Alyn Carlson and Paul Clancy’s Whimsical Home

hi guys! this is amy azzarito from past & present! in order to give anne, plenty of time for macaroons and walks along the seine, i’m going to helping to lighten her sneak peek load a bit. and, i’m so excited for my first sneak peek to be of the super-artistic converted church home of graphic designer/fine artist alyn carlson and photographer paul clancy.  the church was built in 1900 in westport, ma by nondenominational factory workers, has raked floors, a fireman’s pole, a swing, sits on 3 acres of mostly open meadow with a chicken coop that accomodates five chickens. paul and alyn sleep in the choir loft and their master bath is in the steeple! alyn says that their home “is a bit of a laboratory for design, color, painted surfaces, installations and performance pieces.” so don’t miss the full peek below (did i mention they have chickens!) -with additional images here –  [thanks, alyn and paul!] -amy azzarito

[this is the converted sanctuary with two lofts, 22 foot ceiling and a catwalk, which runs along each side of space.  the sculpture to the left of the fireplace is by my son, cameron webster and anna kocon. the boat in the ceiling a friend built for me, the beginnings of a light weight skin boat for painting on the river. the fireplace is one of three we’ve had built in the house and this one i use to heat the house in the winter. chairs are a jens resom on left and a little danish plywood find from a thrift store (ikea fabric!). i collect a lot of pottery white and green.  my initial “a” came from the local amusement park that sadly is no more. it lights, but is so bright that we use it mostly for parties.]

yes! that’s a fireman’s pole and lots of fun. i made a donation to the fire station museum in new bedford, ma and came home with it. behind the pole is a 9 1/2 foot long mahogany file that I bought from a retired physician. I use it to store ephemera, artifact, and photos.  there’s also a swing to the left and out of view. the plywood tile on the wall has been stained and left natural.

we sleep up in the closed converted choir loft with a bathroom in the steeple. there’s a lovely little porch that over looks the backyard with a screen door. i wanted the walls, of the bedroom, to resemble the inside of a shell you’d find on a beach here. 6 coats of deep blues and purples with washes of pale pink and pearl on top. the little painting on the wall is from a new series I’m doing this summer called garden stains. the beautiful carved wooden bird mobile is from my friend, the extremely talented roanne robbins from nature contained.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Alyn and Paul’s sneak peek (and all 25 images on one page!) after the jump!

this is an ikea console for stashing our music. the large painting, she lies with pigs, is on loan from anna kocon. the sculpture is by cameron webster, poodle, salvation army, and the chair, ikea. all the church pews were auctioned off before i got here. but a nice man in town gave me one 25 years later that he purchased at the auction. things always have a way of coming home.
paul and i love books. the quaker meeting house in town does a huge annual tent sale of donated books every july. i’ve found some gems there and i still have the books my mom read to me and i read to my kids. these are 3 of the 6 stained glass windows in the church. they had to be totally rebuilt but i was able to find old glass the same amber, yellow and lavender to replace the broken pieces.

CLICK HERE for the rest of alyn and paul’s peek (and all the images on one page) after the jump!

