A few Labor Day scores

We spent Labor Day weekend like most other red-blooded Americans: hanging with friends and buying things. Except in our case we were hanging with and hosting some newbies to St. Louis: Kim and Scott from Yellow Brick Home. We thoroughly enjoyed being the first stop on their epic Route 66 vacation and touring them around a few St. Louis highlights… including the firehouse. There are two ways to my heart: chocolate and an intense interest in the firehouse. Kim and Scott definitely brought the latter, soaking in every last detail in every room (and if you know them you know they love details): where we’ve started, what we’ve done, and what we’re planning.

Their only request for their stop is that we do things we would normally love (aka good vintage shopping) and fill their bellies with yummy food. I gave them a few spots to check out while we shot a wedding on Saturday, and Sunday followed thusly:

Kim and Scott were traveling light (thanks to a cross-country road trip and a flight home) but we weren’t so we picked up a few scores at TFA. The first was this record stand.


We happened upon it first and stopped in our tracks. The shape of the shelves and the wood toppers are just cool. Our initial reaction is always “where can we use it?” and it’s especially crucial right now because we are trying not to hoard any furniture as we look toward the living room/dining room redo. It seemed like a good option for the awesome bathroom (now that we’ve decided that this metal locker is headed for the workshop) as part plant stand/part extra towel and toiletries holder. Plus at $34.50 it seemed like a steal.

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We walked on, which is usually a sign that we’re passing on something, and ended up finding 10 of these Pyrex glasses in the clearance section for just $7.50 a piece.


We bought our first set at TFA several years ago and they are our go to glasses for brown liquor (which if you’ve seen our bar cart, you know is a substantial part of the collection.) We have snagged a few here and there, but when you live with a klutz (ahem… me) you can never have too many vintage glasses. So the only question was “How many do we buy?” My response was, “Well, it depends if we buy that shelf,” at which point I turn to see Kim and Scott ogling it. When they heard of our interest they said, “You HAVE to buy this!” Ha! Sold. So we scooped up the 4 glasses with the least scratches and the shelf, leaving the building just $70 poorer… which may be a record.

(It’s Hank approved.)


After sleeping in the next day (P.S. House guests that love to sleep in are my FAVORITE!) I whipped up some brunch at home. (I know a few of you are still mourning the loss of my food blog. If so, make this for breakfast this weekend: Food and Wine’s Brussels Sprout, Bacon and Gruyere frittata and Dessert for Two’s Cinnamon Rolls. We’re obsessed with both. You’re welcome.) Kim and Scott went on their merry way and we checked back in with the interwebs as you do when you’ve been unplugged for 24 hours. Then Aaron (nearly) shouted “Oh my god” in a tone that is either meant to convey “We are about to die” or “Listen to this really great thing I’m about to tell you” … or maybe that’s just me? I tend to be a little bit of a fatalist. I once thought he had been killed by prospective wedding clients as evidenced by this post on the defunct food blog.

In this case, the “OMG” was joyful because he stumbled upon not one, but TWO Craigslist posts for chairs that match chairs we already own. Too confusing? Let me back up. When we scored the desk and the dresser and the other dresser at South Jefferson MCM, we also walked away with 6 pristine, mid century Chromecraft dining chairs.


If you do any MCM shopping you know finding sets of things is rare. More often you’ll see one bedside table when you need two or three dining chairs when you need four. We walked into South Jefferson, tallied SIX chairs and they zoomed to the top of the wishlist.

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These beauties are destined for the dining room and because we’re not sure how many people that will seat having extras on hand seemed like a good idea.

One set of chairs was available with a table at a new to us antique mall, so we tossed on some clothes, grabbed some Starbucks and hopped down to the General Grant Antique Mall. After inspecting the chairs, we asked whether the seller would be willing to split them from the table. The lady at the desk said a woman asked yesterday and yes he would. We instantly claimed them. (Sorry not sorry lady who initially asked.) And now we are the proud owners of TEN chairs at the staggering price of just $320. #dealoftheyear

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We’re not ones to let the rest of the antique mall go to waste so we wandered the aisles and picked up set of three Pyrex bakers for just $10.50. They match a set I already have and are perfect for individual cherry crisps!


We also got lost in a booth chock full of St Louis and Missouri memorabilia, eventually walking away with “Thias’ Pencil Sketches of Missouri” for just $12.


