Ye distant spires, ye antique tow’rs

We found the perfect spire for our belfry today.

[Well, if that ain’t a sentence you don’t hear every day.]

We went junking at “Wisconsin’s Finest” antique flea market (leave it to a marketer to describe flea-anything as “fine”) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. More than 500 dealers laid out their vintage Mason jars, wooden snow shoes, rusty farm implements and galvanized buckets at the county fairgrounds in an event that occurs only four times a summer. I’ve been waiting for this first showing of the season for seven months.

Tyler asked me what I was looking for, and I said I just wanted to look, which typifies the gender differences in shopping. A man hunts for something specific, a woman looks around until something catches her eye.

sire in situ
Quick! We need to buy it before that random stranger snaps it up!

As it turned out, a spire caught Tyler’s eye. This steel spire with Victorian era fleur-de-lis detailing had been salvaged from the turret of a decrepit late 1800s mansion in Vilas County, Wisconsin.

sire in history
This is our belfry in one of the earliest photos we’ve found of our church.

We’ve discussed over the past year how we wanted to finish the top of the belfry (it’s now just flat above the top shingles), and we’d sort of determined we wanted to replace the spire that was once on top of it. Tyler sourced a manufacturer of fiberglass spires for traditional churches, and we thought we might pursue that when the time came. Just the pointy top, no cross.

fluers
Here’s a close-up on the “lily petals” on the spire.

We liked the size of this beauty (about six feet) and the fleur-de-lis detailing. Fleur-de-lis is French for flower of the lily; it’s a stylized emblem of the French monarchy that appears in all sorts of modern design. Though it has no Victorian details, our building was built in the late Victorian era, about the same time as the mansion from which the spire was salvaged.

point
We’re guessing this damage occurred by lightning or during salvage.

Our junk spire needs a bit of straightening and a coat of rust-proof paint. We’re thinking we might paint the petals gray and the rest of the spire white.

Tyler is working on siding the garage right now, but after that, he’s focusing on siding the belfry, so for now our new-old spire awaits its new home in our great room.

spire in sanctuary

As we were leaving the fairgrounds with our booty, one woman remarked, “I hope you didn’t pay what it’s marked” (we didn’t, you flinty tightwad) and another woman said “how cool it that!” (thank you for noticing our good taste).

I didn’t know what we’d find today, but I’m so pleased, I’m marking my calendar for next month’s finest flea market!

# # #

Today’s headline is the first line from a poem by Thomas Gray: Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.

Merchant Wednesday: Wells Spiral Stairs

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

# # #

spiral and railing

Next to the 20-foot-tall fireplace that replaced the red velvet curtain behind the altar in the former church, our spiral stairway is a focal point in our great room. It lends sweeping drama to the space, and I almost can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention its manufacturer, a spiral stairs maker just around the corner that’s been making distinctive metalwork for 70 years.

plant hanger
See that cute little bird feeder in the shape of a church? A gift from my mother-in-law for Easter. And the vintage aqua-green garden art standing there? Made by my mother.

But I was reminded of Wells Spiral Stairs this week when Tyler erected in our garden a plant hanger made especially for us by the spirals folks. It now stands in the little flower plot begun I don’t know how many years ago by the gardeners of the church congregation (and I’m still reaping the rewards of their efforts in the form of beautiful perennials; see the final picture of this post). Tyler hung a couple of planters he found buried in our cargo trailer (we moved in, you remember, as fall was descending upon us so luxuries in storage such as outdoor plant hangers were passed over in favor of the stuff we would actually be needing over the winter).

Despite having “spiral stairs” in the name, Wells will make just about anything out of steel that a homeowner could desire: Gates, arches, sign holders, furniture, spice racks, even vashu towers, hanging metal decks and yes, plant hangers. They made all the metal railings in our converted church including the balcony railing, the coordinating entryway railing and the handrails on the back stairway and two-step stairway of the balcony. The proprietress even sourced the unique ball for the top of our spiral stairway and had her foreman paint it inside and out.

spiral Ball
 A look at our stairway, from the top down.

Their stock-in-trade, though, remains the spiral stairways. Each one is sturdily built in one piece and customized exactly to the space it will occupy and the design required. With all the lakes in south Wisconsin and northern Illinois, you can imagine Wells Spiral Stairs makes a lot of deck spirals for lake homes around here. The compact design of a spiral is perfect for small spaces and places where real estate comes at a premium (like lake front). All you need is the height and diameter of your space, and you can get a quote in no time. We were fortunate to live nearby, but the manufacturer serves all of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois and is willing to ship anywhere in the country.

Wells Spiral Stairs is located at 162 Walworth St., Genoa City, Wisconsin. You can find out more at www.wellspirals.com.

tulip
A tulip in the flower garden, rising the occasion.

& U … light up my life

There are two kinds of people in the world: The kind who brag about how much they spent on something and the kind who tell you about the great deal they scored.

