The grand plan

I was inspired my Young House Love‘s mega to do list and thought we’d share our own list, along with the progress we’ve made (spoiler alert: most rooms are at 0%) in each room. Grab your favorite beverage because this is a long one!

5% done


  • DryLok walls
  • Replace the sump pump
  • Create a cover for the sump pump hole
  • Run electric and build a platform for the chest freezer
  • Add shop lighting
  • Assemble shelving and organize our personal stuff and business materials
  • Add a light to the stairwell
  • Build a door for the stairwell
  • Build a wine cellar
  • Build a workshop
  • Paint the stairwell

65% done


Entry cube
0% done


  • Replace the fire hose lights
  • Finish the drywall
  • Paint
  • Hang art

Dining room
0% done


  • Secure the fire pole at the bottom with more bolts
  • Patch all the holes, including the large one that was possibly a coal door
  • Finish the duct work
  • Run more electrical outlets
  • Put the dining room lighting on a different switch than the studio lighting
  • Build a new door for the basement stairwell
  • Paint
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Build a light fixture that’s been floating around in our heads for years
  • Build a large dining table
  • Hang art

Downstairs living room
0% done


  • Finish the duct work into the bathroom
  • Patch the holes
  • Paint
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Add a cool, modern fireplace
  • Buy new seating (couch and chairs, some of which may be vintage)
  • Add a window or door to the yard
  • Hang art
  • Find a spot for a bar

2% done


  • Replace two of the bricked over windows
  • Add a new lighting fixture
  • Buy appliances
  • Open up the kitchen to the rest of the first floor
  • Build a new backdoor
  • Vent the range hood outside
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Basically completely gut the kitchen. We’re still figuring out what this looks like. It will probably have an island, definitely more cabinet/counter space, definitely an electric wall oven and built-in microwave

Half bath
10% done


  • Replace the bricked over window
  • Cover the Swiss cheese ceiling
  • Add a new light fixture
  • Paint
  • Restore the slop sink
  • Restore the toilet paper holder
  • Restore the door
  • Add art and accessories, like a mirror and storage

0% done

  • Decide whether to keep the original door, if so, refinish it
  • Patch the walls and paint
  • Paint the railings and refinish the banister
  • Add new lighting

Upstairs living room
0% done


  • Tear down the plaster on the west side to expose the brick
  • Make the roof hatch usable
  • Fix the plaster on the ceiling
  • Remove old fire alarms
  • Run more electric and add outlets
  • Hide the electric panel
  • Replace the closet doors
  • Insulate the furnace sound deadening material
  • Refinish or remove the hall door
  • Run new flooring throughout the second floor (some sort of old factory-weathered wood is our dream option)
  • Add windows on the west wall (maybe)
  • Investigate the ceiling ducts to determine if we can add a skylight
  • Replace the lighting
  • Paint
  • Build a “mega couch” for ultimate TV and movie viewing
  • Hang/hide a projector and screen
  • Hang art

Captain’s bedroom and bathroom
0% done


  • Secure the top of the fire pole with more than just electrical wire
  • Replace/add screens to the windows
  • Fix the duct work
  • Refinish the original door
  • Refinish the window sills
  • Use the water connections (maybe for a coffee bar?)
  • Replace the flooring
  • Rebuild the closets so they go to the ceiling
  • Add a bed, dresser, side tables and other necessities for a guest room
  • Hang art (maybe a large pull down map)
  • Determine what it would take to make the bathroom functional

Awesome bathroom
-10% done


  • Replace fixtures as necessary to make sure everything works
  • Replace the lights over the mirrors
  • Redo/cover the plaster walls
  • Paint
  • Build a storage solution for towels and other necessities (maybe a rendition of pipe shelving)
  • Build an LED drop ceiling
  • Build a new door
  • Add a Mojo washing station in one of the showers

Workout room/extra bedroom
0% done


  • Remove the “stage”
  • Remove the pole closet
  • Rebuild the actual closet so it goes to the ceiling
  • Fix the window sills
  • Finish the trim
  • Build out the exercise area (mirrors and a weight rack)
  • Mount the TV
  • Replace the flooring
  • Paint
  • Build a Murphy bed and extra storage along the south wall

