All’s well that ends well … with a bath

It took months, but we finally finished the tub surround.

There’s one bathtub in the chome, and it’s in the upstairs guest bathroom. The tub itself, a big soaker, was purchased early on. It was so big, we needed it in the room before we built the walls around it.

We finished the room around the tub including the shower, the vanity and the toilet. But the tub was just a basin for dust even four months after we moved in. Why? We went round and round with the tub faucet.

First we bought a beautiful waterfall faucet when we purchased all our other bathroom fixtures. When the plumber tried to install it, he pointed out it was a faucet for a bathroom sink; it would take hours to fill our tub with it. So the plumber ordered a tub faucet for us. When he inspected the parts, he realized it was missing the correct fittings. After much backing and forthing, he determined he could not even get the correct fittings. So Tyler looked in vain for a waterfall faucet online. We finally settled on a faucet with a shower sprayer. From Amazon. After nine months of screwing around, it was delivered the next day.

Once Glimfeather, our long-suffering plumber, got the faucet installed, we were ready to enclose the sides of the tub. You-Can-Call-Me-Al, our talented carpenter, built the sides with the same reclaimed wood we used for one wall in the guest powder room and for our headboard in the master bedroom.

Finally, we invited the stone guys to measure for the tub surround. I found a simple white quartz in the remnants pile out back of their operation, and the stone guys installed it over two days.

tub in full
The bath tub in all its glory.

Tyler, who is the bigger fan of baths between the two of us, drew a bath the first chance he could. I retreated downstairs to look for leaks. None were found so we could both relax, he among bubbles and me on the dry main floor.

bath faucet
Our faucet, finally.

The faucet is not what we first chose, but it has functional beauty. I can wash my hair in the tub if I choose, and someday it will be handy to give a squirmy grandchild a bath.

tub surround
A close-up look at our reclaimed wood.

Upon further reflection, I think the distinctive reclaimed wood we’ve been using in the chome was reclaimed to begin with. We found it in the basement during demolition; the tin ceiling was nailed to it. Because of all the various paint colors, it must have served some other purposes before it was pressed into service in the ceiling. So it’s been reclaimed twice. All we did to it was add a couple coats of clear polyurethane.

And finally, the guest bathroom is complete.

 

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The comfort of an old wooden pew

When we purchased the old Methodist church we intended to turn into our home, absent were many of the furnishings one finds in other churches. The altar had been left on the curb to be scavenged. There was no baptismal font. And the pews were gone.

sanctuary before
If you squint, you can see the indentations left in the carpet where the pews used to stand. This is the sanctuary when we took ownership of the church.

Oh, we found a few banquet chairs in the basement, and the congregants left behind some 1950s Sunday school chairs, but the only thing left in the sanctuary was the communion rail. Late in demolition, we found a few pew parts stashed in the cubby above the back door, though they were nothing we could reassemble into seating of any sort.

But a church isn’t complete without pews, right?

Perhaps ironically. Tyler had been carrying around a former church pew for the better part of his life. Who knew it would find its way back into a church?

Back in the 1970s, Tyler’s dad bought a number of pews when the old St. James Catholic Church in Belvidere, Illinois, was torn down to be rebuilt. Tyler’s family owned a number of shoe stores, and what shoe salesman can’t use more customer seating?

entry-way-after
The front entryway of our former home.

Eventually, the shoe stores closed, and Tyler acquired one of the pews. By the time I came into the picture, the pew had been shortened to about four feet long and was finished in golden oak. It sat just inside the front door of our first home together, and many guests removed or put on their shoes while sitting in it. When we left that home and sold most of our furnishing to live in an RV, the distinctive and meaningful pew was one of the few pieces we kept in storage.

As we designed the layout of Church Sweet Home, we both had in mind to reinstall the old pew in a place of honor and function near the back door. Many other projects were in line before rejuvenating the old pew, but finally after Christmas, Tyler gave the pew some attention because it was falling apart. It needed to be glued back together and the golden oak finish had to go. St. Johnny, Tyler’s hired man, spent many hours sanding the pew, and Tyler chose and nice brown stain.

pew closeup
The pew is a classic Gothic style with many details any woodworker would admire, including Lancet window impressions on the side.

How many people sat in this pew to pray or sing or listen to a sermon or witness a baptism or a funeral? Now it performs a functional purpose again, providing a place to set groceries or seating when I put on my boots. These are not sacred acts, perhaps, but it’s nice to have this piece of history in our home.

pew straight on
The pew in our new back entryway.

Frozen in place

ice

I took this picture last week during a short walk between weather systems. It warmed up, it cooled down, it snowed, it rained, it froze; we covered a lot of bases in the cosmic game of climate change in one week.

But when the rain froze on the bushes alongside the driveway, I thought it was kind of pretty. Not fun to walk in–I later heard two hair-raising stories from relatives who fell on their slick driveways–so it was pretty and also pretty hazardous.

The next day, we woke up to this.

fallen tree

Turns out frozen water is not only grave in the right conditions but weighty, too. These huge branches from a tree fell on the neighbor’s driveway overnight. That clump of trees on the left borders the church property.

