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.

  1. Patricia says:

    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,

  2. What a dream – that looks soooo fun!

  3. Rita Marie says:

    Wow! That dining table and outdoor area are the bee’s knees! And now I want a two-story home to install a firehouse pole, too.


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