Christmas house: a beautiful church conversion home

Maaike and Onno Goldbach have put their own stamp on this beautifully renovated church building in the Netherlands

Set in the heart of a small village deep in the Friesian countryside is a charming former church dating back to 1908. Once upon a time, the building belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church but it has since been transformed into a unique family home. Originally built for the inhabitants of the village of Tijnje, the building is one of the most beautifully restored churches in the Netherlands, and is now home to Maaike and Onno Goldbach, and their daughter Amelie.

Browse more real home transformations, and find out how to renovate a house in our guide. See more Christmas houses on our dedicated page, too.

Maaike and Onno wanted to live in the countryside, and started their search for a nice farmhouse that didn’t need too much work. It proved difficult to find something to meet their requirements, but after a long search, they came across this church.

‘It was in very good condition and had already been converted into a house. In 2006, the church had undergone a complete renovation, which meant that there was not much left for us to do, apart from a room extension and decorating the interior,’ says Maaike.

Details of the old church have been restored and are still visible, such as the original wooden flooring, six beautiful arched windows and the pulpit where the preacher once stood. But when the couple moved into the house in 2012, they quickly realised that their existing furniture was too small for the large interior, and looked lost in the former church, with its large windows and high ceilings. The cavernous rooms needed larger pieces of furniture.

Fact file

The owners: Maaike Kerst, a window dresser, and her husband Onno, who teaches ICT in the Dutch army, live here with their daughter Amelie, three

The property: A former church dating back to 1908, converted in 2006 into a three-bedroom home. The couple bought the property in 2012

The location: Tijnje, the Netherlands

‘Every day I have to remind myself how lucky we are to call this place our home,’ – Maaike, homeowner


Maaike and Onno appreciate the history behind their unique family home, which was once the heart of village life.

At Christmas the family listen to old jazz records. Maaike and Onno found this retro chair with matching foot stool while travelling through Denmark in their caravan, and could imagine exactly how it would look in their home.


Fittingly for a church conversion, the dining room features an old church pew, bought from the previous owners, who salvaged it from another church. The Thibaut wallpaper is as before, and try Not on the High Street for similar pendant lights.


The original wooden floorboards have been restored, and antique Indian doors, adapted to the space as sliding doors by the previous owners, work well between the kitchen and dining room, which features a beautiful backdrop of Castle Pine wallpaper in Teal by Thibaut.


Maaike decided to keep the kitchen’s original décor, which used mainly monochrome shades, for its simplicity. She has accessorised with lights from Happy Lights; for similar, try Cable & Cotton.


The musician of the house, Onno recently bought the white piano, which makes a stunning focal point in the space. The fan- shaped music folder is from Hay, and Maaike added a further splash of colour by covering a piece of cardboard with leftover floral wallpaper.


The cot was custom made; find a similar Bambi lamp at Petit Home.


Maaike extended Amelie’s bedroom into the steeple, and chose a pretty, vintage look, making a teepee from branches and fabric. The star light is from Sissy-Boy’s Homeland range.


The pastel birdhouse wallpaper in Amelie’s room is from Studio Ditte.


Maaike covered a headboard with a vintage print fabric and made matching cushions and a bedspread to accompany those from Hay and It’s About Romi. The nightstand is from Hay and Maaike framed prints from a magazine for the walls.


Onno enjoys entertaining friends and family, and a big white table from Dutch interior specialist Loods5 provides enough room for everyone.

‘You could describe my style as “bohemian modern”,’ says Maaike. ‘I love beautiful, dreamy prints and designs, and when it came to styling the house I used a print as my starting point. I began in the dining room with wallpaper filled with birds, and furniture and accessories were added later.’

• The full feature – including stockists and more images – appears in the December 2015 issue of Real Homes. Subscribe today to take advantage of our money-saving subscription offers.

Author & Photographer: Jeltje Janmaat/House of Pictures

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Karen Darlow
After a brief foray into music journalism, fashion and beauty, Karen found herself right at home working on interior magazines with her role on Ideal Home magazine. She is now Homes Editor on Period Living magazine and loves the opportunity the job gives her to see how others mix vintage style and modern furnishings in their beautiful properties.