Since the mid-20th century, imaginative architects have transformed utilitarian buildings—barns, warehouses, even churches—into luxurious private homes. But what about a fortress, school, or railway station? Converting such complex structures into contemporary dwellings poses unique challenges that require expert architectural insight and engineering know-how, but the rewards are well worth the effort: enviable locations, unique architectural details, ample space, and natural light. In this Luxury Defined collection we spotlight eight reimagined homes that set chic contemporary design, comfort, and detail on the very structure of history.
Stunning Warehouse Conversion in West Chelsea, New York City
Extraordinary light and scale characterize this luxurious converted warehouse in New York’s coveted West Chelsea Arts District. Meticulously restored and modernized, this unique home offers 6,400 square feet of column-free, exposed-brick living and entertainment space. A convertible layout and interlocking double- and triple-height ceilings make it ideal for an artist, gallerist, or collector. The residence flows through multiple airy levels, accessible via a series of stairs and a footway bridge. The layout is currently configured with a palatial great room, a vast open-plan kitchen, an office, a modern library/reading room, and two en suite bedrooms. The property also includes a terrace and a private garden. The zoning, as well as an additional 6,000–12,000 square feet of buildable air rights, allows for a further expansion of this dramatically proportioned home.
Railway Station Reimagined in Northumberland, England
From 1886 to 1930, Low Akeld House in Northumberland was Akeld Station, serving a 36-mile stretch of the North Eastern Railway Cornhill Branch line, and as the railhead for RAF Millfield airbase during World War II. Today, the tracks are long gone, but Akeld House retains much of its original character and charm. Sympathetic restoration and refurbishment have given the property flawless contemporary comfort and style. The two-acre estate includes three original dwellings: the four-bedroom main house, the two-bedroom warehouse, and the one-bedroom guard’s van, all set within handsome gardens. Each residence has its own outdoor space, including private hot tubs outside the warehouse and the guard’s van. The living spaces are beautifully appointed with a flexible layout and include the original waiting room for the station (now a conservatory), which overlooks a garden where the platform once stood.
1800s Hotel Restoration in Telluride, Colorado
Built in the late 1800s, McPherson House, as it was then known, originally advertised ”$7 per week for a room, 25 cents for a meal, and a private lighting plant.” Today, the Senate in Telluride’s historic old red light district has been converted into a refined, four-bedroom townhome. Surrounding the living spaces are expansive decks that capture protected views of the box canyon, Bear Creek, and Telluride Ski Resort. Sophisticated, mountain modern interiors contrast with the buildings’ brick, steel, and stone exterior. Vast windows frame dramatic mountain vistas while harnessing the warmth of all-day sun. A half-block stroll from Colorado Avenue’s restaurants and shops, this home epitomizes Telluride’s ”mountain resort, urban lifestyle.”
Renovated Victorian Schoolhouse in Nantucket, Massachusetts
Long Hill is a stately Federal-style mansion at 30 Orange Street in Nantucket. Built in 1831 during the height of whaling era prosperity, this historic treasure has served as a hotel, boys’ school, and even an ice cream parlor. The house has been lovingly maintained and preserved and features eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, elegant reception rooms with fireplaces, and a modern kitchen with breakfast area. Expansive decks flank the first and second floor and showcase the sweeping views of Nantucket Harbor, Brant Point Lighthouse, Coatue, and scenic salt marshes. Atop the house is an original widow’s walk, which offers unobstructed views of the island. The residence is set behind an impressive privet wall surrounded by a third of an acre of formal gardens. The historic heart of Nantucket Town is a short stroll away.
Military Fortress Reclaimed in Siena, Italy
Dating from the 13th century, this magnificent Tuscan castle was built as a military fortress to defend the medieval city of Siena. The castle rises four stories to four turrets which overlook the Tuscan hills and the Siena cityscape. The perimeter is decorated by a line of trefoil arches. All the openings have arches, while embrasures punctuate the crenelated walls. At the heart of the fortress is a quadrangular courtyard with porticos on three sides and walls supported by octagonal pilasters. The 15,123-square-foot interior has been preserved and updated for modern living. The idyllic 66-acre grounds include Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG vineyards, a 400-tree olive grove, woodland, beautiful formal gardens, and several original outbuildings with additional guest and staff accommodations.
Converted 1920s Church in Near Stockholm, Sweden
This idyllic country church, just south of Stockholm, next to the Baltic Sea, was built in 1922 by renowned Swedish architect David Jansson. The building has been expertly converted into a contemporary residence yet retains all of its period character: cathedral ceilings, weathered brick walls, solid wood floors, and monumental arched windows that flood the space with natural light. The centerpiece is the grand church hall, now a palatial living room. A glass door in the oak floorboards reveals a stone wine cellar with antique lighting and a tasting area. Overlooking the living room is the choir loft, reimagined as a lavish master bedroom with a separate dressing room. The church grounds are a private haven featuring lush gardens and a deck with barbecue and dining area.
Former Consulate in Tangier, Morocco
The former Spanish consulate in Tangier, Morocco, Riad Richa was converted into an opulent private palace. A few minutes from the bustling city center, this palatial residence is spread over more than 16,000 square feet with an additional 3,229 square feet of terraces with breathtaking views of the White City. The sumptuous living spaces include 51 rooms, 12 of which are private suites; a majestic central courtyard with reflecting pool; a two-story drawing room; study; and a hammam with relaxation area. The residence is a true cabinet de curiosité, housing a collection of antiques and objets d’art and adorned with exquisite Moorish details, including zellige-tiled floors and walls, rich fabrics, and ornate light fixtures.
Former Naval Station in Charleston, South Carolina
The only single-family residence in downtown Charleston with a 240-foot-long private dock and boat lift, this harbor estate was once a United States Navy station devoted to degaussing (the process of eliminating the magnetic signatures of warships). Now an elegant refuge, it boasts fabulous views of landmarks such as Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, Ravenel Bridge, and the historic Charleston Peninsula. The interior includes a wine room, gourmet kitchen, formal dining room, and library with a fireplace and hand-detailed cypress paneling. Historical yet contemporary, this fully renovated home provides breathtaking waterfront views, especially from the terrace off its third-level sitting room.Explore Other Homes Around the World Lucy Carsen
Christie's International Real Estate