Salvaging the Past

The premise behind Annie and Shane Brereton’s business is pretty simple in theory – rescue, repurpose, reuse. Practically, it’s not something that can be achieved easily for most.

But for this Melbourne couple, sustainable living is at the core of all they do.

Annie and Shane are the brains behind the Salvage Merchants, a venture which provides end-to-end solutions for setting up and managing short-term rentals – this includes everything from finding a property, redesigning it, styling it and marketing it.  “We deliver this service with our overarching business ethos of ‘rescue, repurpose, reuse’ and this is embodied in every area of the process,” Annie says.

Having worked on other people’s properties for some time, the duo recently decided they wanted to work on a magical project of their own.  After searching through online real estate guides, they stumbled across a stunning historic church in the township of Lexton and immediately saw its potential to be reborn.  “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.”

The humble red-brick 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.  The Breretons have aimed to conjure a sense of calm, charm and solace within the church’s walls – much like the feelings it evoked in its past life.  “We never had any intention to fix every crack or imperfection at Grayling’s, as our style is very much ‘perfectly imperfect’,” Annie says.   “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 146 years ago long before the modern machinery, so a few cracks here and there are just testament to how well it has withstood the years.”

Featuring everything from a wood heater to a chesterfield lounge, stained glass windows to yoga mats, a deluxe king bed to a vintage bathtub, guests are sure to be immersed in a luxurious getaway doused in history. And with the fit-out and styling staying true to Annie and Shane’s ethos, a stay at Grayling’s truly is a stay like no other.

“Almost all of it has been achieved with salvaged materials – even the floor that needed replacing was replaced with boards from two different properties that were being demolished,” Annie says. “The styling needed to resonate with that feeling of nostalgia, so again everything was sourced second hand, much of it locally.  “We have created a unique space for people to unplug and recharge. We hope it gives them the time and space to reflect, dream, plan and return home with a refreshed mind.”

Annie and Shane decided to enter the short-term rental space after a couple of years upcycling and selling various items at markets. Annie says she has always loved the idea that something forgotten or discarded could be revitalised to provide enjoyment and beauty once again.   And even though salvaging remnants of the past makes up a large part of what they do, Annie affirms their remit is constantly evolving.  “Maybe we may change our name in the future, but our focus on sustainability and leaving a lighter footprint will remain at the core of whatever we do,” she says. “We love the history of these pieces and places, and the memories and emotions that they are able to evoke.”

Story Della Vreeland – Images Mel Savage Photography