the church was at one time painted 6 different brilliant colors. because so much of my design and art entails color, i recently painted everything in neutral tones with different finishes of white gloss, matte (though, strong color shows up occasionally throughout the house) i’ve drawn with chalk on many of the matte finish walls and then painted with a pearl paint for a nice contrast. (this was something that i learned from graphic design, with printing on paper.)
this is the top of the mahogany file cabinet and it’s filled with an ever-changing installation of little things we find on walks in the country or excavations in the city. the photos are paul’s and are of architectural details in providence, ri.
this is my studio in the sunday school rooms. my work in this room spans my graphic design, abstract watercolors, collage and paper hats. most of the church is dark, but this room gets a lot of sun and i can right out into my backyard, which i often do for inspiration, distraction or to say hi to the chickens. the sofa is a great little junk store find, the lamp is ikea and i made the mobile from inspiring objects.  the hats are for as220’s foofest on august 15th. i’m creating an installation–madame alyn’s bin, a turn of the century century milliners store where all the hats are made of junk mail and paper scrap from friends. it ill be a performance piece where i’ll be in character as madame alyn, a southern belle, just blown in from savannah with today’s trash. the abstract watercolors seem to come from living next to a river that meanders through 60 square miles of westport’s farmland and ends up at the ocean. i love where i live.
there are screened double doors in the steeple front entrance. the broken china mirror frame is a craft my great grandmother passed along to me.  The red line painting technique is achieved by applying a brilliant undercoat (screaming orange) then a deep red and combing the wet paint with the biggest comb you can find. This is where I can do my messy oil painting far from the computer and paper.
lots of dinner parties, play readings and birthday parties have happened around this 13 foot cherry table that a friend made for me. seats are mid-centry office and a couple of shaker-style chairs i’ve picked up through the years. my collage work is on the far wall and local pottery dishes on the table. the floor rakes, so candles tend to melt very artistically. i love the little doctor’s table on the right. i use it for assorted silverware collections.
ok. i admit it, i have an accessory problem. can’t get enough. i sort of collect collections. bakelite is a particular addiction. lately I’ve been making my own jewelry. found objects i pick up and use when the right combination comes together. i also love using paul’s small printing proofs for special pieces. my favorite one right now is the dreamy blue water horizon line he shot in hungary that I put in an old pocket watch.
here’s another photo of our bedroom in the converted choir loft.  the bed has ikea and target linens on it.
this is another photo of the steeple front entrance. the ceiling is painted with copper paint and the little wood/metal chandelier came from maine, where i was born.
the floors were a labor of love. in a big church everything takes a looong time to finish, so a lot of love helps… just 2 coats of latex on smooth plywood and 2 coats of varnish. the more beat up they get the more I love them. the counter is from an early 1900’s store. a bell rings every time you open the silverware “cash drawer”.  my wonderful friend and mentor, pat hegnauer wrote the poem painted above the stove “rules for eating alone” So much of my beloved kitchenware is designed and made by my friends, sandy and jim from beehive kitchenware. this is the summer I’ve vowed to master the galette tart and these measuring cups and pastry wheel make the experience so nice. the mantel above the raised cooking fireplace, 3 very talented guys from 16 on center designed and built for me. i love the pottery and hand cut tile my friends bruce and michael of roseberry winn pottery installed. the tile and mantel have crosses inlaid or embossed in them. hey, it’s a church.

if I could sit in my backyard year round i’d be in heaven. but I guess the winters here make it all the more beloved. i have amazing birds fly through constantly. Including 5 chickens that i raise for eggs and smiles. 2 langshan hens, a langshan rooster, a silver grey dorking rooster and a cucko maran hen. my son, cameron has made a few little birdhouses for me.  i love the book a pattern language by christopher alexander reading it helped me organically design my house and yard around the paths and connections here. one of the things mentioned in it is that walking out of your house and on to grass has a profound effect on the soul. when i renovated my back three acres, (a long time coming and still in progress), i found walking from house to yard barefoot altered everything for me. the quality of my work, art, life changed. the yard goes back and forth between a garden of eden and a demon wild kingdom. my house and land i consider a gift daily and love sharing it with as many people as possible. after a half a dozen weddings here, i’ve recently started renting my back meadow to brides through my friend caterer, dan george.

a sweet little cared for meadow is hard to find and I’m lucky to have one and this church to live in.

New York Muhtari

What a lovely place. Some of the photos are amazing…All the details made me wanna be there right now, specially in one of the dinner parties.


This is a fantastic space and you have done incredibly great things with it here. I love any place that has a boat hanging from the ceiling! :)
The converted choir loft is very cool and the wall treatment is relaxing and interesting as well. The birds mobile hanging in front of the doorway is very nice and i can imagine the birds must sway and fly about in a slight breeze. . .
What a great space to convert to a home, and you have done so in a way that is interesting, relaxing and inviting. So much to look at and take in. I will surely be looking through the rest of the images.


Wow! Hands down some of the best interior photography I have seen on here! I’m assuming Paul did it??? Beautiful! The one with the egg and the silk screens…breathtaking!


I love all the furniture, specially the Eames rocker! I love the layout, its so fun and lighthearted. Really amazing…I don’t think you can ever get bored in this home.


How delightful! I think I’d like to take a vacation to this house, reading in that fabulous, squsihy-looking rocker.


amazing and beautiful… i’m left speechless, really. lovely home that seems to reflect a lovely life.


Insanely fabulous – what a great place for making art and having so much beauty both inside and out. I am completely envious.


This place is amazing! I so badly want to just walk around and admire every little detail, it must be even better in person! You did such a wonderful job at creating a home from such a beautiful piece of architecture, well done!


completely green with envy. Really lovely place you have there.


i love a lot of things about your place, like the potterycollection and the racks in your studio. Love the hats as well.
It feels really big, but in a good way. It stays ‘human’.


this is my dream home (and yard). what an inspiring place to be able to create in such a heavenly environment. you are blessed.


