Public buildings converted to cozy private homes
Many churches and barns have been artfully transformed into livable, even luxurious, private homes. But what about a firehouse? Or a restaurant? While some of the following residences started out that way, they’re now exceptional private properties due to adventurous owners who’ve made some ingenious design decisions. Transforming a property that was not built to be a residence poses some unique challenges and requires special architectural and engineering know-how. But the rewards of such renovations can be well worth the effort. Featuring everything from incredible, central locations in major cities to unique architectural details and ample natural light, the following one-of-a-kind estates provide modern amenities amid historic aesthetics.
1. Former Firehouse
This historic Chicago firehouse, recently converted into a luxurious single-family home, has retained all of its original character—right down to the signature red carriage doors. Inside are 3,800 square feet of sleek, open-plan living spaces with 10.5-foot-high ceilings, concrete floors with radiant heating, triple-pane windows, and walnut doors. The first floor boasts a state-of-the-art kitchen with commercial-grade appliances, a family room, and a living and dining room with 20-foot-wide folding glass doors that open to a lawned terrace, and a three-car garage. A walnut staircase ascends to the private quarters, featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge master suite with an office and two walk-in closets.
2. Monastery Metamorphosed
Built in the Romanesque style, this 12th-century monastery in northwestern Umbria is now a remarkably modern home. Handmade antiques, terracotta tile floors, exposed wood beams, and stone fireplaces are found throughout this stately nine-bedroom residence. An adjacent three-bedroom cottage as well as a beautifully maintained garden and eco-friendly pool add to the welcoming environment. Conveniently located near a small village, this estate makes an ideal family getaway in the heart of Italy, where some of the world’s best wines are produced.
3. History on the Harbor
Charleston, South Carolina
The only single-family residence in downtown Charleston with a 240-foot-long private dock and boat lift, this harbor estate was once a United States Navy station devoted to degaussing (the process of eliminating the magnetic signatures of warships). Now an elegant refuge, it boasts fabulous views of landmarks such as Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, Ravenel Bridge, and the historic Charleston Peninsula. The interior includes a wine room, gourmet kitchen, formal dining room, and library with a fireplace and hand-detailed cypress paneling. Historical yet contemporary, this fully renovated home provides breathtaking waterfront views, especially from the terrace off its third-level sitting room.
4. The Old Post House
Deddington, Oxfordshire, England
The Old Post House is a well-appointed period home in the picturesque village of Deddington, at the edge of the Cotswolds. Dating from the 1730s, the building served as a post office and coach house and later as a doctor’s surgery. Today, the handsome ironstone-clad building comprises a renovated main residence and guest house, and an array of outbuildings, all set within walled gardens. The main house includes four bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, and several reception rooms that open to a central courtyard with herringbone brick and gravel walkways, box hedges, and a dining terrace. The former coach house offers two guest bedrooms, a kitchen, and sitting room. Surrounding the property are formal gardens with floral borders, yew tree hedges, apple and magnolia trees; a heated outdoor pool with poolhouse; two stables; a garage; and potting shed.
5. Michelin-Star Appeal
Ludlow, Shropshire, England
Formerly a Michelin-starred restaurant, this riverfront estate in the medieval market town of Ludlow is a dream come true for chefs or for those looking for an idyllic retreat in one of Britain’s top gourmet destinations. The Linney sits on the banks of the River Teme, just below the ramparts of Ludlow Castle, five minutes’ walk from the historic market square—home to the renowned Ludlow Food and Drink Festival. Iron gates and a gravel driveway lead through lush gardens to the beautiful L-shaped main house. The luxurious, modern 3,945-square-foot interior includes six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, reception rooms, and an office. The original bespoke Swiss kitchen connects to the roomy dining room with large arched windows and sliding doors opening to a riverfront terrace.
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