After selling her house in Toronto, designer Jenn Hannotte started hunting for properties outside the city. That’s when she stumbled on a beautiful little church in the tiny hamlet of Camlachie, Ont. at the southern tip of Lake Huron. Built in 1877, the chapel came with stained glass windows, wooden pews and a collection of old Bibles. Hannotte instantly saw the potential for a cottage transformation and bought the place for just $85,000. After about $70,000 in renovations, Hannotte created a sunny sanctuary in the countryside that preserves the church’s historic charm while giving it a modern facelift.
In the kitchen, Jenn wanted the colourful stained glass windows to do the talking, so she kept the cabinets white. In her designs, Jenn likes what she calls “a period at the end of a sentence,” so she opted for simple black countertops from IKEA. The appliances – usually the most expensive part of the kitchen – were gifted to her from a client.
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Put a Bird on it
The industrial-style island has lived several lives as both a kids’ art table and Jenn’s work desk. She chose it for the kitchen because of the way the metal reflected the light. The basket below is filled with tablecloths and linens. In the background, a stuffed pheasant, purchased at a barn auction in New York, adds a touch of whimsy.
The breakfast nook is conveniently located above one of the largest furnace vents in the home, making it one of the warmest spots in the winter. On the floor, a cow hide adds a bit of softness. The macrame wall hanging was a lucky find from a Winners in Sarnia.
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This space in the corner of the room is a great spot for yoga. Jenn included a wall hanging from 10,000 Villages, a gift from her father, because she liked the way the warm colours worked in the space. Below, one of the original church pews was built into the wall as a way to preserve some of the chapel’s character.
Is That a Flamingo?
The artsy windows are more graphic than religious, and the pastel pinks and blues make for a stunning backdrop. Jenn painted the walls a crisp white to accentuate the one-of-a-kind feature.
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Keep it Cozy
The church has been transformed into a cottage getaway, which means it has to be cozy. Jenn layered sheepskins and blankets atop a Montauk sofa she picked up for free in Toronto from someone who was getting rid of it. In the background, the pulpit serves no real purpose other than to maintain a piece of the building’s story.
On the dining room table, a little nun figurine is placed beside a collection of rocks picked up from the nearby beach. Jenn isn’t particularly religious, but she liked the idea of riffing off religious iconography in the space.
Along with the pews and pulpit, the church came with all the original letters for this sign, which was used to display the church readings each week. Jenn and her family now use it to write their own original poems.
Opposite the yoga space, Jenn strung up a hammock from Wayfair and some lights for a quiet reading space. The corner is awash in light.
This loft above the chapel was once used by the choir. Now, it’s a bedroom. The lamp at the head of the bed is original to the church, and the bedside basket was purchased from Target.
Laying it Out
Here’s an overview of the space’s open-concept layout, from the perspective of the loft.
For Jenn, having a big, comfortable seating space for her family to gather was important. She pulled in Moroccan blankets, a vintage carpet and plenty of pillows to make the space comfy-cozy. The living room’s accent: the emerald green chair, picked up from IKEA.
Arts and Crafts
The playful brown sofa was a vintage find, and Jenn made the coffee table herself from a slab of marble that had been sitting in her garage forever. The antlers help accentuate the cottage’s country charm.
Here’s a closer look at the design of the windows, which were installed in the 1940s.
This bedroom is in the hall attached to the church. The space was added in the 1970s, which meant it naturally came with wood panelling and odious green carpeting. Jenn divided the space into a bedroom, closets and en suite bathroom. The high ceilings and stained glass window are the most prominent features of the bedroom, which overlooks the sprawling field behind the property.
Anyone who’s ever installed hardwood floors knows how expensive it can be. Since Jenn was trying to keep costs down, she swallowed her pride and went with vinyl flooring. She admits that it turned out pretty well.
Wink of Pink
The bathroom is cheap and cheerful, thanks to fixtures from IKEA. The pink hand towel is a subtle nod to the pink from the stained glass, and the artwork is a print by Canadian artist Marcel Dzama.
In the kitchen, the stools are splattered with colourful paint from their years in an art room. The seats perfectly accentuate the kaleidoscopic light that filters into the room, while adding to the no-fuss cottage vibe.
Cork and Marble
These cute little canisters were picked up from a grocery store. Similar to the stools, Jenn liked the way that they played off the windows’ colours.
Life in Plastic
Across from the kitchen island, this yellow stand is used for extra storage. In the centre are the lettered cards used to create the chapel wall poems. The votive candles are another wink of religious symbolism, and the pop of greenery – like most in the space – is fake.
Playing With Shapes
Here’s a better look at the yellow stand, tucked beside a beautifully vaulted door frame.
Dinner for Five
The dining room set is a simple black and white colour scheme, similar to the kitchen. The chairs are from Wayfair, and Jenn chose a vintage carpet from Smash Salvage, a shop in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, to balance out the modern feel.
And now, the most striking feature of the space: the light. Jenn painted the walls and floors white in hopes of allowing the colours to bounce and play off the room. The light tones shift throughout the day, giving the church a life of its own.
Jenn’s father is a professional painter, and she flew him in from out west to paint the space a luminous white. However, in a few places, she chose to keep some of the wood its original colour, such as the hammock nook and the ceiling beams.
Among the Trees
Jenn’s father also painted the exterior of the church. The building was originally white, but Jenn opted to give it a brighter coat to modernize it. The windows and doors were painted black for a stately punch. The best part: the church is a three-minute drive to the beach.