Jeff Johnson is one of the owners of the Fernie Mountain Sanctuary, and said finding new uses for materials is one of the best parts of the job. Pictured here, showing off a re-purposed door as a kitchen bench. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie Mountain Sanctuary gives converted church a new lease on life

Fernie’s old Lutheran Church is now half a short-term rental and half a home

The Fernie Mountain Sanctuary is designed to be just that – a sanctuary for those escaping the city and that want to enjoy the best that Fernie has to offer.

Designed as a short-term rental, the sanctuary occupies the basement of the old Lutheran Church on 4th Avenue.

True to its name, the space created by the owners Jeff and Jane Johnson is adorned with little (and not so little) signs of Fernie life, and callbacks to its use as a church. For example, the wood from old pews lives on as stairs, window sills and shelves.

Artifacts of the Fernie lifestyle are also everywhere – ski bindings as coat hooks, skis built into the kitchen island, bike parts in steps outside and in each room – the slabs in each of the showers are decorated with bike wheels tracks – created by wheeling an old bike through the wet concrete.

It was a labour of love, according to Jeff, who works in construction. He and Jane bought the building in 2019.

“We build other peoples homes, their dreams – but we’ve never been able to build our own.”

As for all the quirky and tasteful additions, Jeff said it was all part of the fun.

“One of my favourite things in design is finding alternate materials for use, or alternative uses for materials.

“We bought this building super randomly. We moved to Fernie, couldn’t find a house and this came up on the market and we were lucky to be the first to look at it.

“We could see potential – we didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but there was something.”

Before it could be a sanctuary, first it had to be unburdened of its old life as a church. The basement had been well used for community space.

Besides the pews and the features of its church-y life, the Johnson’s even inherited the sign out front, which they’ve since made a habit of using to spread laughter, with jokes updated every week.

“We just wanted something to make people smile.”

Fittingly, the sign is changed every Sunday.

Visitors staying can store their bikes and gear indoors, and there’s a space for everything to hang and dry out, a full kitchen (sans cooking apparatus as per short-term rental bylaws), and space to hang out and enjoy the Fernie vibe.

Jeff said they’d designed the space to be used by those who spent their ‘big’ holiday in Fernie – the sort of holiday you look forward to for months.

“We really get how important vacation time is to people … so we have tried to make it the best it can be for visitors to Fernie.”

For more information, visit their website at ferniemountainsanctuary.com.

READ MORE: City grants Heritage Alteration Permit to Royal Hotel



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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