Pieces of Galveston and family shrimping history are center of Bayou Vista home
Jeannie Janota believes nothing should go to waste. Almost everything can have a second life and be repurposed with a purpose.
An example of this philosophy is her dining room table. It’s a 9-foot-long slab of thick 3⁄8-inch glass on a metal frame. The beauty of this industrial-style table, which comfortably seats 10, is that it was custom decorated with chains, bolts, gears, ropes and rods tossed aside by her father, Jerome Kunz, a full-time shrimper whose boat, the St. Vincent, is berthed at Galveston’s Pier 19.
Janota, with husband Mike, lives in a four-story Bayou Vista home bounded in the front and back by water. She’s a BOI, which in Galveston means Born on the Island. The bucket of hardware Kunz gave his daughter came off his boat. Janota asked island artist John Weber to create her dining table using the odds and ends.
“We had no idea what he would do,” Janota said. “My dad was so surprised. I was, too. But it really has sentimental value to me.”
The long table, which probably weighs more than 150 pounds, sits below a handmade chandelier — also made by Weber — of punched sheet metal and rods and lighted by Edison bulbs. Gold-colored Naugahyde chairs and a gold and gray Asian rug soften the room. But the focal point is the table and its rustic components.
Weber, who has created other furniture with “found” objects, including the majestic conference room table shaped like a piano in The Grand 1894 Opera House in downtown Galveston, said the challenge of fashioning a usable table from no longer needed items was inspiring.
“When someone gives you a picture of a table or something from a magazine and says, ‘copy this for me,’ well, that’s no fun,” Weber said. “This project had all the aspects I like: honoring her dad, using unusual items and not micro-managing the project. They just gave me the stuff and left me alone.”
He welded the chains and gears to the metal frame, and attached the ropes, pulleys, brackets and wrenches to the legs and underneath the structure.
The dining room, which is adjacent to the kitchen and opens to the comfortable living room, has three large windows that look out to the protected wetlands to the south and Jones Bay. The rear of the house backs onto a canal.
“No one will ever build in front of us,” Janota said. “It is so cool to look out there and just see the water.”
The kitchen also has a small bar with three metal tractor-seat bar stools, which add to the industrial look. But the open-air feel to the house is carried out into the living room, decorated in an eclectic style that combines comfort with flair.
Since retiring from a busy traveling career four years ago, Janota has re-focused her time on home, family and part-time business with her sister, Judy Kunz. They operate a catering company called Two Blue J’s and do most of their prep work at Sea Star Base Galveston, where Mike Janota is director of the Community Sailing Center. But when she’s home, she likes to cook in her large kitchen, which has ample granite counters for work space and an abundance of storage and cabinets. Because the Janotas lost their former home to Hurricane Ike in 2008, they had to start all over, buying everything for their house. They didn’t want to build again. Instead, they wanted something move-in ready so they could start living normally and entertaining at home.
She wanted a kitchen and dining room where they could entertain while enjoying the view.
“I make a mean shrimp scampi,” she said.
Thirty years ago, someone tipped Janota off to the secrets of garage sales, and she quickly learned that almost anything can be recycled, reused, repurposed or resold. She was hooked on the concept of reusing good quality items that other people no longer needed. She estimates that more than half of her possessions belonged to someone else before she acquired them.
“I love to go to garage sales,” she said. “I find incredible things.”
And although she no longer lives on Galveston Island, she’s there every day.
“I feel like I’m cheating because I don’t live on the island anymore,” she said, noting she was just five minutes away. But as a constant reminder of her roots and her father, she has a little piece of Galveston in her dining room.