Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Home is. . . sharing a family heirloom

Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer is having another Home Is. . . party today. Today's topic is "sharing a family heirloom."

The heirloom I love best is in my dining room. Actually, my dining room is the heirloomiest (that's not a word, but you know what I mean) room in my house. My dining room furniture belonged to my mom, several pieces of my crystal were my mom's, etc. All in all, I don't have many heirlooms: my husband and I both come from families who never had much. But we have a few prized possessions, and to me the very best piece is this:




It's a deacon's bench from my grandmother's little church in Belle Plaine, Kansas.

In 1876, my grandmother's forebears set out from Jamestown, Kentucky to seek a better life in the West. They settled in Kansas. Belle Plaine is one of those wonderful little prairie towns where the biggest attraction is the community swimming pool and the tallest building is the grain elevator. I have such fond memories of spending summers there when I was a child. Life in Belle Plaine was simple and fun, especially since my grandmother was one of nine siblings, all of whom lived close to her. Lots of cousins to play with; lots of aunts and uncles to keep an eye on us and make sure we didn't get into too much trouble.

The deacon's bench is from the church of which my grandmother was a member for all her adult life--the church where my mother grew up, was baptized, got married. I can still imagine the smell of that building. . . a mixture of flowers, old wood, and the damp earth of the deep basement. The old church building was torn down when I was a young woman, but a few pieces from the building were salvaged, including this deacon's bench, which became my grandmother's. My grandmother died in 1999, and this is one of the pieces my mother inherited. Then my mother died later that same year (not a good year, let me tell you), and somehow I was the lucky one who inherited the deacon's bench. I just love it.

Several years ago (and several houses ago), an interior designer friend of mine helped me with a few rooms in my house. It was his idea to put the deacon's bench at the dining room table. I've moved three times since then, but I've continued to use the bench there in every house. Now my kids argue over who gets to sit on it at holiday meals. I hosted a bridal shower a few weeks ago, and we moved the bench into the living room. Three young women sat there throughout the shower. It's pretty beat up, but still sturdy after all these years.

Here are a few more photos of my dining room. The walls above the chair rail are a deep, brownish red. I know, I know. . . red dining rooms are passe'. . . but I still love the color in this room. I guess I'm more of a tradition-keeper than a trend-setter.










How about you? Do you have any prized heirlooms? Join Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer to read about more--or share your own!

33 comments:

  1. I love your beautiful dining room and that bench! Wow, what an incredible and meaningful piece to have in your home. It's positively beautiful! I'm always keeping my eyes open for one of these. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Your dining room is gorgeous, the red walls are beautiful, and the deacons bench warms my heart.

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  3. Beautiful room and very neat bench.

    Nancy

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  4. I love the look of your dining room. It's very classic looking & what a great peice of furniture to pass on through the rest of your family. :-)

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  5. Beautiful bench with beautiful memories.

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  6. The deacon's bench (and your home) is lovely.

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  7. What a special room filled with so many memories. I really like where you've chosen to use it. And to be able to use it for additional seating in other places in the house. How perfect!

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  8. I love that bench, but even more so I love that story!

    I love pieces that have history to them. I have a dresser that was my grandmother's...I have no idea how old it is, but probably late 1800's or early 1900's.

    On my mom's side of the family, I inherited a pair of Jenny Lind twin beds. I don't have a need for twin beds in my house, so I took the headboards and put them both behind my king size bed. : )

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  9. What a beautiful bench and even more beautiful story.

    Richella, I'm in love with the architecture of your house- the built in cabinetry, the windows, the color of the walls and the arched doorways. Those arched doorways make me drool!

    A feast for the eyes!

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  10. I love it that you can use it and be reminded of sweet memories often!

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  11. I LOVE stories behind pieces like this!!! Too cool. :) I really like the way you've incorporated your heirloom into every day life. I like your red dining room...I've been thinking about changing mine. Not b/c I don't like the red, but it's been red for a loooooong time. Your dining room is lovely. :)

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  12. What a neat idea to use it at the table!!!

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  13. Oh, what a wonderful story and what a wonderful heirloom!

    My DR is my heirloomiest, too...

