Church Pews in Homes

Maybe I should have held this for Christmas or Easter instead of a regular ol’ day in early October post. But why hold back on a good thing. Years ago I thought one way to increase seating at our dining table from 4 to 6+ was to find an old church pew to put on one side. Recently church pews in homes again crossed my laptop screen, so I … actually I didn’t “Google.” I searched Pinterest. So that big prominent search bar on Pinterest is doing its job!

Here are examples of church pews in homes where the pews really look like they are at home, like they belong …

From ELLE Decoration in the UK:

Church Pews in Homes via ELLE Decoration

From Better Homes & Gardens, this antique pew has unusual features, and they paired those design details well with this mirror:

BH&G Church Pew in Entry

This shows that church pews are perfect for long narrow entry halls, via Atlanta Home & Lifestyles:

Church Pew in Entry Hall Atlanta Home & Lifestyles

Painted white, this pew blends well in this cottage-y country space, from Houzz. Painting all the same color is a great way to unify the mismatched furniture:

Cottage Country Dining Room with Church Pew via Houzz

In this showhouse shared at Houzz, the entryway has a bench that is perfectly balanced with the varied visual elements in this area. This also shows that the church pew look can work in more upscale spaces. I say “church pew look” because this bench is described as a built-in. So if you can’t find a pew in the right style and size you need, you could probably build a bench that looks like a pew, such as this one:

Church Pew in Entry Foyer via Houzz

Most of the time, when you see church pews in homes, they are in dining rooms, entryways or mudrooms. Sometimes you see them on covered porches. They’re best for areas where you sit for only a short time, such as to put on or remove shoes. They’re good for places where you’re not looking to curl up in super soft furniture, such as when you’re eating at the dining table. I grew up Catholic so I spent plenty of Sundays in church and, yes, you can sit in a pew for an hour at church. But why spend significant time sitting in one at home? I can’t imagine they’d be comfortable for sitting and watching TV! So this explains why there’s limited use for church pews in homes. But where they are used, they do serve a clear function.

I collected more images of pews in homes on a Pinterest board for you:

Follow Nomadic Decorator’s board Decor – Church Pews on Pinterest.

Urban Farmgirl recently posted a pew on Facebook and it brought the idea home because I’m also in Illinois. So I thought hmmmmm, maybe there’s one out there for our dining room, somewhere not too far away. Because something of this size, I’m not shipping it.

What do you think? Would you put a pew in your house?

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We’re Looking at Luopans Today

We’re looking at whaaat? People who are into feng shui might know what they are. The rest of us, we might learn something new, and really cool.

I’m always looking for round objects for display, because so many things in our homes have straight lines: tables, many sofas and chairs, shelves, walls, picture frames, windows, doors. Round things help soften that up. Plus I’m always looking for things from different cultures.

Luopans are round and they represent Chinese culture’s belief in feng shui. Here is a luopan via Pagoda Red, a store specializing in Chinese antiques in Chicago:

Feng Shui Luopan via Pagoda Red

Luopans are like compasses for feng shui practitioners. Similar to vastu shastra of India, Chinese feng shui practitioners use the north-south-east-west directions to guide their decisions for how to direct energy in ways that will positively benefit us.

Luopans were developed about 2,000 years ago and they hold a lot of complex data to help with calculations. Feng shui practitioners may also combine luopan data with a homeowner’s birth chart to figure out how to improve energy in the home. Pagoda Red has a great explanation that gives a lot more detail about luopans — it’s a fascinating read. Good antique luopans of high quality are quite rare.

This is a new luopan for sale on eBay, showing you a close-up of all the data:

Feng Shui Luopan via fengshuisale on ebay

It’s a good size for display in a home – about 2′ diameter.

This is a new feng shui compass that looks antique and comes in a beautiful case, for sale on eBay:

Feng Shui Compass Available on eBay

Feng Shui Compass Case

Here’s a close-up of a feng shui compass at 1st dibs:

Feng Shui Compass at 1st dibs

Feng Shui Compass at 1st dibs 2

It’s 14 1/2″ diameter and from the 19th century.

It might take some persistence to find real vintage and antique feng shui luopans, but a series of these on a wall would make a visually stunning collection.

And beyond just displaying them, why not hire a feng shui expert to use a compass to assess your home’s energy flow, and see what they say?

