Merchant Wednesday: Good Bones furniture

As we have reinvested in home furnishings and decorations to style our Church Sweet Home, we’ve run across a number of amazing artists and vendors. Sometimes the vendor is a big-box-type store but more often it’s an online retailer or a local vendor. On Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

Today I’m sharing the designer who built our new coffee table.

old Sunday School room table
Interesting table. Very yellow.

Since the first time we toured the church more than a year ago, I thought the short Sunday school room table the congregation left behind might make a nice coffee table. It had been painted neon yellow, though, so it required some love to fit into my design scheme.

Even as a Sunday school table, it appeared to have a long history. It looked like it had once been a grand dining room table with a lot of leafs. Only the leafs were long gone and the table legs had been shortened to third-grade height.

stripping it
That’s the paint, reliquifying with the stripper.

First, we brought it to the dip stripper with a pair of doors to have the paint removed, but she discovered the top had been recovered with some sort of linoleum. We pried it off, and I tried stripping it myself. Very messy. I removed most of the yellow paint (and some other colors, too), but not all of it. I invested in some fusion paint.

And then I lost my mojo.

I kept procrastinating on the project until Tyler got so tired of waiting, he started shopping. And he found the most amazing coffee table offered by Michelle Herriges on Facebook Marketplace. (Lesson: Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.)

coffee table far off
Now that’s a coffee table with distinction.

It’s made of a metal stand that looks like it’s from a quarry and a top made of a number of different types of wood. The top is smooth and polished, but she’s rustic enough to rest your feet on, too.

coffeetable close up
A little rustic patina there.
cash register side table
The button on the top opens the drawer.

We drove an hour north to Eagle, Wisconsin, to pick it up, but the trip afforded us a look into Michelle’s studio, where she had a number of finished projects and a whole bunch of inspiration pieces (pieces of “good bones” that just needed a new reason to be). Rooting around among her treasures, Tyler spotted what she called a “cash register side table” made from the pop-out drawer of an old cash register. The drawer still pops out! We loved it, so we bought that, too.

One-of-a-kind pieces made by an artist. Can’t beat that.

Click here for Michelle Herriges’ Facebook page.




A Christmas decoration for all year round

It’s the culmination scene at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” After seeing how the world falls to pieces without him, the angel restores George Bailey’s life. Zuzu’s petals are in his pocket, to his relief; his daughter exists. He runs through the snowy streets of Bedford Falls, greeting all the buildings by name. He bursts through the front door of his house to find the bank examiner and local sheriff, whom he greets with a smile and a “Isn’t it wonderful—I’m going to jail!” He happily leaps up the stairs, accidentally yanking out, kissing and carefully replacing the railing post ball on the stair post—for the third time. And he chuckles before he’s reunited with his beatific children and his wife, who’s summoned the whole town to turn out to help address his financial woes.

He really had a wonderful life, that George Bailey.

And a nice railing post ball. Kissable!

Now we have a nice post ball, too.

spiral ball

leaves-on-spiral-ball.jpgWhen the stairway was installed, the hollow center poll just had a cover. If someone removed the cover, they could drop something down the post, never to retrieve it 12 feet down. But now, we have a distinctive ball made of overlapping iron leaves.

The proprietress of the spiral stair manufacturer found the one-of-a-kind feature for us online (she’s as big a fan of eBay as Tyler). A deal at $45. Described as “antique, architectural salvage newell fence post finial,” it’s 10 inches wide and dates to the early 1900s. We won the auction and handed it off to the spiral team to paint it, which was a bit of a trick given the spaces between the leaves. They managed to paint both the inside and the outside to match our spiral and railings.

Ta, da! The ball on top really sets off the spiral. So pretty, I could kiss it.

spiral ball far off
Bonus: You get to see some of my Christmas decorations, too.

Book review: Homebody gets the creative juices flowing

I found Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave to be filled with dozens of ideas I could implement in my home right now.

How to style my kitchen counters. The value of houseplants. Texture, texture, texture.

Home BodyI’m already a big fan of Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame, so I knew I would love her interior decorating book. But it was a little bit of a relief reading it, because I’ve already incorporated so many of her ideas in Church Sweet Home, and it would have been way to late to adopt a new design style now.

She begins by identifying a six different design styles and how they can be mixed to varying degrees in any type of house. From traditional farmhouse to modern condo (alas, no converted church). Then she walks through a house’s rooms and describes ways to design them as they are or redesign with a remodel. She even addresses pantries and laundry rooms!

Each room chapter begins with a look at that room in her own farmhouse, which is a big treat for any fan of “Fixer Upper.”

As much as I love this book, what amazes me is how some people hate it. Fifteen percent of reviews on Amazon are one- or two-star reviews. Their biggest complaint is about the lack of color in her design examples:

  • “The colors are all dull and boring.”
  • “Lots of pictures mostly white, black and gray decorating. Very boring after a few pages.”
  • “Devoid of color and filled with repetitive accessories and design motifs, it will be a very expensive mistake for anyone to try to copy her tips in their entirety without putting a brand on your house as 2015-2020.”

