Old church conversions: architectural creativity on display

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News, Historic Preservation

As we close out National Preservation Month, I thought I’d spend a little more time discussing the old church conversion trend I touched on in my last post. I’ve often sung the praises of old house enthusiasts who, through a combination of hard work and determination, bring their historical homes back from the brink of demolition. In many cases these homeowners do much of the restoration work on their old houses themselves, and if they have a project that requires a few extra sets of hands, family or friends are called in to help.

Australian church conversion -- photo from homedsgn.com

Australian church conversion -- photo from homedsgn.com

However, some restoration projects are a little too large for most homeowners to tackle unless they have the luxury of being able to devote 100 percent of their time to the job. Even then, the scope of work may be beyond their abilities. The old churches in Australia, England and San Francisco that I mentioned last week are perfect examples of these types of renovations. Projects of this magnitude normally require many hours of work by highly skilled crews, and if you know anything about construction, the photos are evidence that fairly generous budgets for the conversions were allotted as well.

Whether a large scale church conversion is in your future or you and your spouse are spending evenings  restoring a small Victorian, there’s one resource you shouldn’t overlook — the services of an architectural firm. Over the years I’ve been involved in many construction projects and more often than not I credited the end results to the crews who did the work — after all, that was the part of the job I controlled. However, the truth of the matter was that in most cases there was an architect or architectural services group involved in the project long before I entered the picture. Their designs and concepts had just as much to do with the successful outcomes of the projects as anything the work crews or my management did: the completed jobs were reflections of a total team effort.

Architectural input for a spectacular church conversion

There’s a lot to like about these three church conversions, but for me there are three items that really catch my eye as I look at the photos.  I’m usually not a big fan of modern styling, but I like the way the architects used clean lines and the knee wall design to tie the Australian church’s kitchen in with the open living area. Since it’s 90 degrees as I write this, I find the pool area to be very attractive, too.

English church conversion -- photo from dornob.com

English church conversion -- photo from dornob.com

However, my favorite photo would have to be of the English church’s bathroom. I like the sense of warmth the architects created and could easily imagine myself soaking in the tub with a good book on a cold winter evening. It also makes me want to install a stained glass window in my old house. I’d be interested in finding out what other features of these conversions OldHouseWeb.com readers find attractive.

If you’re planning any type of restoration or home improvement project, I suggest talking with someone in the architectural services field. Their input might mean the difference between ending up with a nice-looking home or achieving an end result that makes people stop and take notice. If there aren’t any local architectural firms in your area, try websites that allow you to connect with architectural services professionals from across the country.