There’s a new place for tree’s home for the holidays

When you have an open floor plan and 20-foot ceilings, you have choices. Like where to situate the Christmas tree.

table clothLast year, we erected our brand new 12-foot Christmas in the front corner of the church, mostly because that corner was still unfinished at that point, and a tree filled the empty space. Putting up a 12-foot artificial tree took some effort (which I recount here), but it was lovely.

This year, I dug the five pieces of the tree from out under the eaves on the second floor, drafted a little help (St. Johnny) to get the pieces to the main floor, and the three of us reconstructed the tree in the back of the church at the entryway.

Since last Christmas, that front corner got new built-ins and we put the barrel-top desk there. No room for a tree. But there was a big open space in front of the double doors of the entry, and as long as we kept the Christmas star away from the ceiling fan, there was plenty of space to fill.

Once assembled, I spent a hour fluffing the boughs that were crushed in storage and another hour trying to figure out why one row of lights didn’t work, but all was put right in the end.

Christmas tree editted

Ta, da!

Now we can walk all the way around the tree (which is a first for any Christmas tree I’ve ever decorated inside a house), but that just leaves more room for gifts.

I hope you are finding newness and joy rather than drudgery in your holiday preparations. Here’s to a blessed season of Advent.

 

Open house, check

And we didn’t take a single picture.

This time last week, Tyler and I were recovering our breaths from our open house, which can only be described as a spectacular success.

After two years of planning, demolition and reconstruction, we were racing to the finish to get the church into show shape. My dad hung a thousand pictures on Saturday (he says a thousand, I think it was more like 22), and Tyler sent a lot of time making the lawn look presentable. Mom arranged a half dozen flower vases with fresh flowers gifted to us by a friend, so we had fragrant blooms in almost every room. As for me, I emptied all the trash cans as my last act before accepting guests; the message, of course, is that we have functional things like garbage cans, but we don’t actually use them (it’s a joke). 

Tyler estimates we had 250 people drop by in the two-plus hours we opened our doors to neighbors, contractors, former members of the church and interested onlookers. We had 105 sign our guest book. So I guess we had somewhere between 105 and 250 come to take a look at our church-house renovation. It felt like 250, for sure.

All four of us–me, Tyler, Mom and Dad– talked non-stop for two hours, and we ran the church bell a hundred times, at least. It was so nice to see people ooh and aah and to hear people say nice things about the church and our work. Among our visitors were three former pastors at the church, which was a fun and enlightening surprise.

We were so preoccupied, we didn’t take a single picture, though I know some people took a lot of them. If you’re willing to share, please let me know.

The best part was the booty we collected. We asked visitors to bring a non-perishable foot item for the Loaves & Fishes food pantry, which got its start in our basement when it was a functioning church, and our guests came through for the charity. More than 600 pounds of food was collected! Wow! Thank you!

If you attended our open house, thank you for being here, for contributing and for saying nice things (at least in earshot, ha, ha).

As for my regular readers who didn’t have the opportunity to be here, I will try to share some of the projects we finished this summer during the next couple weeks. The biggest project I finished that I’m excited to tell you about is the book I wrote about renovating the church. Much more to come on that subject, I assure you.

Golden opportunity to see inside

IMG_3680

“Welcome every day … ”

Apologies for being MIA from this blog during the summer. Rest assured, projects were being accomplished and forward motion attained. Just not at the same pace as last summer. Painting the brick of the church sign was among the tasks Tyler checked off his list. Doesn’t it look nice in gray to match the foundation of the building? Tyler also has been hard at work with landscaping and greenery as you can see in the picture.

For my part, I have been busy this week styling tabletops and shelves in preparation for our open house on Sunday. If you’re reading this blog and you live close enough to drop by, you’re invited.

We’re having an open house for former church members, neighbors and contractors. It’s going to be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Sept. 15.

You can see for yourself the quality of our work for just the price of one nonperishable food item per person. You might not know that the local Loaves & Fishes food pantry was founded right here in the basement of our church, and we’re honoring that community endeavor. We’ll collect food donations to give the food pantry, now located elsewhere in town.

Maybe I’ll see you Sunday.

Panoramic view

One of the first things I sketched when we put an offer in on the church we were buying to turn into our home was a furniture layout of the sanctuary we were making over into our great room.

Oh, I had grand plans for two sectionals, a big table vase in the entryway and a dining room table for 10.

During demolition, we decided to build a balcony over part of the sanctuary and tuck our kitchen under it. This ate into the square footage and my plans for two sectionals.

Well, who needs two sectionals anyway? We had plenty of room for entertaining. Here’s a sketch I made at some point after we established the balcony plans.

Floorplan

This is the definition of a “loose sketch.” That round thing in the upper left is the spiral stairway with the balcony defined in a dotted line along the left side. The fireplace is there along the north wall (top) and there’s a doorway to the patio in the upper right corner (that never happened). Those rectangle shapes along the wall are windows. You can see the dining room table for 10 on the bottom right, the beverage bar on the bottom left and a kitchen island on the left. The sectional is right in front of the fireplace, with a conversation area for two behind it.

