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Creating Spaces of Wonderment.

 

Just over three years ago, Annie and Shane Brereton discovered an historic pearl nestled amidst the rolling hills of the Pyrenees Ranges.

Taking pride of place in the regional Victorian township of Lexton, the charming 19th century church immediately stole the couple’s heart.

Foreseeing the potential inherent within this building, Annie and Shane took the plunge and nabbed the property before anyone had the chance.

“We were both instantly charmed, and then our only hurdle was outbidding the five or so other bidders!” Annie recalls.

“It has been incredibly satisfying to restore the building and then to share it with others.”

Aptly named Grayling’s Gift, the church was built more than 140 years ago on land donated to the community by William Grayling – a descendent of one of the Pyrenees Shire’s first pioneering families.

 Annie and Shane harnessed their love for renovation and design to transform the church into a new accommodation offering which conjured a sense of calm,charm and solace within its walls – much like the feelings it evoked in its past life.

With an ethos based on ‘rescue, repurpose, reuse’, Annie says it was vital for the transformation to stay true to sustainable practices.

 

 

“The styling needed to resonate with that feeling of nostalgia, so again everything was sourced second hand, much of it locally,” Annie says.

“We never had any intention to fix every crack or imperfection at Grayling’s, as our style is very much ‘perfectly imperfect’. We prefer to embrace the imperfections and allow them to serve as beautiful reminders of the long history of the property. Every piece was built by hand long before the modern machinery, so a few cracks here and there are just testament to how well it has withstood the years.”

At the time of Grayling’s Gift’s inception, Annie and Shane still lived in Melbourne, and would commute to Lexton to keep everything in order. But once the pandemic hit, the couple decided to do away with their eight-hour round commute, and make the move to Ballarat so they were closer to their passion project.

“Opening Grayling’s Gift just as the pandemic hit certainly didn’t fill us with overwhelming optimism,” Annie says. “Turns out though, that what we had created was needed now, possibly more than ever before.”

“While the lockdowns were frustrating for us and our guests, the brief glimpses of freedom meant our little church was booked solid.  People were desperate for some respite from the uncertainty and loved the uniqueness of our offering.

“Our frequent visits had seen us fall in love with Ballarat and all that it had to offer and we were keen to experience it for ourselves.   We also wanted more space and we’re so lucky to have stumbled upon our little pocket of Aussie bush just outside town.”

Following the success of Grayling’s Gift, and with feelings of gratitude and fulfilment, Annie and Shane quickly realised that travellers were in desperate need of accommodation experiences that offered more than just a pillow to sleep on.

And so was born yet another offering to capture the hearts and souls of holidaymakers everywhere – Jean Claude.

 

 

 

Sitting on the banks of the Brereton property and surrounded by the dense Australian bush, the restored vintage caravan is laden with all the elements required for a romantic escape by the dam-side.

“We have consciously curated every element that goes into our stays, and every element represents an opportunity to slow down,” Annie says. “We gently encourage digital detox by providing lovely alternatives –  such as books, conversation cards and opportunities for creativity and fun.

“Our spaces are also stocked with fresh produce, local wines, provisions for breakfast, as well as Grounded Pleasures products which further speak to this idea of nurturing ourselves, inside and out, with incredible ingredients designed to be mindfully enjoyed.”

As demand for Annie and Shane’s properties grew, it was time to introduce an overarching brand that would encapsulate the uniqueness of their offerings.

And so the Wonder Inns was born – a brand synonymous with solace, escape and, of course, wonder.

“Our vision is to create an experience unlike any other. I like to refer to it as old fashioned hospitality combined with modern luxury. Gone are the 1000-count cotton sheets and sterile hotel styling.  Ours is a more welcoming, but no less luxurious offering that strives to make each and every guest feel like they are being wrapped in a giant hug from the moment they enter any of our properties.”

Things don’t look to slow down for Annie and Shane anytime soon, with a new venture already in the works in the heart of Ballarat. Set to be a luxe, hotel-inspired apartment, the project will set itself apart from the other Wonder Inns offerings, but still provide an “extraordinary experience in an unexpected place”.

“I just love providing an experience for our guests that is far removed from their everyday life and which allows them to create their own version of reconnection, restoration and wonder in beautifully uplifting environments,” Annie says.

 

Author: Dellaram Vreeland


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