It’s a sweet book filled with sketches and a little history on each scene.

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So those are our finds from the long weekend. It’s pretty funny that half of the items we bought are just extending collections we already own. We’re nothing if not predictable…

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Labor Day feels like SO long ago. Such is our life when we’re in wedding season. What are you scoring lately that you’re excited about?

Extra lot

(You can file this under TMI.)

We bought another vacant lot… and of course there is a long, complicated back story.

First, let’s get oriented. If you haven’t heard the story about how our yard came to be on the right side of our building, check out this VERY old post. The other thing you need to know is that between our yard and the yard attached to a two family building further west was yet another vacant lot.

It’s a little hard to see in the photo below.


This is a little better:


Basically from our fence line to a chain link fence on the right lived an overgrown, unappreciated slice of land.

Here’s where it’s helpful to know a little bit about the process for acquiring vacant property from the city of St Louis. Property that is delinquent on taxes for three consecutive years is taken by the sheriff’s department and auctioned at one of five land tax sales each year. The details of which properties are for sale and the opening bid are posted on the city’s website two weeks before the auction. (I’m paraphrasing, of course, if you’re interested in this process, the city website has more details.) Land that is not bought during the auction is turned over to the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), which is how we purchased our yard.

Still with me? Three years + no tax payments = lot for sale!

When we moved into the firehouse and got our first taste of how inexpensive land can be in the city, we instantly wanted more information on this lot (right right lot… far right lot… still work shopping the name.) The owner was delinquent on taxes (a whopping $30/year) for two years. That left only one more year to go before we could buy it at auction (hopefully for just the taxes owed, because who wouldn’t want a plot of land for like $100??!)

So we waited and we debated trying to contact the owner directly, fearing that he would realize he owned a plot of land that would slip from his grasp for mere dollars. Eventually we tried and failed to find contact information for the owner. So we kept waiting and eyeing the lot.

Three years came and still taxes were owed. “Hooray!” we thought. Then we waited to see the property appear on the sheriff’s list. We waited… and waited… and waited. Finally, we asked our lawyer/realtor/friend/co-star on House Hunters, Ted Disabato, to see if he could find out what was going on with this piece of property. A call from him got it added to the next auction.

I feel like we need a break for more pictures, don’t you? Here’s another shot looking from the front of the property to the back before clean up…


And after… (We’re getting there…I promise.)


The auction process was interesting, albeit strange, because the city of St. Louis really doesn’t make anything fun or easy. In the middle of the day, Aaron headed to Civil Courts Building to register and attend the auction, which amounted to an officer in the front of the room reading lot numbers through a garbled speaker. When a property came up that someone was interested in buying, they shouted over everyone and the list price became the opening bid. Aaron saw a few bidding wars, mostly for properties that had a salvageable structure on them. When our lot was called, Aaron was the lone bidder. He headed to pay for the lot, only to discover that payments are not processed until the auction is over. When he was finally allowed to pay, we handed everything over to Ted to finalize the details.

The lot was ours! Unfortunately, as you’ve already seen the lot was horribly overgrown. The only maintenance it received was an occasional mowing by the city (usually when it became so overgrown that I submitted a complaint.) It’s hard to see, but most of the undergrowth  on the treed section of the lot was covered in poison ivy.


So we hired a crew from Craigslist to clean it out… well, start the cleaning out process. It was money well spent considering the size of the plot, the overgrowth, the poison ivy, and our lack of available weekends. Just like with our yard, we’ll spend more hours than we’d like to document pulling all manner of trash and brick out of the ground.

SO much talking… let’s take a look at some more before/after shots.




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And (of course) there’s more to the story. If you were here two years ago, you heard about the tree that our electric company killed and then offered to “turn into firewood.” The result was less like firewood and more like a collapsed Jenga tower… if Jenga was played with massive slices of tree trunks. Thanks to other, more pressing projects and the lack of of a chainsaw AND “OMG what are we going to do with these hunks of wood??” we  ignored the problem. It sat on the other side of the fence, and we didn’t even have to drive by it on a regular basis. I’m sure our backside neighbors were really happy with that decision.

