A video tour

We have a floor plan, but we’ve heard that it’s hard to really understand the firehouse until you walk in. So here’s our attempt to virtually (please don’t stalk us) welcome you into the firehouse and give you a peek of where we’re at right now.
[vimeo 66602296 w=872 h=492]

So did you make it through 11ish minutes of me rambling? Good for you. You get a gold star for the day!

A few notes:

  • The door that is off its hinges by the first floor bathroom actually goes to the stairwell. We probably won’t rehang it.
  • On the second floor, I point out a plastic-wrapped couch that’s covered in boxes and mention that it will go downstairs soon. Apparently “soon” meant “after dinner.” It’s been re-homed and there is actually furniture in the studio!
  • I call the 4th “bedroom” the “saddest bedroom in the history of the earth,” which is probably not accurate (ok, but really it is the saddest) and that line actually made us laugh when we watched the video.
  • I think I also deserve a gold star for doing that all in one take. Aaron definitely gets one for holding his arm steady for almost 12 minutes. Good things he’s on the Firehouse Workout Plan.

I’m sure the video created a lot of questions so feel free to ask away!

Covering the furnaces

Of course, this isn’t what our studio looks like anymore. It’s painted!!! (P.S. Thank you SO much for all the comments! It was fun to relive the OMG-it’s-SO-different moment over and over with you guys.) This is the best I can do for a “before.” We had a limited amount of time remaining with the scissor lift and a few more projects to scratch off before it left. One was this cover up.

The exposed furnaces left this space feeling a bit too much you’re-not-fooling-anyone-this-is-really-a-garage. They are also really loud! So we decided to box them in and create a small furnace room.


First, Aaron anchored a 2×4 frame to the concrete floor.



Then he added 2×4’s to the ceiling and wall with toggle bolts. These are not weight bearing because of the design of the building. Hollow glazed brick and plaster coated ceilings just can’t be trusted to hold up a 13′ furnace room.


Then he framed it just like any other wall… any other HUGE wall.


He added a door at the front. You can see the framing on the right side of the picture below, but it becomes much more apparent in a few images. Ultimately, this will be a seamless panel we can pull out when the furnaces need serviced



Next he covered the structure in OSB (plywood for those of us who don’t spend 66% of their lives at Home Depot.) He opted for this instead of drywall because it offered more stability to the structure.






He’s all done with the structural part, but it’s not finished.


Although we suddenly liked the warm wood when the entire space was painted white. We reconsidered several of our design choices, but 24 hours later we were back to our original plan. So the plywood will get covered, but you’ll have to wait for more details on that.

Painting the studio… finally

I think when most people looked at the garage space at the firehouse, they saw just that – a garage. It was a gloomy, sad cave. But when we walked in, we saw the potential for large windows, the HIGH ceilings, good HVAC and lots of boxes in the ceiling for new lights (I’ll be honest, Aaron really saw the last two.)

We saw our future studio.





This space just needed to be drenched in white…

To that end, we grabbed a friend who works at Porter Paints to come out and quote exactly what we needed to get this space super white. So when I say primer or paint, know that I mean a few specialty coatings from Porter, which we bought just after closing on the firehouse in anticipation of PAINTING!

Seriously every project (minus some “must do’s” like installing our new gas range so we can feed ourselves) was working up to this one: the one where everything would start to LOOK different. We were excited. The night before, held a kind of Christmas Eve-like anticipation.

Day one of primer went well, which only heightened our anticipation for day two and a real top coat. Aaron sprayed it on. Thought it looked great and headed upstairs to shower. When he returned panic set in. The paint wasn’t drying… at all. It was still completely wet to the touch… and it was sagging in places… literally melting off the wall.



By the time I arrived home from work. We knew we were in trouble. It just kept getting worse, which prompted a frantic call to Porter Paints friend to ask “What’s wrong with this stuff!?!” His first question, “Isn’t it really humid in St. Louis right now?”

Oh… you mean like “has it been raining for days?” and “aren’t the furnaces off in the studio thereby rendering our glazed brick-walled room free to ANY kind of temperature or humidity control?”

Umm… F$%K


Humidity, it turns out, is incredibly important when it comes to applying specialty coatings. So is the thickness of the coat of coating… err paint. We’re pretty sure both we’re working against us thanks to Aaron’s novice paint sprayer skills and an effort to cover the walls in a single coat.

Porter Paints friend suggested using a roller to smooth out the drips, but we knew that would be very, very obvious – maybe worse than the drips. So that night we did what anyone would do when hours of work seem for naught and hundreds of dollars of paint are seeping off the walls. We took full advantage of #4.

In the morning, I came up with a paint drip mitigation strategy. The drips were most visible in the mortar lines, but a swipe with a very small brush would clean that up. Thanks every dentist ever for giving us toothbrushes that are way too small for an adult mouth. They really came in handy.


A little toothbrush magic and ANOTHER coat of paint (That’s 15 gallons of primer and 30 gallons of top coat for anyone keeping score) and we had our white walls.

We were smarter with the floors. We waited and when the humidity wasn’t right, we pushed off painting (and held up this post so you could get the full effect). Two flawless coats on the floor later and here’s where we stand: A glorious, pristine white box.





