For those in this industry, familiar with the potential of reuse, it is difficult to witness the destruction of a historic building full of memories, only to be replaced by uninspired construction lacking those connections and stories. A structure such as this sat just outside of Balsam Lake, Wis.
Built in 1910 at a cost of $2,700, the building served as home to the East Balsam Baptist Church through several expansions and modifications. When the congregation outgrew the limits of this space, the building was left behind. A remodeler for over 30 years, Jim Landreth of BLDG ART, Almena, Wis., saw it as a unique opportunity to re-purpose this old church into a magnificent country home.
Landreth was intrigued by the challenge of working with such a large vaulted space (over 20 ft. tall) and adapting it to the needs of a modern household. As designer, builder and owner, he saw a chance to test the practicality of the versatile and adaptable loft style of living. According to Landreth, the objective was “to create a residence that was innovative in concept yet conventional in construction; allowing the building to remember its past, while securing its future.”
Designed for Entertaining
A key objective of this project was to find a format suitable to the fluctuating space and privacy requirements of a hypothetical couple who do and don’t entertain family and friends on both a grand and intimate scale. Operating within the confines of the pre-existing footprint, the contrary goals of accommodating large gatherings while still retaining an intimate feel for a twosome, presented a challenge. The solution began with the insertion of four 5-ft. wide pocket doors, positioned to allow the homeowners to modulate the “great hall” space. The result was the continuity and flow of a single room combined with the ability to zone off distinct spaces as desired.
The grand fireplace room serves as an area for warm greeting and conversation. Here, Landreth chose to stick with simple materials and products, but use them in innovative ways.
“We took uncomplicated pine woodwork, pickled it a light blue to increase its purity and used a shellac finish to give it a very distinctive look and touch,” says Landreth. “We chose unpretentious slate tile for the fireplace wall, but offset its dark character with the decorative sparkle of a pattern of copper roves, which are rivets typically used in wood boat construction.” With a keen sense for details, Landreth used “rather simple exterior fixtures, turned 180 degrees with compact fluorescent bulbs to suggest flames and torches” for the fireplace up-lighting.