Renovation Tour - A Special Chapel Conversion







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We love when we come across a special building which can create the most unique and stunning home. 

The home of Mandy and Dave, Insta account @ourlittlechapel, is one of these homes, where the couple have taken a chapel which dates back to 1831 and converted it into an amazing family home.

They have successfully managed to preserve the character and history of the home, which is full of exposed bricks, beams and stunning windows, whilst creating a welcoming and beautiful home.

We chat to Mandy who shares with us the history of the chapel and how they went about renovating it.  

The beautiful exterior of the chapel

Can you tell us about your home and renovation project?

We are Mandy and Dave, together for 8 years, married for 4 years. We'd only been married a year before Dave caved into Mandy's dream of renovating an old building and we bought the Chapel. 

Dave is pretty laid back and goes along with all of Mandy's crazy ideas, she was the driving force behind the whole build, acting as project manager and coordinating tradesmen, which can be challenging!! We joke and call Dave "DIY Dave" when in reality he is pretty rubbish at DIY and has had to learn lots of skills along the way. 

We had zero renovation skills...we are now 3 years into the renovation and nearly finished, we've learnt so much. 

The large open plan kitchen

How did you find a chapel conversion and can you tell us more about its history?

The chapel had come on the market a couple of years before and was on Mandy's radar but was overpriced and not reachable. Then the chapel was repossessed and affordable, so we entered into a bidding war and finally secured the chapel. 

Being a bit of a history nerd, Mandy delved into the chapel's history. With it being a repossession, we knew nothing. 

We discovered that the chapel was built in 1831 at a cost of £120! We wished that's what we had paid for her! The original chapel was built in 1831; then a small extension was thought to have been built in 1878/9 as the chapel wasn’t big enough for all the worshippers who came to the village. Unfortunately we don’t know when the little building was knocked down but it is now our courtyard garden. 

The rear of the chapel with the courtyard garden, where the original chapel once stood

The chapel was built for the newly formed Wesleyan Faith to honour John Wesley, which we now know as the Methodist faith. The original covenants say that the chapel must not be used for barn dances or the consumption of alcohol, which made us laugh... we love a boozey party

The chapel became a Sunday school in the 1930's and was used locally for many years, eventually being sold in the late 1980's and being converted into a private residence in the late 1980's / early 1990's. 

The conversion was pretty much left untouched since, hence us having to fully renovate. Luckily the chapel isn't listed so we didn't have the planning issues some have for the renovation / modernisation. 

We love the double heighted hallway which is so bright

Did you live in the chapel during much of the renovation?

Purchased in June 2018 we thought we'd have a few months to get some serious building work done before we moved in, knowing that we wanted to rip down walls, rip up floors and "gut" the place first, but that wasn't to be. We sold our old house within a day and moved in, in August 2018, with walls missing and no heating! 

We were surprised that even after an expensive survey that the chapel was in a lot worse state than we thought, and a little buyer's remorse set in, but we got on with it! 

Our first winter was somewhat of a challenge with no heating. We also, for some unknown reason, decided to take the back wall of the chapel out a week before Christmas in order to put the steel in for the bifolds doors. The bifolds were fitted just after Christmas, so that was some cold "fun"! 

We discovered no real foundations and damp so pulled the floor up, and installed underfloor heating, which has been one of the best decisions we ever made as the chapel has no cavity walls and no insulation. We also have very thin windows so heating was a challenge. We also made the decision early on to open the downstairs up so that it was all open plan, knocking 3 rooms into 1 to form the new large kitchen; Mandy's favourite room.  

The roof still needs some attention, but thankfully isn't leaking at the moment! 

The view looking out onto the garden

What was the most challenging part of your renovation?

The biggest challenge for us has been living in the renovation throughout. We had no floor downstairs at one point and no kitchen. We often reflect on how we did it. 

We remember all 3 of us living in one bedroom with 2 dogs, no heating and a microwave for making food, we even ended up washing dishes in the bath!!! If, and that's a big if, we were to do it again, we certainly wouldn't live in the renovation. But had no choice, as we couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on the chapel and pay for rent in another place. 

It was all worth it though, as we love the village that the chapel is in. Located in rural Nottinghamshire, just 20/30 minutes outside of Nottingham city centre, so is perfect for commuting, but at the same time getting the full village life experience. 

The local people welcomed us with open arms, always stopping us to congratulate us on buying the chapel - I think they were just grateful someone was crazy enough to take the chapel on and prevent it from fully falling into ruin.  

The living space in the open plan area, with the original chapel plaque

What would be your advice to anyone about taking on a similar project?

My advice to others considering a renovation would be don't do it!! Only joking, it's been a fab experience and to actually sit back and think "we did that" is a wonderful feeling. We picked every detail, from door handles to lay out, internal doors, everything. 

Everything is to our taste. I would say though, do your homework, get the surveys, speak to tradesmen, and plan financially. These things inevitably cost more money than you plan for, so always have a contingency plan!  

I've always loved interiors and nosing at other peoples houses on Instagram for inspiration / ideas. I like to think that the chapel is a mix of modern and vintage styles, giving a bit of a nod here and there to the history of the period property, with the exposed brick and features. I've always been into old things, loving antique shops and programmes on the TV. 

I started the Instagram page to document our journey from a draughty wreck to our home, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that 19,000 people would be interested in our little chapel. Dave thought I was mad, "what's the point" he still thinks I'm mad taking pictures of everything!  

We love the beautiful heritage colours and the original windows in this bedroom

Do you plan on staying here in the longer term or would you carry out another project?

When we finally finish the renovation (hopefully this year), the original plan was to have the chapel valued, whack it on the market and move on, hoping to make a little money. But the longer we live at the chapel, the more we fall in love with her. 

The chapel is such a unique building, it's lovely to live in, no ghosts seen as yet, and I feel like we are this generation's custodians of the building and hopefully we'll stay for a very long time. 

If you are thinking about a renovation project in the near future and need some help finding an architect or architectural designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

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Published: June 22, 2021

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