And to save you from scrolling, here are some side-by-side comparisons.



Drink it in! It always goes down smooth.

Ok, back to reality. There’s a bit more painting to be done (looking at you stairwell and railings) and a bit more construction before we can call this space usable. But this was a huge leap forward from sad cave to modern photography studio. Maybe you’re starting to see what we saw on the first walk through?

Oh and that wood box? Yeah, I’ll tell you about that next time.

The long road of prepping for paint

In which I turn weeks of work into one giant download on the interwebs. We’ve already shared a bit of the prep work, like filling some major holes. And there were plenty of super minor projects, like building a frame around the door to the basement and sealing the furnace duct seams.

To give you the full run down we’re going way back, back to February and the first weeks of firehouse ownership. Because that, my friends, is how long Aaron has been working to get the studio ready for paint.

It started by removing the giant peepholes into our living space. We’re all about separation of work and life. So these over-sized picture windows just weren’t doing it for us.




Gone-zo. (Google can’t find this word, so I think I just made it up. Gone-zo (TM) Heather Hawes. Although urban dictionary has some different spellings of that word with some rather graphic descriptions… Mom, don’t look it up.)

(You can tell how old these images are because the new windows aren’t in yet. Actually, these images do a great job of showing how cave-like this space was before natural light was re-introduced.)

This is just the start of the drywall work.


Aaron worked each seam and hole 3 times with drywall mud, sanding in between. (Not pictured because that image is MIA.) When it was done, I landed the fun task of wiping down the entire wall to remove the drywall dust. Try not to be jealous of how I spend my free time.

The hole patching continued on the ceiling, where the former resident clearly thought, “Why create a moderate sized hole when a crater looks so good?”



Aaron used thin sheets of semi-rigid plastic to cover the holes. They are held in place with construction adhesive and staples. Pipe escutcheon rings to finish it off.



There were plenty of other (hard to document) minor holes in the plaster ceiling. For those, Aaron used a plaster mesh to cover the holes and then went over each one with mud. He basically spent an entire week with his arms above his head… which may under water boarding on the International Torture Scale.

The utility room will serve as storage, but we certainly don’t need a window here either.




When we were getting close, it was time to clean the walls. The original plan was to cover the windows with plastic and spray everything down with the power washer. Have you ever used a power washer? It’s amazing. It cleans anything and everything. John at YHL just discovered how great power washers are.

So you can image our surprise (and shock and outrage) when it didn’t remove the decades old grime.


Cue the sad music and cut to Aaron wiping down ALL OF THE WALLS. That’s 1,700 sq feet of space with 14′ ceilings worth of walls. This was not a good firehouse day…

Finally, finally, the walls were clean and the floor was covered in plastic.


We were headed straight for some much needed “OMG this is amazing progress! We’re so happy we bought this place! It’s finally coming together!” time… or so we thought…


Building floors in the pole closets

The firehouse came with 5 pole holes and just one pole. (I feel like there’s a potential dirty joke in there, but haven’t had enough wine to figure out exactly what it is…)

Because 4 human-sized, holes that will literally let you fall to your death is too many for one residence, they were near the top of our repair list. They zoomed up even further when we realized that they would be easier to work on while we had the rented scissor lift in our possession. As a bonus, finishing the bottom side would allow for an even coverage of paint on the studio side.

Three of the holes had questionable floors. If you put just a bit of weight on the floor, you could definitely feel it give. We assumed low-grade plywood was to blame, but we found out it was actually due to large metal plates. Seen here above ground:


We left one of these plates intact in the 4th bedroom because there was literally no way to get it out thanks to furnace pipes. That space will always be a closet so there’s no chance for someone to hang out there. The metal plate will do for that area, but we wanted a bit more support in the other bedrooms where we have plans to remove the pole closets.

Let’s take a look at what we’re working with. Looking up from the studio:


Looking down from our bedroom:


Imminent death:


Aaron started by attaching 2″ x 6″ ledgers to 3 sides. The glazed brick is hollow so there was no reason to add a ledger there because it wouldn’t be structural.



The floor is solid concrete so he used a hammer drill to make way for heavy-duty concrete anchors, which hold the ledger boards in place.


That is the official hammer drill face…

Actually, he did have a bit of a scare on the very last hole. In the midst of drilling one of the holes, sparks flew back out of the hole and a run of lighting in the studio went dead. Thank god for circuit breakers. Apparently, there was conduit in the concrete ceiling. The firehouse has so many treasures and secrets… Luckily he was able to identify which circuit was compromised and was able to disable it before the break. So it’s all good now, but it was not a good day in firehouse work.

Anyways, from there he basically built a mini-deck in each opening, squaring up the corners and adding joists.



This floor isn’t going anywhere. Looking up from the studio:



He added drywall on the studio side. Eventually the top sides will get insulation and plywood, which will sit flush with the concrete so we can run new flooring over it … whenever we get to that… in like 5 years…

Also, eventually we’ll drag those metal plates to the dumpster… it’s only been 3 weeks since this was done… have I mentioned this blog is a judgement-free zone?


Final shot looking up from the studio.


Only 2 more posts until I show you the rest of the space. Two more posts! Two more posts! Ok… now I’ve had enough wine…