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Stop and Stare at 2014's Most Genius Converted Spaces

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Another year, another fresh trove of proof that everything old can be new again. In 2014, architects and interior designers around the world overhauled a great many derelict structures with aplomb. To little surprise, farmhouses, schools, and churches were popular targets. This list of superstar conversions covers a wide range though—from the jaw-dropping overhaul of a rundown Detroit bank to the sensual revamp of a French monastery from the Middle Ages, prepare to start observing the built environment with fresh eyes.

Great Falls, MT
Then: Grain bin used in agriculture
Now: Cool, pastoral home for a retired art teacher
Crucial detail: Keeping the original bin largely intact, Montana-based architect Nick Pancheau simply inserted 900-square-foot one-bedroom living space in the form of insulated box, elevated over the ground level that now serves as an art studio. [link]

Detroit, MI
Then: Rundown bank
Now: Hip loft home that mixes mod furniture with original cement walls of its grittier past
Crucial detail: The enterprising folks who took on this project boosted the building's livable space from 2,200 square feet to 3,000 square feet with the addition of a loft. [link]

Antwerp, Belgium
Then: Military hospital chapel
Now: The Jane, a ritzy "rock 'n roll"-themed restaurant
Crucial detail: Dutch designer Piet Boon insisted on retaining vintage features of the structure, such as the original domed ceilings, peeling paint, and patterned floors, while adding some splashy new highlights like a massive starburst chandelier by Beirut-based design studio .PSLAB. [link]

London
Then: A church that dates back to 1890
Now: A swanky home with a "cozy cocktail lounge" feel
Crucial detail: When interior designer Gianna Camilotti purchased the building for herself in 2013, it had already been converted into a residence but was essentially a blank canvas. In January 2014, she began transforming it into her dream work/live/play space, which involved introducing tons of oversized furniture, including a custom-made sofa that can fit up to 18 people. [link]

Detroit, MI
Then: Warehouse for the Hudson's department store chain
Now: New office for Detroit-based ad agency Lowe Campbell Ewald
Crucial detail: Designed by local firm Neumann/Smith Architecture, the $15M conversion embraces the unfinished aesthetic, keeping new infrastructural elements like ductwork and wiring exposed. The building features 500 doors salvaged from local buildings and a four-story LED screen in the atrium. [link]

Fontevraud Abbey, France
Then: A monastery that dates back to the Middle Ages
Now: Fontevraud L'Hôtel and Fontevraud Le Restaurant
Crucial detail: French studio Agence Jouin Manku's renovation left the original structure of the ancient complex completely unaltered, adding just furnishings in a seductive palette of pale woods,metal and fabric in subdued hues. The updated venue opened in May, and so far appears to be well-received. [link]

Hamburg, Germany
Then: World War II bunker
Now: A public memorial, center for renewable energy, and cafe
Crucial detail: The building, revamped by local studio IBA Hamburg, has solar panels along the roof, a very industrial new cafe in the former location of an aircraft turret, and generates heat and power for the neighborhood from mostly renewable resources. [link]

Johannesburg, South Africa
Then: Shipping containers and a row of defunct grain silos
Now: Student housing
Crucial detail: Construction on the project by South African developer Citiq completed in January, and nearly a third of the 370 available units filled up midway through the first week. The apartments come with punched-out windows and balconies. [link]

Paris
Then: Charcuterie
Now: Private home for a motorbike enthusiast
Crucial detail: For his motorbike-loving client, French architect Paul Coudamy turned the doorway of the former shop into a garage for the vehicle, meanwhile adding a striking spiralling oak staircase and transformable bookcase to the more exposed first floor that's now a library/sitting room. [link]

San Francisco, CA
Then: Laundromat boiler room
Now: Tiny guesthouse
Crucial detail: Local architect Christi Azevedo turned the 93-square-foot former boiler room into a full-service loft, inserting a staircase and mezzanine to connect the ground level kitchen and living areas with the upper-level Queen bed and tiny bathroom. [link]

Madrid, Spain
Then: 1950s cinema
Now: Platea, a gourmet food hall
Crucial detail: Opened to the public this summer, Platea now covers the 6,000-square-foot former theater with food shops, bars, and restaurants, including Arriba, helmed by Ramón Freixa, a chef with two Michelin stars. Interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán maintained the building's midcentury feel and architectural bones (note the oxblood stage curtain in the former screen area). [link]

· All Conversions posts [Curbed National]
· All Year in Review 2014 posts [Curbed National]