The Plan of Renovations: Ground Floor Part I

This is (finally!) the long promised third post in the series covering our plans for renovating and converting our church. Our plans have been changing quite quickly here, and there are some aspects that are still open. Nonetheless, a hazy picture of what is to come is slowly emerging. For comparison, my post about the original state of this part of the building is here.

A rough version of our planned changes for the ground floor. The "rood loft" is not shown. Click to see an interactive or 3d version.

The renovation of this level has five major parts, in no particular order:

  • The main hall is converted to include living, dining, and kitchen areas.
  • The windows get glazing down to the floor, and at least one south window is converted to a door to the garden.
  • The addition of a lofted space over the former altar/future kitchen and dining area – the “rood loft” bedroom and bath.
  • The existing loos become a huge (~14 m2) luxurious bathroom and a guest WC/powder room/half-bath/your-preferred-euphemism-for-”toilet”.
  • The existing “Amtszimmer” and “Garderobe” join to become one ground-floor bedroom which is compatible with the needs of an elderly person. The large luxurious bathroom can be accessed directly from this room.

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Meditations on Church Conversions

I had planned to write about our plans for the ground floor of the church. However, we’ve been incredibly busy with all the details of moving in, and I haven’t had much time at an internet-enabled computer. Then the server farm where this blog is hosted had network issues, delaying things further. We also have another meeting with our architect scheduled, so perhaps it is better that I have a chance to get some thoughts together about church conversions in general. All illustrations here point to the source posts, and in most cases there are further photos to be found there. It’s worth clicking!

via A absolutely wonderful bookstore conversion. I could spend weeks in there and not want to leave. This is, hands down, my absolute favorite church conversion, by a parsec. But, it is not a residential conversion.

There is something alluring about the idea of converting a commercial or public building into a residential home. Some might point to the larger-scale architecture that one commonly finds in such projects. However, buildings such as windmills, towers, or potato sheds have small-scale internal dimensions and can be just as attractively transformed. Buildings that need conversion are generally much cheaper to buy than an out-of-the box tract home, thus they are more suited to those who have more time and creative ideas than financial resources. I’d also like to think that since the walls of these buildings have witnessed so much, they’re just more interesting to be around – a lot like people.

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The Plan of Renovations: Upper Floor

This is the second post covering our plans for remodeling our church. The changes we plan for this floor are probably the most urgent.

Click to enlarge. A more-or-less scale drawing of the changes we plan.

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The Plan of Renovations: The Attic

I’m typing this while having just had more than my fair share of a bottle of my beloved St. Laurent – one of our last from Vienna. A snip of song has been coming in and out of my consciousness stream. I google the lyrics. Maybe I mistyped something, since google auto-completed my query with “shrimp taco”. And then I find it.  With apologies to The Sparks:

What was I thinking, what was I thinking
What was I thinking, what could I have been thinking
It’s going one time, it’s going two times
Sold to the pair who wear the stunned expression

As I took it off their hands
A five euro note was changing hands
As I took it off their hands
I had plans, I had plans

As I wrote in The Search, we wanted a property within reasonable distance of a city, that had architecture that struck us as “cool” (whatever that means), and I wanted big windows. We weren’t fussed about which German city we were near, since our work doesn’t constrain us (too much) geographically.  We also needed something that could be shaped to satisfy our practical needs. This building looked like it could eventually satisfy these requirements. Still, we need to make some decisions on what to do, how, when, and so on.

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The State and Floorplans at Purchase: The Basement

This is the third post in the series on the condition and layout of the property at time of purchase. This basement, like one would expect, is a bit less fun to look at than, say, the main worship hall. I’m going to focus a bit on the practical aspects of heating and other necessities. It’s probably going to be pretty clear here that I really don’t know anything about heating systems and the like (but I’m learning). Back home, cooling was far more a concern than heating, and climate control was via air ducts. I’ve never lived anywhere with oil heating. I only encountered radiators upon coming to Europe, and most of the time those were run on district heat. Whatever I know about house construction I learned by watching This Old House on PBS as a kid. But that means what I know is more than 20 years out of date, and also pretty USA specific. House construction is quite different here in Germany and the local regulations for energy efficiency are much much more stringent and prescriptive.

