Peek inside this Philadelphia couple's modern, Moroccan-inspired converted church.
Homeowners Tony Lucente and Chandrima Chatterjee stumbled upon this abandoned 19th-century church by pure happenstance: After Tony finished a "crazy adventure motorcycle ride" through the Himalayas (a charity ride through the program), he took a day to unwind in Delhi.
"With nothing better to do, I started looking at the Philly real estate listings and found the church," he says. "I called them immediately and was very interested. My wife stopped over the next day and the rest is history."
"The church sat abandoned for about 40 years, had a huge hole in the roof where rain water poured in, and was set for demolition by the city of Philadelphia when it was bought by a builder for conversion to residential space," says Lucente. They enlisted architect Laurits Schless of to bring their vision to life.
Lucente and Chatterjee only own one portion of the church — the former Sunday School. Still, it checked all their boxes, spanning 3,000 square feet over three stories, with four bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a three-car garage.
The structure had been completely gutted, but a few features remain: The stone façade, the stained glass Sunday School window above the original front door, and two two-story window frames.
Lucente and Chaterjee began the renovation by looking at other church conversions online. "Lots of them were done in a very modern and minimalist way. My wife and I wanted modern, but I feared that if not done right it might end up looking a little cold or sterile," Lucente says.
Chatterjee found the arches that divide the living room and kitchen. Although they aren't original to the space, they perfectly tie together the home's modern feel with its ancient origins. "When we found the arches, we had the idea of going with what we're calling a modern version of a '30s or '40s Moroccan look," Lucente says.
The home's colorful tiling comes from in New York City. "We fell in love with all the bright vibrant colors," Lucente says. "We were torn between the more geometric patterns and the more floral patterns, but we were immediately sold on the yellow backsplash tile." You'll spot unique tiling throughout the space — the fireplace surround's tiles were shipped from Fez.
"The softness of the blue subdues the boldness of the arches to give them a quiet, timeless confidence," says Lucente. "I will actually sit on the couch and stare at them for longer than I care to admit!"
Local artist designed the quirky chandelier that hangs in their foyer. Chatterjee once worked in a pastry studio down the street from Muhler's studio, where this same chandelier hung. Over time she became good friends with the artist and his partner, and when time came to search for lighting, she and Lucente went straight to Muhler.
"He took us to the back of the studio and ta-da — there was the pastry studio chandelier. It wasn't free, but he made us an offer we couldn't refuse," Lucente says.
The house may be all-modern on the outside, but from the outside, it still looks like a church — one that feels a lot like home.
(All photos © )
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