Having been a sneak peek myself – i have to say i am blind with jealousy with the first image of this place. Just amazing…

Jo in New Zealand

Such a treat to see such beautiful photos of an amazing, original and – clearly – much loved home ! Wonderful.


The beautiful handcrafted quality of everything in this home speaks of the love with which it has been created. Full of life and grace. Inspiring.


I have the very great honor to be a close friend of Alyn and Paul’s and am an occasional visitor to this lovely abode – the photographs are absolutely beautiful but can’t capture the feeling of creativity, mischief and pure fun that washes over me every time I visit. You rock, Lily Moonbeam!


Fabulous decor, so personal and creative. What about the floor with stripes, is it porch paint on the sub floor?


Wasnt there a fireman’s pole on Silver Spoons?

At any rate, I love this home. I can’t imagine what it costs to heat and maintain, but I think when you find the perfect place everything is worth it. And I couldn’t ever imagine moving.

When people say “Home” this is what I always imagined as a child, and your children are quite lucky to grow up here and have this as a reference!!

Congrats on realizing many people’s dream, and surely your own!!


rob mariani

Holy church/house, Batman! I’ll always remember that great holiday party you had in this place.One of those perfect evenings for people and place.

Anne A Wong

A fireman’s pole in a converted church? This is the most awesome, greatest house to ever grace the lands of New England…


Wow, what a fantastic home. There are just so many great items, it must be fun to live there on a daily basis. :0)

Urban Furniture Gal

This is absolutely an amazing house, inside and out. I love the mix of contemporary pieces, with more traditional accents. What a great place to live!


This is so cool! I recently wondered if anyone lived in a converted church. Seems like my question has been answered. :)


Sara L.

Wow. Um, do you mind if I come live with you? I actually got a little misty-eyed, looking at these pictures. Beautiful, beautiful home.


LINK TO FLICKR PAGE IS PRIVATE > Please fix as I yearn to see more! (:

Michele McIntire

What’s the story with the rocker in the choir room? So cozy…

Alyn Carlson

Thank you all for your sweet comments. It’s so nice to find your tribe that gets what you’re doing and how much work, luck and talented friends and family it takes to achieve it. I do have a big heating bill but lots of dears to help haul in the wood. And Tara not sure why you can’t get into my flickr page. You can email me through my design site. I’ll get you there. Isn’t Design Sponge great? xo alyn


i’m so inspired. this is a dream house. i especially love the anna kocon painting and the poodle!

annie Patterson

ummm… can you adopt me please? I want to roll around on the floor of your totally amazing house in a fit of design ecstasy.


So much creativity and great vibes…an absolutley lovely home that exudes aterrific generosity of spirit.


Wowee! LOVE this home. It’samazing how people can translate their thoughts of design and personality into reality !!!

Imago Dei

You guys have done such a wonderful job on this property. The house is just beautiful, and while so personalized, it still has the feel of a quaint homey church. Well done! This is an inspiring home!


just lovely…if you haven’t gone onto Alyn’s website I highly recommend that you see her work. She is really creative and yes Alyn, Jane sure does have something special going on! Would it be possible for you to share the poem “rules for eating alone” it sounds like something we could all use and probably a little something that we could pass along.

Hannah D

This is my dream house: beautiful, fun and quirky. Love it!


Gongratulations from Greece! Wow, it´s just like a fairytale for me! Everything in there, from the smallest to the largest, its details are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this! Wish you always the best and of course enjoy it!

Farmgirl Susan

Pretty much what everybody else already said. : ) Is there a word that combines fabulous, wonderful, amazing, magical, beautiful, about 20 other adjectives and then multiplies them all by 1,000?

Love it all, especially the exquisite pottery on the gorgeous little shelf above the fireplace – and the stone wall outside. And it’s always nice to see someone who loves books and has even more than I do! Thank you so much for opening your [insert that nonexistent word mentioned above here] home to us.


I’m inspired….to do list, find a church to renovate, add chickens and plant grass. Sounds like heaven.

Alyn Carlson

Thanks Lisa for the mention of my site. I’ve got an e into my friend and mentor Pat, to see about posting her poem. It’s got something in it for everyone and I should have it memorized by now, but don’t. Post to come, soon I’m sure. Gotta go check on some thirsty chickens.

