The marvellous conversion: from Romanesque church to designer’s home

Unveiling the 16th-century church

Today, we have a truly remarkable story that has left us in awe. It’s a tale of a young Basque artist who took the challenge of transforming a 16th-century-old church into a modern design house. A restoration project that may be tapping into your long-life dreams and aspirations, because it certainly is to ours!

Join us as we delve into the captivating story behind this awe-inspiring creation.

Preserving the Essence

When Tas Careaga first saw his 16th-century church it was advertised for sale as a “land plot with building in ruins”. Abandoned for decades – the town has 6 other churches for a population of 2000 – it was being sold by the local bishopric for very little, but the new owner was required to rebuild it. Careaga fearlessly poured his heart and soul into this extraordinary endeavour. But before any real work could begin, he and his friends spent 3 months just clearing the structure of debris. As the project took flight, the building stood vulnerable, stripped of its protective cover, and its interior in a state of disarray, leaving its structural stability hanging in the balance. With help from his architect friend Carlos Garmendia, Careaga preserved the open feeling of the space by adding only one wall (for a bathroom on the 2nd floor).

The idea was to handle the intervention with great sensitivity, touching the church only when absolutely essential. Their aim was to preserve the enchanting allure and intrinsic spirit of the place. The cupola now houses a very high-ceilinged kitchen with art gallery walls. Most of the church celebrates the 10-meter (30-foot) ceilings created 5 centuries ago.

Architectural Adaptation

When you enter the space, you are welcomed with a stunning high-ceilinged entrance hall, adorned with unique contemporary-style lamps and metal staircases.

In about a quarter of the space, Careaga built a wooden frame to house two open-air floors for a 2nd-floor bedroom and a 3rd-floor office. Instead of walls or bannisters, the first floor relies on just three thin metal cables for the protection of occupants.

The modern stairs lead to an open-plan living space that overlooks the mesmerizing view of the mountains.

The home is deeply personal, filled with furniture from Careaga’s family, religious art from his grandmother, and idiosyncrasies like a slackline to cross the thirty-foot drop between the office and a secret bedroom above the cupola. His choice of a contemporary minimalist aesthetic complements the church’s raw elements, including the exposed brick walls and towering arched windows, creating a harmonious visual contrast. The living/dining area seamlessly integrates under the arched roofs, making it a perfect example of integrating modern living spaces into a historic structure.

Careaga spent 3 years converting the church to his home with mostly his own labour and help from friends. He continues to add new touches, like converting the bell tower into a reading nook and bunk room for guests.

About Tas

“I’m Tas Careaga Irazabal. I was born on June 20th, 1984 in Caracas, Venezuela. Barely a year into my life, my mom became ill and passed away. My father, my two brothers and I went back to our family origin, Bilbao, Spain. I didn’t grow up in the most common of environments. Thus, through these circumstances I became who I am today…
I have always had a curious and persevering attitude towards life, always pushing myself to be something more, to find something else. At 16 I lost my father. My brothers and I became orphans. Thanks to my family, especially my brothers, I found my path. I was self educated in multimedia design, and found a job in a design studio by 17. My first job gave me financial stability, and I was able to buy my first camera. With my dog, Tola, on one side, my skateboard on the other, and my camera on my back, I began a wonderful journey.
After three years working, I created TasLab, a multimedia design and advertising studio. Since 2004 I have poured sweat and passion into my projects, building a studio of growing reputation.
I am a restless photographer, spending my free time with a camera on my side, traveling the world whenever the chance comes along, and loving what I do everyday. Far more than just a job, I see the world as an artistic expression.”

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