A letter from the city prompted us to tackle the weeds that sprung up. Chainsaw in hand, we went after the stumps only to discover our tiny chainsaw was not well equipped to cut down such massive hunks of wood. We opted instead to create a barrier to keep anyone from dumping trash in the yard. You learn a lot of things living in the city… so far most of them have related to the massive amounts of trash that people will dump pretty much anywhere they please.

Our “solution” quickly looked as bad as when we got the letter. BUT we were in the midst of paperwork to take ownership of the lot! So as part of the clean up effort, we also negotiated the removal of the fallen tree sections.


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It’s about 80% done and the owner keeps promising to come back and finish the job. In related news: I have less faith in the honesty of people we hire on Craigslist….

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So that’s our most recent firehouse acquisition: a lot about 2/3 the size our yard that’s has a serious poison ivy problem.


If you’re not asleep, you’re probably asking yourself “Why? Why buy this.” And we have many reasons.

1. Property is a good investment, especially when it is purchased cheaply. We didn’t get this lot for just the taxes owed, but after the legal fees it was less than $3k.

2. We’ve seen so much property get sucked up around us and watched helplessly at the turn of events. The guy who owns the building next to ours (who basically bought our intended yard out from under us) has since bought the property east of his building and then promptly CUT DOWN ALL THE TREES. Why? We have no idea. Without the shade his lot has exploded into a gnarl of weeds and grasshoppers. Also the church behind us bought the lots next to the alley and fenced them in to create a larger parking lot (a lot I’ve never seen more than 1/3 full), severely limiting the space we have to pull out of our garage. (Whenever I have to take the Ford Flex out it’s like the scene from Austin Powers where he does a 32-point turn….)

3. The lot gives us additional places to park things, like maybe the trailer.

Directly after posting the 2015 garden update, things took a sharp turn for the worse. The ipe planter now looks like this:


Here’s what happened…


The herbs flourished in this spot. The oregano is doing so well it took over the thyme and killed it. We always called this an experiment, and now we know this is a great spot for herbs.

So reason 4. The chance to build and plant some raised garden beds.

That’s the (long) story on our expanding footprint. We obviously have intentions for this space, but we’re trying to be reasonable about the timeframe… as in there isn’t one. Right now we’re pulling junk out a little at a time, spraying the poison ivy, and considering what kind of bush would make the best living fence in the front of the property. All of this is with an eye to setting up some garden beds in the spring. We’ll see how things play out. Honestly, it’s just nice to finally own this piece of land that clearly no one else wanted and have one less question mark on our master plan.


Captain’s bedroom – Art and Afters

After putting everything in place in the captain’s bathroom turned closet/bar, we were both ready to close the book on this makeover and finish this space for our first house guests who are coming this weekend! That meant getting the art up on the wall and digging through the boxes of accessories that have been patiently waiting for a home.

In the dresser area, we bought a simple black frame from PictureFrames.com for our $10 map and opted for UV glass to guard against fading. Then I pulled in some driftwood (which we dragged home during this photo session, I love how white it looks against these walls.) A little radio tube lamp my dad fashioned for us and some old sign holders round out the accessories. I tried to keep the flat surfaces pretty clear so guests have a place to set things. The big mother-in-law’s tongue (some people call it a snake plant) is still hanging out nearby, but eventually we might get something with more height or bring in a plant stand.

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I also pulled all of our books out of storage and decided that this section of the dresser was a perfect spot for a hidden library. I left a few out on the desk, and the rest are tucked here for easy access for us or our guests.


Over the Mr. Chair we hung a black and white St Louis map that Aaron gave me for Christmas a few years ago. We considered a few pieces for this area, but loved how the black and white popped against the brick. We still want to find a small side table and maybe a lamp for this area.

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Over the desk, we finally hung this huge piece of art we scored at Rocket Century many, many months ago. I layered in some books and a few glass pieces, including two vases with old radio tubes in them. We scored a whole bin of radio tubes at an antique mall for just $20!


Something about this space feels a little off… so I wouldn’t be surprised if things get tweaked.


I stuck a few good books between stone book ends (I think we picked these up at the South County Antique Mall.)


The globe bank was a gift from Aaron, and the air plant and holder was a housewarming gift from a friend. I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to keep it alive!


We’re always looking for interesting photo books, especially Ansel Adams. All of these are antique mall finds except the Uelsmann, which we picked up at Powell Books (as you do) on our trek across the Pacific Northwest last summer.