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Columns as objet d’art

Somewhere in the India apartment there will be a column or two. But they won’t be there to exert muscle strength and support the structure. Instead they’ll casually hang around, maybe even be lazy and lean a little bit. The only job requirement will be to have good looks. Like these columns …

We saw these at Crafters in Fort Kochi, India last year:

Next are half columns that are flat on the back, so they could stand against a wall. They’re not very exciting here, but don’t let the current look of something stop you. They could be painted, they could become fabulous:

We saw these column capitals (?) at Crafters and imagined them as bases for low tables with glass tops:

This exquisite column was in our hotel in Kochi:

How about these columns with original blue paint from the early 1800s, available at Eron Johnson Antiques:

From SalvageOneChicago, teak columns the color of butterscotch:

I also like the idea of making new creative interpretations of old things, like these painted wood columns that greeted us at Good Earth in Chennai last year:

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Paduka: India’s Fashionable Platform/Wedge Shoe

I’m thrilled that platform and wedge shoes have hung around for many seasons. At only 5′ tall, I love the height boost without needing pump heels, which with a size 6.5 foot, you can only wear so high before you’re walking on the tips of your toenails. Without platforms and wedges, seeing the world from the lofty (ha!) height of … 5’4″ maybe 5’5″ if the shoes are especially stable … would be impossible.

But for all of us reading here, this is just a fashion decision, and it’s a major luxury.

Huh? Isn’t it luxury to be talking about Hermes or Maison Martin Margiela shoes? Are Sofft and Nine West wedges luxurious?

Well, yes. Because for us here, this is fashion and personal preference. But in previous centuries, getting a boost above the muck on the ground was a necessity for health. Who knows what lived in the muck in the streets before proper sewage disposal. And when floods hit, all kinds of nastiness swirls in the waters. Still today, much garbage lies on the ground around the world.

Thus, people needed a booster shot — via their shoes — for their health. We’ll get to India’s paduka in a second. Lofty shoes could be found in many lands, and for the wealthy they were gorgeous …

Nineteenth century Turkish kabkab via Bata Shoe Museum:

Manchu platforms from China, via Bata Shoe Museum:

The Venetian chopine, gorgeous and not always practical:

So let’s now see some antique paduka from India …

These antique toe knob sandals from the 1800s, with bone and ivory inlay in sheesham wood, are available at Michael Backman Ltd:

These paduka, less ornate but just as pretty, are available via Laurie Maritime Antiques on Fleaglass:

Paduka such as these are associated with sadhu, or holy men in India, and venerated religious ceremonies. So they carry a meaning far beyond being hygienic.

Here’s another pair of antique rosewood paduka sandals (now sold), inlaid with brass wire, at Michael Backman Ltd:

From the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, antique ceremonial silver paduka with an ornamental gold-covered toe knob, from Jaipur:

These paduka shaped like fish — a symbol of fertility and plenty in India — are inlaid with brass, and part of the Bata Shoe Museum collection:

These are 20th century brass paduka etched with a lotus symbol, at the Bata Shoe Museum:

If you like the idea of toe knob sandals, you can get some for yourself. I recently got a pair of paduka, although they’re flat not wedged:

They’re made by Feesk and I got them from Pondicherry, which carries many Feesk and other toe-plug sandal styles (plus many more India-inspired wares — check them out — I’m not paid to say these things, just a happy customer sharing good finds with you). I wear these paduka casual as I’ve already had a wedding many years ago. But with the metallic threads and sparkles …

… these would be great for an Indian wedding, for the bride and guests.

Recently at the Art Institute of Chicago, I spotted a lady lunching there while wearing Feesk toe-plug sandals with a black outfit. Wouldn’t these paduka be nice with a long black knit column dress?

When we were in Chennai last year, rains flooded the streets for many days. (Visit the India Travel Stories page to see videos.) The same streets where garbage overflows the containers, and where animals live and do all their daily business. We would have needed 2-foot tall paduka to wade above those waters. Lacking that, we were very conscientious about not getting our feet into the water. Coming from the U.S. we lack some immunities and can get sick very easily in India. (That would never stop me from traveling to other countries, though.) So our car and rickshaw drivers would pull up to elevated driveways so we could walk into stores above the waters. We mapped our travels around streets that had better drainage. As a result, our feet never got in the water. It was a minor annoyance. But imagine if we had to think about that, all day every day, when walking outside? Yes we do live in luxury in many ways — we may not always see it because our bar of expectations has been raised so much higher today.

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