Austin Living: Heavenly Home
Published 7:08 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023
It’s a project worthy of praise.
From the moment you walk into the home of Sheryl Taylor’s Rose Creek home, it strikes you with its open-concept space all the way from the main doors to the bed at the length of the interior.
A broad kitchen with a large island is decked with marble, easily big enough to accommodate a dinner party with guests mulling around the island, eating the food as it comes off the stove and enjoying wine taken from the wooden rack running along the south wall.
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Just off the kitchen is a long table with rich historical significance that is capable of seating a large dinner party while opposite that is a sitting area with chairs and a couch arranged around a wall-mounted large-screen TV. Perfect for a quiet afternoon of reading.
And above it all are sets of scissor beams criss-crossing overhead, creating a one-of-a-kind vaulted ceiling you won’t soon forget.
And yet, at the same time you see the inspiration and service of the building it once was; a perfectly quaint rural church located in the heart of Rose Creek — the First United Congregational Church.
“It was a mere sentimental journey to close out a chapter of my life. I had no intention of buying the church as I lived in Richmond, Virginia at the time,” Taylor said, referring to a visit she made to the church in 2020. The same church in which her own parents were married in 1952. “But it was the summer of 2020 and we were in the middle of a pandemic. I thought it was a perfect project to do something in my mother’s honor, ignore the chaos of the world, reestablish roots and return to my hometown area.”
Taylor’s actual hometown is just east on Highway 56 in LeRoy, but the family connection drew her back to the church that had been owned by another family for the last 30 years. The church itself hadn’t been used since the 1980s.
As a home, though, Taylor saw plenty of possibilities with the house and began construction in earnest in 2021, determined to take on most of the work herself. Taylor estimates that roughly 80% of the work was done herself and while much of the home is now completed, there remains a few
things here and there that she expects to be finished early this year, including a spacious bathroom with a broad shower and walk-in closet.
“The vanities are on order and as soon as they arrive in three to four weeks, I will be able to finish both bathrooms,” Taylor said. “The sanctuary is complete, furniture is done, painting is done, drywall is done, repairs are done.”
Once in the home, it’s rather challenging to concentrate one’s attention as all the things Taylor has built into her home vies for the visitor’s attention. In that regard it’s not much of a surprise to learn that the design itself wasn’t necessarily the challenge.
Like so many trying to get projects done, it was actually getting to the work and necessary supplies.
“The challenges weren’t really in the design,” she explained. “Everything in the design just kind of fell into place. The challenges were getting the people here that I needed help with, such as the plumber and the furnace people. To get them here in a timely fashion because everyone is so busy right now.”
Another challenge was the protection of the church’s stained glass windows. Aside from one window that was taken out to better see and plan for the outdoors, Taylor had no desire to replace all the original windows, which when light shines through creates a unique and warm feel to the house during the day.
However, she also took a year and a half to research exactly how to protect the windows. Initial estimates for the job came in at $120,000, which, “was a deal breaker.”
Instead, she chose to go with polycarbonate, which is 250 times stronger than glass, but is overall easy to work with in terms of cutting for the shape of the window and drilling the holes for attaching. When finished, the job came to $2,500.
However, perhaps the most striking part of the house are the scissor-beams crossing above the living area. Original to the building, they had at one point been concealed by a tin drop ceiling for insulation and heat control.
However, it also covered what could be seen as one of the most prominent elements to the home. Hanging just underneath the beams are stylish hang-down lighting fixtures that add a trendy feel to the historic nature of the house.
“It took 50 plus years, but the ceiling finally came down in June 2021 and I just stood in awe and kept looking up for weeks,” Taylor said.
While the larger parts of the remodel sometimes steal the show, it’s worth noting the little things that bring the pieces together, including the aforementioned 11-foot dining table that Taylor refinished and brought up out of the basement, a table she remembered from seeing in pictures that held the wedding gifts for her parents.
A long church pew runs alongside one side of the table while chairs line the opposite side. Even though Taylor refurbished the table, she left notches and nicks in the table including an embedded chip left by a screw that ad character.
The table was so large, she had to cut off four inches from the legs in order to get it up from the basement. It, as with the rest of the furniture, rest on redone Douglas fir floors that were original to the church.
Smaller pews are located throughout the house to offer extra seating should people want to use them and are just part of the remembrances Taylor kept to further connect the new look to the past.
“I kept the pastor’s chair, flags are original, four pews that were originally at the church,” Taylor said, referring to other details from the church scattered about the house.
All that remains now are little things and finish up work, including the exterior, which includes refurbishing the belfry when the weather warms up and will likely include lowering it some. The 1,500-pound bell is planned to be displayed at ground-level and incorporated into the landscaping.
While Taylor’s heart is in everything she’s done, she also hopes that her home can be a part of the Rose Creek community with the possibility of maybe using it as an Air B&B or letting community groups from Rose Creek and the area use it as a retreat for meetings and gatherings.
Throughout the entirety of the project there has been a constant progression of finishing a project and reaching to the next, but it’s hard to deny the results, something that’s impressed on Taylor each day in the house.
“It was so amazing,” Taylor said. “There’s been several milestones where I’ve just been so happy and pleased and in awe. When the ceiling was removed, that was a huge milestone. When the floors were done, that was a huge milestone and when the kitchen was done, that was a huge milestone.”