Merchant Wednesday: Good Bones furniture

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

Today I’m sharing the designer who built our new coffee table.

old Sunday School room table
Interesting table. Very yellow.

Since the first time we toured the church more than a year ago, I thought the short Sunday school room table the congregation left behind might make a nice coffee table. It had been painted neon yellow, though, so it required some love to fit into my design scheme.

Even as a Sunday school table, it appeared to have a long history. It looked like it had once been a grand dining room table with a lot of leafs. Only the leafs were long gone and the table legs had been shortened to third-grade height.

stripping it
That’s the paint, reliquifying with the stripper.

First, we brought it to the dip stripper with a pair of doors to have the paint removed, but she discovered the top had been recovered with some sort of linoleum. We pried it off, and I tried stripping it myself. Very messy. I removed most of the yellow paint (and some other colors, too), but not all of it. I invested in some fusion paint.

And then I lost my mojo.

I kept procrastinating on the project until Tyler got so tired of waiting, he started shopping. And he found the most amazing coffee table offered by Michelle Herriges on Facebook Marketplace. (Lesson: Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.)

coffee table far off
Now that’s a coffee table with distinction.

It’s made of a metal stand that looks like it’s from a quarry and a top made of a number of different types of wood. The top is smooth and polished, but she’s rustic enough to rest your feet on, too.

coffeetable close up
A little rustic patina there.
cash register side table
The button on the top opens the drawer.

We drove an hour north to Eagle, Wisconsin, to pick it up, but the trip afforded us a look into Michelle’s studio, where she had a number of finished projects and a whole bunch of inspiration pieces (pieces of “good bones” that just needed a new reason to be). Rooting around among her treasures, Tyler spotted what she called a “cash register side table” made from the pop-out drawer of an old cash register. The drawer still pops out! We loved it, so we bought that, too.

One-of-a-kind pieces made by an artist. Can’t beat that.

Click here for Michelle Herriges’ Facebook page.




Book review: Homebody gets the creative juices flowing

I found Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave to be filled with dozens of ideas I could implement in my home right now.

How to style my kitchen counters. The value of houseplants. Texture, texture, texture.

Home BodyI’m already a big fan of Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame, so I knew I would love her interior decorating book. But it was a little bit of a relief reading it, because I’ve already incorporated so many of her ideas in Church Sweet Home, and it would have been way to late to adopt a new design style now.

She begins by identifying a six different design styles and how they can be mixed to varying degrees in any type of house. From traditional farmhouse to modern condo (alas, no converted church). Then she walks through a house’s rooms and describes ways to design them as they are or redesign with a remodel. She even addresses pantries and laundry rooms!

Each room chapter begins with a look at that room in her own farmhouse, which is a big treat for any fan of “Fixer Upper.”

As much as I love this book, what amazes me is how some people hate it. Fifteen percent of reviews on Amazon are one- or two-star reviews. Their biggest complaint is about the lack of color in her design examples:

  • “The colors are all dull and boring.”
  • “Lots of pictures mostly white, black and gray decorating. Very boring after a few pages.”
  • “Devoid of color and filled with repetitive accessories and design motifs, it will be a very expensive mistake for anyone to try to copy her tips in their entirety without putting a brand on your house as 2015-2020.”

I’m a little bit mystified as to why people would buy Joanna Gaines’ book if they don’t like Joanna Gaines design style which was actively promoted on five seasons of “Fixer Upper,” through the Gaines’ online and bricks-and-mortar store Magnolia Market and at least a half-dozen product lines through major retailers like Target and furniture stores. How did these dolts miss it?

Besides, Joanna writes this in her introduction on how to use her book: “This part is really important: As you go through this book, remember that your home should be a reflection of you.”

Hello, if you like sunshine yellow and crimson red, your home should reflect that. Joanna Gaines likes black and white so naturally her home and the homes she designs reflect that. She creates cohesiveness by designing whole houses, not designing houses room by colorful room. It makes sense that she would use a limited color palette to tie the chapters of her book together, too.

(Plus, the book isn’t only black, white and beige. She’s got gold pillows and navy cabinets and red wool rugs on many pages, and because she decorates with plants, there’s green all over!)

Instead of using a rainbow of color, she uses a rainbow of other design tricks: “If you are sticking with a limited color palette, mix up your material choices to highlight interesting shapes and textures,” she writes.