4th “bedroom”
0% done


  • Build the old pole closet and furnace into a proper furnace room with a door leading to the hallway
  • Close off the existing door and turn the space into a closet for the master suite by adding a door between this room and the master bathroom
  • Paint
  • Replace the flooring
  • Add new lighting and electrical as needed
  • Add a window (maybe)

Laundry room
0% done


  • Expand the laundry room by stealing space from the master bedroom or workout room
  • Build storage and a clothes drying rack
  • Paint

Master bedroom
0% done


  • Remove the half wall
  • Remove the double closets
  • Seal the brick
  • Investigate the ceiling ducts to determine if we can add a skylight
  • Adjust duct work
  • Build a new door
  • Update slide dimmers to something more modern
  • Replace the flooring
  • Redo the lighting
  • Build a platform bed
  • Buy/build side tables
  • Add a fireplace (maybe)
  • Buy additional furniture as needed (chairs, dresser, etc) – maybe some vintage pieces
  • Paint
  • Add light blocking window treatments
  • Hang art

Master bathroom
0% done


  • Extend the wall of the shower so we can add a steam feature
  • Replace the jacuzzi tub with a claw-foot tub or an uber modern tub
  • Replace the vanity/storage with something more modern
  • Replace the flooring
  • Add a door into the new master closet
  • Add a window to the west wall (maybe)
  • Paint
  • Add new lighting and maybe an LED drop ceiling

30% done


  • Buy Right Lot
  • Seal the roof
  • Lay a huge patio
  • Replace the asphalt in back with a new parking pad
  • Install a carport
  • Fence the yard (We’re close)
  • Plant grass
  • Replace mulberry tree with something non-fruit bearing
  • Finish the carport into a garage
  • Remove the dead tree in the front of the house
  • Repaint the front garage door and hang new flags
  • Create raised planting beds
  • Section the patio into functional areas (like eating, lounging and a fire pit)
  • Build an overhang for the grill area
  • Build a fire pit
  • Build fire wood storage
  • Build patio furniture
  • Build an overhang for part of the patio
  • Move the trailer to the back
  • Pour a concrete pad for trailer storage
  • Tuck point the building (likely in stages)
  • Replace the bad second story windows
  • Landscape (another tree or two, ivy, tall grass)
  • Fix the front lights
  • Fix the light over the front door
  • Add motion lights to the back and garage
  • Run electric to the garage
  • Run electric on the patio side of the building
  • Fix the water faucet in back
  • Remove the asphalt in the alley
  • Add uplighting
  • Buy the alley

10% done

  • Activate the new security system
  • Incorporate home automation, including smart thermostats
  • Investigate on-demand water, especially for the upstairs bathrooms

So that’s the master plan… or most of it. I’m sure we forgot some steps along the way. Do you keep a master to do list or organize your projects some other way? Aaron is still working away in the studio as we inch that space closer to 100% completion!


Because good vintage wares wait for no man

I know I told you in the last post that the next thing you saw from us would be a tutorial on how to build the best fence ever. Well, I didn’t intentionally lie, but if you’re here for fence building, you might be disappointed. Aaron is putting the finishing touches on the posts and gates. When that’s done we’ll be back with the full run down.

In the meantime, let’s talk about buying vintage things when you have no hope of using them in the immediate future. Some people might call it hoarding, but those people would be wrong. Finding the perfect vintage thingamabob is not like stopping in at Target. It takes time and perseverance and a little luck.

So despite the fact that most of our living space could rightfully be categorized as “chaotic,” we’ve picked up a few gems since we moved in.

We stumbled upon these stage lights at a local antique mall and were blown away at the $40/ea price tags. WHAT THE WHAT?


These babies are huge, gorgeous and in fantastic condition. That down there? That’s glass on the front of the light!


And a light bulb that we won’t be using because we don’t want to burn our faces off.


The other one also has glass, though it’s a bit dusty and comes with an ominous warning.


