Candle lighting in a church

candle lighting
Let there be light.
As the snow falls outside in a way that’s somewhere between lazy and impressive, I’m getting cozy. “Hygge,” the Danish word for the type coziness that engenders contentment and well-being, is part of the design scheme around here, and according to the hygge experts, candles are a crucial element of hygge.

Of course, when you live in a converted church, you might not use matches to light your candles, particularly if you became the owner of a candlelighter when you took ownership of the church.

Those who regularly attend worship services see acolytes using these instruments every Sunday.

We found the functional end of the church candlelighter during demolition a year ago. It lacked the traditional wooden handle. Tyler and I imagined what might have happened: A cherubic young acolyte with an attention deficit tripped and fell wildly, breaking off the handle to the candlelighter. Let’s hope it was some incident as slapstick as that; no injuries reported.

candle lighter

Tyler repaired our candlelighter with a fence spire we picked up for a song at some antique shop. We didn’t know what we would do with such a strange item, but we knew we would find some use. And, ta da, a use materialized. Tyler attached the spire as a handle.

But he wasn’t finished yet. The wax candle taper inside was about an inch long. We needed a replacement. As you can imagine, such an item isn’t widely available next to the jar candles at Yankee candle outlets. Tyler put his impressive online shopping skills to work and found what we needed: Wax Lighting Tapers, sold 120 pieces at a time.

wax lighting tapers

So, we are equipped to light candles into the next century. So be it. I remember being a nervous acolyte as a teenage confirmand at church many years ago, but the experience equipped me to use our candlelighter with confidence. It’s much more fun and easier to use than matches. No burnt fingers! And the extinguisher is better than blowing wax everywhere, too.

Here’s to a cozy night, tucked in for a snowstorm.

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Fire in the hearth kindles hygge, but the fire of creative energy fizzles out

Our story so far: We’d chosen a couple of different rugs for various rooms in the old Methodist church we had renovated into a residence and were now decorating.

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The bear rug looked even better once Tyler got the fireplace going. One rainy day during garage construction, Tyler supervised a fireplace installer (i.e., he sat on the couch while the installer connected the gas and built the fake logs); most of the project—like punching holes through the bricks and snaking the venting through to the roof—had been completed during construction, only the last 10 percent was left. Within ninety minutes, we had a roaring fire in the fireplace (“I could have done it,” Tyler said, “but it would have taken me a lot longer”). With a click of a remote, we could watch the flames dance, giving off heat in the old church as the days grew shorter and the evening chillier. Sitting in front of the fire wearing wool socks and drinking hot tea—now that’s hygge. The timing of our move couldn’t have been better for taking advantage of the coziness factor. Almost exactly a year before, in fact, we had been living in our RV in Tyler’s cousin’s yard buying propane a hundred dollars at a time, we were going through it so fast, while we waited to close on the church.

hygge churchsweethome

So we had a rug for the fireplace, just not one for the sectional. And now I felt like I had to coordinate whatever we chose to go under the sectional with the rug in the dining corner, and the tile rug in the kitchen and the bear rug in front of the fireplace, and oh, yeah, we had carpeting on the balcony, too, and technically, the balcony was part of the great room, right?

This is when paralysis set in. I couldn’t decide. I just couldn’t. Tyler and I went furniture shopping one Saturday, and we visited a warehouse store, a discount store, a mass market store and at least three different antique shops. We were looking for the right chairs to set in front of the fireplace, and oh, if we could find a living room rug and a sofa table and a couple of end tables, well, all the better. Oh, and we could use about a half dozen lamps, too. Nothing was right, and we hadn’t spent a dime all day. The day’s shadows grew long. When my stomach started growling and Tyler’s happy hour flag began fluttering in his mind, we were wandering around the sprawling showroom of a regional furniture dealer. The salesman showed us a pair of chairs that we could special order in just about any color or fabric. I was ready to choose anything, just to tick something off the to-do list and Tyler was so tired, he just sat in one of the chairs admiring the swivel mechanism. The salesman, who had by now heard our spiel about furnishing an enormous space that was once a church sanctuary, suggested we might like to enlist the help of one of their interior designers. Would we like to meet him? Sure, why not, I said.

Instead of walking about of the store with a couple of chairs neither of us really loved, we walked out with an appointment with Pierre (his name wasn’t really Pierre, but he reminded me of a creative spirit with distinctive taste and an air of serenity, like I imagined a guy named Pierre might have).

If Pierre couldn’t help us find a rug and ten other pieces of furniture and suggest artwork to hang on the walls, well, no one could. We were willing to give him a shot anyway.

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Tomorrow: Our poor first guests. Commiserate with them here.

Feel the radiance of your divine self

Our story so far: My husband and I purchased a 126-year-old Methodist church, renovated it into a home, moved in and built an attached garage—all in 11 months.

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Chapter 43

Chapter 43Some measure of coziness can be derived from candles and comfort food. So said Meik Wiking in her book about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hooga).

I had vowed to work comfort and coziness into the design of the old Methodist church conversion, and I knew I could get there with some soft throws and by serving hot coffee, cold drinks and good food to guests.

But what about the church itself? Especially that wide open sanctuary?

When friends visited the church in those early days of living there, they frequently said something along the lines of, “It’s more cozy than I thought it would be.” (More than one visitor stood in the great room, turning around to look at everything and refused to be hurried to the next stop on the “tour”; two people said they got goosebumps taking it all in—I loved comments like that.)

I credited Tyler’s brilliant concept of the balcony, which had the kitchen beneath. By pulling the kitchen into the great room, we took a bite out of the openness and had created a more cozy gathering place. The space was no longer imposing and formal, as it might have been when it was a worship space—it looked and felt like a home.

Oftentimes, guests would gather around the island (it seated five) to nosh on treats or appetizers while I puttered around the kitchen. It was fun to entertain. On the other hand, our only “living room” seating was the sectional. Six people could sit comfortably on the L-shaped couch, but it was a little awkward when that was the only place to sit, which I suppose is why some people gravitated to the island. We would remedy the seating arrangement in due time, but we worked on making the church more cozy and livable with many other small projects in those early days.

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Today’s headline is a quote from spiritual teacher Yogi Bahjan who said, “What is a cozy home? Where you enter and you feel the radiance of your divine self.”

Tomorrow: I get cozy in my office. Read about it here.