Koopmeiners Residence - Denver, Colorado

When Robert Koopmeiners and his wife, Bridget Baehre, were looking for a new home a few years ago, they wanted one that would be unique, preferably a warehouse or a church that they could remold to their own liking.

They found that unique opportunity in Our Lady Help of Christians Church, a former Roman Catholic Church and adjacent school building in the Berkeley Section of Denver. The couple took a leap of faith when they decided to rescue the church and schoolhouse from condemnation. Nearly $800,000 later, they have converted the two structures into a single-family home which celebrates the gothic roots of the one-time church.

The 104-year-old gothic style brick church had belonged to at least two other Christian denominations before it became a Catholic parish which had been abandoned for several years. The couple could have bought the property, razed the existing buildings and constructed an eight-unit condo building. Instead, they hired Denver Architect Steve Barsch who helped them design a 4,200 square foot residence with four bedrooms, five baths, a dining room, office and den. The couple joined the woodframe schoolhouse and the gothic brick church by replacing an old breezeway between the two buildings with a towering entranceway and a kitchen with dormers. Because the only underground storage was a series of crawl spaces under the church and the schoolhouse, the Koopmeiners also used the opportunity to connect the two buildings by excavating a basement area under the entranceway and kitchen.

Working as their own general contractor, the couple, and Barsch collaborated on a structure that would feature a large living room with a vaulted 20-foot ceiling and a master bedroom, both in the former chapel of the church.

"The Koopmeiners put a lot of energy into this project," notes Architect Barsch. "It took them two years to build the house and in that time, a lot went into the project and there were challenges."

For example, said Barsch, the couple removed the drywall and paneling in the school house and found much of the stud work had rotted out. "They effectively had to rebuild that part of the house," recalls Barsch. "But in the end, they saved about $200,000 by being their own general contractor," he points out.

Capping and unifying the entire project is a 6,000 square foot Englert Series 2000 Galvalume Plus standing seam roof. "We wanted to use a standing seam roof even though it was not part of the original budget," recalls the architect. "It was a stretch for them but afterwards they agreed it was well worth it because of the look of permanence the roof conveyed. The Englert 2000 profile had the look of the typical two-inch standing seam we wanted. "We were trying for a modern look to the entire structure yet wanted to maintain the gothic integrity of the original church at the same time," notes Barsch. "The metal roof provided a natural, transitional look for the melding of the church and the school structure. Because of its lead colored look, the galvalume roof gave the structure a weathered, aged look consistent with the gothic style of the church portion of the house, but also the crispness that only standing seam can bring to a project.

Metal for the three dormers was hand cut by Southwestern Metal Systems of Commerce City, Colorado, which installed the roof. The standing seam also brought a good deal of verticality to the residence which the couple and the architect were trying to achieve. As a result, said Barsch, there was some challenge installing metal standing seam around the super high pitched dormers of the church structure, requiring a lot of cricketing and flashing that was elegantly done by the roofer to divert rainwater , he notes.

The structure has been honored with one of the Denver Mayor's Annual Design Awards which celebrate design in all its forms throughout the city. The awards honor business and home owners who make design excellence a priority. The Koopmeiners/Baehre Residence won in the category of reclaimed splendor.

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