If you haven’t figured out by now, what with our frequent trips across country to pick up Craig’s List finds and our limitless willingness to piece together weird parts for a greater whole in our converted church, we’re the second kind. “Look at this amazing deal!”

For me anyway, I think it’s my Minnesota roots via Scandinavia. It’s common to compliment a Minnesota woman on her becoming frock and hear about the size of its discount on the clearance rack.

So, let me just say, “Guess how much this cost?!”

u-and-i.jpg

[Waiting expectantly for a low guess. But not too low. I want to wow you.]

Only 5 bucks!

I know, right?

As I mined the clearance racks at the various home stores I frequent looking for interesting tchotchkes with which to style my shelves and tables, I found this lighted rustic I and U. Apparently, little baby Ulysseses and Ingaborgs are rare so mommas decorating their baby rooms passed over these gems. The only other letter on the rack was a D, and who wants a DUI? They had the perfect shabby modern look I’m going for in Church Sweet Home. They were only a dollar each (batteries not included).

To me, they weren’t lonely letters but a statement about me and my hubby: U & I.

U & I!

All I needed was the ampersand.

I love ampersands. They are so much more interesting that the word and.

So I cruised the craft store until I found a galvanized ampersand for only $2.95!

I was so pleased.

When I got home, I assembled my little statement on the shelf at the front of our sanctuary. I flipped the switch and ta, da! Instant glamour and romance.

What a deal!

u-and-i-in-context.jpg

Let’s root for pom-poms!

The old motto, “Strike while the iron is hot” applies to the iron of creativity, too.

While I was meandering around Pier 1 the other day admiring the springtime displays, I happened upon a table runner on the clearance rack. Its little pom-poms attracted me (so did the price). I thought, “I could use that on my dresser in the master bedroom.” The purchase inspired me to take action.

table runner
Aren’t those pom-poms cute? I liked that the runner had texture but no color because the dresser itself sports a rainbow of colors.

My poor dresser. When we moved in, I stacked a bunch of beat-up boxes and jewelry cases on it and otherwise ignored it. It needed styling desperately.

dresser before
BEFORE: The arrangement on top the dresser looked unfinished. Because it was.

The treatment required a low profile to accommodate the television above. I fiddled around with a few vases and books, invested in a few more artificial blooms, and ta, da! Even Tyler said the dresser looks very pretty now.

dresser after
AFTER: I went for a asymmetrical look.

As I was paying for my purchases, the cashier remarked that a pillow matching the runner was also on clearance. I snapped it up, too, and tucked it among the pillows on my bed.

matching pillow
The pom-pommed pillow is on the left. The other decorative pillows on the bed were a gift from my sister for Christmas.

Merchant Wednesday: Everything under the sun personalized

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

# # #

It’s the gift-giving season—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, communions, weddings—and today I’m sharing a meaningful house warming gift we received that might inspire you.

serving-paddle.jpg

We invited a couple we’ve been friends with forever to check out our sound system, and they showed up with this beautiful personalized serving paddle. The husband of the couple played guitar at our wedding, and the wife is a fan of this Church Sweet Home blog, so they knew us well enough to customize the perfect gift for our new abode. I just love how it says “Food Family Fellowship,” a spot-on description for what we’re trying to accomplish when we entertain.

paddle in entrywayThe label on the back reveals it’s from PersonalizationMall.com, and that’s where I learned it’s a serving paddle (“Family Kitchen Personalized Whitewashed Walnut Serving Paddle” if you’re doing a search). We’re using it as decor; it’s hanging in a place of honor in our entryway.

This website has only about a million items that can be personalized for just about any gift recipient (and they claim to offer a turnaround time of only 24 to 48 hours). Wall hangings, robes, pillows, garden stones, rosaries, coffee mugs, aprons—you name it, they probably have one on which they can put a name or message.

Of course, we’ve treasured the historical photos and pictures some people have shared with us, and we never turn down a bottle of wine or whiskey, but this gift will last as long as we live in this church. Thank you so much, E & P!

Click here to check out PersonalizationMall.com.

 

Balcony doors fit for a castle

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that we reused, rejuvenated and recycled the things left behind in the church that deserved another life: The sanctuary windows, a number of light fixtures, the tin ceiling in the basement, the rest room sign from the bathroom and all the original wood floors built back in the 1890s are a few of the items that continue to be useful here at Church Sweet Home.

Add to the list an old picnic table that itself was made of reclaimed wood.

More than a year ago, we began dismantling the old back entryway to the basement, and we found a bunch of old pew pieces, a chunk we think may have been part of an altar and a huge hunk of painted wood planks we identified as an old picnic table by the fixtures designed for legs and a “HI” carved into the face.

HI
A common greeting. Or possible the initials of Henry Icabod. 

I imagined generations of families in their Sunday best passing big bowls of mashed potatoes and platters of sliced ham from one person to another along this enormous tabletop. Even in its battered condition, some parishioners thought the piece was meaningful or functional enough to store away with other wooden treasures in the back entryway.

We thought so, too.

