From neo-Gothic stone churches to more modest wood sanctuaries, there are numerous benefits to repurposing these buildings that may not be in use anymore. In fact, during the transformation from house of worship to private residence, the building's distinct elements are usually emphasized, allowing them to act as focal points in the design—regardless of architectural style or material. Take a look at eight projects we found where these elements speak to the building’s previous life, while also providing a bold contrast to the renovation's contemporary materials and finishes.
One of the typical characteristics of a traditional church is its high, vaulted ceilings. In the Middle Ages, Gothic churches were designed to bring an aspirational eye upward. In a home, however, these high ceilings are both challenging and enchanting, making a space difficult to heat and cool—but also providing unique architectural opportunities for double-height spaces with an exposed structure.
Stained glass is another feature that can be found in many historic churches, often depicting scenes or symbolic imagery set in large, arched windows. In conversion projects, the vivid colors of the stained glass are frequently highlighted by selecting more muted colors and materials.
Other original components like arched doorways and stone details can also be emphasized by contrast. By revealing stone surrounds, keystones, ribbed vaults, frescoes, and sculptures, the church’s architecture can act as artwork integrated into the existing building.
Even the original layout of a church—typically one long nave (or center aisle)—can be reworked into an open-plan kitchen and living room space. Additionally, with fewer interior partitions, sight lines from one end of the former church to the other end can stay the same, so that windows and other features remain visible from all areas.