Historic converted lighthouse in Ireland
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Converted Homes: From Public Building to Private Domain

Creative redesigns have converted seven historic buildings, originally intended for commercial or public use, into elegant luxury homes

Since the mid-20th century, imaginative architects have transformed utilitarian buildings—barns, warehouses, even churches—into luxurious private homes. But what about a water tower, fortress, or factory?

Converting such complex structures into contemporary dwellings poses unique challenges that require expert architectural insight and engineering know-how, but the rewards are well worth the effort: enviable locations, original architectural details, ample space, and natural light.

In this Luxury Defined collection we spotlight seven reimagined homes that set chic contemporary design, comfort, and detail on the very structure of history. 

1. Clare Island Lighthouse on Clew Bay, Co, Mayo, Ireland 

Lighthouse home in IrelandLighthouse home in IrelandLighthouse home in Ireland

Clare Island Lighthouse has been a nautical landmark on Ireland’s rugged west coast for more than 200 years.

The original lighthouse, built in 1806 by the Marquis of Sligo, was reconstructed in 1818 after a fire destroyed the lantern and part of the tower. It guided seafarers to Clew Bay until it was decommissioned in 1965. 

The coastal views are among the best in Ireland, taking in the Atlantic Ocean and Keem Bay on Achill Island, one of the film locations of the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated The Banshees of Inisherin.

The main lighthouse keeper’s residence and five outbuildings were sensitively restored to preserve their original character while providing every modern convenience. 

The 2.35-acre property also has its own helipad. Ferry time between the island and Roonagh Pier on the mainland is about 20 minutes. 

2. 17th-Century Mill in Arezzo, Italy 

This former mill on the Arno River in Tuscany has been converted into a luxurious home with extensive accommodations and resort amenities.

This 17th-century mill in the Tuscan province of Arezzo has been reimagined as a resort-inspired country retreat. 

The original flour mill is on the ground floor of a beautiful, five-story stone tower on the banks of the Arno River. The upper levels house four guest suites, all with scenic views. 

The three-story main residence extends to 11,678 square feet with 12 en suite bedrooms, several dining rooms, two kitchens, and a wine cellar with a tasting bar. 

A unique feature of the estate is its medieval grotto, which has been converted into a luxurious wellness center featuring a chromotherapy spa, Turkish baths, and mood shower. 

The private grounds include an alfresco dining terrace for gatherings great or small; a swimming pool with sundeck; and verdant lawns graced with cypress and poplar trees. 

3. Converted Factory on the Bay of Villefranche, Alpes-Maritimes, France

Historic French propertyHistoric French propertyHistoric French property

This converted turn-of-the-century factory has a spectacular location in the heights of Villefranche-sur-Mer overlooking Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the Mediterranean Sea. 

The stone façade encloses 5,920 square feet of airy, ultra-modern interiors. The original machinery, metallic moldings, steel-frame windows, wood floors, and exposed ceilings were restored to preserve the original character of the building. 

The centerpiece of the home is a vast living/dining room that opens to a sleek stainless-steel kitchen designed by celebrated chef Alain Ducasse. 

There are four en suite bedrooms, including an owner’s suite with a private terrace, as well as a separate two-bedroom guest house. 

A sea-view terrace with Jacuzzi, a pool with heated lap pool and summer kitchen, lush gardens, and ample parking are further highlights. 

4. The Vaxholm Water Tower in Stockholm, Sweden 

This converted water tower on island of Vaxholm, Stockholm, is now a unique, private family home.

Built in 1923, the Vaxholm Water Tower on the island of Vaxön in the Stockholm Archipelago has been converted into an extremely private and luxuriously appointed four-bedroom, four-bathroom home. 

The light-infused living spaces include generously sized reception rooms, a contemporary kitchen—and a classic Swedish sauna on the top floor. Curved walls glorify the expansive common rooms, but subdivide into cozy bedrooms and comfy, multipurpose nooks. 

The property is surrounded by private parkland. The building includes the old water tank, which could be transformed into a swimming pool, and the second story of the tower could be converted into art studio or office space.

The water tower generates kr300,000 (about US$30,000) per year renting its height surplus to telecom companies. A connecting unit with a two-bay carport and apartment is available for rent. 

5. Secret Garden Retreat in Old Town, Chicago, Illinois 

This refuge in the heart of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood was converted from a stable yard built at the turn of the 20th century.

This unique property encompassing three dwellings, three garages, and a delightful secret garden is a luxurious private retreat in Chicago’s Old Town Triangle. 

The main residence dates to 1903. Originally built as stables, the two-story, ivy-clad structure has been converted into a luxurious 3,100-square-foot home with three bedrooms, two full and two half bathrooms.

The elegant living spaces, infused with natural light, feature 17-foot-high vaulted and beamed ceilings, exposed brick walls, and wood floors. 

But the highlight is the secret garden, featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt designed the space as a hidden sanctuary.

A fire pit, dining terrace, and outdoor kitchen add to the ambience. Completing the offering are a three-story, three-bedroom Victorian residence and a charming one-bedroom brick residence. 

6. Reimagined Barn in West Hendred, Oxfordshire, England 

English estate in England

This freehold barn conversion and its creature comforts lie within a conservation area in the English village of West Hendred, Oxfordshire.

The property arranges the former granary and three barns around mature gardens, fenced and hedge-lined for privacy. The barns, originally converted in the 1970s, were updated and extended more recently for flexible accommodation.

The two-story main barn includes a country kitchen, reception room, and a sitting room with an open fireplace and doors to the garden. The entrance hall connects to the single-story studio barn. The converted granary is ideal for a studio or office. 

The property is 15 miles south of Oxford, and about 4 miles from the historic market town of Wantage. Didcot mainline railway station is 5 miles distant, connecting to London Paddington in 45 minutes. 

7. Former Consulate in Tangier, Morocco 

Formerly the Spanish consulate in Tangier, Morocco, Riad Richa is now an opulent private palace with 16,000 square feet of sumptuous living areas and 3,229 square feet of sea-view terraces.

Riad Richa was the former Spanish consulate in Tangier, Morocco. This magnificent palace overlooking the Bay of Tangier symbolized Spain’s regard for a valuable ally and has been converted into a sumptuous private home extending to more than 16,000 square feet with 51 rooms. 

Riad Richa is a true cabinet de curiosité, housing a collection of antiques and objets d’art and adorned with exquisite Moroccan details, including zellige-tiled floors and walls, rich fabrics, and ornate light fixtures. 

Further delights include 12 private suites, a two-story drawing room, a study, hammam, central courtyard with reflecting pool, and 3,229 square feet of terraces with sea and city views. 

Fascinated by these converted homes with a piece of history? Explore more historic buildings turned into luxurious private homes here.