This week at the firehouse – 4/12

Prep work dominated this week. I keep saying that paint is coming, but, for reals, paint is going up next week.

  • The gas stove was installed. We learned that most insurance companies require professional installation, which makes sense.
  • Aaron finished the studio side of pole holes. This required building a mini sub floor in each opening and adding drywall on the bottom (studio side). Insulation and plywood on the top will finish these off.
  • We had our lots surveyed so we can get permits for the fence. The picture below doesn’t really show it (you wouldn’t guess that I’m part of a cracker jack photography team based on this sample), but the trees we thought were in our lot are actually on the line. So we own half of 2 trees, which will require a slight adjustment in the fence plan. Awesome…


  • Aaron removed the old commercial fire alarm system, including the wires that were draped throughout the studio.
  • He finished patching the holes in the ceiling, including the gaping hole where the garage door opener was installed.
  • He fixed the bad duct work and add vents, as well as adding new conduit and electrical for a future light fixture over a future conference table.
  • We noticed the fresh air ducts on the furnaces in the studio were leaking. A little caulk solved that problem.
  • He finished the trim around the door leading to the basement.


Our list is priorities for the contractor went something like this: new windows, scraping the ceiling in the studio (an unglamorous, labor intensive job), new concrete patio and parking pad, carport and skylight in the second floor living room. We got almost everything (no, skylight for us) and you may have noticed I didn’t show you all the changes to the back of the building in the last post.

Let’s revisit our starting point:



Jacked up asphalt and a tall barbwire-topped chain link fence. It’s a bit prison chic, don’t you think? Hate it!


The concrete contractor made it all disappear and replaced it with brand new concrete. He even ripped out the back stairs and gave us new ones. If anyone in St Louis needs a concrete guy, we’ll totally send you his info. He rocks.

A different crew came to set poles for the carport. Here’s a view from the second story.





Once the poles were firmly entrenched in concrete, the crew returned to add a simple galvanized steel roof.





The red enamel coating was a slight upgrade that we really love.


Our strategy when making the list for the contractor focused around what we (well, really Aaron) didn’t want to tackle, particularly in the face of redoing the entire studio space immediately. Erecting a carport was much cheaper than going for a full garage, especially because this baby is over sized (what isn’t at the firehouse?) Eventually, we’ll finish this off by wrapping the walls (material is still TBD) and adding a few human-sized and car-sized doors.

New patio

When we bought the firehouse we opted for a 203k loan, which would allow us to tackle some immediate (and expensive) renovations. At the very top of the list were the we-can’t-live-here-unless-we-get-some-natural-light windows for the first floor. This was followed closely by a patio for our soon-to-be-purchased Left Lot/side yard. Ultimately that plan shifted to the Right Lot (more on the tale of two lots here), which looked like this when we bought the building:


The concrete contractor started by ripping out the asphalt pad and chain link fence behind the building to make way for the new parking pad. Then he graded the side and laid gravel.








The patio is 12 feet wide and around 130 feet long. In a word, it is mammoth. I guess it’s fitting considering the scale of the building. It runs from the front of the building to the alley in one nearly complete slab. Three wide steps were added near the back of the building due to the slope of the yard.


Now that the weather is getting warmer, this is one of my favorite spots at the firehouse. I let Mojo roam the mud pit… err…¬†yard, while I soak up the sun and the sounds of the birds. There are so many birds here! I love it. It makes it feel like we have this awesome oasis in the middle of the city.


Speaking of the yard, we have some serious work ahead of us. Digging for the patio, unearthed a bunch of old bricks and the yard was filled with miscellaneous debris already. So here’s the long-term list to get this yard in shape:

  • Install a fence. (This is already in the works.)
  • Clean the yard of debris.
  • Level the yard, which may require purchasing some topsoil.
  • Plant grass.
  • Plant a small garden.
  • Remove the dead tree at the front of the property.
  • Section the patio into a few functional zones: grilling, eating lounging and fire pit. This line could be split into several more because Aaron has plans to build some furniture and we’ll add an overhang to give some shade to part of the patio.

