The term ‘wow factor’ gets bandied about a bit too often these days and so perhaps doesn’t really do Az Jasat’s conversion of a Methodist chapel justice. But it is hard to imagine anyone walking through the unassuming threshold and into the voluminous space beyond and not uttering the words ‘wow!’

The original, front, structure of the Methodist chapel had been built in 1901, with the middle section being constructed later in 1941, before the rear was added in 1959.

“The chapel was for sale through a local agent, but didn’t yet have planning for domestic residential use — plus it was entirely rotten inside thanks to the wood panelling covering the damp brick walls, with mushrooms growing through the floor and dry rot everywhere,” explains Az.

Project Notes

  • Homeowner: Az Jasat
  • Project: Methodist chapel conversion
  • Size: 250m²
  • Build time: 12 months
  • Build cost: £180,000
  • Value: £500,000

“The chapel was for sale through a local agent, but didn’t yet have planning for domestic residential use — plus it was entirely rotten inside thanks to the wood panelling covering the damp brick walls, with mushrooms growing through the floor and dry rot everywhere,” explains Az.

Double height living space with mezzanine office

Az’s study sits on the mezzanine level which projects out over the open plan living space

Az put in an offer £28,000 lower than the guide price of £125,000 and was turned down, before fate intervened.

“I went to a local exhibition and met an artist called Clay Sinclair who was displaying his work in a mock church setting,” says Az. “He had an old pew as part of his ‘church’, borrowed from a Methodist church so I told him about my failed offer.

Clay happened to know the local vicar who had informed him that very morning that the buyer of the church had pulled out. On the back of this information, I put in a new offer which was accepted.”

The Planning and Design Process

Industrial style kitchen diner

The kitchen diner features new kitchen units made by a local joiner that sit alongside the island designed and made by Az and an upcycled dresser

“Planning sailed through,” says Az. “I think it was because the church is in a residential area and I wasn’t making any external changes anyway.”

The application for a change of use of the building had to be made through the local authority but according to Az, the “church was just glad to see it restored.”

Az employed a local architect for planning drawings, later taking over the design work himself. “I had strong ideas of what I wanted” he explains. “So, the architect produced planning drawings to my instructions — I wanted to challenge all the obstacles thrown my way and work out ways of doing things that didn’t initially conform. I didn’t want just a standard specification.”

Living room in chapel conversion with double height ceilings

New steel beams support the new first floor spaces. By ensuring that the first floor only partially spans the ground floor, most of the original windows remain unobstructed

Because Az was converting a non-residential building, he needed to conform to modern building regulations.

“I had to use modern insulation materials that weren’t designed for this type of building in order to reach building regulations,” says Az. “Every wall now has internal insulation and plasterboard.”

The original windows all remain in place within the main section of the building, with Az adding double glazing.

Az used his background in engineering to do all the engineering and CAD drawings, as well as the electrical and pipework layouts, acting as main contractor, principle designer, project manager and client.

An ‘Engineering Meets Art’ Approach

New timber and steel contemporary staircase

The new staircase, made from steel and timber, was designed by Az. The ply balustrades are a temporary measure that Az had CNC machined

Az describes his approach to the conversion as “engineering meets art.” He had the whole building laser scanned at the start of the project, before a colleague made a 3D model of it. “There was lots of measuring and remeasuring to ensure ceiling heights and new partitions worked,” he explains.

“I employed a builder for all the construction work, such as fitting the new supporting steels, and he did help out with project managing too,” he continues.

Making the Most of Original Features

Restored organ in chapel conversion

The organ and pipes are all original and now form a striking feature

Az was keen to maintain the original details and voluminous feel of the building, highlighting features such as the organ, whilst making it fit for modern family life.

“One of my main challenges was how to avoid slicing through the original windows when creating a first floor,” he explains. “I wanted to retain as much of the double height space as I could.

New first floor in chapel conversion

On the first floor changes in floor level mean that some double height spaces have been retained on the ground floor. The lighting scheme was designed and implemented by Az

Study mezzanine

Az’s study also sits on the first floor

“It was hard to get enough bedroom space whilst doing this — so there are only three bedrooms on the first floor, with a fourth on the ground.”

Double Height Spaces

The first floor is now accessed by a staircase designed by Az, using steelwork from the same steel fabricator who made the main steels for the house.

In order to maintain the double height spaces in the living space, the bedrooms and bathrooms have been located towards the rear of the house, supported on huge new steels, left exposed. These sit alongside the original steels that have been sandblasted.

Kitchen with vaulted ceiling

The large kitchen diner space is housed in a later addition to the church, built in 1959

En suite bathroom with sloping ceiling

The bedrooms and bathroom combine original features in the form of the uppermost sections of the old arched windows, and original wooden trusses, with modern design

At the rear of the house lies the large kitchen diner, housed in a single storey structure with a dramatic high pitched roof. A fully glazed gable end, with bi-folds, opens out to a new patio space.

Chapel conversion rear with fully gazed gable

The full-height aluminium bi-folds and glazing lead out on to a new terrace, located where a now-demolished structure had once stood

Conversion on a Budget

“Throughout the project I was looking for creative ways to stick to my budget,” says Az. “I couldn’t spend more than £180,000 to make it worthwhile.”

The result is a home that has brought the unique nature of the building back to life, displaying its quirky features in all their glory, yet propelling it into the 21st century.

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