They did not have to deal with house plan books, architects, contractors, stone masons, carpenters or cabinet makers. Jack, of Wallis Stained Glass and Doors in Murray, is an accomplished wood worker and stained glass designer and creator.
As an artist and craftsman, he is self-taught.
“I got a few books when I started wood carving,” he explained. Shortly after mastering that craft, he began creating stained glass. That was 42 years ago. During that time he has done 140 glass inserts for windows and doors. Notable among his projects are the stained glass windows in the First Christian Church in Murray, glass panels in Paducah’s St. Francis de Sales church, and the amber-hued window at Whitehaven in Paducah.
Janet has a flair for design. So they put their heads together and designed and built their dream home without the worry of construction delays or coordinating crafts.
Jack Wallis works in the large studio and workshop on the property. It was here that he built the exterior and interior elements of the house.
“He had never built a home before,” his wife said, “but he was very talented and has never been afraid of hard work.” Wallis and friend Robert Darnall did all of the construction work, excluding plumbing and electrical. Fortunately, Wallis was experienced in brick masonry, because there are a lot of bricks in the house, 9,000 to be exact.
The construction period was 1 1/2 years. You will wonder why until you learn that the rough-hewn cypress for the ceiling beams was aged in a sawmill for a year and a half.
Wallis learned how to install tile, “my one and only tile job,” he said.
In planning their home, Janet Wallis had definite ideas.
“I knew I wanted brick ... something rustic,” she said. She particularly specified brick floors in the kitchen.
With the exception of the brick floor in the kitchen, Jack laid and pegged all the floors, even in the master bath, where the floors are walnut.
Jack and Janet found old brick chimneys, which they demolished and used for brickwork in the foundation, kitchen floor, construction of an entrance archway to the kitchen, a kitchen wall, two fireplaces and two chimneys.
Of course, the house features a lot of clear cut glass and stained glass, a craft for which Jack Wallis is well known in this area. Interior doors are enhanced with cut glass panels, and matching stained glass windows were installed in the dining room wall. The wood frames have an interesting history: they were found in a Catholic church, where they had enclosed paintings depicting the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
Through the years, the Wallis house has undergone several changes, the most recent being a kitchen remodel. And if you think several weeks for a kitchen re-do is a long-time inconvenience, consider this: completion of the Wallis kitchen remodel took 18 months. But when you learn about the thoughtful planning and creative construction involved, you will understand why.
Janet Wallis loves “country French” design. She borrowed ideas from interior design magazines that focused on that particular style. But nowhere in the magazines she studied would you find a kitchen as unique as the one her husband built for her. You are immediately drawn to the poplar cabinets, built in the Wallis workshop by Jeff Henderson, and painted by Puryear, Tenn., artist Cindy Womble Newman. She and Janet put their heads together and discussed ways to bring the French countryside into the room. The result is pastoral scenes painted in muted colors on all the cabinets. Paris is represented as well, with a depiction of the Eiffel Tower.
But before the French-inspired scenes could be painted, the cabinets had to be meticulously designed and built. Instead of developing a master plan, Janet designed the cabinets one at a time. The beauty of site-built cabinetry, she said, was that whenever she developed a new idea or a design change, she could take her ideas across her backyard to the cabinet shop. Those of us who have discovered an imperfection or brainstormed a new idea when it was too late for changes can envy that privilege.
Janet does not have to bend over and reach inside deep, dark recesses of her cabinets. Instead of shelves, there are drawers that slide out for each access.
“I’ve got a place for everything,” she said proudly.
The cabinetry is not the only unique feature of the Wallis kitchen. Of particular interest is the hammered copper sink and counter top, created by Jason Stahler. A typical feature of kitchens is a window over the sink. Janet elected to hang a mirror over hers. The carved wooden frame was built to match the intricately carved mantel in the kitchen’s fireplace.
Another unusual feature is a cabinet at the end of the kitchen’s ribbon mahogany-topped island. The base was converted from a baker’s rack. It was the painted design on this piece that inspired the artwork in the cabinets.
With its brick floors and fireplace textured walls, carved wood and rough-hewn beams, the Wallis kitchen may not be authentically “country French.” Said Janet, “It’s an American version.”