrace the origins and architecture of the building
Dean retained the full height of the central living area so its original features, including the stained glass windows, were not compromised in any way. The framed mural is Marine Au Soleil Couchant by Papiers de Paris.
4. Create warmth in an open plan living room
The zoning of the property’s central space has given each area its own distinct identity and also helps to create a more intimate, homely feel. Of course, if you’re looking for living room ideas, you can’t go wrong by grouping your sofas around a fireplace like Dean did here. The green footstool is custom made and Dean bought the antique cabinets on either side of the fireplace from a local auction house. Both the carpet and the fireplace were online auction purchases. The dark wood and gothic style of the mantel make it the perfect choice for a former church.
5. Celebrate formal meals in style
Though there’s room for friends around the smaller dining table in the mezzanine kitchen, a more formal space like this is just perfect for entertaining a crowd. When thinking of dining room ideas or reconfiguring a dining area, your starting point should be how many guests you will be entertaining and how often?
This mahogany dining table seats 14 comfortably and was a steal at a local auctioneer. The large mural at the back of the room is India Couleur by Ananbo and the shade of orange has been highlighted in the woodwork. The couple brought some antiques from London, but like to mix in mid-century pieces, buying furniture specially or — in the case of the giant antique bookcase — borrowing it from friends.
6. Get the bedroom basics right
A serene scheme of grays and whites ensures the master bedroom is a relaxing retreat – essential to any bedroom idea. The bed headboard is upholstered in Reglisse by Pierre Frey. The table lamp is by Justin Van Breda. Inside the door is a valuable painting of daughter Georgia, along with modern margarine tub art by Hani Najm.
It’s a very restful space now, but Dean found his plans to build a whole new floor for the master suite and loft guest bedroom initially gave his builder nightmares!
“Our master builder was great, but to reinforce the floor enough we needed three 40-foot steel rods,” says Dean. “He later admitted to me that he had sleepless nights because of it.”
7. Be wild with patterns and colors
When it comes to patterns, sometimes it’s best to go big. Daughter Georgia’s room features Charlotte Gaisford prints on the walls (The Countess) and headboard fabric (Tsarina). Pairing the busy scheme with a calm, light green hue for the woodwork makes for a winning combination
8. Install a luxurious bathroom
One of the great bathroom ideas worth copying from Dean’s new loft suite is a 1930s sideboard remodeled for double sinks. A metal mesh shower screen divides the large walk-in shower.
9. Go big in a small bathroom
The spectacular wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom is Pierre Frey’s Alleluia, based on a Gothic design from 1830, reminiscent of the period of the former church.
It’s easy to dissuade yourself from choosing a specific wallpaper based on its price, but a little luxury goes a long way and when you find just the right bathroom wallpaper, like Dean did here, then it will make a big impact in even the smallest room in the house .
Feature Film / Stephanie Smith