Here’s a closer look at the vases and radio tubes. I also stuck this cloche-like glass cylinder here to make it an odd set of items. I’m a big fan of odd numbered  pairings. They feel more natural than even numbered ones.

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Getting the art and accessories in place really makes the whole space feel complete. It’s a far cry from where we started this project, and even though I’ve shared a million pictures of this space, I love complete before and after shots.

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I mean, seriously, the transformation is like a breath of fresh air. You don’t even notice the exposed brick in the original shot.

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It’s also nice to corral some of the clutter and give every part of this space a real function.

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Axing the closet is one of my favorite changes in this space.

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So that’s it! It’s DONE! It always feels so good to finalize a space. Sure, we might tweak some accessories and swap out the side tables by the bed, but those adjustments are a pretty natural part of our design process.

The captain’s bathroom becomes… a much more versatile space

We have a HUGE post for you today. Lots of pictures and lots of words. But when you give one non-functional space three distinct purposes, I think that happens. So grab a drink and settle in. Let’s take a tour of the captain’s bathroom turned closet/vanity/back bar.


Oh, it’s important to note (in case you’re not freakishly categorizing the details of the firehouse) that the pipes in this space were filled with cement at some point before we bought the place, effectively rendering it useless as a bathroom. We figured our guests would be happy to use the communal bathroom that’s right next door to this room, which left us free to re-purpose this former bathroom space. We started this makeover by giving the walls and trim a coat of Pantone’s June Bug to match the captain’s bedroom.

Ok, back to the tour. When you enter the room the area to the right used to house a sink. You can see the cleat and pipes for it below the mirror. We thought this space would be perfect for a vanity – a space to do your hair or makeup (hello window light!) away from some of the goings on in the communal bathroom.


Back in April we stopped by Ikea on a trip to Chicago and snagged a few cabinets (I’ll show you in a minute) AND we lucked out by finding the perfect floating vanity in the Ikea showroom.


The Besta Burs wall shelf may have been intended to house DVDs, but it was the perfect size for our vanity area. It earned bonus points for coming in the same high gloss, gray finish as the cabinets, and at just 100 clams it was an easy decision to bring this home.


Seriously it looks like it was custom built for this space.


(Unintentional selfie…)

After assembling it, we removed the sink cleat to make way for the piece. We’re trying to minimize damage to the existing stone, but in this instance the installation required three holes and anchors to attach it to the wall. I think it was well worth it.

I added a hair dryer, some extra toiletries and a box of kleenex. I’m sure there are some other goodies I could tuck in here for guests, so send me any ideas.


This area still needs a new light fixture and possibly some more mirrors or art. We’re still noodling that and awaiting the opening of our very own Ikea in St Louis. Then we’ll have lots of affordable mirrors at our fingertips! I also feel like this space needs a little something in way of accessories… but I’m not sure what yet.


Here’s a shot standing in the area where the toilet used to live.

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The window sill also got an upgrade with some sweet, sun loving plants.


This guy has exploded since I put him here/gave him the sun he really wanted.


Opposite the sink-turned-vanity area, the space is divided in two: shower on the left, former toilet space on the right.


Part of the rationale behind removing the closet in the captain’s bedroom was that we knew the shower stall would work perfectly as a replacement.


We installed a bar in each section (in the front where you would hang your towel and in the back where the actual shower happens) using construction adhesive on both ends.

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This gives guests a spot to hang their clothes and us an area for our winter coats (I promise we have more than 1 coat each… I didn’t want to put too much weight on the bars until the adhesive had more time to cure.)

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We also added a luggage holder in the guest section. We scored this guy many moons ago at a furniture re-sell warehouse that has since moved. It was one of those places with SO much junk, but we walked away with this guy for $10 and a HUGE whiteboard that Aaron uses in the studio for (maybe) $50. We’ve never had a good spot for this guy. In fact, I think I’ve promised to give this to my mom about 10 times… so sorry, mom, we’re (for real) keeping it. We gave it a rub down with some Restor-A-Finish and called it good.

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Rounding out the trio of functionality: a coffee bar and back bar area.


Our bread rack turned bar is still one of my favorite things in the firehouse, but it doesn’t offer any covered storage for things like extra bottles and mixers. We also needed a home for the soda stream.

