An Old Chicago Church Is Now a One-of-a-Kind Forever Home

An Old Chicago Church Is Now a One-of-a-Kind Forever Home

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Adrienne Breaux
May 1, 2018

Name: Jim Jacoby and Molly Morter
Location: Logan Square — Chicago, Illinois
Size: Approximately 5,500 square feet shared between the main home space upstairs and a design studio and two-bedroom apartment downstairs (not featured).
Years lived in: 1.5 years, owned

It was love at first "site" for Jim and Molly when they first visited the house that would become their very own forever home. The former church, which was built in 1890 and is located in Chicago's hip Logan Square neighborhood, had been converted to a home in 1994 by the previous owners. Upon first visit, Jim and Molly were immediately drawn to the calming energy of the building and the years of good experiences that had transpired there. Relieved that the building would be in the hands of new owners who would truly appreciate its history, the former owners generously worked with the couple to make sure the home could become theirs. Now, as the newest owners, Jim and Molly feel that it's their job to steward the building and to remain loyal to its core purpose as a place of joy and gathering.


"If you believe you belong in a unique space, that space will find you. Remain entirely open. When the time comes, take risks to bite it off. If it's right, it will work out."


The couple has put a lot of thought into making an unusual space comfortable and livable. While maintaining the integrity of the building's original architecture, they've given a modern face to certain areas like the kitchen and bathrooms. The fact that the house was originally a church is not only obvious from the architecture, stained glass windows, and the religious ceiling mural, but is cleverly shown throughout the house in the couple's choice of decor. Ranging from kitschy (figurines of nuns playing baseball) to goth (skulls and skeletons), the home playfully tips its hat to the original use of the building. Likewise, many pieces from the church have been salvaged, including the headboard, which used to be part of the church's altar.

From New Year's blowouts to Day of the Dead themed parties, the couple entertains frequently in order to share the experience of the space with their friends and family. "We love to see our space through other people's eyes," says Jim. Up next is hosting acoustic concerts to support the local music community and opening their home for weddings and to vacation rental guests. As much as they love introducing people to their home, Jim and Molly are equally tickled when they're approached by people who are already familiar with the building from its days as a church. Says Jim, "We met a real curmudgeon the other day who found out we lived down the street 'in that church' and he just melted, sharing stories about his childhood and the wonderful experiences he'd had there."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Eclectic. We like to gather unusual—some would say even "dark"—mementos wherever we go. We love the juxtaposition in the church. We think it gives the space an even brighter, stronger presence. They remind us to stay focused on what's important, to accept the unusual, and to push our thinking too.

Inspiration: We're inspired by people willing to tackle unusual times, places and experiences. We want others to see things and experience our space in ways they'd never expect.

Favorite Element: Our favorite element is the railing, which is a custom design and installation by Molly's younger brother, Reese, who specializes in iron work and high-end woods. The combination is warm and powerful.

Biggest Challenge: Frankly, the purchase of the home was our biggest challenge. The bulk of the work to make the space livable and enjoyable had been done by the previous owners some 20+ years ago, so we really just freshened up the space with new paint and our sense of style (though even that was in concert with the previous owners who had their own quirky, artistic flair, which resulted in esoteric collections over the years.) Relating to the purchase, the church found us as much as we might have found it. We gave an unusual offer with non-traditional terms and we were fortunate to have compassionate sellers driven by the desire to see their home land in the right hands rather than just making a monetary transaction.

Proudest DIY: The railing installation (although it was made by Molly's brother and not us!) It's extensive and totally custom and its construction was nothing short of miraculous. Reese designed and fabricated everything off-site, knowing that there isn't a right angle or standard joint to be found anywhere in the construction. He built affordances into the angles and brackets that allowed him to adjust during the installation, which ensured a perfect look and sturdy build.

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence is keeping the space open and flexible, not committing to too much structured space. As a result, it behaves like a big studio apartment when it's just us, but can be reset for a large event, private musical show with friends, family gathering, or even small weddings booked through Airbnb.

Best Advice: If you believe you belong in a unique space, that space will find you. Remain entirely open. When the time comes, take risks to bite it off. If it's right, it will work out.

Resources:

PAINT & COLORS
Behr — Premium Plus Ultra Paints. Whites and off-whites combine matte and gloss techniques to offset columns and other structural elements.

ENTRY
Executive Cabinet — Built 1958 for Morton Salt boardroom
Altar top — previously at front of church with mirror to show all sides of infant Jesus (now with large skull), on wheels

LIVING ROOM
Couch – CB2
Pillows - Target
Candles - Target
Coffee table — Collected from flea market, originally from Minnesota factory
Trunk - Flea market find
Blankets — Pottery Barn

MAIN ROOM
Kneeler — Maxwell Street Days Flea market in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.'Mother and Father Portraits' — Maxwell Street Days Flea market in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
Pulpit Bar — Built from original baptismal (from another church but likely identical)
Large Painting — Unknown.
Queen Chairs – Vintage find, custom upholstery
Foot stool — CB2
Catholic Chandelier — Original to church
Curio Cabinets — Ikea
Piano – Healy-Harp Baby Grand, 1910
Fake skeleton — Target
Bird skeleton — Target
Nun figurines — Collected from Maxwell Street Days in Cedarburg, WI
Black candelabras — Custom made by Susie Morter, Shady Lady Designs
Metal folding chair — Original to the church
Mannequin — Vintage
Medical bag — Vintage
Cream skulls — artist Joshua Harker
Rocking chair — Morter family antique
Pillow on rocking chair — Antique from India
Black skull — Target
Glass cross — Antique collected by previous owners
Bust figurine — Inkwell
Drop Leaf Table — Built 1958 for Morton Salt board room

KITCHEN
Bar stools — Vintage find

LOFT
Railing (throughout) — Made by Morter, LLC (Reese Morter)
Canvas Poufs — Kalalou
Desk — World Market

BEDROOM
Original Altar Headboard — Built from altar previously at front of church
'The Two Ways' Print (early 1900s) — Previously hung at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive Art and LUMA Loyola University and Chicago Museum of Art in 2012
Mattress – Tuft and Needle

BATHROOM
Jesus Print – You Must Be Guilty of Something
Ear soaps — Loot Crate
Shower stool - Front Gate
Fixtures – Grohe

Thanks, Jim and Molly!


→Photos, article text, and captions are all thanks to Petra Ford. You can find more about Petra on her website and follow her on Instagram.


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