In 2015, Nicole Petit’s husband, Pierre Boivin, broached the subject of moving into a historic church—specifically the Saint-François-d’Assise estate, built in Frelighsburg, Quebec, in 1885. As Nicole recalls, her answer was an immediate no. "There was no way I would live in a church," Nicole says. "We had a very modern house, and I had no intention to move away from this type of house."
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The couple runs a family construction business, however, and ultimately, the prospect of a historic conversion proved too much to resist for Constructions Boivin. Nicole reached out to her sister, designer Danièle Petit of dp Espace Design, to join them in the venture.
Throughout the process, the group sought to maintain the church’s historic character, including defining elements like the bell tower and organ, while still modernizing the interior to make it suitable for a comfortable family home. "[Danièle] immediately saw that the elegant architecture of the building would provide a perfect backdrop to create an environment that would be both minimalist, but also full of history," says Nicole.
With 28-foot-high ceilings, the existing church had a volume of 40,000-cubic-feet—not exactly the specs for a cozy abode. Says Danièle Petit, "The biggest challenge for this project, on top of conciliating the different perspectives and ideas of Nicole and Pierre, was to succeed to fill in this gigantic space we had, while maximizing the functionality of every room and the interaction between them."
After: Back Door
Before: The Gallery
After: Kitchen and Dining Room
Before: The Nave
After: Living Room
Before: The Altar
After: The Master Suite
After: Guest Wing
Since the project wrapped in 2018, Nicole has grown to love her new home. "Now when I get home, I feel full of energy," she said. "The walls, the furniture, the colors, the view—everything is so enveloping. It is hard to describe. I don’t know if we have spirits living here, but if so, they are only good ones."
Related Reading: 7 Repurposed Churches Around the World
Builder: Constructions Boivin
Interior Design: dp Espace Design
Sound Engineer: Adom/Francis Turgeon
Cabinetry Design: Ébénisterie Gaston Chouinard/Claude Duval
Interior Decoration: Les Choix d'Annie