It all began when April Cornwell was 22 years old and her passion was sparked to restore and renovate old buildings. In February last year, April set her sights on the church and school hall in Kalbar, west of Brisbane.

What most people would see as abandoned buildings without hope, April sees as a canvas for a masterpiece. From the decaying Kalbar church and school hall, birthed the magical White Chapel and Black Hall. The magic is so magnificent it is impossible to fully capture on camera. “We want to celebrate life in weddings, christenings and memorials,” April enthuses.

Kalbar is just under an hour from Brisbane city, closer than other popular wedding destinations, like Maleny or Mount Tamborine, she notes. The town is a gem among the jewels of the Scenic Rim.

April has been perfecting the art of building renovation and construction for decades. She has worked on two buildings in Brisbane this year while completing the White Chapel and Black Hall. Her team specialises in capturing and retaining historic value in the buildings they restore.

“We do research on the property; what it looked like before its decay. We cannot start to build on the project until we understand its roots,” said April.

Her team channelled this same vision in White Chapel and Black Hall. April wanted to create a space that was a quintessential blend of country and city chic. “White Chapel is just beautiful. We brought in chandeliers from Texas. I didn’t want bling. I wanted to achieve country elegance.” The Barn Bar at the back of the property is another perfect example of her renovating ingenuity.

“We’ve got outdoor games. You can venture through the grounds and discover the rustic features decorating the Barn Bar. Here you can rejoice in the joy of your special day.” But the venue is not shy of creature comforts like airconditioning and Wi-Fi.

“Our aim was rustic country, not tin shed country.” The venue is one of intimacy, character and personality. “You don’t get lost and we can tailor to it the couple’s perfect picture of their day,” April notes.

Both venues are embellished with a myriad of monuments to their heritage. Historical pieces have been repurposed where possible in the renovation. Black Hall’s romantic atmosphere is enhanced by retaining the original wooden floor boards and protecting the original trees that decorate the grounds.

Creating a mood of country chic, the rear of White Chapel is decorated with a charming gothic centrepiece, which can be showered in lights and fresh flowers, or kept simple, depending on the theme of a wedding.

Kalbar has been blessed with the preservation of their church and school hall. April Cornwell has transformed a piece of Kalbar’s history with sensitivity and style. She and her team have created an elegant showcase for celebrations that epitomise the finery of a gracious country life.

“It’s not just busy, busy, busy. You feel like you’re in the country and it’s relaxed. Couples want to enjoy the day, rather than put on a day, and that’s our gift to them.”