Where did you find that?!

When we renovated the old Methodist church that is now our home, we frequently dove into dumpsters to unearth the discarded gems.

A table on the roadside? Turn around! Let’s look!

A king-sized headboard on the curb? Hey, we have room in the back of the truck for that!

Oddly shaped bench painted with odd colors? It definitely has possibilities, load it up!

The grill sits on the table outside on the patio, the headboard was repainted and will be used in the basement when we renovate that portion of the church at some point, and the bench is still in the garage, awaiting reincarnation.

Trash picking fits our goal to recycle, reuse and repurpose whenever possible, one of the 10 Commandments of design we created in the church.

This gem, we picked from the dirt-floor basement of house we rented while renovating the church (permission granted by the property manager). The mirror’s frame was blond wood, and the lines were simply too modern (or possibly, too reminiscent of 1990) to hang it in the church. Instead, we hauled it to Texas. I painted it the same color as we painted the trim inside our condo, and now it reflects light in our entryway.

My husband still peruses dumpsters as he passes them, and he found another mirror that may or may not be transported north.

It’s a mirror built into a tree stump. I think. At first glance, it looks like frame is made of antlers, but no, that’s solid wood, polished and stained. It’s quite weird. Weird can be undesirable or fantastic. It poses the question of one man’s trash/treasure.

Two of the branches (stumps? points?) are cut and flattened, like they are shelves. But shelves for what? Figurines? Tiny vases?

Though it was found in a dumpster near our Texas condo, the antler vibes lead me to believe it is better suited for Wisconsin. Or possibly a dumpster in either state.

What do you think? Ugly? Or unique? If it’s unique, would you paint it? Replace the mirror with a picture (of what?)? What would you put on the shelves?

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.


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.



One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure

Our story so far: As reality has caught up with this blog about converting a 126-year-old Methodist church into our home, I’ve run across a few odds and ends that occurred after I wrote about the subject initially. That’s how it goes with a real-time memoir. Sometimes stuff happens after publication. So for the next week or so, I’ll be sharing a few little stories that will ultimately be integrated into the relevant location in the memoir. Think of this as the time in the novel—especially a mystery novel—when you page back to reread a few passages to remind yourself about what’s going on. Here’s a tidbit for Chapter 11.

# # #

If we couldn’t repurpose a material ourselves, there were three ways to get rid of items in the church we had no use for: Throw it away, give it away, sell it.

The giving away involved a lot of trips to Goodwill and elsewhere. When volunteers offered to haul stuff away for us, well, all the better.

Library 2
See the French doors, there on the right?

We found what were certainly the original French doors on the 1940s entrance to the sanctuary of the church. They were stored above the back entry to the basement along with a bunch of parts to pews and what looked like an old barn door that had been used as a table.

At first, I was excited, because we intended to put French doors on the doorway to our bedroom to replace the hollow-core doors there now. But upon inspection, I determined they could not be saved with any amount of sanding, stripping and painting. The wood was beginning to rot, and the peeling paint was probably lead based.

french doors
What might have been a sad end for a grand pair of doors.

So we put them with the trash, crossing our fingers the garbage man would take them. No go. We leaned them up against the back of the church while we pondered our options.

One day, a lady drove by while I was changing the church sign. She slowed to a stop, poked her head out her car window and asked if she could have our windows.

I gave her a puzzled look. “Windows?”

“In back. The windows leaning against the building.”

“Oh! Those are French doors. They’re in tough shape. You should look at them before you decide to take them.”

“Oh, I’ll be back tomorrow morning,” she said. “I’ll drive my van so I have room for them.”

“OK,” I said. “They’re yours if you want them. Just take them, even if we’re not here.”

Sure enough, they were gone the next day.

I don’t know what she did with them—some sort of craft project, I hoped. But I was happy these historical doors didn’t meet their end in the landfill. And that I didn’t have to haul them away.

# # #

Tomorrow: Design for hygge. Read about it here.

Double dip

Our story so far: While juggling other projects, we worked on the bathrooms in the 126-year-old Methodist church we were turning into our home.

# # #

Meanwhile, Tyler ordered the fiberglass shower surround and corner tub for the upstairs bathroom from two different big-box retailers (each cost roughly $1,000, which goes to show how much less were cookie-cutter options than custom ones). We needed to have these before we constructed the walls because they both were too large to get through the doorway. Fortunately when they arrived by delivery truck, the odd assortment of contractors on site at the time helped get them upstairs.

We (by “we,” I mean mostly Tyler) built the walls for the bathroom on the second floor. Like our other bathrooms, this one featured a pocket door.

Besides the pockets provided in the form of a kit from Home Depot, these pocket doors required doors. For the second-floor bathroom and the powder room on the main floor, we were using the doors that had been on the basement bathroom and utility room. They were beautiful solid wood covered by layers of paint (and other gunk).

Rest Room Signed door
This door, formerly on the basement bathroom, would be reused as the powder room pocket door on the main floor.

Tyler tried using a non-caustic stripper, but he got nowhere with it.

So we endeavored to have them dipped. Dip stripping is when wood is placed in a large vat of solvent to help remove paint and varnish before refinishing. A nearby antiques dealer hooked us up with her dipper.

The doors were free because they came with the church. But dipping them cost $200 each.

Oof. You know that sound Skipper makes when Gilligan accidentally hits him in the gut? Yeah, that.

dipped doors
Doors, post dip.

But in any case, they turned out beautifully. All they would require is a bit of light stain and some polyurethane. And a couple of cool plates to cover the door knob holes.

# # #

Monday: Speaking of holes … Read about it here.

Garbage clutters the house that has no dream

Our story so far: The demolition phase of our church conversion drags on.

# # #

If we couldn’t repurpose a material ourselves, there were three ways to get rid of items in the old Methodist church we had no use for: Throw it away, give it away, sell it.

IMG_8952Only a few items were worth the trouble of reselling, so we opted to giveaway many miscellaneous objects, but unfortunately, we created a literal ton of garbage that was of no use to anyone.

Initially, the plan was to use the regular garbage bins to get rid of refuse. Thirty-yard dumpsters, as it happens, are expensive. And we didn’t budget for any dumpsters in the Tequila Budget. So we deluded ourselves into thinking we’d just fill our garbage cans full every week and eventually, we’d get rid of everything.


It was clear after the first week, we would get rid of all our garbage in about 2071 at that rate.

Then Tyler thought he could just bring a few overflowing truckloads to the dump.

But the nearest dump was forty miles away.

Then he thought he could order a dumpster after the first of the year. We’d just walk around our construction debris inside the church.

Dumpster No. 1, half filled.

When the walking around became wading, he knew he’d lost the good fight. Two weeks into our demolition, Tyler gave in and ordered a dumpster. A thirty-yard dumpster was delivered the next day and filled within a week. St. Johnny, Tyler’s hired man, spent a lot of time hauling ceiling tiles, lathe and plaster to the dumpster, and even though we identified a number of items for repurposing, the basement pass-through where undoubtedly thousands of hot dishes and pies were served and the sanctuary communion rail where who knows how many sins were forgiven found their final destinies in the dumpster.

It was difficult to write a check for almost $500 just to haul away our garbage, but we ordered another dumpster to be delivered just after the New Year. Such was the price of expunging the suspended ceilings, the old carpeting and all that plaster lathe from our landscape.

# # #

Tomorrow: A donation attempt goes awry. Read about it here.