An abandoned 16th-century Spanish church was transformed into a dream home with a 2-story loft and a bedroom in the bell tower

·6 min read
Basque Country church conversion
The furniture and rugs were used to help frame the renovated church's open floor plan. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.
  • A small 16th-century church in Spain's Basque Country was renovated into a three-bedroom home.

  • Photographer Tas Careaga worked with architect Carlos Garmendia for over three years to complete the project.

  • The house was outfitted with a two-story loft for the master bedroom and a bedroom in the bell tower.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Venezuelan photographer and interior designer Tas Careaga purchased the abandoned church in the Basque Country of northern Spain.

Basque Country church conversion
Before it was known as "La Iglesia de Tas," the building was a church built around 1530 in Spain's northern Basque Country. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties

Built in 1530, a Spanish church located among the wooded hillsides of the northern Basque Country sat in near ruin until Tas Careaga happened across the building in 2016.

As an interior designer and photographer, Careaga had completed several projects before setting his sights on the abandoned church.

"I wanted to take it to the next level," Careaga wrote on his website. "So I searched for an abandoned building for a long time. One day I saw advertised an old church in ruins and I bought it."

Fixing up the abandoned church was a massive renovation for Careaga, so he tapped his friend and architect Carlos Garmendia to help oversee the project, Architectural Digest reported.

"[The church] is located in a valley and the access is by a small road with many curves," Careaga told Architectural Digest. "The most beautiful thing is its location. You are literally in the middle of the mountains, with incredible views."

The church was eventually dubbed "La Iglesia de Tas," and Careaga chronicled that renovation on his Instagram account.

The conversion took three years and included some large-scale renovations.

Basque Country church conversion
The church's roof had collapsed inside by the time Careaga and Garmendia agreed to take up the project. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

Careaga and Garmendia had their work cut out for them when they began renovating the church.

"It was completely in ruins and the roof had collapsed inside," Garmendia told Architectural Digest. "Just the removal of rubble took several months."

Garmendia helped redesign the roof and fix up the walls, but he made a concerted effort to keep many of the building's original features.

"The idea was to preserve the original elements as much as possible (structure, frescoes, stone) and once everything was secured, to make design interventions that would show the juxtaposition of the new and the old," he told the publication.

According to the listing with The Singular Space, the church is set on a 9,687-square-foot plot and has a total built area of 2,690 square feet. The home is being sold for $1,905,520 (1,600,000 EUR).

The home is a perfect example of how to blend old architecture with modern needs.

Basque Country church conversion
The home's textured walls are balanced by the polished concrete floor and clean-cut furniture. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

In 2019, the church was officially transformed into a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home.

"The airy, open-plan living space lets the original masonry take center stage, reveling in its sober columns, clerestory windows and curvaceous apse, now a neat kitchen recess," the website said.

A woodburning stove warms the atmospheric interior, while the master bedroom is in a two-story loft that "hangs like a treehouse" with unvarnished pine.

Additionally, a small collection of art and furnishing gathered over 10 years is included in the listing.

"The current owner has done a breath-taking job of blending renaissance and modern aesthetics, creating a thoroughly contemporary living space with an exalted and meditative atmosphere," the website said. "This is a truly unique and extraordinary home that will captivate artists and art-lovers alike."

Artwork and skateboard decks help infuse the kitchen with Careaga's personal flair.

Basque Country church conversion
Skateboard decks and artwork were hung all over the home to embody Careaga's style. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

The home's kitchen was settled into the church's former apse, an arched recess where the altar is typically kept.

Careaga decorated the space with a beautiful mix of artwork, skateboard decks, and potted plants to complement the open floor plan.

The pristine white cabinets and kitchen island add a necessary balance to the textured walls and bursts of color.

"There is everything in this home — 150-year-old pieces that belonged to my great-great-grandmother to very modern elements, including furniture that I have designed and built myself," Careaga told Architectural Digest.

"Many other pieces are inherited (like a Roche Bobois table from my aunt). The rest are either made by me or bought second-hand. What I like the most is the ensemble — many people may find it strange, but it is very personal," he added.

A wooden staircase leads to the second-story loft.

Basque Country church conversion
Plants are found all over "La Iglesia de Tas," and they help reinforce the nearby hillsides and open floor plan. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

Careaga must walk up a wooded, open-tread staircase to reach the master bedroom. Around him, the plant motif was extended to above the loft and hung freely over the living room.

A circular ceiling fixture and hanging lights also draw attention to the building's height, while the furniture and rugs help frame the open floor concept.

The master bedroom allows for both secrecy and solitude on the loft's first floor.

Basque Country church conversion
The home's listing said the master bedroom, found in the loft, "hangs like a treehouse." Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

The master bedroom overlooks the entire home but can be hidden away with just a swish of the red curtains.

An office space fixed under a skylight is also found in the loft.

The office, with white furniture and more plants, was placed inside the loft alongside two bathrooms.

The church's bell tower was repurposed into a guest bedroom.

Basque Country church conversion
Extra space in the bell tower was converted into a guest bedroom. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

Architectural Digest reported that that church's bell tower was added at the end of the 18th century when the building's height was increased.

Now, the bell tower is used as a guest bedroom with an area for sleeping and space for relaxing above.

The outside patio overlooks some of the region's lush greenery and hillsides.

Basque Country church conversion
"La Iglesia de Tas" sits in a valley that is surrounded by wooded hillsides. Courtesy of The Singular Space Extraordinary Properties.

Perhaps the best feature of "La Iglesia de Tas" is the stunning view and miles of nature.

Careaga said that he and Garmendia used "untreated light wood and black metal on the outside."

A long table fit for guests was placed outside, as well as several beanbags, firewood, plants, and a water trough.

"We wanted the edits to stand out clearly, and to contrast with the original structure," he told Architectural Digest.

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