Merchant Wednesday: House numbers (plus a look at the entryway)

Among the projects we raced to finish in time to show off to our guests at the holidays was the entryway to the church. We were, of course, able to move in months ago without having to finish the space (only the ceiling was done), but since it was the first impression (or second, if you took in the exterior of the church first), we wanted it to be finished.

Which meant a flurry of activity took place in late November and early December. You-Can-Call-Me Al, who had tiled our shower and kitchen back splash, tiled the ground-level entry floor. Then he built new wooden treads for the steps leading up into the sanctuary and stained them. St. Johnny spent hours sanding the sanctuary level landing; it was a bear, covered in decades of paint and mastic and gunk. We decided to keep it rustic, leaving some of the paint intact, and we stained over it. Finally, we had the walls, trim and interior doors painted, hung the new chandelier and had our wrought iron team install the railing.

The transformation of the space is significant.

But let’s begin with a look at how the front doors looked when we bought the church a year ago. I’ve shared this shot before, but it’s a good taste of all the “befores” of the church (and who doesn’t appreciate a good transformation story, especially at this time of year?).

front door
The front door was functional, but it had been stripped of a lot of its charm when the congregation replaced the original French doors with industrial red ones. The red ones were certainly more sound than the French doors, which had been stored and were so rotted when we found them, we left them on the curb because we didn’t think we could restore them. Also, the tiny lights on either side of the door may have provided illumination, but they fell short in the distinctive category.

Here’s how our Church Sweet Home presents its entryway now.

entryway exterior after
Those magnificent castle doors are a lot more interesting, and the light fixtures flanking them say a lot more than simply, “Let there by light.” Tyler rubbed a coat of tung oil into the doors in December to deepen their beauty and rub out all the nicks and scratches they had endured during construction and move-in.

Which brings me to the secondary purpose of today’s post: To call out the artisans who created our beautiful house numbers. Zach and Sheena’s work at TheWoodsCollective was featured in an issue of HGTV Magazine, and when I saw it, I wanted it for our church.

house numbers after

This is exactly the type of custom feature perfect for an Etsy vendor because everyone appreciates choosing their own wood finish and number style, and every house requires different numbers.

You can shop their offerings on Etsy at TheWoodsCollective.

OK, back to our entryway tour. Here’s how our entryway behind the door looks now.

open door
Welcome! Come on in!

See that door bell button there on the right? When you push it, it rings like a church bell inside the church. It’s awesome!

Let’s take a look at some before and after photos.

entryway stairs before
When we purchased the church, the ceiling was flat across the top with tiles, the walls of the entryway were paneled, and the steps were carpeted. The railing was distinctive, but made of wood, which didn’t match the rest of the new railings we eventually installed inside.
entryway stairs after
Here’s how the steps up into the sanctuary look now.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the entryway now is that newel post. Tyler found it on Craig’s List and sent me two hours south to retrieve it. It’s solid wood, salvaged from a mansion in Chicago, and very heavy. The guy who sold it to us had multiple storage units filled with various pieces of mansions and churches–doors, altars, stained glass windows, hutches, and more. When I got the post back here, Tyler cut a few inches from the bottom to make it fit, and it was not easy task to cut a 10-and-a-half-inch column of wood.

newell post cross cut
Ah, I remember well the sawdust era of construction.

The guys at the spiral stairs manufacturer, who built all our railings, painted the newel post to match our steel, and then built the railing to fit it.

The stairs down to the basement are not so grand as the “up” steps, at least for now. Tyler painted them a nice blue-gray. At least the carpet is gone.

When we bought the church, I appreciated the message inside the front doors …

entryway exit before
Go now in peace

… but I like our new light fixture now.

entryway exit after
The black steel light fixture coordinates with our railing, and the ceiling beams are the same as we have inside the sanctuary.

And, though I don’t have a good before of this angle, here’s a look at our Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall. Tyler found this ornate mirror at an estate sale about a week after we decided to buy the church. Now, when you enter or leave the house, you can gaze as your reflection and ask, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”

entryway mirror after
These interior doors are original to the church (or at least when we purchased it). We put in the glass panels and repainted the wood, and they look good as new.

I had intended to put a half-circle marble shelf beneath the mirror, but it turns out there’s no way to secure it, so we are looking for a little table to go there.

There you go, our renovated entryway to Church Sweet Home. Now you can go in peace.

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Old lights, new lights

Our story so far: We implemented meaningful ways to make the old Methodist church our home.

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old light in back entry
One of the old lights formerly lit the side entryway to the church (the doorway through which this picture was taken was walled up to enclose our master bedroom).
light globes
Shapely.

The Hall of History, when we purchased the church, was paneled and dark. Removing the paneling and installing drywall helped immensely, but it needed good lighting, too, to be inviting. What better fixtures than historical ones? Among my favorite recycling projects in the church was our reuse of these various light fixtures; one of them, for instance, originally lit the side entry. The globes shared color—white—but varied in shape.

rusty collars
Collars before spray paint.