Also, we bought a mini fridge for Aaron to use in the studio, and since we moved here we’ve become very spoiled by having it on the second floor. Once we’re done snacking on something chilled, we don’t necessarily have to walk all the way downstairs to put it away. #lazy We also tuck bottles of white wine in there for easy access. #lazyandtipsy It has been living in the guestroom, but with all the new furniture it didn’t have a home… and who really wants to stare at a mini fridge? Not me.

So we decided to dedicate this former toilet section of the room to a back bar/coffee bar. Crucial to this part of the makeover was running an outlet for the fridge. While the electrician was here rerouting some things in the living room, he agreed to install a run of conduit from the light fixture to the bar area for a few extra bucks. Here’s the ceiling before:


And after. You can see the conduit extending to the back of the wall.


We also grabbed an inexpensive fixture from Ikea to finish off the space and add a little more light.



We grabbed an upper cabinet from Ikea that fit between the conduit and the wall. We also snagged a lower cabinet to sit next to the fridge. We knew we would need a countertop for the lower cabinet, but once we set it in place, it was clear we needed more.

The bottom cabinet is deeper than the fridge, so we pulled it forward to be flush, which left about a foot of space behind the fridge. I knew this area was ripe for things to fall behind, especially with my klutzy ways. Sure enough, before the counter was installed I managed to drop one of our soda stream carafes and the flashlight I used to see if the soda stream carafe was intact (good news, it didn’t break) behind the fridge. It was the first, but surely not the last, time I’ve wanted one of those old people grabber things that seemed to be promoted in every commercial break during the early 90s. Holler at me 90s kids. You know what I’m talking about. We rescued both items by bending a metal hangar into a hook… although Aaron admitted to losing the metal hangar behind the fridge at one point. It might still be back there….


To remedy this problem, we purchased two project panels. They happened to be the perfect depth, so Aaron just needed to cut the length to create two flat surfaces and a waterfall in between. He notched each piece for biscuits, stained them and then glued the whole thing together before installing it.

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Aaron even went the extra mile to add some trim to the back.

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This space also gave us a use for our extra Keurig. Now our guests can enjoy a cup of coffee in their room at any time of the day! It’s like we’re a real hotel, you guys.

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So that’s it! One space, three uses (and a TON of pictures and 1,200+ words.)

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Another new to us dresser

You can definitely file this under “furniture we don’t need… but we really, really wanted.” I blame the knobs. Look at them!


This is yet another (but the last one we’ll talk about for now) find at South Jefferson Mid Century Modern. It’s one I saw on Instagram that made me pause, scroll back and think “Would Aaron like that?” I wrongly assumed he wouldn’t and kept moving because who really needs 5 super skinny drawers?

When we went in for THE desk, this dresser was still available. Aaron gravitated toward it instantly, and I discovered that it was actually a stack of three drawers on each side (and therefore MUCH more functional.) We reasoned that we could swap out the behemoth of a dresser we have in our master bedroom for this much more stylish piece. So we included it on the wishlist and toted it home with our other scores. It waited alongside the Broyhill before being moved to the (future) downstairs living room/current workshop disaster zone to get some love.


Seriously, the knobs.


It had a little wear all over and a little rogue paint.

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The worst part was the top, which lost its luster many years ago.

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Aaron cleaned the whole piece with Murphy Oil Soap and gave it a coat of Danish Oil before turning his attention to the top.


He sanded the top and rubbed on three coats of Danish Oil to bring it back to the right color.


You can really see what a difference it made.


Then he coated it with 2 rounds of Feed-N-Wax to bring back some of the shine.

Here’s the dresser we retired to make way for this mid century beauty.


It was super functional, but also super huge. So huge that we couldn’t open the door all the way.

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Much better!

Here’s a look at the drawer configuration.


When I shot this I realized that I forgot to fill up the bottom left drawer. This dresser doesn’t really come close to fitting all of the clothes the other one held… but ignoring a drawer completely certainly wasn’t helping!


Oh those knobs…



We always prioritize our bedroom really low when it comes to updates. Even at our house in Kansas City, it took us about four years to paint our master a color we liked. In fact, the only reason we painted this room was for an Alive Magazine shoot. Otherwise it would still be the dreadful green and brown combo we inherited.

All that is to say, it’s nice to have a fun update in a space we use so often. And since this is my dresser I get to enjoy those knobs on the daily.