Repurposing a paint-splotched ladder

To continue the theme of mixing old and new around Church Sweet Home, here’s a look at the afghan storage device in my living room: An antique wooden ladder.

ladder in full

We found this beauty leaning against a roof outside an old antique shop in a village not too far from our house. “Shop” would be an understatement—it was more of an antique plantation with building after building filled with dusty treasures and junk. Need an old brass candlestick or bronze light fixture? This guy has hundreds of them, plus every other thing he’s salvaged in his eight decades on this planet.

In any case, he also had this 14-foot tall ladder. A quick spin around Pinterest will reveal how to use antique step ladders in creative ways, but few other homeowners would want a ladder so big. We, of course, have 20-foot ceilings in the church.

Tyler and I wire-brush scrubbed it clean of bird poop while leaving behind the paint splotches on the weathered wood. We hauled it into the church and discovered it was just a little too tall to lean against the side wall where we intended it, so we hauled back down to the basement where Tyler sawed a rung off the bottom. Perfection!

I’m thinking I might still hang some pictures inside the upper rungs, but for now, it’s just right for hanging extra afghans.

ladder closeup

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?

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.