Church Sweet Home becomes a book

I started this blog because I’m writer. Having already written three books and thousands of blog posts, I sensed I had a great story, no matter how it turned out, and it needed to be documented.

Without knowing how it would end, I chose the unconventional approach of a real-time-memoir with the intention of turning my blog posts into a book. I’ve spent months polishing my prose and having it professionally edited, and finally, the launch day for the book Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul is coming soon. Mark your calendar: May 5.

CSH Book Front Cover OnlyIf you’re here, reading this blog post, you’ve probably read most of the story and you sort of understand it all ends well. I have hundreds of loyal readers who cheered us on through months of dirty demolition and construction, and I am so grateful for the moral support you offered with nice comments and Facebook likes on so many nights we were exhausted and feeling sorry for ourselves. You helped pull us through.

You might be asking, why would I read this book if I followed the blog? Well, here are five reasons you might enjoy the book as much as you liked the blog:

  1. The book has an all-new prologue about abandoned churches.
  2. The story has a proper heart-warming ending.
  3. All the those annoying “our story so far” and “tomorrow” teasers are gone.
  4. You’ll find out how the real budget compares to the Tequila Budget.
  5. If you’re technically challenged or just too impatient to click through all the blog posts, you can page through the story easily and at your own pace.

I suppose you might know some people who would enjoy the story but aren’t blog readers. Voilà, a book is a nice gift for your friend.

So stay tuned for all the information you need to get yourself a paperback or ebook of Church Sweet Home in May.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to share updates about the renovation. I have a few in the archive, and we still have projects ahead of us.

Again, thanks for reading.

 

Shake that booty

As I pondered news to share here about progress we’ve made on the church, I realized I never shared before-and-after photos of the west side of the church.

This area of the old Methodist church received a lot of attention last summer when we sided the garage and finished repairs to the belfry.

Here’s how it looked “before” when that functional-but-less-than-pretty fire escape was still attached:

fire escape after new windows
This picture was taken after we replaced the windows. 

Note the distinctive architectural feature between the first- and second-story windows. After finding the original wooden shakes on the fluted portion of the belfry, Tyler suspected wooden shakes were also hidden beneath that aluminum siding on the west side. So he had You-Can-Call-Me-Al remove the siding, and behold, the original shakes.

west side revealed
Removing the aluminum siding revealed wooden shakes in the peak and between the windows.

The wood shakes were in pretty good condition, and we wondered why on earth they were ever concealed. They desperately needed paint. You-Can-Call-Me-Al replaced about 20 of them. Tyler rented an articulating boom to make the belfry repairs, and You-Can-Call-Me-Al also used it to fix and paint the west side.

west wide articulating boom
Useful tool, that articulating boom.

You-Can-Call-Me-Al painted the wooden shakes a similar color gray that we painted the stone foundation. Those century-old shakes soaked up the latex.

west wide after
A few pieces of white siding are missing on either side of the center fluted area in this picture (let’s be honest, in reality, too). Still, a huge improvement.

The west side turned out so well, we decided to copy the fluted peak and shakes on the new-construction garage, too.

west side garage match
Note the fluted peak of the garage. These shakes are a man-made substance manufacturered in rows, not individual wooden shakes like on the west side.

If you look carefully at the belfry, you’ll see the new spire. I’ll share more about the installation of that spire in a future post.

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CSH Book Front Cover OnlyIf you enjoy renovation stories or more specifically, this renovation story, mark your calendar. The book version of this blog, Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul, will be available May 5. Stay tuned for details.

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?