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Total Converts

The Church
A four-story, 2,500-square-foot former Lutheran church in Cobble Hill with original stained glass intact.

When did you buy the church?
Sandy Miller, original post-conversion owner: In 1996. It was very Germanic, heavy with dark wood.
Tom van den Bout, architect: It had clearly fallen on hard times. Some of the stained glass was broken, and there had been years of water damage. One of the roof timbers was in such bad shape it needed to be replaced.

What were the big challenges in converting it?
Van den Bout: Trying to maintain its openness and yet installing glass stairs to get you up into the choir loft, which we were turning into the master bedroom. There were temporary plywood steps in place during the conversion, but most of the time we were scrambling up and down on ladders.

Illustration by Jason Lee  

Did you have any reservations about living in a church?
Miller: Gutting it exposed the baptismal pool in the basement, and that was kind of creepy.
Molly McBride, current owner: I think I was the first person to see this place when it went on the market. When I walked to the address, I was like, This is a real church! I was freaked out. But when I saw the kitchen with those stained-glass windows, I realized it wasn’t really a church anymore; it was this marvelous hybrid.

What’s the hardest thing about living here?
McBride: The stairs are very vertical and made of glass. If you have vertigo, it’s not for you.

And the best thing?
McBride: It feels like a sanctuary. You walk in, take a breath, and it puts you in a special place.

That sounds rather churchlike.
McBride: Yeah, without any of the dogma. All the glory and no shame.

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