Having undergone extensive renovations, these formerly abandoned and newly converted churches are serving a renewed purpose in their respective communities.
A recent obsession of mine is the transformation of old buildings, like churches or industrial factories, giving them a renewed purpose. This movement marks positive change on many levels by recycling materials and honoring the extensive history behind these centuries’ old structures. Today, we’ll be exploring two of my favorite converted churches: The Church Conversion in London and Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht.
The result of a three year long project completed in 2005 by award winning interior designer Gianna Camilotti, the Church Conversion is conveniently located right in the heart of London suburbia. This nineteenth century church was transformed into a beautiful and luxurious residence, boasting an open and spacious floor plan, vaulted cathedral ceilings with exposed wooden beams, grand windows, and so much more. Dressed to the nines with lavish interior finishings like marble and velvet, the project was a finalist in the 2014 International Design Excellence Awards. Camilotti’s style, “characterized by elegance and timelessness combined with boldness and cutting edge Italian design,” clearly shines through this monumental church converted to home.
“The architecture is so beautiful; I loved everything about it,” Camilotti says. “High ceilings were a must, and this building has those and everything else — lots of character and history.” I completely agree. The outside of this converted church is stunning! Want to see the church inside? Let’s go!
"The interior design project started with an idea in mind: this space wouldn’t just be beautiful, but also the perfect place to work and live in. A house spacious enough to work comfortably with a team of assistants and that eventually would have its doors open to friends to enjoy cosy [sic] dinners and cocktail parties in an atmosphere of London piano-bars!" Just reading that makes me want to go see this place in person. The pictures are absolutely wonderful, and I cannot get over how great this space is!
One of Camilotti’s greatest challenges in this project was finding furniture that was large enough so that it wouldn’t become lost in the exaggerated proportions of the space: “I needed lots of courage when it came to decorating. The living area is a huge, open space, and a normal-sized sofa would have disappeared, so I supersized!” She has a point. A couch like one in one of our apartments would look like a couch for ants in this humongous space! I love the design she chose for the couch, and naturally, it was custom-made for this church house.
Camilloti has always had a passion for extravagant and oversized furniture, and, with this project, the sky was the limit. “The upholsterer thought I was crazy when I gave him the measurements for the sofa,” she says with a laugh. I can’t imagine what the actual dimensions of the couch are, but it turned out beautifully!
I love how the different rooms in this home flow into each other. There aren’t dividing walls, just one room that blends into another, which blends into another. “I always wanted to integrate the office and living areas, and I think it works very well. This whole house is very me and reflects my style and personality perfectly,” states Camilotti.
Get a look at this table! It’s amazing! “I designed the table myself,” Camilotti says. “It’s a sheet of glass resting on two enormous wooden blocks.” During the daytime, the dining table is filled with brochures and pattern books for her interior design business; however, at night, it is transformed into an elegant space that can dine up to twelve people. That’s a lot of people at one table!
“I decided to put mirrors in the niche here to reflect the beams, which I love,” she says. The arched mirrors covering the wall of the master bedroom hide a dressing room and closet, eliminating the need for excess furniture that would take away from the beauty of the wooden beams. I think this is the coolest part of the whole conversion. I’m a lover of exposed beams, and she chose to highlight the beams and use giant mirrors to reflect them. I love it!
Moving on to the master bathroom, Camilotti went with a simple yet luxe look. Relatively small compared to the rest of the home, she used light colors and a surrounding panel of mirrors to make the space seem as large and airy as possible. And, it totally works!
Keeping with an open style plan, Camilotti left the guest bedroom partially exposed to the rest of the home. “The window here is so beautiful, I didn’t want anything to block it,” she says. “It has wonderful colors and shapes, and is such a gorgeous composition. It’s lovely to gaze on this from the living room below.” If I was a guest staying here, I totally wouldn’t mind having glass walls. Look at that view! It’s stunning. Plus, I wouldn’t want that gorgeous window to be blocked. She made an excellent choice!
Like the master bath, this powder room is rather minimalistic but still shrouded in luxury. What else can I say about this gorgeous transformation? Gianna Camilotti definitely knows what she’s about, and her work is truly inspiring. She isn’t the only one who does church conversions though! Onwards and upwards, let’s see what’s next up on our tour…a church renovation that changed a church into a library and coffee shop!
Originally constructed in 1294, this Dominican church in Maastricht, The Netherlands has been converted into a modern bookstore and library, including ample study space as well as a small coffee shop. The project, called Selexyz Dominicanen Maastricht, was completed by Amsterdam based architecture firm Merkx + Girod and opened on Christmas Day in 2006. Unsurprisingly, it won the Lensvelt de Architect award for interior design in 2007.
I was head over heels when I saw the inside of this church space. This whole church is a library! How perfect is that? “The bookcase is a grand gesture, a statement that matches the monumental dimensions of the church and gives an extra dimension. Due to the passage ways, perspectives, and the use of perforated steel, the flat appears to be light and transparent in spite of its size. The object neither imposes on the space nor clashes with the church’s architecture; it enhances its experience.”
According to an article in The Guardian published in 2008, the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen Maastricht “could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time,” describing it as a “bookshop made in heaven.” I couldn't agree more! It's simply amazing!
I just love how the renovations to this church were actually done. The monumental black bookcase, set asymmetrically in the space, allows guests to closely study the stunning architecture and historic murals around them as they browse the library’s selection. They didn’t take anything away from the original structure, just set up a library inside, and you get to look at beautiful books and phenomenal architecture!
Scattered throughout the building are cozy little study spots, perfect for getting lost in a good book from the surrounding shelves. And did you check out that ceiling? Whoa. It’s gorgeous. And I love the way the curved beams look when put against the stark, straight bookshelves. So cool looking, and well done!
Nestled in the nave of the cathedral is the cutest little coffee shop, with even more places to sit, read, and take in the grandiose atmosphere. What a brilliant idea. First, they turned the church into a house of knowledge, which I think encapsulates what a church can be like to many people. And then, they add coffee? Perfection!
As a nod to the originally intended use of the building, the shape of a crucifix is incorporated into the center table. I thought this was a nice touch, and a great way to pay homage to the original purpose of this old church.
Well, that concludes our tour! I highly encourage all of you to continue exploring the conversion movement. It’s not just churches—from water towers to old factories, all kinds of historic buildings are being converted into amazing living and public spaces. What did you love most about these designs? Feel free to share and comment with any thoughts or questions!
Thanks to the following sources for providing important information for this post: Gianna Camilotti and Houzz. All the images of The Church Conversion are via Fresh Palace and the featured image is via Clear Choice Windows.