Home Sweet Chouse
The Hughes family’s divine domicile
Photos by Don Risi
Decades ago, Nicole Hughes’ parents commissioned a rather large painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They intended for it to hang in a specific spot on a large blank wall in the recently renovated Catholic church the family attended – but before Hughes’ parents could surprise the congregation with the special work of art, another piece was hung in the spot.
“Rather than say anything, my parents put the painting away,” she says. And it languished, hidden from view, until Hughes, her husband Matt and their daughter Ryan, 11, moved into the former Catholic church across from Lake Hefner they now call home.
The family learned that when the church opened its doors in 1984, it was called the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel. It was built in 1984 by the Carmack family, whose patriarch, Roy, was a five-time mayor and councilman of The Village. In 1990, when the congregation outgrew the chapel, the Carmacks added a kitchen and garage and turned it into a residence, which they sold in 1996. The new, larger church was built about five lots south on Lakeside in 1991, and is now Queen of Angels Chapel.
The great room was once the church sanctuary. The blue door, which now leads to the back of the home, was the door that parishioners used to enter the church. The chouse had been totally renovated by the couple who owned it before the Hughes family bought it, and is now filled with natural light at all hours of the day.
“My mother said to me, ‘You will not believe what I have in my basement.’ And it’s perfect,” Hughes says. Our Lady, now rescued from her underground lair, hangs in the former sanctuary-turned-great room of the chouse (church + house), and it couldn’t be more perfect. And for that matter, the chouse itself could not be more perfect for the Hughes family.
“We moved in in April of 2014,” Hughes says. “Before that, we were living on Guilford in Nichols Hills. We’d been looking for a new home and had had contracts on two of them fall through, so we’d decided to stay put and not look anymore.”
Famous last words. “That lasted about a week. On one of the first nice-weather Saturdays of the year, I went online. A few moments before I did, the listing for this house had gone up. I was one of the first people to see it,” she says. Husband Matt, who had not broken their deal, declined to go see the place at first.
“We were having dinner with friends, one of whom is a builder,” Hughes says. “He wanted to see the home and he talked Matt into it. We went to see it the next day after Mass, and the moment I walked in, I felt the Holy Spirit.”
Although he loves it now, and takes particular pride in the home’s large pond, Matt needed a little longer to feel the pull of the chouse’s charms. He explored it a bit, and as he began to warm to it, he and Nicole found themselves in the side yard, where she, overcome with emotion, burst out crying.
A self-described cradle Catholic, Hughes has felt drawn to religious art and antiques for her entire life. Her grandparents owned a large antiques shop in Bartlesville, and the collecting bug bit Hughes early. Her collection of crucifixes, antique furnishings and iconography now fill the rooms of the family’s home in divine style.
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Ryan’s room, with its arched windows and dark mantel, has the feel of a lady’s flat in 1920s Paris. Its west-facing windows afford especially dramatic views during storm season, and the family loves to watch them roll in from up here.
Our Lady of Guadalupe occupies the great room wall, adjacent to a desk and antique chair. The chair, in the Spanish Mission style, was languishing at an antique mall when Hughes first spotted it. Hughes loves a bargain, and thrives on the thrill of the hunt when it comes to the treasures she uses to fill her home. The chair was priced too high, in her opinion, so she let it be. She ended up scoring it for a song not long after, because the dealer who’d occupied its stall left the mall, abandoning the chair.
The home’s bright, welcoming kitchen was originally a one-car garage. What is now the home’s front door was the priest’s entry, which led to the sacristy and the altar. The small office adjacent to the entry was a secret room.
The outdoor living space is enclosed, making it comfortable during three seasons. Plenty of light streams through the Plexiglas-reinforced pergola roof.
The prayer tower is still intact and is now a part of the Hughes’ master suite, which was formerly a living area for the congregation’s priest. The master bath was originally an outdoor living space, but it wasn’t often used because it faced west, and was therefore brutally hot nearly half the year.