Current home: The basement
Future home: Possibly the downstairs living room
Needs: Cleaned up, rewired and mounted on a stand

This next piece was living in our favorite booth at the River Market Antique Mall when we went to visit this spring. (We’re not the only ones with favorite booths at particular antique malls, right?)


It’s a rolling metal cart that adjusts vertically and is also the perfect solution to my near lack of counter space in the kitchen. The room isn’t big enough for a true island and we didn’t want to spend much on a temporary solution (the kitchen is destined for a full gut job some day). This cart fit the bill perfectly, ringing in at just $120. It wheels out when it’s needed and lives under the window when it’s not.


There’s only one identifying mark – a name inscribed in the metal on the top of the table – but it’s so covered with paint that we can’t read it. I did some internet research, but came up empty handed. My best guess is that it was used in a dental office.

Current home: The kitchen
Future home: The kitchen in the short term, maybe a nightstand in the guestroom eventually
Needs: This piece was in pristine condition. I just gave it a quick wipe down before using it. We might paint it someday.

Have we talked about our love of fireplaces? No? I didn’t think so. Well, we love them, specifically wood burning fireplaces. At our condo, we got our fix with an outdoor fire pit and have plans to build a larger one here. We’re also toying with a fireplace in the downstairs living room. As we thought about our huge master bedroom we realized there was plenty of space for… you guessed it… a fireplace.

When a local midcentury antique dealer posted this guy on his blog:


It was basically love at first sight. Aaron saw it before I did and the following ensued:
Email from Aaron: Did you see this fireplace!?
Me: Wow! That’s really cool!

(Time passes)

Aaron calls and says: “Wasn’t that fireplace cool”
Me: “Absolutely. I’ve never seen anything like it. I wonder what he’s selling it for.”
Aaron: “What would you pay for it?”
Me: (knowing my husband well enough to know where this is going) “I don’t know. I know he’s listed others around $500 and that seems reasonable. Plus this one is SO cool!”
Aaron: “Good. Because I offered him $400 and he’s going to be here in an hour.”


Wood burning, masculine, black, mid century… what more could you ask for in a fireplace for your bedroom?



Current home: The studio (we really need to move this guy somewhere else)
Future home: Master bedroom
Needs: Assembled (the pipe on top comes in three pieces) and installed

Tell us we’re not the only ones scooping up random vintage finds despite an obvious home for them. What have you scored recently (vintage or not) for your place?

The fence is mostly done and we’re tired

All of the steel panels are up and we’re 86.67% (that’s math) done with our fence. I know you spent the majority of your weekend worrying about the work we did during our weekend, so I thought I’d end the suspense and let you know that we survived installing nearly 5 tons of steel in our yard. This will be a great overview of the trials and tribulations of installation and we’ll be back with a full Pinterest-able “How to Install the Coolest Fence You’ve Ever Seen… EVER” in the next post.

First, let’s take a look at what we were working with. These pictures are pre “Starting the Yard” but just imagine this space with a bit more grass. The fence line is pretty obvious thanks to some contractor installed posts and cross-beams. I worked from home one of the days the guys dug out the post holes, and I can confidently tell you that it was worth every penny after listening to them chisel their way through our lot, which back in the day sported an entire brick house – most of which (not literally) has been buried in the yard  following its demolition.








I’ll leave most of the details for the next post, but we needed this fence skeleton before we could order the cut-to-order steel panels, which arrived a little bit earlier than expected.


Once we had the panels and the lift (which we didn’t want to keep for more than a week because, $$!!) it was on like Donkey Kong. Aaron started hanging panels on Thursday and made it through 5 (including the front gate) with only one MAJOR hiccup. The steel company made the 8′ panels, which make up the majority of the long run on the side of our building, 1/2″ too long. That really adds up over 100 plus feet… and would definitely come back to bite us. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Friday, I got my first glimpse of rigging panels. Let me tell you that the sound of these panels going from horizontal to vertical while clicking down chains is one of the most terrifying renovation sounds. Seriously. No sarcasm. I wish I would have recorded it for you… maybe next time we install a steel fence (ok, that was sarcastic).


