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):

 

Red, white and blue … and lavender

 

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day, and the lilacs are heavy with fragrant blooms as they ought to be in late May. I have two more lilac bushes on my property that I didn’t realize were ours last year when I counted only one bush. Though choosing a favorite flower is a bit like choosing a favorite child, lilacs are among my favorite.

Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Stop, smell the lilacs and remember a soldier.

Don’t be a pansy

 

Memorial Day sign
Tyler planted some pansies beneath ye olde church sign earlier this week.

Teddy Roosevelt spoke these words in an address at the opening of his gubernatorial campaign for New York in 1898. He was a war hero, fresh from the Rough Riders’ Battle of San Juan Heights in Cuba during the war with Spain. Three years later, he would become president.

Our little church was just seven years old when Roosevelt was running for governor five states away.

I chose Roosevelt’s quote because it was appropriate for commemorating America’s fallen solders on Memorial Day but also because it reflects the greatness of our little renovation project, which demanded much effort, sacrifice and certainly courage.

Wishing you a blessed Memorial Day weekend that includes a moment to ponder the sacrifice of the soldiers who make it possible and the ways you can live up to such high ideals.

Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists

Preparing pictures for the Hall of History has been challenging, but I am reveling in a recent triumph.

The Hall of History, you regular readers might recall, is the hallway between the great room and the master suite. We left the flooring rustic and installed original milk lights from elsewhere in the church for lighting. The walls will, one day, be covered with historical photos of the church and our families. I’ve been gathering bits and pieces from my own collection to frame, but it’s slow work. I spent an entire afternoon recently visiting local libraries and museums looking for historical photos of the church and came up with nothing.

However, a former member of the church gifted us with a pile of photos of the church from her archive, and one of them was an image of the last pastor teaching a lesson for vacation Bible school from the front of the church. It was a great representation of the altar area when it was in use.

I paired the photo with a brass plate given to me by an interested party who salvaged it when she saw the altar on the curb as the congregation was preparing our church to be vacated. She was a little sad to see the altar disposed of in this manner but she couldn’t save the altar, so she saved the dedication plate. She made me promise to do something respectful with it.

HOH image closeup
The brass plate here was once attached to the altar in our church.

August F. Esch was presumably a pillar of the old Methodist church in the early 20th century, I’m guessing. The story I’ve made up in my mind is that his family chose to subsidize a new altar that was installed in the church when the orientation of the front of the worship area was moved from the east side to the north side in the 1940s.

I brought the photo, the brass plate and a brief explanation of the pieces to Michaels framing department to have it professionally displayed. I chose a simple black frame to match the other frames I have planned for the Hall of History. The resulting whole was definitely greater than a sum of the parts.

Hall of History image
The final result. How civilized.

My next step is to visit the county courthouse and spend some time in the abstract office to see what the official record says about the construction of the church and the property on which it sits. Wish me luck!

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Today’s headline is a quote from Joseph de Maistre, a philosopher during the French Revolution.

 

Ye distant spires, ye antique tow’rs

We found the perfect spire for our belfry today.

[Well, if that ain’t a sentence you don’t hear every day.]

We went junking at “Wisconsin’s Finest” antique flea market (leave it to a marketer to describe flea-anything as “fine”) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. More than 500 dealers laid out their vintage Mason jars, wooden snow shoes, rusty farm implements and galvanized buckets at the county fairgrounds in an event that occurs only four times a summer. I’ve been waiting for this first showing of the season for seven months.

Tyler asked me what I was looking for, and I said I just wanted to look, which typifies the gender differences in shopping. A man hunts for something specific, a woman looks around until something catches her eye.

sire in situ
Quick! We need to buy it before that random stranger snaps it up!

As it turned out, a spire caught Tyler’s eye. This steel spire with Victorian era fleur-de-lis detailing had been salvaged from the turret of a decrepit late 1800s mansion in Vilas County, Wisconsin.

sire in history
This is our belfry in one of the earliest photos we’ve found of our church.

We’ve discussed over the past year how we wanted to finish the top of the belfry (it’s now just flat above the top shingles), and we’d sort of determined we wanted to replace the spire that was once on top of it. Tyler sourced a manufacturer of fiberglass spires for traditional churches, and we thought we might pursue that when the time came. Just the pointy top, no cross.

fluers
Here’s a close-up on the “lily petals” on the spire.

We liked the size of this beauty (about six feet) and the fleur-de-lis detailing. Fleur-de-lis is French for flower of the lily; it’s a stylized emblem of the French monarchy that appears in all sorts of modern design. Though it has no Victorian details, our building was built in the late Victorian era, about the same time as the mansion from which the spire was salvaged.

point
We’re guessing this damage occurred by lightning or during salvage.

Our junk spire needs a bit of straightening and a coat of rust-proof paint. We’re thinking we might paint the petals gray and the rest of the spire white.

Tyler is working on siding the garage right now, but after that, he’s focusing on siding the belfry, so for now our new-old spire awaits its new home in our great room.

spire in sanctuary

As we were leaving the fairgrounds with our booty, one woman remarked, “I hope you didn’t pay what it’s marked” (we didn’t, you flinty tightwad) and another woman said “how cool it that!” (thank you for noticing our good taste).

I didn’t know what we’d find today, but I’m so pleased, I’m marking my calendar for next month’s finest flea market!

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Today’s headline is the first line from a poem by Thomas Gray: Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.