Joanna Gaines likes rustic wood beams, jute rugs, canvas bedding and nubby pillows. Her interior design is interesting because of the shapes and textures. Not because of the color.

If you like a design style that edits its use of color and mixes up everything else, you will find lots of inspiration. I can hardly wait to apply some of her ideas to my space.

Merchant Wednesday: Exotiflora handmade jute rugs

It takes a village to outfit a home.

Or something like that.

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

Today I’m shared the artist who created our entry rug, a hand-crocheted jute rug.

I found Robyn in Florida through an Amazon listing when I typed in “half-circle rug.” Initially, we had a huge rectangular rug inside the front doors, and I really hated the look. Our furniture interior designer suggested we might try a half-circle rug, and he was right.

Most available half-circle rugs are smaller, to be used in front of a single doorway or a kitchen sink. When I contacted Robyn at Exotiflora, she already had a listing for a custom-made five-foot-wide half circle rug. I place the order, and she went right to work. It arrived in the mail just two weeks later.

jute entry rug
Here’s my half-circle entryway rug. Those Norfolk pines flanking the doors will be decorated with lights for Christmas.

Robyn hand crochets her rugs, and she offers all kinds of shapes and sizes. I loved the jute option for its rustic look (exactly what I was looking for on my 126-year-old refinished floor), and it coordinated with the rug we chose for beneath the dining corner table. Jute is inexpensive, sustainable and biodegradable. Robyn advertises her rugs as being easy on the feet, and they are (I put a rug pad beneath it, and the jute is crocheted so densely, you can’t see it).

You can follow Exotiflora on Facebook by searching “Exotiflora” (or click here). Her Etsy shop can be found by clicking here. Robyn’s handle on Twitter is @exotiflora.

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.


Our story so far: We covered our refinished wood floors in the old Methodist church with rugs of all shapes and sizes.

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My internet-shopping husband tried to get me to choose a rug for the “living corner” of the great room, too. He narrowed the search parameters to a particular size and color and still we could have paged through two million options. Nothing spoke to me. Then I began questioning the color. Then I wondered if I really wanted that size. Every choice looked right. Then they all looked wrong.

We’d already made one rug choice for the corner of the great room that contained the fireplace and sectional. Or rather, Tyler did. During one of his early morning shopping trips (some people shop the internet at night while consuming liquor—Tyler did his damage armed with coffee before anyone else got up), Tyler ordered a special rug.

A very large package of unknown origin (at least to me) arrived one day before we had even moved in. As Tyler unpacked it, he exclaimed, “Oh, it’s the bear rug! Check this out,” as he unfurled a huge, furry, strangely shaped mat.

Indeed, it looked a lot like a bear rug. Only it was made of polyester and didn’t have any teeth.

Early on, after we made an offer on the church but before we closed the deal, we toured a house on a Parade of Homes. I spotted a bear rug (a real one) in one of those million-dollar homes, and I told Tyler we had to have one of those in the church. It was the sort of unique textural piece that would be right at home in a former church in southern Wisconsin, I thought. What’s more cozy than curling up on a bear rug in front of the fireplace? Tyler remembered.

“How much did you spend on that?” I asked, loving that he remembered, that he agreed he should have one, that he shopped for it and bought it, knowing I would approve.

“Only two hundred bucks!”

So when we moved in, we rolled it out in front of the fireplace almost right away. It did look right at home. Only the robot vacuum cleaner, which would get tied up in it every time he vacuumed, protested.

bear rug
Can almost hear him roar, huh?

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Tomorrow: The fireplace. Read about it here.

Tacky gets upgraded with texture

Our story so far: Choosing the right rugs for our newly converted church proved to be challenging.

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For more than a month, our new dining room table sat on a bed of furniture blankets as we weighed our rug options. One evening, as Tyler forced me to adjudicate while he paged through literally hundreds of rug options on various online retailers’ websites, we struck upon a jute rug with formal navy striping. I liked the texture of the twine-like substance (ease of cleaning remained to be seen) and the simplicity of the design which was on the edges, not the center of the rug (what’s the point of a center design when the table covers it?). When the rug arrived, we wasted no time replacing the ugly furniture blankets. Classy replaced crass in about ten minutes.

dining room rug
Here’s a look at our dining “corner,” complete with new jute rug, in this picture taken from the balcony.

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Tomorrow: You think jute has texture. Wait until you see what we put in front of the fireplace. Check it out 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.