We also unearthed a number of rusty collars of unknown age. I spray-painted the collars in matte black and had them rewired. The globes required only soap and water.

collars in spraypaint
Collars in the spray paint booth (that is, the basement).

Then they sat in storage for ages. I could hardly wait until it was their turn to get installed. They were among the last ones.

The best parts were the screws used to secure the globes in the collars. I, hater of all things brass, chose brass. They were just the right accent, and I loved them.

hall of history lights
Hall of history lights (with brass screws!).

When we moved in, I took great satisfaction in flipping the switch to turn on the lights in the Hall of History. They warmed my heart a little bit.

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Tomorrow: More cozy touches in the kitchen. Read about it here.

Bigly (or possibly big league, hard to tell)

Our story so far: Tyler scooped up a used refrigerator for his new mancave.

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shingled garage
The fully shingled garage.

Our electrician stopped by, not for a beer, but to deliver a gift: A pair of lawn chairs he’d snagged for as good a deal as the refrigerator Tyler picked up. The electrician thought they would look right at home on our patio. We accepted his thoughtful gift. As he observed our mammoth garage structure, he remarked, “Your garage is bigger than my house.”

He wasn’t the only one to notice the Garage Mahal. A neighbor stopped by, echoing the electrician’s comments: “Your garage is bigger than most of the houses here.”

Point taken. The garage was about 50 percent bigger than the rental house we had lived in over the winter. Two blocks from the church, that rental house was part of the neighborhood which was dotted with a number of other rental units. To be fair, the neighborhood was also home to a couple of pretty impressive Victorian homes and a house that was once that town’s hotel.

Friends who saw pictures of our garage used words like “ginormous” and “massive.” It was big, no doubt, but I didn’t feel it was outsized. The three-car garage attached to our former home dwarfed the rest of the structure because, like most suburban houses built in areas without alleys, it stuck out front calling attention to itself (and Tyler still had two other structures in the yard to store all the tools and gardening supplies that didn’t fit in the garage). At least our chome garage was behind the house. I remembered how Tyler had filled the sanctuary of the church with tools when we first took possession. And he used a lot of those tools during demolition and reconstruction. They needed to be stored somewhere. Also, we had large vehicles (even so, we had to store the RV elsewhere because it was too tall and long for any standard garage). It might have been conspicuous now, but once the garage was sided to match the rest of the church, it would blend right in.

At least that’s what I told myself.

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Tomorrow: Garage doors go on! See them here.

Knobby

Our story so far: Shortly after we moved into the church we turned into our home, my parents paid us visit.

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bathroom knobs
I ended up going with white porcelain knobs in the bathroom. The drawer pulls are accented with polished chrome, like the sink faucets.

A more enduring gift than the abundant harvest was my dad’s expertise with a cabinet hardware jig, a device that makes it easier to install cabinet knobs. He spent his “free” time during my parents’ visit installing more than fifty cabinet knobs throughout the church. When we moved into the church and I asked Tyler about when he would put on all our knobs, he said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Rome wasn’t finished when Dad left, but at least I could open all my cabinets properly.

When I pulled bags of knobs out of the bathroom cabinets for Dad to install, I ran across a couple of boxes of tip-out sink-front trays that turn false drawer fronts into usable storage.

“Oh, maybe you can install these while you’re at it,” I said off-handedly, not fully grasping the enormity of the task I was asking Dad to perform.

tip out drawers
How handy!

In his typical fashion, he did not complain (much). He figured out how to remove the false drawer fronts and install the trays (and the knobs!). Two cautionary tips: Dad told Tyler it would have been much easier to do before the quartz counter top had been glued on (impossible in our situation since we couldn’t find them then, but a useful note for you future DIYers). And, if you have a Dad as clever as mine who installs such handy drawers, you better put them to use. Because he will check when he visits at a later date and grouse about it to your sister when he discovers he put in all that effort and they’re not even used. I filled mine immediately with tooth floss and lip gloss.

kitchen knobs
The knobs for the beverage bar cabinets came from the drawers originally in the display kitchen but which ended up in the master bath.
mudroom knobs
The knobs for the mudroom cabinets were a perfectly rustic.
linen closet knobs
After my linen closet doors hung ajar for a couple of weeks, Dad solved the problem by installing the door knobs. Bingo!
laundry room knobs
The knobs on the laundry room cabinets were my favorite. They matched the plumbing pipe we used for the closet rods.

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Tomorrow: The balcony, unveiled. Check it out here.

How to build a garage in 10 easy steps

Our story so far: We worked ten months to make the old Methodist church habitable, and now Tyler turned his attention to the garage in order to get it done before winter.

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Chapter 42

How to build a garage in ten easy steps:

  1. Pour concrete.
  2. Nail together and erect two-by-six walls.
  3. Sheet walls with plywood and wrap with air-and-water repellent building wrap.
  4. Order roof trusses.
  5. Hire crane to set roof trusses.
  6. Sheet roof with plywood, roof felt and ice-and-water barrier.
  7. Shingle.
  8. Install soffit and fascia.
  9. Install doors and windows.
  10. Install siding.

If it were as easy to do as it was to write about it, everyone would build their own garage. Not everyone does. But Tyler was not everyone.

