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?

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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):

 

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.

Merchant Wednesday: Wells Spiral Stairs

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 some Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

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spiral and railing

Next to the 20-foot-tall fireplace that replaced the red velvet curtain behind the altar in the former church, our spiral stairway is a focal point in our great room. It lends sweeping drama to the space, and I almost can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention its manufacturer, a spiral stairs maker just around the corner that’s been making distinctive metalwork for 70 years.

plant hanger
See that cute little bird feeder in the shape of a church? A gift from my mother-in-law for Easter. And the vintage aqua-green garden art standing there? Made by my mother.

But I was reminded of Wells Spiral Stairs this week when Tyler erected in our garden a plant hanger made especially for us by the spirals folks. It now stands in the little flower plot begun I don’t know how many years ago by the gardeners of the church congregation (and I’m still reaping the rewards of their efforts in the form of beautiful perennials; see the final picture of this post). Tyler hung a couple of planters he found buried in our cargo trailer (we moved in, you remember, as fall was descending upon us so luxuries in storage such as outdoor plant hangers were passed over in favor of the stuff we would actually be needing over the winter).

Despite having “spiral stairs” in the name, Wells will make just about anything out of steel that a homeowner could desire: Gates, arches, sign holders, furniture, spice racks, even vashu towers, hanging metal decks and yes, plant hangers. They made all the metal railings in our converted church including the balcony railing, the coordinating entryway railing and the handrails on the back stairway and two-step stairway of the balcony. The proprietress even sourced the unique ball for the top of our spiral stairway and had her foreman paint it inside and out.

spiral Ball
 A look at our stairway, from the top down.

Their stock-in-trade, though, remains the spiral stairways. Each one is sturdily built in one piece and customized exactly to the space it will occupy and the design required. With all the lakes in south Wisconsin and northern Illinois, you can imagine Wells Spiral Stairs makes a lot of deck spirals for lake homes around here. The compact design of a spiral is perfect for small spaces and places where real estate comes at a premium (like lake front). All you need is the height and diameter of your space, and you can get a quote in no time. We were fortunate to live nearby, but the manufacturer serves all of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois and is willing to ship anywhere in the country.

Wells Spiral Stairs is located at 162 Walworth St., Genoa City, Wisconsin. You can find out more at www.wellspirals.com.

tulip
A tulip in the flower garden, rising the occasion.