I’m a little bit mystified as to why people would buy Joanna Gaines’ book if they don’t like Joanna Gaines design style which was actively promoted on five seasons of “Fixer Upper,” through the Gaines’ online and bricks-and-mortar store Magnolia Market and at least a half-dozen product lines through major retailers like Target and furniture stores. How did these dolts miss it?

Besides, Joanna writes this in her introduction on how to use her book: “This part is really important: As you go through this book, remember that your home should be a reflection of you.”

Hello, if you like sunshine yellow and crimson red, your home should reflect that. Joanna Gaines likes black and white so naturally her home and the homes she designs reflect that. She creates cohesiveness by designing whole houses, not designing houses room by colorful room. It makes sense that she would use a limited color palette to tie the chapters of her book together, too.

(Plus, the book isn’t only black, white and beige. She’s got gold pillows and navy cabinets and red wool rugs on many pages, and because she decorates with plants, there’s green all over!)

Instead of using a rainbow of color, she uses a rainbow of other design tricks: “If you are sticking with a limited color palette, mix up your material choices to highlight interesting shapes and textures,” she writes.

Joanna Gaines likes rustic wood beams, jute rugs, canvas bedding and nubby pillows. Her interior design is interesting because of the shapes and textures. Not because of the color.

If you like a design style that edits its use of color and mixes up everything else, you will find lots of inspiration. I can hardly wait to apply some of her ideas to my space.

A sweet day for Church Sweet Home

Guess what today is.

Church Sweet Home turns 127 years old today.

Imagine life 127 years ago!

A Republican from Indiana was president of the United States (yes, that would be Benjamin Harrison, an attorney perhaps best known for the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act).

Horsepower had real meaning then because horses were a common form of transportation for most people; some also had the privilege of traveling by rail.

News came by word of mouth, Western Union telegrams and newspapers. No radio. No TV. No internet.

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder was 24 and had been married to Almanzo Wilder for six years in 1891.

The Wrigley Company had been founded earlier in the year and was about to launch a new product: Chewing gum.

The U.S. flag had only 44 stars. Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states.

Functional airplanes hadn’t yet been invented, in-home refrigerators were decades away and American women did not yet have the right to vote.

That was the year our church, now residence, was built. After many years of meeting in people’s homes, the Methodists secured a piece of property in September 1891. Here’s what happened next, according to one newspaper account:

On Nov. 29, 1891, the first church was dedicated by Rev. Smith, who planned the building and worked with his son for nine weeks to complete it. On the day of dedications, the following was received: cash $39; two stoves; one pulpit; two chairs and some lamps donated by the J.M. Carey family.

Library 1
This image of the church, taken I’m guessing between 1894 and 1920 (I can’t figure out that number: 19917), hangs in the local library.

For more than a dozen decades, parishioners celebrated Christmas and Easter, baptized babies, married couples, buried the dead, sang, learned, prayed, cried and dined in this little church.

As a reader of this blog, you know the status of this building today: It’s our home, born of the structure left by the Methodist congregation when they vacated in 2016.

Happy birthday, Church Sweet Home. May you still be standing in 127 years.

sepia tone

Merchant Wednesday: Exotiflora handmade jute rugs

It takes a village to outfit a home.

Or something like that.

As we have reinvested in home furnishings and decorations to style our Church Sweet Home, we’ve run across a number of amazing artists and vendors. Sometimes the vendor is a big-box-type store but more often it’s an online retailer or a local vendor. On Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

Today I’m shared the artist who created our entry rug, a hand-crocheted jute rug.

I found Robyn in Florida through an Amazon listing when I typed in “half-circle rug.” Initially, we had a huge rectangular rug inside the front doors, and I really hated the look. Our furniture interior designer suggested we might try a half-circle rug, and he was right.

Most available half-circle rugs are smaller, to be used in front of a single doorway or a kitchen sink. When I contacted Robyn at Exotiflora, she already had a listing for a custom-made five-foot-wide half circle rug. I place the order, and she went right to work. It arrived in the mail just two weeks later.

jute entry rug
Here’s my half-circle entryway rug. Those Norfolk pines flanking the doors will be decorated with lights for Christmas.

Robyn hand crochets her rugs, and she offers all kinds of shapes and sizes. I loved the jute option for its rustic look (exactly what I was looking for on my 126-year-old refinished floor), and it coordinated with the rug we chose for beneath the dining corner table. Jute is inexpensive, sustainable and biodegradable. Robyn advertises her rugs as being easy on the feet, and they are (I put a rug pad beneath it, and the jute is crocheted so densely, you can’t see it).

You can follow Exotiflora on Facebook by searching “Exotiflora” (or click here). Her Etsy shop can be found by clicking here. Robyn’s handle on Twitter is @exotiflora.

An unnecessary freezing of water

church sign unreadable
Got snow? Read this. I dare ya.

