Bernie Mitchell knew right away that he wanted to buy an old church in Trail.
At first, his partner, Krista Humphrey, was daunted by the massive renovation of the church property; part of the building had been completely decommissioned and had no water or electricity. But Humphrey eventually fell in love with the building too.
“It was awesome. It had been a Catholic church for the 80 years or more preceding St. Anthony’s Church,” says Humphrey.
The building had been deconsecrated (transferred from religious to secular use) a few years before it went up for sale, but there were still nuns with offices in the rectory, says Humphrey.
“Some of it was pretty defunct. The main chapel space was as it was left, still filled with pews; the old piano and organ were still there, just a dusty old church. And a banquet hall downstairs intact, set up as if there was going to be an Italian wedding downstairs.”
It was still zoned institutional, so part of their offer was conditional on getting the zoning changed to use it for their purposes.
The building is 9500 square feet, and now, their living quarters are the old rectory. The main chapel is their live/work studio. They have a kitchen in that space. The old banquet hall serves as a messier area for the untidier design projects.
“A big part of the design process is a prototyping phase when you’re designing physical objects. A lot of the design story comes from materiality, so both of us are passionate about design in that physical realm. We both love furniture and lighting. A good portion of our portfolios are of that nature,” says Humphrey.
They have shown their work at the International Furniture Fair in Milan a couple of times; Krista participated in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York and Miami.
“This is the passion side of things. We’ve also been exploring more of the practical sides of things,” explains Humphrey.
The duo recently designed a Truckit Bucket gear bag, born from Mitchell’s desire to store personal items while mountain biking.
Humphrey and Mitchell have been together for 24 years, and they are very comfortable working together. The two met in Ontario and travelled to BC together in the early 2000s. Coming through the Kootenays at that time, it was love at first sight for both of them.
“We passed through and fell in love with it,” says Humphrey.
The couple ended up working in Whistler, where they learned how to set stone and tile. The entrepreneurial duo ran their own tiling business in Whistler for 12 years. But they stayed connected to the Kootenays.
“Our refugee from everything that Whistler is was always the Kootenays. We took our vacations and came out to the Kootenays usually once a summer, once a winter,” says Humphrey.
A decade ago, the couple, done with manual labour, sold their house in Whistler and bought a derelict multiunit investment property in Crescent Valley. They lived here for a year while they renovated the building. But higher education called the couple away from the area.
The two attended university in California for five years, first in San Francisco, then the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles. They both graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Design. But the couple missed the Kootenays.
“We came back to pursue the lifestyle and the pace of life here. We’re both avid snowboarders and mountain bikers, and that’s part of what drew us back to BC. We wanted to have time and opportunity to pursue those activities,” says Humphrey.
The two enjoy paddle boarding, swimming, and adventuring with their two dogs. The couple is thriving in their church, says Humphrey.
“We’ve loved being in this space. We have more than enough room to do anything within the space.”
Check out their website: https://www.wewerke.com/
Krista Humphrey and Bernie Mitchell performed a massive renovation of the church property.
The former St. Anthony’s Church in Trail has been restored by Krista Humphrey and Bernie Mitchell.