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Main Homes The revival: Moroccan fantasy

The revival: Moroccan fantasy

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Monday, April 30, 2012

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The attic of the church now serves as an enormous master bedroom. Olson wanted to maintain the exposed-wood ceiling and rafters. “I hate drywall,” she says, so she insulated the exterior, beneath the roof. “It works beautifully,” she says. “I would recommend it to anyone.” The old parsonage next door was remodeled and rented as an auxiliary dwelling unit. The basement of the church is a separate apartment for Olson’s mother. Thelma Olson, a former concert pianist and president of the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, feels at home in the creative surroundings. She can maintain her independence and still dine daily with her daughter and play Glow Worm, a favorite melody from the 1902 operetta Lysistrata, on her piano that sits on the raised altar area as though on an intimate stage.

The church grounds will once again play a traditional role this July as the setting of a wedding. Olson and Irwin are getting married. They met in 1998 at the Portland Art Museum, broke up in 2002 and recently reunited.

“It was love at second sight,” she jokes.

Friends are flying in from Morocco and France to celebrate. There will be big tents and bagpipes and kilts and great food and good spirits around the parsonage, churchyard and church.

“It’s got just such great vibes,” Olson says. “Maybe from having the Hallelujah Chorus sung for so many years.”

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In a dressing room made of carved and painted Moroccan doors, Olson tries on some of the treasures she's picked up on her travels.

The choir loft makes a unique seating room. The pressed-tim ceiling was salvaged from an Oregon orphanage and attached to the ceiling by a friend of Olson's, who "spend weeks on his back on scaffolding."

Olson's mother, Thelma, lives in the basement apartment but dines and plays the piano upstairs.

// Photos by Jon Jensen

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