We’ve been binge-watching “Narcos,” the web television series chronicling the rise of the cocaine trade in the late ’80s in Colombia. With all its gnarly fashion and even gnarlier drug kingpins, principally drug lord Pablo Escobar, it’s a gritty drama that requires your rapt attention, primarily because of all the subtitles for the Spanish but also because you never know who’s going to get shot next.

If you’re a “Narcos” fan, too, then you understand the sort of snow “big blow” might be describing.

But when you live in Wisconsin in the wintertime, it means something altogether different.

smiling Ty
Smiling beneath his balaclava.

As I was taking pictures of the season’s first big snowfall this morning, Tyler said “Hold on for a shot of the big blow.”

He actually yelled it. Over the purr of his new snowblower.

He proceeded to turn up the horsepower and push his monster machine into a drift on the driveway.

Voilà. Big blow.

big blow
When you build a big driveway, you have a big job clearing the snow.

Like my mother, who grew up on the plains of North Dakota, I am not a fan of snow. But as she pointed out to me on the phone this morning, it can be pretty and some people go entire lifetimes without getting to see it sparkle or line a tree’s branches.

So for my readers living near the equator (or at least a lot nearer than me), here you go.

front door snow
The blue cast on the photos is the effect of the dawn light. Here in the arctic zone, the sun is still working on climbing over the horizon at 7 o’clock in the morning.

# # #

Today’s headline is a quote from American comedian Carl Reiner: “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”


The circus arrives without warning

Announcements, announcements, announcements:
A horrible way to die,
A horrible way to die,
A horrible way to talk to death,
A horrible way to die.
Announcements, announcements, announcements.

I think I learned this cheerful song at summer camp, but it might have been the Girl Scouts who taught it, I’m not sure. I also learned “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” in Girl Scouts, and now I know it’s not a song about ears. Trustworthy, indeed.

In any case, I have a couple of announcements. You may be dismissed if you’re not interested in talking to death.

First of all, our open house. I have told more than one visitor to the church we hoped to host an open house for former members of the church, our contractors and our neighbors on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

snowy church
Not a snowpocalypse. Yet.
Well, it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and we’re not hosting an open house. In fact, we’re hosting a blizzard. Heavy flakes began falling just before 1 o’clock, and I would have been sick if I had tempted people out in this weather to see our church home. So, God was watching over our little project today, too, just as He has been all along.

We just aren’t ready to show off yet. The garage isn’t sided. Our entryway is unfinished. We haven’t even chosen cabinets for the walls on either side of the fireplace let alone installed them. I’ve hung only a handful of pictures. Pieces of furniture and our showplace rug are on order and probably won’t even arrive for entertaining at Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, I’m only half decorated for the holiday; we’re trying to locate a 12-foot tree that won’t cost us an arm and a leg.

And, of course, you saw the basement. Uff-da.

We still hope to host an open house, but probably not until spring (after the mud—can you imagine? On my white carpeting?). I’ll keep you posted, faithful readers.

And that brings us to announcement No. 2.

Exactly 361 days ago, I began this blog the day we closed our deal to buy the 126-year-old Methodist church. I have posted something—sometimes just a picture of my clever church sign—every day since then. In the blogging world, we call that dedication. I’ve impressed even myself.

But ever since we’ve moved in, I feel like I’m dragging out the memoir part of the story. At one time, I thought the open house would be the end of the story. But now I think move-in day is the end. Fortunately, with hundreds of blog entries, I have a lot of raw material to work with, and I’m going to have to do the hard work of crafting a satisfying ending. (I’ve done it three times before; I can do it again.)

So the memoir-in-progress is done.

But the story isn’t.

Church Sweet Home—the blog—will continue. Only I’m not going to write it in past tense, and the posts won’t be serialized anymore. No more “our story so far” and “tomorrow” teasers. Each entry will stand alone. I’ll show you our new thresholds, and the Hall of History photos and all our cool antique finds, and anything else having to do with Church Sweet Home.

But probably not a new post every day. If you’ve gotten this far in the horrible-way-to-die announcements, you’re what we call an avid fan. Thank goodness for you—your kind words and encouragement is what kept me going—and Tyler, too, some days. It’s nice to know someone cares. But I think most of my friends, or acquaintances anyway (Facebook lumps everyone together into the title “friend”), have long since hidden my posts about every last development at Church Sweet Home. Since we’ve rested on our laurels six weeks ago, there isn’t new news every day.

I should really get back to my other blogs anyway. There’s my blog about life in general as a Minnesota Transplant, my author blog and my blog about organizing photos; they deserve some love, too. I’ll still try to write something every day (because I’m a writer like that), it just won’t always appear here (feel free to subscribe to my other blogs, though—I love readers).

That brings us to the end of our announcements today. You’re a trooper, and I appreciate you. You are hereby dismissed.

# # #

Today’s headline is a line from Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” If you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s a magical story. Check out my book review here. In any case, here’s the full quote: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”