Design & Home

This Modern Home in Sperryville Was Once a 19th Century Baptist Church

Inside, it's got one-of-a-kind vintage finds—and taxidermy.

A young family created a fresh, modern home inside an 1800s Baptist church in Sperryville, Virginia.

A halfhearted hunt for a weekend place turned serious as soon as Marshall Stowell and Chris Hobbs laid eyes on the little former church with the spectacular view of the Shenandoah Mountains.

“We didn’t expect to make a move so soon,” says Stowell, vice president of external relations and communications for a nonprofit. “But we saw it and the location, combined with how much we loved the town and the people. We were like, ‘We can’t not do this.’ ”

The couple had gotten to know Sperryville—six miles from Rappahannock County’s “Little” Washington—while visiting friends who also have a house there. They were charmed by its welcoming, down-to-earth vibe. “If Little Washington is like the Upper East Side, Sperryville is like Brooklyn,” says Hobbs, a consultant to philanthropists and social entrepreneurs.

The couple made several changes to the residence, including turning the garage into a guesthouse, pictured above.

When they bought the church in 2016, it had already been converted into a residence by its previous owner. The man had spent years tracking down the congregation that owned the long-vacant Piedmont Baptist, convincing them to sell it, then fixing it up. Stowell and Hobbs put their own touches on the place, painting the exterior and interior white—a better backdrop for their collection of vintage pieces and funky artwork—updating light fixtures, installing glass doors to let in more sun, and converting the garage into a guesthouse.

During the week, the couple and their three-year-old daughter, Zuri, live in a Mount Pleasant rowhouse, but they now spend nearly every weekend in the country. Zuri calls the former church “the horsey house” because of her many four-legged neighbors. Stowell and Hobbs enjoy taking her hiking in Shenandoah National Park and to nearby swimming holes in the summer.

“She loves being outside and running around,” says Stowell. “It’s just a totally different experience from her time in DC.”

Marshall Stowell and Chris Hobbs decorated the main room with one-of-a-kind pieces such as the vintage tapestry behind the sofa, which Stowell found years ago at GoodWood on U Street.

Why Sperryville?

There’s just enough to do: It has a brewery, Pen Druid; a couple of stylish boutiques, such as the outdoor-gear shop Happy Camper; and a craft-cocktail bar, Francis. “It offers a lot for such a little, tiny town,” says Stowell.

It’s not too far: From DC, it’s about two hours.

The church’s original sign hangs between the windows.
The couple with their daughter, Zuri.

This article appears in the February 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She recently wrote “A Murder on the Rappahannock,” a two-part investigation into the troubling, decades-old slaying of a young mother in rural Virginia. Kashino lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.