After consulting with the village fathers, we determined the branches came from a tree belonging to us. We got a little assistance shoving the detritus out of the way so our neighbors could proceed to work. We are now mourning the chainsaw that chewed its last piece of scenery last summer. It gave Tyler the best thirty years of its life, but when it quit, the small engine repair determined it could not be resurrected.

Perhaps we have to replace it after all.

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.

Balcony scene

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” We’ve walked through most of the church, but we’re almost done. Today, we look at the balcony.

balcony before
When we bought the church, there was no balcony, only a hidden choir loft. As we were poking around during the showing, there was a dark opening on the second story. Tyler fired up the flashlight and I took this picture of the space between the ceiling and what we thought was the roof (it’s really a second ceiling–there’s another space above that before the roof).
end of balcony after
Here’s a look at that same space now. We removed the first ceiling and drywalled the second ceiling (there’s a thousand dollars worth of blow-in insulation between that ceiling and the roof).
balcony other way before
Tyler built a balcony extending from the second story room(s) and choir loft. This is the north side of the balcony.
balcony built before
And here’s a shot from the north to the south. (This was a scary picture to get because I had to walk to end of the balcony without any railings.)
balcony after
The is how the balcony looks from north to south today (or this evening– this is evening light). We carpeted the plywood (because there was no original floor to refinish) and assembled a sitting area in the center of the balcony.
balcony other way after
This is the north side of the balcony today (day light). I can watch the TV on the fireplace from the chair on the right. This is a great place for an introvert or a teenager to catch their breath during a gathering–can still hear and see the action downstairs but doesn’t have to interact. I also think it would be a great place to put a live band if we ever have a big blow-out party.

Friday: Before-and-current photos of the basement. See them here.

The bell tolls for thee

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” We’ve walked through most of the church, but we’re almost done. Today, we look at the belfry.

door to belfry before
The belfry has an interior entrance on the second floor. It’s that open door near the center of the picture, which was taken when we first toured the church.
belfry door after demo
Here’s that space, at a slightly different angle, after demolition.
belfry door with floor done
This is the guest bedroom, with the belfry door, after we finished refinishing the floors and painting. You can see we switched out the door to the belfry so it had windows (this door came from elsewhere in the church).
belfry door after
And here’s how this wall of the second floor looks today.
belfry interior with books
Once you open the door to the belfry, it doesn’t look a whole lot different than it did when we bought the church (thus, no before picture). It’s a lot cleaner, but we haven’t installed trim or painted; I’m envisioning a bank of book shelves on the left and a window seat on the right. The bell rope is new (it’s hanging there to the left of the doorway) and the window is new.
belfry window before
Here’s how the window looked in the beginning. It was covered on the outside with siding. Tyler guessed that hole there was a bullet hole (but wouldn’t a bullet shatter the pane?). I think I can see a face in the upper right pane, can you? (It’s not me — my reflection is in the lower right, beneath the bullet hole.)
belfry-window-after.jpg
Here’s the new window, uncovered by siding, with a view of the neighbor across the street.
belfry exterior before
The exterior of the belfry when we bought the church hid a lot of sins. The roof below the bell was rotted, and two of the eight piers holding up the bell were rotted so it couldn’t be rung. A number of squirrel skeletons littered the roof area (but no bats!)

 

belfry-exterior-after.jpg
The belfry looks a lot different from a year ago. The siding has been removed (though not yet replaced), and the decorative detail on the upper part revealed. The window makes a big difference. And the bell can be rung safely again after we shored up the interior structure (neighbors will tell you I ring it every time I have visitors).

Today’s headline is a partial quote from 17th century Christian writer John Donne. Here’s the entire passage: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Tomorrow: The balcony (just wait until you see that before photo!) See it here.

Allow the fires of transformation to burn away all that doesn’t serve you

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” Today, we take a look at the guest bedroom.

second floor bedroom before
I’ve shared this perspective before, but to remind readers: This space on the second story had been a choir loft, a bedroom for the pastor at one time in its history, the pastor’s office, a Sunday School classroom and a meeting space.
guest room after demo
This shot, at a slightly different angle, shows the space after most of the demolition. You can see the choir loft railing (with the center chunk removed). That cross-hatch pattern of two-by-fours was also removed when we raised the sanctuary ceiling so we’d have more headroom on the balcony.
guest room framed in
Again, a slightly different angle, but this is the space once we had the bathroom framed in.
guest room sheetrocked
And here’s the space with drywall.
guest room floor done
And here’s that glorious pine floor, refinished with a couple of coats of clear polyurethane.
second story bedroom
And here’s how the guest room looks today. I have decided I am going to turn the rug the other way and put a love seat on the end of it, facing the bed, to better define the space.
lucy's door with knob
This is a close-up of the door to my granddaughter’s playhouse, a 5-by-8 space under the eaves just off the guest bedroom. We repurposed the door from the other side of the eaves, and Tyler found the perfect miniature ceramic doorknob for it.

Today’s headline is a quote from Health Ash Amara, author of the Warrior Goddess book series.

Tomorrow: The belfry, inside and out. See it here.