What do you expect when a former church is converted into a residential dwelling? The historic facade of this Dutch church belies its interiors – minimalistic, fun and charmingly tongue-in-cheek.
In the Western world, a shrinking church-going population has resulted in an interesting development for the real-estate sector – church conversions!
Architecturally sound and historically interesting churches are increasingly being de-sanctified and offered as residential accommodation.
The Dutch architectural firm of Leijh Kappelhoff Seckel van den Doppelsteen Architecten (LKSVDD) was hired to renovate a 1928 church into a residential loft. Located in Haarlo in the Netherlands, the aptly-named “God’s Loftstory” is a testament to sympathetic renovation. The architects kept the historic and religious origins of the building in mind, but turned the interiors into a light-filled contemporary space with a huge dash of humour.
One enters the house through the “gates of heaven,” a doorway which is guarded by a wall full of angels. The grey and white floor-to-ceilings angels are an inspirational touch, blending pale colour with striking design.
The loft’s focal point, though, is a startling red staircase made of reclaimed wood. The architects have cheekily dubbed this, “The stairway to have fun.”
The tunnel-like stairs lead straight up to the bedroom and bath area in the mezzanine loft. The staircase divides the home as well, separating the kitchen from the living room and home office area. The staircase wall also serves as a gallery offering a simple way of showcasing photographs and other art.
The kitchen side of the staircase is a narrow space, but not lacking in amenities. Storage is built into the staircase wall and appliances are snugly placed in their slots. The long stainless steel counter space is adequate for the family and also acts as a breakfast nook at one end.
The minimalist living room is dominated by a large black L-shaped sofa that overlooks the gardens outside. A step away from here is the home office, another fun and playful space built on the original stage area of the church.
The stage helps break up the living room into another level. The office comes complete with a swing (“Swinging Sister”) and cross-shaped pendant lights above the desk. Blood-red storage space eases the monotony of white. Throughout the house the interiors are punctuated with red accents, the only nod to colour in an otherwise simple and calm decor.
On the loft above, a stark black and white bedroom (a sobering change from the red staircase that leads upstairs) invites one to relax. The open bath tub is a nice touch and overlooks the living area below.
Irreverent touches are spread throughout this level too: the fire-engine red tiled bathroom has writing on the wall which reads, “Holy Shit” in Dutch. The bathroom also has a toilet roll holder in the shape of a cross.
“It was a conscious choice not to fill the entire volume of 1100 cubic metres with as many rooms as possible, but to minimise the demands, in order to retain the spaciousness of the building,” say the architects. The mezzanine floor was the only architectural addition, along with the red stairway.
The architects also kept as many historical accents as possible, for example the rafters, the slanted ceilings, the old doors, arched windows and the stained glass. The exterior, including the bell tower, was left intact, allowing the former church to continue to blend in with the pretty neighbourhood.
The gardens however, do reveal some of the quirkiness of the interiors. Wooden ‘lost’ sheep graze on the grass, a cute and playful nod to the building’s history. The garden is modern and has large planters made out of left-over bricks.
A herb, vegetable and flower garden, along with a little orchard, bring the old monastic outdoor area to life. A forty-foot shipping container acts as a fence and equipped with a green roof, it acts as an additional lawn area.
When LKSVDD Architects received the brief for the project, the client’s motto was presented simply: Cherish your inner child. By keeping the renovation simple and respecting the character of the building, LKSVDD has successfully transformed this former church into a thoughtful yet playful home that makes coming to it, pure heaven!
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Vincent van den Hoven