Church-to-home conversions can be tricky business. Heritage committees and community leaders are often picky about allowing alterations to historic structures. For this reason, there is often little designers can change about the exterior of a building aside from restoring it to match its original state as closely as possible. Many historic churches are centerpieces of their neighborhoods, tying together the local architecture and aesthetic. Changing the outward appearance would result in the new structure sticking out like a sore thumb. Thus, many church-to-home conversions focus on adapting the inside to the needs of the occupants, while preserving the historically significant external architecture as much as possible. The churches we have included in this list are fantastic examples of the ingenuity and care that goes into converting these spiritual places into wonderful homes.
1. Westborne Grove Church | DOS Architects
Photo From: My Fancy House
DOS Architects worked on this penthouse for clients who wanted to respect the church’s original gothic architecture. The interior conversion was designed to highlight the features of the church, while providing an updated atmosphere. The conversion includes a private residence and public areas designed for entertaining guests. The exterior preserves the classic gothic look, with custom windows in the original settings that provide plenty of natural light and great views.
2. Sally Onions and Ian Bottomley Personal Project | Featured on Atlas Obscura
Photo From: Atlas Obscura
This church conversion was a personal project by couple Sally Onions and Ian Bottomley. They did almost all of the conversion themselves, working for years and dedicating their spare time to the project. The church was originally constructed in the late 18th century. One of the biggest hurdles was getting the approval from the town to make some alterations to the exterior, such as enclosing the open belfry. This was the only major alteration made to the exterior.
3. Bonny Refurb | WG Architects
Photo From: WG Architects
This church was actually converted to a theater before WG Architects eventually converted it to a residence. The firm consulted extensively with the community and heritage consultants to ensure that the significance of the structure to the neighborhood’s aesthetic would be preserved. Much effort was expended to ensure that the added contemporary elements (most of which are not visible from the street) did not compromise the original architecture.
4. The Home Inside a Church | RV Architecture
Photo From: RV Architecture
This is one of the most unique church-to-home conversions on this list, and it serves to highlight the incredible amount of space inside many churches. These architects actually built a house inside the church that doesn’t touch the original structure. The wooden church was built in 1930 and had already been converted to a garage before its conversion by RV Architecture. The riverfront wall of the building was replaced with glass windows and a moving glass wall both to allow plenty of natural light and provide a great view of the riverfront.
5. Mill Residences | BKA Architecture
Photo From: BKA Architecture
This large heritage church was converted into two luxury apartments. While great pains were taken to preserve the part of the church visible from the street, contemporary additions were added to the rear of the building. The interior features contemporary design, floors of Italian stone, and marble feature walls, while also finding ways to incorporate parts of the historic building.
6. John Knox Church | Williams Boag Architects
Photo From: ArchDaily
Williams Boag Architects desired to use the John Knox Church conversion to demonstrate how our society can repurpose old buildings instead of destroying them. This is a means by which we can enhance our memory of the past while making way for the future. Sustainable use of existing buildings is becoming more important in our society. The conversion of this church into a modern home while preserving the historical significance of its exterior is a great example of this ethic. Again, as is common in such church to home conversions, they did build a contemporary addition onto the back of the building.
7. Fernwood Church | Citizen
Photo From: Citizen
This conversion salvaged the original windows and repurposed them in unique ways. One is in place at the front entrance, preserving the heritage of the church, while the others are used in the interior design. The addition of skylights and more traditional exterior home windows provide the contemporary interior with plenty of natural light. The exterior walls are a dark grey painted stucco, providing a modern contrast to the traditional church architecture.
8. Hudson St. Conversion | Bagnato Architects
Photo From: Bagnato Architects
This conversion of an Anglican church features a contemporary addition in the rear and to the side of the building. The exterior melds together heritage architectural features with contemporary design to create a truly unique look, especially in the back. The church connects to the side addition through a glass wall hallway. Glass walls in the back offer an open view of the garden.
9. Laggan Church | Sandberg Schoffel Architects
Photo From: Sandberg Schoffel Architects
This small stone church, built in 1876, is a tale of two worlds. Outside, the structure maintains its rural 19th century sensibilities. It even looks like it might be a bit run down. Inside, however, the building is an ode to contemporary design with clean straight lines and a minimalist aesthetic. In the 1930s the church had already had an addition attached and had been converted to a farmer’s shed, but the building has again found new life as a luxurious holiday cottage.
10. The Church Residence | Melander Architects Inc.
Photo From: Melander Architects Inc.
This church has been through a lot since it was built in 1898. It was in poor condition in 1996 when it was acquired by architect Kurt Melander. He converted it into an architecture studio first, and then a home. The wood siding and exterior windows are all in keeping with the original style of the Church, though almost all the exterior needed to be re-done.
11. Mill Valley Church to Home Conversion | HSH Interiors
Photo From: HSH Interiors
The goal of HSH Interiors when converting this 1930s church was to honor the original structure while accommodating the needs of a young family. The interior features a mixture of vintage, antique, and contemporary furniture and fixtures. The exterior still looks very much like a church and features horizontal wood paneling. While many of the exterior windows retain their church-like sensibilities, they have been updated to a more modern style.
12. Church Conversion | Linc Thelen Design
Photo From: Inhabitate
The exterior of this 19th century church was left mostly untouched out of respect for the neighborhood’s historical nature. The church is located in Chicago’s Little Italy amidst homes whose architecture is in the Victorian and Italianate style. The beautiful black metal framed stained glass windows were left intact. The original ceiling was removed, exposing a beautiful 25-foot buttressed hardwood ceiling.
13. Glenlyon Church | Multiplicity Architecture
Photo From: Multiplicity Architecture
The internal architecture of this conversion was kept separate from the original church structure to allow the residents to appreciate the church’s unique elements. The designers were focused on showcasing original building’s spiritual properties and integrating those into the home they designed. The architects state that the one of their goals was to “celebrate the sanctity of space.”
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Published April 2016