Blogging a real-time memoir about converting an old Methodist church into a home (churchsweethome.com), Monica Lee is the author of three memoirs/autobiographical fiction books: Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of "Like" in 1982, How to Look Hot & Feel Amazing in Your 40s: The 21-Day Age-Defying Diet, Exercise & Everything Makeover Plan and The Percussionist's Wife.
Our story so far: Room by room, our painter transformed semi-finished spaces into finished one in the old Methodist church we were converting into a home.
# # #
In order for Low Talker to paint the rest of the second floor, You-Can-Call-Me-Al got busy installing trim. I’d chosen a simpler trim style for the second floor than what we were using in the sanctuary; I wanted more of a farmhouse look up there.
Among the items You-Can-Call-Me-Al trimmed out was the interior leaded glass windows Tyler and I selected months before to add decoration to the balcony wall while adding natural light from the second story to the sanctuary. Tyler was quickly emptying one of our rental units, and these carefully packed leaded glass windows were transferred to the church to be installed. The windows had the simple farmhouse trim on the inside and more ornate trim on the balcony side. The glassy artwork transformed the gaping holes in the drywall into light-dancing features over the tub in the second floor bathroom and along the balcony wall, and their installation confirmed we were making progress, yes, beautiful progress.
# # #
Tomorrow: We should have considered a revolving door.
Our story so far: As we proceeded with renovating the old Methodist church, we purchased twenty-three gallons of paint for our painter, who I’d nicknamed Low Talker for his soft-spoken manner.
# # #
The painter then moved on to the second floor, where he began by spraying a couple of coats of polyurethane on the pickled plywood ceiling. Spraying the stuff around a horrible, stinky job. At first, I thought he was just a sweaty guy—painting was hard work. But eventually, after I asked St. Johnny about how hot it must be on the second floor, we both realized Low Talker wasn’t covered in perspiration. It was much easier for him to get clean at the end of the day of spraying paint around when he first coated exposed parts of his body—like his flowing locks—with baby oil. No wonder his hair looked as soft as his voice sounded.
Our story so far: As we progressed on the renovation of the old Methodist church into our home, Tyler hired a painter with experience and attention to detail. And a soft voice.
# # #
Low Talker began work in the master suite, specifically the laundry room, which we were—I was—eager to get operational. After he’d covered several walls with paint, instead of the little patches I’d created, I knew I’d chosen the right color of gray, a light gray inspired by Behr’s Evening White but mixed by Sherwin Williams. It made me happy just walking through the rooms any time of day. The trim, a white inspired by Behr’s Bleached Linen, popped against the gray. And the wainscoting, a tan inspired by Behr’s Arid Landscape, brought warmth to the scene.
Low Talked also painted the tin inside the master bedroom tray ceiling with Arid Landscape, and it looked so good when he was done I decided not to distress it.
# # #
Today’s headline is a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., a 19th century American physician and poet.
Tomorrow: Painter’s trick for Breck hair. Read about it here.
Our story so far: Drywall. Check. Flooring. Check. We were making progress on renovating the old Methodist church we were converting into our home.
# # #
As we wrapped up the flooring part of Phase Three: Drywall, Paint & Flooring, the painter arrived. Truth be told, he showed up a little sooner than was convenient as You-Can-Call-Me-Al was still nailing trim in place, but this was not something we were going to grouse about after some of the flaky contractors we had dealt with. He showed up, first of all, and he showed up sooner rather than later, so we were happy.
Early on, I imagined Tyler and I would be painting the interior of the church ourselves. We had succeeded in just such a task together before when we painted the first floor of the first house we owned. Tyler hired out the work of painting the ceiling, and then he pretty much painted all the walls, leaving me to haul paint and ladders around, fetch more buckets and paint inconspicuous walls in the closets and the powder room.
But Tyler was tired—he had so many other things he could do, and he didn’t trust me to precisely cut in the line between the walls and the ceiling (I had proven to have an unsteady hand). We decided to pay a professional to do it right and more quickly than we could accomplish it ourselves. He collected quotes from a couple of men who came on recommendation, and settled on the one with the thick, wavy gray hair of a Greek god. This one had dropped by more than once to inspect the church, and when he chatted with me about the features of the old trim around the sanctuary windows, I was impressed with his attention to detail (and noticed nothing unusual about the volume of his voice).
It wasn’t long, however, before he earned a nickname: Low Talker.
Low Talker derived his name from a character on the ‘90s TV sitcom “Seinfeld.” Her lips would move, but Seinfeld and Elaine couldn’t hear what she said. To be polite, they would just smile and nod. As the plot of the episode evolved, Jerry smiled and nodded in agreement to something Low Talker uttered, only to find out later to his horror he agreed to wear one of her designer puffy shirts on a TV appearance. Ha, ha, ha.
This character trait was probably not a good one with any contractor, but certainly not with the painter who frequently consulted the spouse he perceived to be in charge of paint color decisions. If you smile and nod in agreement to something, you better be sure you heard correctly or pretty soon you’ve got a wall that’s the wrong color.
So I said, “What?” A lot.
For the record, Tyler conversed with Low Talker without any communication problems. Only I said “what?” after every sentence. So was it Low Talker’s soft voice or my poor hearing that caused the problems? Those with intimate knowledge of my family health history might pin the fault on me, but I maintain Low Talker was one of those men who speak softly and carry a big paintbrush.
It was a good thing he used a big paintbrush because it became apparent very early on that we would be using a lot of paint. We started with eleven gallons of wall paint, five gallons for the trim and two gallons for the wainscoting. Only a few days in, I was sent back to the paint store for another two gallons for the wainscoting and three more for the trim.