The kicker is that as much as we like renovation, we both HAAAAAATE yard work. It’s just not our jam. We’ll get it all done, but I’m sure there will be a fair amount of cursing throughout. Good thing we live right next to an elementary school…

What do you prefer: indoor or outdoor renovations?

This week at the firehouse – 4/5

This week was split between prep work in the studio (paint is coming!) and prep for the new range! (And apparently a lot of exclamation points.)¬† It’s not all glamorous work, but we’re poised to make some dramatic changes next week.

  • Aaron finished patching the holes in the studio walls, and he is nearly done patching holes in the studio ceiling. We didn’t actually count how many holes were in the studio. I’d take the over on 100.
  • Aaron ran a new electrical line for the range.
  • The range arrived on today! We’ve been living on slow cooked, grilled and reheated meals. I can’t wait to get this beauty hooked up and start cooking again!


  • He drilled out of the building and ran conduit and electrical. Right now we have one receptacle, but we’ll expand on the system later.
  • He also started building floors in the pole closets.
  • We noticed the caulk on the exterior of the windows was pulling away, so the contractor re-caulked them.

We’ll probably get a bit more done on Sunday if the beautiful weather doesn’t lure us outside.

Move-in day surprise

The day we moved into the firehouse (I kind of can’t believe that was just over 2 weeks ago) I was greeted with a few sweet surprises in the kitchen. Actually, I didn’t even notice them on my first trip to drop off the contents of our fridge. I was so focused on getting back to the condo that I didn’t turn the light on in the kitchen. In fact, I didn’t even look up. This conversation ensued:

Aaron: Did you notice the surprises?
Me: What surprises?
Aaron: In the kitchen
Me: Umm… no, but I didn’t really look around at all.
Aaron: (laughing) Clearly

On my next trip to drop of some breakable items the kitchen was my first stop. I was greeted by a (very obviously new) light fixture and pot rack!

This boring fixture with it’s make-me-want to-claw-my-eyes-out light, came down and was replaced with a stylish, Pinterest-inspired fixture.


Aaron had the hardware store cut a 10′ piece of 3/4″ steel pipe to 8 ft to match the size of the fluorescent fixture (and reduce the number of holes in the ceiling. We all know we have enough of those.) Each end got an elbow, a 6″ nipple (stop laughing, that’s what they’re called… or am I the only one that finds that funny…) and a floor flange that is screwed into ceiling.


Aaron used the existing box to get power for the lamp cord. Each strand got a lamp base and some extra yardage that he wrapped around the pipe for added interest. The 5 incandescent bulbs give off a ton of light. These pictures don’t do it justice and light fixtures are hard to photograph.


Sigh. I’m in love.


The inspiration for the pot rack came from an unlikely source. A week before we moved, we joined two good friends for drinks and a book signing. Deb of Smitten Kitchen recently put out her first cookbook. She is one my favorite food bloggers. Derren and Lisa share my affection for SK, Aaron… not so much. He’s not into food blogs, so he was there for the pre-signing food with friends. He was a trooper sitting through a cooking centric question and answer session. At one point, someone asked Deb the best thing about her kitchen. She immediately answered “the pot rack” because it saves so much cabinet space. I didn’t notice the light bulb going off over Aaron’s head, but I’m sure glad it did.

After a bit of measuring, he grabbed pre-cut 1/2″ steel pipe, elbows, a few T’s and floor flanges.



He slipped conduit hangers over the pipe and added pot rack hooks.




This addition saved me some serious heartache when I was unpacking the kitchen. There seem to be a lot of cabinets, but most of them are not deep and only accessible by step stool. Hanging the pots saved a ton of space for other essentials, like wine glasses.

Seriously ladies, if you can’t marry for love then marry for handiness and the willingness to put that skill to good use. (Ok, really marry for love… handiness is a super, awesome, mega bonus.)

Anyone else getting surprised by their significant other with light fixtures, pot racks, or other home projects? I picked up a meat smoker (free assembly courtesy of Home Depot) for Aaron as a “Thanks for doing so much work on the firehouse” gift. Apparently, home gifts are now how we show affection.