GALLERY: Small church set for a makeover by talented artist
THE decommissioned St Luke's Anglican Church at Freestone will be given a fresh lease on life with its new owner planning to convert it into an artist studio and retreat.
Warwick painter Sue Keong bought the property earlier this year and filed a development application with the Southern Downs Regional Council to extend the north-facing side of the building.
She wants to add a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and restore the ageing church windows.
"I've just had the stained glass windows removed on Saturday to be restored, it'll take a few months before they come back," Ms Keong said.
"They need total restoration because they are at least 80 years old, but they part of this church and they are iconic."
When the site went on sale in July, Ms Keong was quick to put in an offer.
"I'd been looking for an art studio for ages and my family grew up in Freestone. I went to school here, my children were baptised in this church," she said.
But the conversion will have its challenges. It is heritage listed through the council and this limits the renovations.
"You could do anything you want inside, so long as the view from the road stayed the same," Ms Keong said.
"I want to make it into a dwelling. It has an outhouse, which is cute and has great views, but what we'll do is build the extra room beside the church and marry the two up."
Later Ms Keong would like to invite artists to rent the building as a live-in studio.
She said the surrounding landscape provided artistic inspiration.
"One thing I've found is I notice the seasons more. In town it's either raining or hot, you don't have that same connection to nature," she said.
"But out here when you wake up in the morning and see the sun rise at the end of the valley and then set at the other end, you feel a part of the nature.
"And it is quiet."
Despite its age the church is in pretty good nick. There's a few leaks around the windows and some loose floor boards, but taken as a whole, Ms Keong is keen to move ahead.
Part of this success will draw on the good will of the wider Freestone community.
"When the church looked like it was closing, for some families that was a very sad prospect because they had such a long history with it," Ms Keong said.
"I believe they are quite happy that someone local has come on board to give it another life. It won't be a church anymore, but it'll be maintained and someone will care for it."