Altared estate: Former church transformed into home

  • By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, March 26, 2008 3:45pm
  • Life

A few weeks after James Mongrain and Melissa Broyles move into their Everett home, the couple will ask a priest to visit them.

The house has been rezoned and renovated. Now the couple wants it reblessed.

Formerly the Christian Reformed Church of Everett, the space will be desanctified, officially turning a house of worship into a home.

“Anyone that went to church here, it can give them a feeling of at least things were done properly,” Broyles said.

The couple, who say they are lapsed Catholics, seem like natural residents for the stylishly renovated building. Mongrain, a glass artist based in Mukilteo, is a longtime collector of religious artifacts, such as ornate prayer cards and crucifixes.

Finding the church, however, was “pure coincidence,” he said.

The couple were house shopping about two years ago. Everything seemed overpriced and undersized. They wanted charm and space, something like the 2,000-square-foot apartment they rented at the Marlborough, a historic red brick building on Everett’s north side.

On a whim, they visited the church, built in 1930.

“This is what I want,” Mongrain said shortly after walking in.

“You’re kidding,” Broyles said. “Seriously?”

Pews lined the floor facing a pulpit on a short stage. An old baby grand piano was in the corner. Light came in through tall windows made from Florex glass, which has a textured pattern that looks like winter frost. The building didn’t look like a home. Still, the couple made an offer, closing on it a week after Thanksgiving 2006.

Since then, Broyles said, she’s spent about 50 hours a week cleaning, organizing and exploring the home’s roughly 6,000 square feet. Contractors have completed heavy construction projects, building a second-floor addition designed by the couple and Everett-based Capital Architects.

“Whenever you turn a church into a residence, it’s really cool,” said Sandra Alder, president of Capital Architects. “It has incredible character.”

Indeed: The first floor is made up of 2,600 square feet of undivided space, as the second-floor bedroom and living room peek out like a choir loft.

After moving day, individual areas on the open first floor will draw character from furniture groupings.

“We tried to create little rooms without walls,” Broyles, 35, said.

In one corner, they plan to put a white leather couch in front of a new black granite fireplace. In another, a huge countertop island made of the same matte-finished granite has been installed near a double-oven stove.

That countertop gave the couple a little trouble. Mongrain, 40, said he worried about its size, comparing the black slab to an aircraft carrier.

“It’s got to be at least 1,800 pounds,” he said. “It took eight of us to move it up the stairs, one inch at a time.”

Thinking big was a necessity, however, to make furniture look at home on the huge first floor. The couple special-ordered items such as the couch and a 9-by-11-foot rug. For their 1950s-styled dining table, they bought two identical pieces by Heywood-Wakefield, hiring a woodworker to combine the tables into one extra-long model.

The furniture draws the eye, but the 36-foot-high ceiling — a stick-framed scissor truss design — compels visitors to crane their necks. The couple had it restored, sandblasting away white paint to expose the light, fine-grained pine underneath.

“I don’t know if you could get that today,” Mongrain said of the pine. “It’d be very expensive.”

The refurbished ceiling underscores the home’s theme. Throughout, the couple combined modern flourishes — brushed steel kitchen fixtures, Scandinavian ceiling fans — with century-old style, like that baby grand, still in the corner.

To help support the second-story bedroom and living room, the couple ordered four wooden pillars from Oregon. The dark-stained pine, contrasting with the floor’s lighter wood, looks like it’s been in place for a century.

“We tried to keep it all period,” Broyles said.

Granted, in the bathroom, they didn’t try very hard, instead aiming straight toward the future.

Black slate covers the floor around a large glass-doored shower. Inside, pebbles line the walls, and water falls like rain from a ceiling-mounted fixture. The two sinks, bathtub and toilet, all white, stand in bold relief against the dark surface.

The couple intend to continue working on the home after they move in, replacing the siding during the summer. Then, more than a year and a half after buying the place, they finally may take a breather.

While the building is not in Everett’s historic register yet, Adler, who is also on the Everett Historical Commission, said it’s a contender. It’s easy to understand why.

Something about the space’s past — in 1951, it counted 104 families as church members — made Broyles muse about its future.

“When we leave, we’ll leave it (the piano) for the next person, kind of pass on the tradition,” she said. “That’s been the nice part about this building. You think about what it’s going to be. Who’s going to be here in 100 years? It will still be standing, hopefully.”

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455 or

Houses of worship

Churches renovated into homes dot Snohomish County, including:

The former St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Snohomish: In 1993, two artists bought this property at a bank sale, renovating the 7,000-square-foot space into a vibrant home filled with vintage furniture and contemporary art.

The former Mukilteo Presbyterian Church, Mukilteo: Like the Mongrain-Broyles home, this space kept an open floor plan underneath its soaring 18-foot ceilings. The couple also turned the nave — where the congregation gathers — into a living space with a gourmet kitchen.

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