I’ll again start with the floor plan. There’s a hallway and a five rooms on the left side of the house. The main hall sits above a crawlspace.

Floor plan for the basement level. Click to enlarge.

After the jump, we’ll have the photo tour.

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The State and Floorplans at Purchase: Upper Floor and Attic

This is the second entry in the series of posts on the state-at-purchase of the building. The first post installment included a tour of the ground floor.

As throughout this series, the photos here were not originally intended to be “good photography”, but rather reference photos, so please lower expectations accordingly.

Like last time, I’ll start with the floorplan.

Plans for Upper Floor. The rooms are only over the left half of the building. Entrance to attic not shown. (Click to enlarge)

Let’s go up the stairs.

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The State and Floorplans at Purchase: Ground Floor

This is the first post in a four part series in which I’ll post some pictures from our various viewings of the property. These photographs were originally intended to be only for our own reference, so they are not exactly of the highest quality, or well composed or any such thing. Nevertheless, they should give some idea of what the property is like, and what will be ahead of us with the conversion.

Let’s start with some particulars. The current vaguely habitable (i.e. heated) area is about 150 m2 (~1600 sq ft). This includes one room in the basement, but none of the attic. The habitable area could be extended to more than 200m2 without much effort, but I’ll try not to get ahead of myself. This living space is spread over 3 floors plus the attic: the basement floor, the ground floor, the upper floor, and the attic.

The plot of land is also not huge, but certainly adequate for the no-kid non-gardener: 670m2 (a bit more than 1/8 of an acre – and that is the last time I do those calculations! You imperial standard types can go convert things yourselves.) There are rhododendrons, heather, moss, a little grass, some forsythias, a fir tree or two, and a decorative hazelnut tree in the front. The back is mostly a large concrete-paving stone lined parking lot bordered with lilac trees.

The building was completed in 1979. The architect, a certain Werner Rehage, seems to be known regionally more for his public swimming pool designs. Mr. Rehage’s architecture practice still seems to be slightly active, but I would guess that after more than 20 years, he might be retired or close to.

The whole building was renovated in 2001. Then it seems a large number of parishioners moved away or died (there was a major military base in the area that closed in the past decade, which may have contributed to the exodus). In 2005 the building and parish were made redundant. So, we have a building that was renovated ten years ago, but was only used once a week for about three or four of those years. Fortunately, the church did heat it the whole time, so there are no problems that we know of with damp or other deterioration.

I find floor plans easier for visualization than photos, so let’s start with those (you can click to enlarge):

Floorplans for the ground floor

Let’s go in.

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Two fun images from the search

Following a request in a comment to yesterday’s post, here are two more fun images from our house hunt.

One of the schoolhouses we looked at had been used to house Kurdish asylum seekers in the nineties. This was the last time that particular house had been occupied, and there were still some remnants. There was just something arresting about the juxtaposition of the posters on this wall:

Tattered chintzy wall paper, a Kurdish freedom fighter, and a kitten.

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The Search

After 15 years and 6 countries of wanderings, my husband and I decided (well, ok, I insisted) it was time to settle down. After being mired in abstractions for so long, I’ve got the overwhelming desire to do something creative that is tangible, visible, and concrete for a change.

Since we are not tied to geography or country by work, we had a wide open choice of places. We quickly narrowed the choices down to Europe, since we were already here and practicalities were therefore easier. Catalonia, Languedoc, Brussels, Vienna, Malta, and Germany (in no particular order) made the short list.

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On this site, I’ll be giving an account of the planning and remodeling we will undertake to transform our new church into a home. Aside from progress reports,  I’ll write about practical matters, like hot water implementation, solar power, heating solutions, chicken coops, etc. I’ll also post interior and garden design pictures that I find inspirational.

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