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How this Minnesota church was transformed into a luxurious Airbnb

Shelly Billiet and her husband spent eight years renovating the St. Peter Lutheran Church in Red Wing into a luxurious living space. When Kelley Josephine bought it in 2014, he started renting it out as a vacation rental and Airbnb.

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1880s St. Peter's Norwegian Lutheran church in Red Wing converted into a home and rented as a vacation rental. Contributed / Kelley Josephine
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RED WING, Minn. -- When Kelley Josephine saw that the former St. Peter Lutheran Church in Red Wing was for sale, he knew he had to have it.

“I don’t know why, I can’t explain it,” said the 45-year-old from Minneapolis.

What caught Josephine's eye in 2014 was how the former church had been renovated from a religious sanctuary to a place vacationers would be blessed to call home for a weekend.

“The experience inside of it just creates a bit of sanctuary in a way that I have not been able to find elsewhere,” he said. “I’ve never stayed at a place like it in my life and I hope that people that choose to come have a similar experience.”

The church was renovated by Shelly Billiet and her husband. Billiet, who’s a Realtor, said once she bought the property, she knew she wanted to transform it.

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“It was the first vision I had. I literally had chills going in,” she said.

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1880s St. Peter's Norwegian Lutheran church in Red Wing converted into a home and rented as a vacation rental. Contributed / Kelley Josephine

The two spent the next eight years renovating the building, creating the spacious first-floor living area with room enough for tables, generous living room furniture, a full kitchen, dining area and even a pool table.

Church offices and Sunday school rooms were turned into three bedrooms and two baths, and the lower level became a second living area with a ping pong table, couches and a TV.

Billiet found it rewarding to see her vision come to fruition.

“A lot of people were like, ‘What is she doing? Is she nuts? What is she thinking?’ And for me, it was very rewarding,” Billiet said. “It was a fun project and I’m just so happy that people enjoy it. It was a vacant building in a beautiful town and people are now enjoying it. That’s really wonderful.”

When a new project idea came together, Billiet decided it was time to move on. She listed the property for sale and Josephine reached out.

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1880s St. Peter's Norwegian Lutheran church in Red Wing converted into a home and rented as a vacation rental. Contributed / Kelley Josephine

Josephine knew what he wanted to do with the transformed space.

“We just realized that this is something to be shared,” he said. “This isn’t the kind of property that you just keep under lock and key --like this should be shared with other people … It’s kind of cliché, but you don’t put a piece of art in the garage.”

A night at the former church will cost $382, according to its Airbnb page. Josephine said that like most vacation rentals, St. Peter's has its most guests during the summer, but it also is frequently booked during the fall once the leaves start turning color. There are guests, he estimates, 150 days a year.

The former church also has been used for smaller events and even weddings. For his own family, there have been birthday parties with a bouncy house where the altar once was, fantasy football draft parties and other get-togethers.

“It’s about sharing it with the people that we care about," he said, "and just being able to make memories in a space that’s easy to make memories in.”

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1880s St. Peter's Norwegian Lutheran church in Red Wing converted into a home and rented as a vacation rental. Contributed / Kelley Josephine

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1880s St. Peter's Norwegian Lutheran church in Red Wing converted into a home and rented as a vacation rental. Contributed / Kelley Josephine

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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