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  14. What a unique bench! Benches are so much fun, you can always squeeze together for extra seating. What a neat thing to have inherited and to have the memories that go along with it!

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  15. Oh my goodness, what a prized heirloom and it's so beautiful. Love the meaning behind it, don't you just wish you had all the stories of everyone who's ever sat on that bench? WOW! Beautiful post. Thanks for linking up at RE today! xo

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  16. What a wonderful story and I'm so glad that you ended up with that bench! One day, one of your daughters in law will be thrilled to have that and thrilled to pass along the story.

    kisses,

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  17. Sad to say I have no heirlooms at all :( but I loved reading about yours. I love your wall color, if I moved in to a house like that I would totally not have to change a thing, your home is gorgeous :)

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  18. I have red walls and white wainscoting in my dining room too! Love the bench and the story behind it is so great :)

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  19. What a lovely item to have in your home and actually use!

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  20. What a special heirloom! So pretty and practical!
    Your dining room is beautiful. I LOVE the lighted bookshelves.

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  21. I am blessed to have many family heirlooms from my grandmother. We have the dollar bill (framed) given to her by her parents in 1905; notably, this was the only gift ever given to her by her father, who passed away at a very young age from TB. There are too many precious items to list, but I have a ring of hers that I make sure to wear on days when I can sense I need her close by me so I can draw strength from her. I have made scrapbooks for my brother, sister and me detailing all the memories she happily shared with me; hopefully, these scrapbooks will be as dear to my children and nieces and nephews as they are to me.

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  22. Sad to say most of my keepsakes were lost in a fire but I cherish the memories.
    I love the color of your dining room walls. they're not so red red but have a warm glow. Can you share the paint color?

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  23. I love the bench and your red dining room. My music room is the same color! Carla

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  24. What a great family treasure and it's extra special that you actually use it. I like the idea of using it in the dining room. I enjoyed reading your story.

    The tiny little country church my mom attended as a child was torn down when I was about 10 years old. My grandmother bought a pew at the church auction and now one of my aunts has it. It is a family treasure, just like yours!

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  25. I love the deacons bench and it looks great in your beautiful dinning room!

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  26. Hi Richella, I love your beautiful dining room with the rich red walls and the detailed trim work and many spotlights on your special pieces of treasures. I have been blessed to have been passed down treasures from my grandparents of furniture and accessories of many different varieties but from house that were much grander than mine. I also didn't get the spelling gene too! I try to use my things in everyday living and tell the children about their history if I am aware of it.I even have dishes, linens, sheets, mirrors, etc. that will be theirs in the not so distant future. Our oldest graduates university this week....boo hoo I am sad too see them grow up so fast and I mean it is not so much a cliche any more. We are also Very happy too! God Bless you and yours as well and thank you for sharing your thoughts as well ~Emelia~

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  27. How beautiful! My Hubby's grandfather was a Baptist minister and I WISH I had his pew he sat on every Sunday. My sister-in-law got his pulpit.

    What a treasure to have that pew.

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  28. Richella! Oh this bench is a treasure. It is beautiful and such a heart warming story. Lovely.

    Your dining room is simply stunning! Wow! I love the warm colors and the floors and the built ins. My list could go on and on. It's truly amazing and warm!

    Have a blessed day. ~Melissa :)

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  29. You have inspired me with the way you did your table runner with the fringe. I saw that at Stacey's blog as well and have been meaning to try it out on mine. Thank you!

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  30. One more thing. I'm loving your gorgeous arches. Your dining room is my dream. Love it all!

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  31. I love seeing your beautiful dining room! I also have always loved the idea of benches at dining tables! Yours is just wonderful and wonderful also that it has so much history attached to it.

    Manuela

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  32. Hi...I'm Linda and even though I have visited your blog many times, I missed this post. I have missed lots of stuff actually, so I have been reading your older posts this morning. Anyway...I live in Derby Kansas and Belle Plaine is just down the road a little ways.I loved the story behind the church pew.

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

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  33. Hey Richella.....

    I reached her by searching about home improvements and really feel glad after viewing this post. The dining room gives a glimpse and beautiful look... Bench with unforgettable memories is also gorgeous.. Thanks for this share.

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