House of the Week: Seattle’s Ballard Big House
2007 NW 61st St, Seattle WA
For sale: $789,000
From the street, it looks like any church. Upon closer scrutiny, a few unusual features stand out: A cobblestone wall, rusted tricycles sitting on both the porch roof and jutting out of the wall. Then there’s an enormous window featuring a crow.
All the signs point to the possibility that this old church called Ballard Big House in Seattle has been transformed into something a little less ecclesiastic, a lot more personal.
Filled with collected items, whimsical details and vibrant art, this former church is indeed part house, part gallery and part neighborhood gathering place.
Homeowners David Chatt and Ron Cole, Jr. were not actively home shopping when they stumbled across the property. Their former home, a duplex in another neighborhood of Seattle, was small and when a friend told them about a church for sale in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, they stopped by to check it out.
“I am someone who loves old buildings,” Chatt explained. “I love places that have been a part of the fabric of the community. I walk around neighborhoods and am sad to see wrecking balls and I try to think how to recreate something that has a use that’s practical for now.”
The church was something that Chatt and Cole believed could be re-invented.
The two had to jump through some hoops to get a mortgage on the 6,000-square-foot building. There weren’t any showers in the two bathrooms and, as Cole relates, the two men would have to trek outside to the attached caretakers’ apartment to bathe when they first moved in.
Five years later, the home isn’t completely renovated, but Chatt and Cole have more than put their mark on it. The two bathrooms — one was formally a baptismal font — are gorgeous, full-tiled modern installations, and the basement they use as a living space feels more loft-like than subterranean.
Other whimsical details include Chatt’s collection of beads and artwork — he’s an artist focusing mainly on glass beadwork and cast glass — as well as a 20-foot high swing that hangs from the sanctuary rafters. One of Cole and Chatt’s favorite features? The church tower with views that span the city skyline, Puget Sound and surrounding mountains.
“The house is us,” said Chatt. “I like the place that I live in to reflect my choices and the way I live. I always find it surprising that people don’t want that.”
Not only is the house a showcase for Chatt’s artwork and scavenged materials, including an installation of found bowling balls on the front steps, but it’s been used for events: Community gatherings, CD releases, art shows, weddings and even a funeral.
It’s Chatt and Cole’s wish that their home continue to be used as a gathering place.
“I’d like to drive by this building and recognize it. I’d like it to be better than it is now, not torn down and replaced or turned into some plastic-clad monstrosity,” said Chatt. “I think it’s a great old building and I hope it continues to be a beloved part of the community.”