Dan & Sarah’s Songbird Church House

published Nov 14, 2013
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(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

Name: Dan Horton, audio engineer & Sarah Prowse, kinesiologist
Location: Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada
Size: 7 bedrooms, 5,000 square feet
Years lived in: 4 months; owned

When kinesiologist Sarah Prowse and audio engineer Dan Horton were ready to take the leap from their rented loft to purchasing their first house together, they discovered that affordable homes in good condition are few and far between in Toronto’s hot real estate market. The quest for ample space in a good location kept them exploring the messy frontier of city real estate to no avail, as they found themselves struggling to justify the asking prices of the fixer-uppers that fell within their budget but not their aspirations. That’s when a phone call from Dan’s sister changed everything.

(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

Insistent that the couple at least consider an out of town residence, she knew that if she could just convince them to take a look at what she had stumbled upon — a 1869 Gothic Revival church that had been converted into a family home in 1999 by Master Craftsman Peter Wenniger — they would fall in love with it. The Juliette bell tower balcony, stained glass windows and 30-foot ceilings supported by pressure fit British Colombian Douglas Fir beams were the perfect backdrop for the couple’s shared dream of one day owning a Bed & Breakfast, and hosting songwriter workshop retreats. She was right — it was love at first sight.

Sarah and Dan (and canine friend Charlie) now call the seven bedroom, ivy covered brick church home. They’ve accented their living space with an assortment of music writing stations to accommodate inspiration wherever and whenever it may occur. There’s a piano for songwriting by the fire, a vinyl record listening station tucked underneath the bell tower stairs, a recording studio loft on the third floor, even a swing by the window for playful breaks. Plans are currently in the works to launch The ChurchHouse Bed & Breakfast, as well as quarterly songwriting retreats in the spring of 2014. If you’re looking for an escape to get your creative juices flowing, it‘s hard to imagine a better place to stay than this.

(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: A mishmash of what we’ve collected over the years. A little bit of old mixed with some modern pieces and above all else, comfort and functionality without trying to keep up with the latest trends.

Inspiration: We draw our inspiration from so many different places… the way the floor lights up from the colours in the original stained glass windows, the sound of the piano or guitar being played in the grand room. The acoustics are killer! Hearing that our friends and family feel warm and welcome every time they visit…

Favorite Element: The open concept layout. The wood beams. The bell tower.

Biggest Challenge: Controlling the acoustics was a big challenge, as there was quite the echo echo echo. Although we haven’t had to do it yet, I’m sure changing the lightbulbs in the Grand Room will pose a bit of a challenge. I see a scaffolding purchase in our future…

What Friends Say: “I can’t believe you get to LIVE here!”

Biggest Embarrassment: That we were able to move into a place this beautiful and not have to pour our own blood, sweat and tears into renovating. And that it is still very much a work in progress. We’re sure it always will be.

Proudest DIY: We’ve been so busy with projects since we moved in. It’s almost a full time DIY job in itself — from refinishing furniture to general repairs and maintaining these lush gardens. Also the album cover art installation leading up to the third story loft.

Biggest Indulgence: Our leather recliner couch.

Best Advice: Don’t rush out and start buying things right away just to fill a space. Give it time and the right piece for any space will eventually reveal itself. Patience!

(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

Resources of Note:


  • Chandelier – flea market find
  • Hooks – DIY repurposed old baseboards
  • Stool – flea market find


  • Couch – Lazy Boy custom sectional
  • Chair – Vintage Wassily Chair (gift)
  • Artist Stool – hand me down, refinished by Dan
  • Kindling Box – Antique owned by Dan’s great grandparents
  • Coffee table end table – hand me down
  • Couch table – Ikea
  • Mirror – scavenged and refinished by Dan
  • Antique walnut table – Dan’s Grandmother’s
  • Sculpture – Antique Shop
  • Iron candle stand – gift
  • Wood burning fireplace – Dutch West


  • Maple table – previous owners
  • Record player – vintage United Audio
  • Receiver – vintage Sansui
  • CD shelves- Ikea
  • Directors chair – film set sale


  • Antique table with chairs – Antique Store
  • Brass candelabras – Antique Store
  • Silver salt and pepper shakers – Dan’s grandmother
  • Silk table runner – Ireland
  • Chandelier – Antique Market


  • Book shelves – Ikea
  • Oak desk – DIY by Dans Dad
  • Office chair – hand me down
  • Lamp – unknown

  • Religious artwork satin glass window circa 1850’s – imported from Europe
  • Art – Ebay

  • Italian leather recliner couch – Modern Sense
  • Carpet – Floor Trends
  • TV stand – Ikea
  • 50 ” LG 3D TV
  • End table – film set sale
  • Round table – Antique Store
  • Carved wood lamp – Gift
  • Ladder shelf – previous owner
  • Horse statue – Antique Market
  • Art – Ebay
  • Guitar – Gibson Les Paul Special Autographed By BB King
  • Beatles Mounted Poster – Vintage


  • Mac Book Pro
  • Protools 11
  • Duet Audio Interface
  • 16 Channel Behringer Console
  • Akai Microphone
  • Spider Lamp – film set sale
  • Persian Rug – hand me down
  • Fender Telecaster Guitars
  • Gibson L6s Guitar
  • Martin 0000-18 Custom Acoustic – Gruhn Guitars Nashville
  • Ibanez Roadstar 1982
  • Drum – gift
  • African Drum – found


  • Queen Bed – previous owner
  • Quilt – Dan’s Great Grandmother
  • Bedding – Bed Bath and Beyond
  • Standup closet – previous owner
  • Treasure chest – Antique, Dan’s Grandmother


  • Art – Antique Market
  • Bedroom set – Antique Market
  • Oak Glass Door Cabinet – Antique Market


  • Art – Fraser MacDonald
  • Hooks – Morrish Family Store
  • Sink – Antique Market


  • Dresser – Ikea
  • Bed set – purchased from previous owner
  • Ladder shelf – purchased from previous owner
  • Lamp – hand me down


  • Church bell – original to the church
  • Antique metal from bed – previous owner
  • Wood table – scavenged
(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

Thanks, Dan & Sarah!

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