Let there be light

Did you notice anything in the moving day pictures?




That’s right, we have windows and natural light in the first floor! Woot!

When we looked at the firehouse we were instantly struck by the lack of windows… scratch that… we were instantly struck by the abundance of bricked over windows. Who does that?

We knew our happiness in this space would depend in large part on putting those windows back in. We’re photographers (maybe you already knew that) and we thrive on natural light. When it came time to talk finances, we opted for a loan that would let us tackle some major projects at the outset. New windows were at the top of the list.

In total, we added 8 windows, leaving just one in the kitchen bricked over. We know the kitchen is due for a major overhaul and the window is on a wall that will be perfect for cabinets. So it stayed Bricky McBrickerson and the contractors got to work on the others.

You guys, this made a HUUUUGE difference in the space. Let’s do a quick refresh.

Studio before – Resembles a cave (in real life… this photo was taken by a pro who was trying to make the space look good. Also, sorry for the lack of respectable “before” pics. We’ll get better as we go. The window wall is on the left in this picture.)


Studio now: WHAT!?! I can see the sky!





You can actually see light through the end of the building thanks to this addition…


That bright square in the background is a window in the yet-to-be-seen-on-the-blog-because-it-was-basically-a-closet first floor half bath!




Dining room before: I’m so sad that white square by the fire pole isn’t a window.


Dining room now: It’s so bright I can barely see!!



Kitchen before: There’s some light from the door…


Kitchen now: Oooh! I could almost see myself cooking and taking pictures for a blog in that light-filled corner.



8 new windows = happiness.

I’ll toss up some outside pics in a separate post because we actually gave all of the windows a happy exterior makeover. We’ve had the windows for a few weeks, but I still find myself gazing at them (and out them) lovingly. Like everything in this space, opening up the holes yielded some surprises. More on that in the next post.


This week at the firehouse – 3/22

Thanks so much for your comments on this week’s posts, especially the one where I opened up and admitted that we’re a little overwhelmed. Everything feels a bit more real, and more right, each day. The contractors worked steadily throughout the week and wrapped all of their projects today. Obviously we owe you a ton of pictures. Here’s the full list from our first week:

  • Aaron surprised me with a new lighting fixture and pot rack in the kitchen.
  • The rest of the windows were installed.
  • The contractors framed the windows on the inside.
  • All of the windows got a maintenance free, aluminum wrap on the exterior.
  • The concrete contractors finished the patio and parking pad.
  • Mojo left The Retreat (also known as my parent’s house) and joined us at the firehouse. The new surroundings prompted a lot of confusion and a 48 hour hunger strike.


  • Contractors built the carport.
  • While the furnaces were being serviced, we discovered what we thought was a gas leak. It turned out that one of the furnace filters was so clogged that it was causing the furnace to backfire gas into the closet nearby. Thankfully, it was an easy fix.
  • In sad furnace news, the furnace the serves the studio needs repaired or replaced. We’re still weighing the options.
  • Aaron patched most of the holes in the studio walls.
  • We decided to bite the bullet and rent a scissor lift so Aaron can safely work on the studio ceiling and install the new lighting. It arrives on Tuesday!
  • Key rooms are in various states of unpacked, including the master bathroom, master bedroom, kitchen and laundry room. We also set up a faux apartment (TV watching area and workspace) in the upstairs living room.


Sealed basement and a few plans

The basement of the firehouse is like bonus space. I know. We have 5,000+ square feet above grade and one of the first projects we tackled was in the roughly 1,500 square feet (of additional space) in the basement.  I’ll wait while you roll your eyes…

The basement doesn’t seem like a logical place to start, but we’re dealing with a forever home here, so we want to make sure things are done right. The basement doesn’t have any apparent leaks and the stone walls are in good condition, but we decided sealing it would give us extra piece of mind. Plus, we figured Aaron could bang out this job in a day thanks to the fancy new paint sprayer we bought.

Wrong! Turns out DryLok has to be brushed on… and in reality it’s more like massaging the plasticky sealer into all the cracks and crevices. But, wait, there’s more to this exciting adventure. It is recommended that you wear ventilators because many people get seriously sick from the fumes. AND it requires two coats. Good times.

Let’s take a look at the before shots:





Now let’s see what we got after two weekend days (plus a few hours one evening to finish up):


Bam! White walls. For some reason I assumed that the DryLok would be dark – black or gray. Turns out it’s super white. You may not know yet, but we L O V E white. It’s so clean and bright and awesome. I swear covering the drab walls in white fueled my drive to get this project done.


Once we were done, Aaron went the extra mile, attacking the floor with a shop vac and then a power washer. We probably have the cleanest basement in all of St Louis.



