Robin and Scott Borne convert a church into an urban aery for their family of four
Church jokes and references pepper the conversation when Robin and Scott Borne talk about their Mid-City house, which was once a Lutheran church. For instance, the couple affectionately call their residence the “Borne Again Church.” They moved the church’s altar to the existing back house (once the church rectory) where they use it as a bar when entertaining. There’s the strikingly appropriate coincidence that some of the furnishings came through their interior design team’s local store, which happens to be called the Sunday Shop. There’s also the fact the church-turned-residence still receives mail that includes catalogs of clergy garments and supplies for Bible school. But far from denigrating the church’s history or the couple’s beautiful light-filled aery, the Bornes’ good-natured stories are shared in an effort to sing the building’s praises and explain how they took it from a dark, vacant space to an inspired, conversation-piece of a house.
The couple, who lived just four blocks away and love their Mid-City neighborhood, had walked past the church countless times before ever viewing its interior. When they found it listed as a commercial property, they purchased it as is: carpeted in red; filled with pews, an altar and gorgeous stained glass; home to an outdoor full-immersion baptismal font, a separate rectory — now called the “Wrectory” and used as rental upstairs and party space downstairs — and a deacon’s cottage also used as a rental.
A two-year project from design to completion followed. The Bornes hired architect Ken Gowland of Metro Studios, Brandon Construction and interior designers Katie Logan LeBlanc and Jensen Killen of Logan Killen Interiors.
“There wasn’t much to demo because it was a wide-open space,” says Robin. The church was originally built in the 1920s. “Our vision was to create modern living in an old space and to keep the feel of the church and still make it a house. It’s a lofty space. We wanted it to feel grounded and not so high in the rafters; lighter, airier, more approachable and less severe.”
Gowland and Logan Killen shared the vision of respecting the origins of the structure, but also making it edgy and contemporary enough for a young, urban couple whose lives are steeped in music and a love of entertaining. Scott co-owns a record label called Sinking City Records and Robin, whose background is in restaurants, recently started a clean desserts business called ReBorne Bakery. The duo never misses a New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which is within walking distance, and often hosts visiting musicians.
The renovation called for turning the altar area into a sleek kitchen and camelbacking it with a second story loft that houses two bedrooms for the kids, 6-year-old Millie, and 4-year-old George. On the opposite end of the house, a second loft space was designed for Scott’s record collection and for hanging out. The record room accesses the original bell tower, now a screened-in porch where the family likes to take in the natural beauty of a full moon or of weather rolling in.
Dark beadboard near the ceiling was sheet-rocked to lighten the space and the remaining wood was painted white to highlight the dark support beams of the double height ceiling. With help from Logan Killen, the couple then turned their attention to interior design.
The designers brought in appropriately scaled furnishings, took their color cues from the architecture and worked with the couple’s existing pieces. They drew the earthy amber of the sofa for example from the stained glass of the windows. They also had a table that had once been on Robin’s mother’s back porch sanded and lacquered for use as a dining table and paired it with repainted bentwood chairs from Robin’s mother’s high school cafeteria in Lockport.
Color and pattern were added with wallpapers (a Logan Killen trademark), tile work and art that the couple had collected, including an emoji-and-lipstick-emblazoned pop art image of Our Lady of Guadalupe by local artist Ashley Longshore. Jennifer Shorto’s Pink City wallpaper, a surreal cityscape featuring multicultural architecture and large oranges wraps the walls of the foyer like a mural and is complemented by a black-and-white marble tile floor.
In the children’s rooms, wallpapers take center stage. A blush, peach and chartreuse floral brings a vintage vibe to Millie’s, while a geometric insect-patterned paper was chosen to grow with George. Origami beetles (made out of photographs) from Martine Chaisson Gallery are placed on the wall outside of his door as if they’ve emerged from the wallpaper.
The overall effect is church-meets-urban loft: warm wood floors, rustic rafters and stained-glass rubbing elbows with industrial iron stair rails, modern cabinets and lighting, and contemporary art. Of course, there is the Bornes’ prolific church-related humor when describing the unique character of the house.
“I call the bathtub in the master bath, my Holy Water,” says Robin of the soaking tub that resides below a beautiful stained-glass window. “It’s my peaceful sanctuary.”