Atlanta Hot Spot: Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium
Atlanta certainly has no shortage of places to wet your whistle, but few watering holes are as unique and eclectic as Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. Simply known as Church to the locals, the Old Fourth Ward hotspot is the brainchild of Grant Henry whose alter ego, Sister Louisa, is responsible for a large majority of the paint-by-numbers artwork dominating the bar’s decor.
Henry’s expansive 2,100-square-foot loft, however, is a tasteful mix of midcentury finds and colorful collections of vintage toys and abstract artwork.
“If I had to live in the controlled chaos of Sister Louisa’s Church, I’d go crazy,” said Henry. “And I would absolutely be bored to hell if I had to live completely in the serenity and peace of my home. I know there is a balance; I see it when I travel between.”
Can you explain what inspires you in terms of design aesthetic?
I am inspired by the obvious passion of authentic people and places in which their freedom of expression in life is greater than the societal norms and expectations that they are a part of. This is especially true for my collection of all things Jesus and religiosity. My collection of midcentury modern accessories and furniture is born of the opposite inspiration. I love the balance of living with my collections in two separate physical spaces.
Tell us a little about the pieces you have collected.
In Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium I have hundreds and hundreds of paint by number religious paintings from the '50s and '60s.
There are shrines, statues of Jesus, Saints, the Virgin Mary, choir boys and girls, vintage taxidermy, tacky-ass Christmas yard blow mold nativity scenes, vintage bowling trophies, ping pong paraphernalia, teenage girl plastic horse figures, church chandeliers, plastic ducks, and other related items of similar ignorance.
The bar, Church, is an ever-transforming piece of well-organized performance art shooting quickly upwards to the status of an awe-inspiring shrine in of itself.
In my home I collect Knoll Furniture; specifically pieces by Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Mies Van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia as well as multiple pieces by Paul McCobb, Robsjohn-Gibbins for Widdicomb, Eames by Herman MIller, to name a few.
Accessories include collections of vintage metal Tonka trucks, all things Jens Quistgaard (pots & pans, teak ice buckets, kitchenware, trays, bowls and cutting boards). I have vintage abstract paintings, a collection of Laurel Mushroom Lamps and other designer lamps to include the arco lamp, and other examples of midcentury modern lighting.
We hear that a lot of celebrities stop in Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium while they are in town. Would you care to share a memorable evening?
There have been many memorable nights at Church.
The night Lady Gaga came in was hilarious; Susan Sarandon getting shooed away was an unfortunate day; me kicking Owen Wilson’s ass in ping pong when he came into settle the score for me earlier kicking his friend Ben Stiller in ping pong, nights with the actors and actresses from The Vampire Diaries and Drop Dead Diva were fun, fun times.
One of the greatest nights at Church was when Ben Stiller held a halfway wrap party for the movie The Watch upstairs at Church. He was there with Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Vince Vaughn and many others upstairs playing ping pong and otherwise celebrating progress on their film.
The best night at Church was when Ben Stiller waltzed in with his body double and didn’t realize that our weekly ping pong tournament was taking place. Ben signed up for the tournament and coincidentally was aligned to play me, Grant Henry aka Sister Louisa, the self-anointed and crowned king of ping pong. Needless to say, I kicked his butt, and he went on to describe his night of fun at Church to Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He described me looking like a "60-year-old Chachi" and playing like the "Rafael Nadal of Ping Pong."
Why is Atlanta the perfect home for all things Grant Henry?
Atlanta is my home, my roots are here, the people I love are here, the locals who have followed me as a bartender are here. There is a church on every corner which creates thoughtful intercourse between believers and nonbelievers, and the community wrapped it’s arms (sometimes) around Sister Louisa Art here in Atlanta.
Being a hundred years old and gathering all the connections that I have made in the past years makes Atlanta a perfect breeding ground for something as special and bizarre as Church. I grew up playing ping pong so having a table near wasn’t a negotiable option.
What excites you most about the future of Atlanta?
Atlanta is becoming the international city that it already is more and more each and every day. Constant progress is being made to the roads, the transit systems; the new trolley is a reality that is coming to fruition, and courageous and thoughtful men and women are daring to put their visions of greatness on the line. I have decided to concentrate my life and my investments in The Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta.
We'd love to know your favorite HGTV show.
Being A.D.D. and O.C.D., I have a very hard time sitting down. That being said, all of the HGTV shows that show transformation of properties excite me. My passion in life is taking things (and people) in life that no one wants or appreciates, elevates them on a pedestal and makes them a desirable object of other people’s desires. Flea Market Flip is a show I could have actually hosted, as buying and selling from flea markets kept me happy, and current, during 15 years of paying child support with my daughter. All the House Hunters shows do the world a great service by taking the scariness out of buying a home.