It was in the ancient city of Bath, England, and particularly while relaxing in a stone-walled soaking pool in 2006, that Elizabeth "Pinky" Edens became enchanted with the strength and serenity that can be drawn from stone.
"Before I left England, I loved stone so much," she says. "There's this incredible feeling of peace stone gives you."
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So, while still in the most British of isles, she decided that upon her return to Perrysburg, Ohio, she would transform an ordinary first-floor bedroom in her two-level, 47-year-old ranch home into a space conducive to contemplation and prayer. And she knew precisely what the chapel's focal point would be: a 14-by-25-inch marble slab inset with 120 Tiffany tiles that form a golden Celtic cross.
"I love how cold stone is," particularly when it's juxtaposed with the warmth of objects that embody spirituality, says Edens. "You only really perceive light in terms of darkness and you perceive warmth in terms of coldness."
Indeed, this 12-by-16-foot area of calm is a refuge for her fast-working mind.
"Years ago, a friend of mine told me she created a serene space in a closet; she called it her prayer closet. I wanted a space that was dedicated to serenity. Our lives are so cluttered aren't they, with stuff and all the details of life, and I wanted something set apart." She refers to Psalm 46: 9-11: "I think it's important to have spaces and times when we can 'be still and know that I am God.' "
She reads here, and naps, and prays.
"A friend was over recently and asked to go in the chapel for a few minutes. That's the sweetness of it."
Entry is through a black wrought-iron gate she designed and had made locally. Just beyond is a standing sanctuary lamp, and then you face a wall of stone with a pair of weatherworn statues at each side, two arched windows and, in the very center, the marvelous Tiffany piece, below which is an arched gas fireplace.
The windows offer a view of her 12-by-12-foot biblical garden outside; it's planted with flowers mentioned in the good book and surrounded by a knee-high wrought-iron fence.
In the corners of the chapel, large wall pedestals framed in travertine (a limestone) bear cement likenesses of St. Francis of Assisi and an angel. Facing the stone wall is a prie-dieu, its thick kneeling cushion covered with a fabric reproduced from an old English pattern. Behind the kneeling bench is an arched stone alcove, 85 inches tall and 30 inches deep, tucked into what had been a closet that held her late mother-in-law's clothing. An antique art-glass lamp shaped like an inverted pear hangs above the cove's snug seat for two that's overlaid with decorative pillows. Here, Edens cozies up with a book or enjoys conversations with daughter Genevieve Wilson when she visits from her home in England.
The bareness of the side walls proved an exercise in restraint for Edens, who co-owned a Greenwich Village art gallery for 10 years, collects antiques and loves to display her treasures. She tested a dozen hues of off-white paint on these blank walls before selecting one.
Modern meets medieval in the form of off-white chaises flanking the side walls. "You can mix modern with antiques, but the modern has to be simple lines. Antiques lend themselves to more flourishes," she says. "The modern shouldn't take precedent over the antiques."
It took six months in 2007 to complete the room, and began with the purchase of large rectangular travertine tiles swirled with shades of tan and cream.
"Nothing was going to work if the floor didn't work."
After the floor came the stone wall. The bedroom's old windows and a section of wall were removed to create a bump-out accommodating the fireplace and chimney. She and designer Ron Wolff laid hundreds of cut-stone rectangles on the floor, moving them around to achieve a pleasant, horizontal composition without a strict pattern. Then Wolff set each stone into position on the wall. He surprised her by installing a stone cross above each window.
The alcove was next, also designed by laying stones on the floor.
Crown molding around the ceiling is of travertine, spaced just far enough away from the wall to allow for strands of LED lighting to be tucked inside. Floor moldings are also travertine, as are surrounds for heating vents and light switches.
"I had so much fun," she says.