The real furniture layout turned out quite similar to the plans. Besides losing the patio doorway, my dining room table seats only eight (we can get 10 in a pinch though) and we added a big china cabinet. The way we situated the kitchen island (and added a recliner for Tyler to the mix) demanded we set the sectional askew.

Initially, when all the furniture arrived, we arranged the sectional and the rug beneath it at an angle to the fireplace (and TV). We lived with that for four months before deciding we needed straighten the rug (and leave the sectional angled). We did some heavy lifting a week and a half ago to make these changes (what’s a little sweat on a rainy day?), and now you can see the results. Here is the sectional now in a view from the balcony (fireplace is unseen on the left, dining table unseen on the right).
sofa

As I was admiring the view from the balcony, I realized I could take a panoramic shot of the whole great room. For perspective, the kitchen is beneath my feet.

Panorama

There’s a little bit of a fun house vibe to this shot, but you can see the fireplace and the front door at the same time. You can even see two of the hanging chandeliers.

This is one of the answers when someone asks, how do you turn a church sanctuary into a living room?

A small transformation

We’re fans of polyurethane around this old converted church having applied dozens of gallons of it on the original wood floors we restored to their glory.

I also used it on a shelving unit we found on the second story of the church. It had some interesting details but it was just a little beat-up.

Towel Rack Before
See that shelf just outside the door of the belfry?

All it took was a bit of sanding and a couple of coats of polyurethane to bring this piece back to life. I think Tyler tightened the screws a bit, too, to improve its sturdiness.

towel rack after
Shelving unit, after.

Without a linen closet on the second floor, I turned this shelf into a towel storage rack in the guest bath. I love it when we can re-use original pieces of the church. A clear winner (get it? I used clear polyurethane, te, he).

towel rack close up

 

Whatsit? Thingamajig? Oojamaflip?

Another piece of the church has been returned to its original location.

I’m not sure what to call it, this piece. Terrarium? Vase? Plant stand?

It was in the entryway when we purchased the church, squirreled away in the corner beneath the painted message “May the love of God surround you,” but it was so inconsequential, I don’t even have any before pictures of it. With a modern look, the hollow bottom is a hammered metal (aluminum? tin?), and the glass top was filled with little rocks and rose petals.

The container, whatever one calls it, was worth keeping because we removed it and moved it several times until it found a place in the corner of the garage, where it had been collecting dust all winter. At some point, we broke a hole in the bottom of the glass topper. Tyler threatened to throw it away which I couldn’t bear.

I hauled into the house and gave it the soap-and-water treatment before determining what to do with it. It cleaned up so nicely I decided it ought to return to the entryway.

rock stand

Instead of rocks and flower petals, I covered the broken hole and filled it with light-and-airy decorative vase fillers.

rock stand close up

It’s earned a proper name: I’m calling it a floor-standing vase.

Fresh paint creates a clean slate (and a desk that practically invites one to work)

Paint is amazing stuff.

It covers a multitude of sins, and the right colors transform a surface from beat-up to practically new.

Other people look at beautiful wood and think it’s a shame to do anything other than apply stain. But I am a big fan of painted furniture and painted trim. It is inexplicably cathartic to cover up ugly colors and nicked-up surfaces with new paint. I like to listen to podcasts while I sand, tape and brush surfaces; the process is meditative. The first coat is satisfying, and the last one is pure bliss.

I painted or spray-painted a lot items for the old church in the past year and a half including the upstairs vanity, a headboard and footboard for a bed, a number of light fixtures and a few cupboard doors. But a recent project really shows off the beauty of paint.

Just after we moved into the church last fall, Tyler bought an antique roll-top desk he found on Craig’s List. He wanted a place in the great room to stash his office work away from sight when we entertained.

 

 Here’s the desk when we bought it, closed and open.

It had good bones and an ugly layer of brown paint. The seller claimed it had been around for more than a century, which made it as old as our 127-year-old church. After looking at it for several months as other priorities took my attention, I finally tackled the desk a couple of weeks ago with Fusion mineral paint (thanks, Sherra, for the great tip), and it turned out beautifully.

And here’s the desk now, painted.

The main color is Champlain, accented with Midnight Blue on the top and drawers. The desktop itself pulls out, and there was an inset area I filled with self-stick vinyl floor tile in Travertine, a creamy marble-like look.

Desk embellishment

I also used a little bit of Fusion’s Inglenook, sort of an aqua color, to accent some of the wood embellishments.

Desk lock

The knobs that came with the desk were workmanlike (read: ugly). It might surprise regular readers to learn I chose brass replacements; generally, I do not like brass, but it seemed an appropriate accent to the dark blue. Tyler found brass flowery knobs for most of the drawers, and we found plainer, smaller brass knobs at the flea market we shopped a few weeks back for the inside drawers. I painted the locks with a slick oil-based brass paint that practically sparkles.

The desk now resides elegantly in the corner of the great room (where the church organ once sat, which I find oddly satisfying). Until Tyler clutters it up, I’m leaving the roll-top open because it looks so nice.

If you liked this paint transformation, you might enjoy these past projects (shared on my personal blog):