If you’re counting, we were up to twenty-three gallons of paint.
If that number didn’t make me glad I wasn’t the one doing the painting, I don’t know what would. That’s a lot of paint.
# # #
Tomorrow: We chose better with paint colors than we did initially with floor stain. Read about it here.
Our story so far: We stained the floor of the old Methodist church sanctuary in Acorn Brown, and it looked great. We were ready to move on to tasks that didn’t involve sanding or staining for a while.
# # #
We needed to protect the beautiful flooring because the old church required a lot more work and a lot of contractors would be traipsing around. Tyler invested in a couple hundred dollars worth of Ram Board, heavy-duty cardboard that can be rolled out like a red carpet to provide temporary floor protection, and on Monday we rolled it over most of the sanctuary floor.
Monday evening about 11 o’clock, just after I retired for the night, Tyler’s phone pinged, indicating there was some motion detected inside the church. Sometimes headlights from passing vehicles set off the motion detector so this was not entirely unusual, but I was lying wide awake, so I looked at his phone notification and was alarmed to see a pile of trim scattered all over our newly stained sanctuary floor.
I shook Tyler awake. “Something happened,” I said as I dressed with the clothes on the floor.
“Huh? What? What happened?” he said.
“The trim fell down! Our floors!”
I ran over the church (Tyler chided me later for not letting him lead the way), and he followed a minute later. I flipped on the sanctuary lights, and we took in the scene. The sixteen-foot-long trim stored on a temporary shelf in the sanctuary was all over the floor. Our beautiful finished floor! The weight of the trim broke not the shelf but the window trim to which it was screwed. It had fallen with a mighty clatter.
We went back to bed, a little crestfallen, but when we cleaned everything up the next morning, we found only one big ding in the floor and only one broken piece of trim. As with so many events on our reconstruction, timing was everything. Fortunately, the shelf yielded in the middle of the night when no one was around and the floors were thirty-six hours post-staining so they were dry and covered by Ram Board. Divine Providence was overseeing our project.
Back to work.
# # #
Today’s headline is a quote from American musician and producer Quincy Jones who, among other things, produced Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. “Under the mooooooonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart. … ‘Cause this is thriller.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 35 opens with a new character joining our saga. Read about it here.
Our story so far: After much equivocation, my husband and I chose an alternative stain color to the Golden Oak we first stained the sanctuary floor in the old Methodist church we were turning into a home.
# # #
And then Tyler and I spent ninety minutes on a Saturday afternoon applying Acorn Brown to the sanctuary floor. Unlike stain alone or polyurethane alone, this stain + poly was a two-person job. Tyler smeared on the stain with a lamb’s wool mop, and I followed behind him with a synthetic deck paint pad making sure it was evenly applied (and sometimes I just held the dripping lamb’s wool mop over the bucket while he used the paint pad—because he was not interested in doing this a third time). The stain-poly was a little tricky to work with because unlike clear polyurethane, you see exactly where you got sloppy. If you miss a spot or drip it, you will see it.
But we turned on an eclectic mix of ‘80s pop and classic rock music, embraced the sweat and used only two gallons of Acorn Brown on the floor. It was dark. But brown. Not golden. Not red. And thank goodness, not orange.
I thought we were done (finally!), and I planned to relax the next day—a Sunday. We had just finished using a product that described itself as 1-Step, after all.
As usual, Tyler got up before me and inspected our work in the quiet morning with sunlight pouring into the windows. I stayed in bed, thinking about how good my first cup of coffee would taste.
He returned to the bedroom and announced that we would have to apply another coat. Right. Now.
I tried to talk him out of it. The rest of the world was going to church or sleeping off a hangover or reading the Sunday paper, and I wanted to join the rest of the world in a typical Sunday morning activity. But after pouring the first cup of coffee, inspecting the floor myself and consulting the fine print which clearly stated two coats might be required (1-Step, ha!), I agreed. Our showplace wood floor needed another careful coat.
So Tyler turned up the music again (jazz this time), and we commenced getting sweaty. I never got breakfast—only coffee so I was extra grumpy when we finished. But we were really and truly finished. It looked pretty good.
# # #
Tomorrow: When out from the church there arose such a clatter! Read about it here.
Our story so far: We stained the floor of the main room in the old Methodist church we were converting into a home with Golden Oak. And we hated the orangey result. So we went back to the drawing board.
# # #
Tyler and his hired man St. Johnny spent another week—and the money to rent sanders and buy sanding paper—sanding away a thousand square feet of Golden Oak. (At least the seams were filled—we wouldn’t have to perform that step again.)
Another stain color was required. The Douglas fir by itself was too red, so we couldn’t go with the natural polyurethane-only look we chose for the maple in the bedroom and the pine upstairs.
This time, we went to Sherwin Williams together. With a sample of Douglas fir flooring. The clerk—the one who had already mixed three different samples for me—was fresh out of gallons of clear base stain. He couldn’t mix any colors for us. He sent us down the road to the next Sherwin Williams, and along the way, Tyler suggested we try a stain-polyurethane mix which, in theory, would be more sheer than stain alone.
We took our wood sample into a Menards (which still carried the Minwax brand that Home Depot was feuding with Sherwin Williams about), and we asked the clerk in the paint department (who was surprisingly well-versed about staining wood floors) to test a couple of colors of 1-Step wood stain + polyurethane on our sample of Douglas fir.
We walked out with five gallons of Acorn Brown 1-Step.
It was significantly darker than Golden Oak, but definitely not orange. It did not dawn on me until much later that, huh, acorns grow into oaks (hopefully not golden oaks).
# # #
Tomorrow: The sanctuary floor in Acorn Brown, revealed. Check it out here.