LaVonne Rae Andrews-Welsh and Don Welsh were looking for a convenient work-at-home arrangement when they moved to Templeton from Palmdale in the fall of 2009.
The one catch: they are both ministers.
The Welshes are a husband and wife ministerial team ordained with the Church of Religious Science. Members approached them early last year about heading up the Templeton congregation. Although the church, built in 1927, “needed some love,” according to LaVonne, they decided they would make it both their workplace and their home.
The church is just 2,200 square feet total and the Welshes moved into about half of that space. A church meeting room became their living room; a door leads from it right into the sanctuary. They turned a Sunday school room into their bedroom. A small space at the base of the attic stairs became a combination office and laundry room. The attic, previously used as church storage, was turned into a multi-purpose space that includes a sewing room, music room, and clothing storage.
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The Welshes were downsizing from a 2,200-square-foot home, so fitting all of their belongings in the new space took some ingenuity. LaVonne calls their home “cramped but organized,” due to their efforts to make use of every available nook and corner.
The home only has one closet, and yet the couple has a large wardrobe as well as many costumes to store (LaVonne is a stage and screen actress). The living room armoire, the kind typically used to house a television set, instead holds clothing. They store shoes in an over-the-door organizer in their office area as well as on shelving in the music room, concealed under scarves. In the attic, racks covered with red tablecloths store nearly all of LaVonne’s everyday clothing.
“Every night I go up there and choose what I’m going to wear the next day,” she said.
Most pieces of furniture have to do double duty in the house. LaVonne’s desk is also a vanity where she keeps her makeup. The oven holds all of their cookware. A small secretary in the master bedroom is where the couple often enjoys breakfast.
Once they moved in, the couple began adding their own touches to the old church. They did this on a very restricted budget.
“There was lots to do — move, replace with mostly used items, and re-use by clever, fun means,” LaVonne explained. “I like to look at the most inventive or creative way to accomplish something.”
Don used bricks found under a stairwell to build a garden path. Sconces found in the attic now adorn the front of the church. A metal garden trellis disguises the old, too-short door in the attic.
Framed mirrors from their previous home now add cottage charm to the sanctuary walls.
LaVonne likes to decorate by theme, even in her small space.
“I’m kind of an eclectic person so I’m attracted to different themes,” she said. “I don’t want the whole house to be one thing, like country or Asian.”
The living room is decorated in Native American décor to commemorate her heritage. The bedroom, previously painted with a rainbow for Sunday school kids, became the “red room,” decked out in romantic burgundy bedding and draperies. She wanted the music room to be more dramatic, so she used a palette of black and red. The sewing room is the “white room.” LaVonne wanted this to be her own retreat, so she added feminine touches like lace, eyelet and floral fabrics.
“It’s a little hideaway for me where I meditate, read, sleep — it’s very cozy,” she said.
Living steps away from a public space has had its awkward moments. But LaVonne noted that once church members grew accustomed to their living arrangement, everyone has been very respectful of their privacy.
“We haven’t been inundated with people — that hasn’t happened here,” she said. “Plus, the commute is great — we step over the threshold, and we’re there.”