For those who used to worship there before the doors closed, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was a place they loved, where they went for weddings and funerals and came together during good times and bad.
Following a sale in February, at least one person is going to love the reoccupied building for meals and cozy nights and many other things –as home sweet home.
Gisele ‘Gigi’ Zeitler said she’s aware of the attachment community members will have to the church so one of her primary concerns is to let people know she’s going to be respectful of what is now her residence.
Born in Germany, Zeitler said she moved to the United States with her family when she was 12.
She speaks three languages, which helps when the two workers helping her with the renovation project speak only Spanish.
As she speaks from what one day will be her kitchen, , Zeitler said Sunday afternoon it has been a long held dream of hers to live in a church.
“It was something I dreamed about since I was 16 years old. I saw it in a magazine and it was like my mind (she makes a gesture like the top of her head leaps off).”
Zeitler said she first began to look all around the east coast for a church to convert into a residence with her late husband Barry as far back as the 1980s.
“Off and on we kept looking and we began looking harder as retirement approached,” Zeitler said.
They kept a list of churches from New Jersey to Upstate New York with Mount Carmel being one of the northernmost.
Like Goldilocks, some were too big, some were too small and the ‘just right’ hadn’t come along. The search continued for years. Some were great old buildings, but more than 100,000 square feet and the size of a warehouse, while others were tiny and had never had electrical wiring or plumbing installed. The couple vacationed in the area frequently – although not right here in Granville – experiencing the Adirondacks and Lake George as well as parts of Vermont, Zeitler said.
The attractive little church in Middle Granville went unvisited despite an ongoing e-mail dialog with the real estate agent. Unfortunately, Barry Schiff passed away suddenly about a year ago.
Zeitler said there came a point she just decided she was going to come up and check out the church. The minute she did, she said she knew it was the one. “I knew I’d never find anything better than this,” she said.
Although Zeitler said she’s not sure if the church will be her primary residence, it becomes clear from speaking with her she has a lot of plans for the space.
As a contract interior designer, Zeitler said her passion is coming up with things to do with space and as someone who is also an artist one of the reasons she chose Mount Carmel is the space.
Her plan sits in a small white three ring binder near the front of the church.
As sanders roar in the background, taking up the glue residue used to hold down the carpet, Zeitler shows off her design.
Done with an online program called ‘Google sketch up’ the printed designs look like they were taken from a photograph.
In the first few pages of the binder, pictures of the space from the first day she saw it hang. The pews are still in place, the carpet in place.
Now the space has the look of a place people are living and working at the same time. “I’m camping right now,” she said.
A crafty, inventive use of the space, something you’d expect from someone with 30 years of experience in a field designing offices and commercial spaces, the basic floor plan is all open to allow flexibility.
The kitchen will be almost stashed at the front of the building under the choir loft, which will become at least a pair of small bedrooms. Zeitler said she intentionally designed the kitchen to resemble a bar with an eye towards entertaining groups of people.
The remainder of the spaces are just that, portions of space. Almost no new walls are involved in the plans –the idea is open, open, open.
Zeitler said she plans to be involved in local theatre, with the former church as a performance space. “I love to do theatrical things, I’ve always wanted to do something with theater,” she said. When the work is finished Zeitler said she hopes her home can become a place creative people will come.
Zeitler said when she’s finished she plans to open the doors and let people come through and see what she’s done. “I want people to realize I didn’t take their church away. I want them to come and see – knock on the door- it will always be open,” Zeitler said.