Nancy Grady

Love the house and your art, it is all very “happy”. I am a decorative painter in MA and love what you did with some of the walls. Thanks for sharing.

Alyn Carlson

Rules for Eating Alone

Read cereal box phonetically
or send for decoder.

Toss telephone in freezer
finish your Amy Tan.

Eat at McDonald’s
devour Playboy in your car.

Don’t light candles
they invite ghosts.

Coddle your precious eggs
don’t serve them.

Gay Man
Rearrange kitchen
use mother’s china.

Build a strong table
kill and cook a deer.

Ponder your brown rice
chanting yummmmm.

Eat your own
unpublished words.

Pat Hegnauer


oh I love love love your home! It makes my heart hurt thinking that I live in a one bedroom apartment in the city…

Meredith @ studiodebris

What a lovely treat to see your home immortalized this way! I love Paul’s photography and how it immortalizes architectural spaces – and what a fabulous way to bring us into your world and into the present. Gorgeous colors, stories and textures. Fabulous millinery. Dream castle!


My favorite post thus far. I have gone over and over the photos. Will print them in color & use as inspiration now & for always. Thanks!


Hi Alyn- great pics and text! It’s changed a bit even since I was there in June! I hope you got to see my family while they were in Westport last month and congrats on getting an awesome feature on Design*Sponge! -Katie


um. Wow. too much… for the eyes.. the mind… the heart. I want more! :)

Diane Faye Zerr

I want to live in these photos!!!! Especially that cabinet of drawers in the second from the top *swoon* It looks like a piece I would see at an antiques place or flea market and could not afford. I only hope to find something like that one day.


MY GOODNESS this is my absolute favorite sneak peek ever!
so many beautiful pictures of a gorgeous and whimsical home!

Rebeccah Dean

Your place is beyond amazing! What I really love are the dining room table, the poodle sculpture and the fireman’s pole (yess!!) and the plywood wall. What a fab idea!


Okay, that does it– we’ve been thinking about moving from nyc back to westport (my husband grew up there– Cape Bial Lane) and I lived across the street from him- top of Hotel Hill. We’ve been in nyc for 15 years and thinking of moving back to westport (esp in the summer). I’ve got so many questions about what it is like now– I’m a graphic designer too actually… Where are your kids in school? What is the community like (young? with kids? friendly?)….

Alyn Carlson

hi ljmoncik- i’d love to give you the scoop on westport. why don’t you email me through my website-
we must have just drove by your old place on our way to woods ice cream tonight. talk soon- alyn


Those abstract watercolors are amazing, how can I get one? And yeah, the house is truly amazing, a home I envy. Thanks so much for sharing!

Alyn Carlson

hi d.quigley-
the abstract watercolors are for sale. you can contact me through, take a look at the work on flickr and i’d love to talk shopping with you,


Holy cow. I am picking my jaw up off the floor. I have actually been in this house! Maybe 12 years ago- for a crab boil to celebrate the release of a cajun album. (Sounds weird, but true.) And I have always remembered it. It is honestly the most warm, welcoming, exotic, colorful, artistic, inspiring and unique house I have every been in. And it is truly a reflection of the owners in every way.
One thing I remember that was particularly endearing: there were red paw prints across the wooden kitchen counter. The cat had apparently tiptoed through a project and scampered through the kitchen. Rather than wash the paw prints off they decided to keep them. I thought it was a perfect example of how even the littlest details in this home are treasured and seen as beautiful.

Alyn Carlson

merrideth can you hear me laughing? i can’t believe you remember the pawprints. the beloved cat is no longer but her little trail still is. thanks for the lovely recollection. so touching.


Obsessed with that color blue in the office. What color is that???


OhmyGod! Isn’t that place a Fellinian version of Heaven? Loooooooved it all. What a trip!

Alyn Carlson

mindy- my blue can went to the hazardous waste collection but I found Ben Moore’s flat finnish blue lapis no. 2067-40 is pretty close. good luck!


when i saw this all i could say was wow, and a little shiver went down my spine, this is the most jealous ive ever been in my life!


I have been here before for a birthday party and the place is even more amazing in person. Its quite magical!

Stressless Chairs

For me it is also one of the easiest ways to end up with a design on your floor that makes it look like it’s what you’d planned for it to look like all along… nobody will ever know any different.


Just saw on Alynn’s Facebook that she’s decided to put the church up for sale…along with lots of art and antiques! Sigh, such a dream,