Category Archives: 1. Planning

Goals for Church House Renovation

While we liked the location, the basic architectural form, and the overall size of the church house, it had several major deficiencies:

  • We had two tiny bedrooms on the upper level with 7′ ceilings and we had two rapidly growing boys. We envisioned six-foot teenagers and their friends cramped in that space.
  • We had no family/tv room.
  • We could not get to our backyard, except through a convoluted path down an improvised stair.
  • There was no off-street parking, nor bulk storage area (e.g., Shed, garage, etc.).
  • We had 1500 square-feet of lower level (former apartment) but couldn’t really get to it and it was not comfortable even if we could get to it.
  • We had an improvised master bedroom spanning two smaller bedrooms, which was kind of in the middle of the main living area.

So, the charge we gave to the architects was: connect the lower level and main level so we can use them both, give us access to our yard, and provide a TV room, master bedroom, and living space for the boys. We also asked them to think about solving our parking problem, but I was not optimistic about that one.

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Existing Conditions

I live in a decommissioned church, built around 1895 as the Methodist Episcopal church for Narberth, Pennsylvania. My wife Nancy and I bought the house in 1996, just after its 100th birthday. The church was displaced by a much larger building across the street in 1929 and was eventually converted to a residence in the 1950s. The main sanctuary was about 65′ long by 30′ wide with a cylindrical apse and raised altar at the south end. The ceilings in the sanctuary were 17′ high.

Originally the church had a raw basement with a coal heating system of some kind, although sometime in the first 10-20 years, I believe the lower level was finished and used for meeting rooms. When the building was converted to a residence, a three-bedroom apartment was built out in the lower level with a separate entrance.

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