We squirreled this hunk of wood away as we did with hundreds of other pieces of wood we salvaged from the old Methodist church during demolition. We knew we could do something interesting with it at some point.

balcony doors before
To give you an idea of how big hunk of wood was, you can see it in the back there in our rental unit. No, not the doors in the front. No, not that brown thing in the middle that looks like some sort of altar piece. I’m talking about the greenish piece with knot holes in the back, clearly wider and longer than the doors. This is the best before shot I have, I’m sorry.

At some point, Tyler determined that hunk of wood would make a great set of doors for our balcony landing, necessary to provide a bit of privacy to our guests staying in the bedroom on the second floor. He put You-Can-Call-Me-Al, our enterprising master carpenter, on the project. Tyler directed You-Can-Call-Me-Al to build the door entirely from that hunk of wood and scrap lumber found in the church.

Meanwhile, Tyler got to shopping, and he found the a set of hinges to secure the door to the walls. Where? From Europe on eBay, of course. Here’s how the auction was written:

Salvaged Heavy Old Strap Hinges & Cups for Large Gate Garage

We live in a very small ancient hamlet with a church that is 12th century, and we spent seven years (or more) from 2001-2008 renovating the house but we have recently downsized to a much smaller cottage next door. The house was built in 1878, and though we can’t be sure, we think the hinges came from the old Coach House that housed the Coachman/Carriage and Stable for the horses. We were unable to reuse them at the time and kept many salvaged items to refurbish our next house which was built in 1450 and where we will eventually retire to in our old age! We are still going through sheds and outhouses sorting and disposing of items we know we won’t use — largely because they are not old enough!

Imagine that! Pieces of metal from 1878 weren’t old enough for this seller! Their trash was our treasure. One-hundred-and-forty years old was perfect for our project.

door hinges
Cost: About $70 including shipping.

You-Can-Call-Me-Al constructed the doors, Tyler applied multiple coats of polyurethane, and mounted decorative metal pieces and handles from Restoration Hardware, and together they hung the doors on either side of the balcony landing doorway.

balcony doors closed
Here’s how the doors look closed, when guests are visiting and sleeping in the bedroom behind.
balcony doors after
And here’s how they look most of the time when we leave the doors open. If you squint, you can see the “HI” on the right edge of the left door. 

Our rebuilt doors made of salvage wood add an interesting rustic flair to our otherwise formal balcony, which is exactly the feel for which we were going. Another great example of giving new life to old junk. Yay!

 

Merchant Wednesday: Beams that’ll make you beam

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

# # #

One of the distinctive features of our great room is our ceiling beams. There is the fireplace, and the spiral stairway, and that fab reused kitchen, too, but today we’re talking beams.

Faux wood beams.

The very first minute I stood in the old church sanctuary when we were checking it out with our real estate agent, I knew I wanted to put wood beams on that big beautiful ceiling. And Tyler figured out how to do it without hoisting two-ton hunks of timber up there.

Tyler found rigid polyurethane foam beams online—lighter and more durable than actual wood beams and more affordable, they were advertised as being “virtually indistinguishable from real wood.” The array of options was dazzling.

L beam or U beam?

Rough sawn or hand hewn (or any of eight other textures)?

How wide? How high? How long? Do you need endcaps?

What color? We knew we wanted “brown” but we could choose from among eleven shades of brown. We finally settled on antique cherry.

They arrived some weeks later by semi-truck, not your typical delivery but packed perfectly to protect our precious cargo.

beams shipped
Here are our faux wood beams, waiting in the great room for installation.

Remarkable. They really were virtually indistinguishable from real wood beams. And they were as light as cappuccino foam, which made them easier to install.

This was just the distinction we wanted for the cathedral ceiling of our great room.

Tyler found our beams at the Architectural Depot, “the do-it-yourself superstore.” Given their “superstore” tagline, they sell a lot more than faux wood beams. If you’re in the market for ceiling medallions, moulding, PVC millwork, shutters, columns, corbels & brackets, ventilation, doors and windows, siding and components, weathervanes or yard items, they offer things, too.

beams close up
Here’s a close-up view from the balcony of our hand-hewn faux wood.
beams overall
Antique cherry is just the right contrast against our white ceiling.

We also used the faux wood beams in a smaller area: The entryway. We used them to add interest to an otherwise standard peaked ceiling.

518 Booth Entryway Before
When we bought the church, the entryway ceiling was flat, covered with undistinctive ceiling tiles.
beams-in-entryway.jpg
Here’s how the ceiling looked after we installed the beams (but before the light fixture). They coordinate perfectly with our castle doors.
beams chillin
This picture of us chilling in our great room was taken by our Nest security system. This bottom-up shot really shows how grand the ceiling looks.

You can check out all that the Architectural Depot has to offer by clicking here. The website is user-friendly and you’ll find all kinds of great tips when you place an order. Also, we were able to order short sample pieces of beam before investing a couple thousand in the final product. I highly recommend doing that if you have a big project (or even a small one).