August 1, 2006
Five years ago Jack Leist and his wife Judith Sedlack had just finished building a log home in Hebron, Ill., and were in search of that “just-right” decoration to adorn the wall of their great room.
Photo by Roger Wade, Maple Island Log Homes
Then one day, fate stepped in as they sat down for dinner at a nautical-themed restaurant and spotted a rowboat hanging from the rafters. Leist’s eyebrows shot up. An idea was born.
A canoe buff, Leist scoured the want ads until he came across a 1920s, 16-foot cedar canoe that needed nothing more than a coat of stain to bring it to life.
Fastened with a pair of iron brackets, Leist chose to display the wooden beauty on its side. Then he filled it with antique treasures, items an old northwoods trapper might have carried with him.
The items – which he picked up at various flea markets and antique shops – include rolled-up camp blankets, fur stretchers, steel traps, wooden baskets, pistol and holster, a copper lantern and a pair of canoe paddles.
Leist says it’s a great conversation starter.
“Everyone wants to know how old the boat is and where we got it,” says Leist. “They think it’s a really neat decoration.”
That comes as no surprise to Art Kleiner, owner of Art’s Nautical Wood Works, who says that the popularity of canoe décor has skyrocketed in recent years. “People want to bring the outdoors inside,” he says.
Though if the weather’s right and the canoe is full-sized (13 feet or larger), some folks opt to temporarily remove their decoration for practical outdoor use.
As for Leist, he has no plans to take down his prized possession/conversation piece.
“It’s perfect right where it is,” he says.
Freelancer Christy Heitger has fond childhood memories of sitting in a canoe playing with worms while her dad fished for perch.