Our Lady of Grace - Convent Renovation

Stamford, Connecticut

This 1920s center hall colonial, located in Stamford, Connecticut was purchased in the mid-1950’s for use as a convent. Years of insensitive renovations and the construction of an adjoining preschool left the building lacking both character and cohesiveness. A sizable donation enabled the client to pursue a much-needed renovation of the entire residence, which was completed in 2009. One of the major goals was to enhance the convent’s street presence. Re-cladding the house in brick provided the convent with a new sense of character as a handsome Georgian residence and simultaneously allowed the convent to read as the older residential structure it is while making it more compatible with, but distinguished from, the attached commercial-looking school building. The use of brick also meets the clients’ request to retain the low maintenance aspect that the aluminum siding and vinyl windows had offered, but in a durable aesthetic material that will maintain its character for many years to come.

The interiors of the convent were completely renovated with new trim mouldings, finishes and lighting. The existing chapel was completely renovated, only retaining its stained glass windows, altar table and marble tabernacle. What had been a dark, heavy interior gave way to a lighter traditional interior which includes a pilastered altar piece and Jerusalem stone floors. A Gothic arch frames the view from the chapel’s sanctuary into the altar area. Handsomely detailed trimwork and a grapevine motif decorative cornice reflect the rich tradition of details found in the Catholic churches of Italy where many of the convent’s nuns originate from. The colors of the room and the material selections were inspired by the mosaic work on the existing altar. The column screen and paneling on the wall behind the altar uses Gothic arches, like that framing the altar area, to frame the stained glass windows and tabernacle. The pointed arches and tripartite nature of the design itself became appropriate references to the Catholic Church’s architectural history and its teachings.

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