An 1880s-Era Church Turned Vacation Home in Ontario


An 1880s-era Church Turned Vacation Home in Ontario, Design*Sponge

An 1880s-era Church Turned Vacation Home in Ontario, Design*Sponge

Back in early 2018, art teacher Colin and his partner Matt, a banker, were nesting. They had finished renovating their Toronto loft and were thrilled to be sitting back, enjoying the fruits of their hard work. The second the pair laid eyes on this converted church in Ontario’s Warkworth area, however, everything changed: “When we saw the pictures we fell in love immediately and put in an offer the day we visited the property.”

The converted church hit the market following the previous owner’s death and, as Colin and Matt soon learned, had an interesting history. It was built in 1887 in the Gothic Revival style, complete with a collection of stained glass windows that would cast a rainbow of light onto its Anglican parishioners. For nearly 60 years it welcomed believers, until it was closed in the late 1950s. It then sat vacant for almost 15 years before being converted into a private residence.

Before they could truly begin adding their own chapter to the structure’s story, Colin and Matt had to update the basics and make the vacation house better fit their needs. For six months the couple went back and forth between their main home and Warkworth overseeing the installation of new plumbing, a new roof and the addition of a bedroom and bathroom. The additions were particularly important: only by expanding the overall footprint of the house could the pair host all of their friends when the weather was nice.

Once construction was complete, Colin and Matt then decorated using three key elements they knew would instantly modernize the 130-year-old building: bold wallpaper, a millennial pink front door and a matching pink bathroom. “Our goal in decorating was to keep all the magic and charm that the house had on our first visit but update it with our own touches,” the two explain. The aforementioned wallpaper can be found in two of the home’s bedrooms. In the lofted suite, a moody tree line further amplifies the sense of being above it all. While in the guest room, an astrological narrative plays out across the walls.

It’s been a year and a half since Colin and Matt took over the property, and still, barely a weekend goes by that the two aren’t driving the hour and a half to Warkworth. Nowadays, though, it’s not to meet with the contractor or review plans. It’s to relax. As the church’s pink front doors come into sight, their cares (and those of whichever lucky friends have tagged along) seem to melt away. —Garrett

Photography by Laurel Munro

Image above: “We wanted to keep the warm space/spirit of the previous owner and decided to keep everything we found in the church for the time being. (The gilded accents) are a little over the top – even for us – but we couldn’t bear to part with them and now this room is designed around them!” Colin and Matt tell us.