As he prepared to turn his attention to his garage, Tyler discussed the project with You-Can-Call-Me-Al, the man whose experience and execution skills had turned him into Tyler’s right-hand man. You-Can-Call-Me-Al, who had been willing through months of construction to work without written plans, was nonetheless more comfortable using them.

“Don’t you have blueprints for the garage?” You-Can-Call-Me-Al asked.

“No,” Tyler said. “I’ve never had plans for any other garage I’ve built.”

Tyler and I joked later than I should draw his ideas on a piece of notebook paper with blue ink, hand them to You-Can-Call-Me-Al and say, “Here’s our blue prints.”

Thus, Tyler and crew embarked on forming a garage from the ether of ideas.

back yard when we bought it
Here’s how the back yard of the church looked when we bought it. That little shed by the chimney? Tyler resurrected it to store tools through the spring and summer, but Tyler spared it of an inferiority complex by razing it when he started building the garage.

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Tomorrow: Garage raising. Read about it here.

You have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes

Our story so far: We made coffee at our beverage bar for the first time on the morning we woke up in the church we renovated into our dream home.

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I spent the rest of the day hanging clothes. Clothes that had been in the rental house. Clothes that had been in the RV. Clothes that had been in storage for two years. So many clothes. It was a good thing we’d created so much hanging space. While I hung clothes, I also washed them. How novel! My new washer and dryer hummed quietly in the background as I unpacked long forgotten dresses, suits and sweaters.

closet lights
Here’s an After shot of my closet after I finished hanging clothes in it. It shows the new lights, which Tyler described as “prison lights.” But he’s not the one who does laundry, and I love how they coordinate with the plumbing pipe closet rods.

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Today’s headline is a quote from British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Tomorrow: The movers haul in the stove, among other things. Read about it here.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day

Our story so far: The finishing phase in our church conversion project was where the rubber hit the road. We encountered so many challenges, our wry son-in-law joked he was going to start a competing blog called “Everything Wrong With the Church” and reveal all our mistakes.

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The finishing detail that made me thunk my forehead with my palm came not with an element of the church, but with a piece of furniture. It was a project that spread itself over a couple of weeks and required attention from both me and Tyler.

headboard
Beat up maybe, but this abandoned headboard and footboard had potential.

The beat-up headboard and footboard we found on the side of the road in early spring? We would need a guest bed sooner rather than later, so I spent a weekend painting it. The project put me in the way of any number of contractors who required space or basement access, but it needed to be done. I ran out of paint before I finished so I used some leftover paint in a close match to finish the back (no one would ever know—unless they read the blog about Everything Wrong With the Church). When it was dry, St. Johnny and I hauled it upstairs taking care not to ding the drywall.

Via a friend, we sourced a barely-used mattress set that came with a bed frame. We counted ourselves lucky because our benefactor of the headboard and footboard did not bestow us with the frame. Tyler and I hauled it to the church, and as we were about to shove the box spring up the back stairs, we realized it wasn’t going to fit (this was a throughway designed for Sunday schoolers, not queen-sized box springs). OK, so we enlisted a few contractors to help shove it over the balcony railing the next morning.

As we set to assembling the bed frame, we realized it was designed for a headboard only. There was no way to attach the footboard. OK, so Tyler jerry-rigged a solution, spray painted it out in the yard and hauled it upstairs. Because it was jerry-rigged, it required an inordinate amount of grunting and number of screws to assemble. OK, Tyler grunted and succeeded. He and St. Johnny lugged the box spring into place …

And Tyler called me upstairs.

“Your bed doesn’t fit,” he said in summons.

“Okayyyy,” I said slowly. “Whaddya mean ‘my bed doesn’t fit’?” I had measured the headboard and knew it would be a tight fit for nightstands, but I also figured I could find a creative solution (what’s Pinterest for anyway?). I joined him at his side, looking at the bed.

“It’s not a queen headboard,” Tyler said. “It’s a king.”

headboard too big
Um, yeah. That’s not a queen size headboard and footboard. Nice paint job though.

We had plucked it from the street. Unloaded it into our rental unit. I had moved it to the church to paint, and touched every square inch of it. St. Johnny and I had moved it upstairs. I had measured it to determine what kind of nightstands would fit. Tyler built a frame on it to fit a queen mattress. And not until the mattress was in place did we realize the headboard was king sized.

Do you suppose we were a little distracted?

The queen mattress with the king headboard looked ridiculous. It was all wrong.

“Well, I guess we’ll be moving this down to the basement when we finish a bedroom down there,” I shrugged. There was no modifying it. “One of our guest beds in the basement will be a king, I guess.”

When we looked back upon all these finishing mistakes, they were small things. The oven fit perfectly. The kitchen sink worked like a dream. The chandeliers in the bedroom were beautiful. The shower drained like it should and felt like a luxury to use. So many things fell into place, even without a documented plan.

So the headboard was the wrong size. It made for a good story. Who’s to say it wasn’t meant to be?

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Tomorrow: Move-in day. See the master bedroom here.