There’s just one minor hiccup with the sealing plan. An unused piece of electrical conduit that’s hiding behind these water pipes is totally leaking when it rains. Aaron is already working on a solution and as soon as that is solved we’ll be water free until at least 2023. (There’s a 10 year warranty on DryLok.) (Yes, I just rhymed on purpose.) (Yes, I realize I’m a nerd.)



A super dry basement is key to the firehouse dream home because we have serious plans for this space: storage, a workshop for Aaron and an oh-my-god-this-really-is-our-dream-house wine cellar. Eeeee! I can’t wait. Here’s a rough set up (shot from near the stairs.)


 You’ll walk down into the space, and if you keep going straight, right into the wine cellar. Step to the left and you can head back to the storage area or the workshop. The workshop is actually high on the list of projects. As soon as the studio is done, we’ll need a spot to store tools and supplies so we can reclaim the downstairs living and dining rooms.

So, that’s the current state of the basement (minus a picture of all the boxes the movers put down there.) Has anyone else given DryLok a spin? The process wasn’t too bad thanks to the ventilators and a little music.

On moving

You’ll be happy to know that after nearly 10 hours of moving, our stuff made it safely to the firehouse on Friday. So we live there now… and even after 3 full days it doesn’t exactly feel real. This post is all about keeping it real, so here’s a glimpse of the living space the day after moving (pre-major unpacking).





The emotional and mental uncertainty that we’re both going through is kind of hard to put into words. We’ve been excited about the firehouse for months and steadily planning for it. We have lots of plans. We know what it will look like in a few years when the kitchen is opened up and more cabinets are added. We know how the yard will feel when it’s enclosed and the new firepit is built.





What we didn’t know, what we didn’t prepare for, is the feeling of living “in between.” Sure, we had plans for it: make a pseudo apartment upstairs while we finish the studio so we have a sanctuary in the chaos. I just don’t think we anticipated the feeling of seeing our stuff scattered into this new arrangement and still having WAY more room than we’ll ever need. We didn’t anticipate the layout in the bedroom actually working pretty well (minus the weird TV placement and the dead outlets in the half wall.) We didn’t anticipate the tension of sitting in an old building that we own listening to the creaks during our first rain storm and hoping we don’t find a leak somewhere.






I know these are just realities of moving. I’m just not sure we accounted for these things in our plans… in our dreams of owning the firehouse. We’re slowly getting our bearings, pulling things we need out of boxes, setting up as much of an oasis as we can, and cleaning (lots of cleaning.)

This post isn’t meant to come across as a pity party. This blog is equal public space and firehouse diary for us. I want to make sure we remember these first few weird days when we look back at how far we’ve come.

This week at the firehouse – 3/15

The week started out with a bit of a stutter step, but by Tuesday we had some exciting progress! Actually, there’s been so much progress, that I’m sure I’m missing things. I’ll be sure you to catch you up in next week’s edition.

  • Sunday we planned a quick trip to the firehouse to check on the roof. We were scheduled to get a new roof on Saturday, but we figured the rainy morning weather may have halted that plan. Sure enough, the roof had not been tackled, but that wasn’t our biggest problem. We also peeked in the covered-but-not-totally-done vintage camping trailer that Aaron is restoring (more details on that project here) only to discover that the cover we bought basically doesn’t do anything. Cut to us driving to Home Depot to get a tarp, rope and paper towels. This is the second time we’ve driven to the firehouse expecting to have to clean up water and brough ZERO supplies with us. 🙁 ninety minutes later, we were pretty soggy, but the trailer was much less so.
  • The week kicked off with an unhappy surprise: most of the new windows were made to the wrong size (3″ too short). The factory is rushing new ones, and the whole process will be delayed a week. The contractors discovered the error after removing the brick in one of the kitchen windows, so now that is boarded up. Good thing the weather is starting to be a bit warmer.
  • On the plus side, the concrete contractor started framing on Monday and was actually pouring concrete by the end of the week. Bye bye old asphalt! Hello new patio and parking pad!


  • A new layer of tar was added to the roof on Tuesday!
  • Aaron finished prepping the studio side of the massive wall that separates our living and work space. The shoddy drywall work we inherited has been perfected with layers of mud and lots of sanding. That wall is officially ready for paint.
  • I forgot to mention last week that two windows were installed in the studio! The change is dramatic and I’m saving pictures for a dedicated post.
  • We also received our new fridge last week, but it’s still on the studio side because the doors need removed to get it through the entryway and the delivery company didn’t realize they had to put it in place. Aaron has been working with them to reschedule, and hopefully by the end of the day it will be in place and running because tomorrow we’re MOVING! Yep, this week’s ‘this week at the firehouse’ is a little early because tomorrow we’re cramming all of our possessions into the work zone that is the firehouse. Wish us luck!