Once the panel was up, Aaron used the super mega lift to drive it into place.  He worked at a grocery store during high school. This experience has yielded at least 3 benefits to our adult life.

1. He knows where everything is in a grocery store. This was immeasurably helpful as a new wife/novice cook.
2. He is a pro at choosing perfect produce and meat.
3. He is surgical with a forklift. Seriously, that man can work a forklift like woah.


Once the panel was set and level, there was a lot of drilling and screwing. (Get your mind of out of the gutter.)


Lather, rinse, repeat.




Friday’s goal: 10 panels
Friday’s tally: 9 panels
The 1/2″ extra on each 8′ panel caused a major slow down mid-day when Aaron had to run to Home Depot for more fence posts.
Feeling: Pretty good

Saturday dawned with ambitious plans. We knew if we finished the rest of the 12 panels we could have Sunday totally off. We dove in with the most intimidating pieces – the big ones that run along the carport (i.e. heaviest) (i.e. if s$#it goes wrong we have NO plan B because they can’t be lifted by people). Things went immediately from “we got this” to “HOLY S%^T” when the chain on the first panel shifted and the whole thing went cockeyed. To make matters worse, Aaron had to drive through a ditch in the front part of the side lot. During the drive, I literally tried not to puke and thanked physics for things like “friction”… and grabbed this pic with my iPhone. Scary stuff.


Thankfully, the panel stayed aloft. We set it and the second one without taking down the carport. Totally winning.


Back on the other side of the yard, we tackled mostly custom cut pieces, including 2 that required hand lifting. Yep, you read that right. At one point we donned furniture moving straps and carried panels weighing 325 pounds each.

In related news, I realized why Aaron married me: “cheerleader legs” and their utility in major renovation. I’m stronger than I look 😉

At some point,  the 8′ 1/2″ panels came back to bite us and we realized that we would be 2 extra posts short and therefore unable to place the last panel. Sunday = not totally free.

In related news, my hatred of the mulberry tree is in full force because of this:


Saturday’s goal: 12 panels
Saturday’s tally: 11 panels
Stupid extra 1/2″
Feeling: Very tired and ready to be done

Sunday started with a trip to Home Depot and then we donned work clothes for ONE MORE PANEL. ONE MORE PANEL! (Yes, at this point I was making up chants to keep us going entertain myself)

Aaron drove the panel as close as possible and then we carried it into place. Yep, one more panel that sits behind a tree/power pole. This one had the added bonus of being in a particularly humid, jungle-like area of our yard that was watered all night by some summer storms. So we slipped our way through mud and got it set. While Aaron drilled in the first screw, the weather kindly decided that all the tools we pulled out needed a little cleaning. Thankfully, the shower passed quickly and we finished screwing the panel into place. We were done after a quick clean up, but the story isn’t quite over.

In the final Home Depot trip, Aaron grabbed mint and basil plants per my request. Having successfully completed our major work for the day (and being covered in a combination of mud and carbon dust) I thought it was the perfect time to get those plants in a planter. I started to say as much to Aaron when out of nowhere lighting struck our building right above our head.

Yep…. you read that right. A bolt of lightening struck our building and Aaron almost threw me into the firehouse before checking to make sure that nothing was on fire. It was an… interesting way to end our outdoor time…

So let’s take a look at the results!


Oh, yeah, let’s talk about the holes. We left a few panels in the rear of the property open. We’re planning to cover our carport and these panels in wood slats (hence the 86.67% done). More on that later.







We need to go back and cut those posts below the fence line along with a few other things that Aaron will explain in the next post.



Bottom line: It was worth it and it looks great… but it’s not done. It’s weathering steel so we’re eagerly watching the panels each day to see the transformation. The solo Sunday panel got a good deal of rain while it waited for installation. So here’s a preview of where we’re heading. We’ll bring you a full post when the rust totally sets in.


So, who wants to vote? Are we crazy or visionaries?

[poll id=”2″]


Weekend plans

If you asked me last Friday what we had planned for this weekend – our first off since mid-May thanks to a bustling wedding schedule – I would have been adrift in possibility. We might take off for a few days and explore Louisville, KY, or head down to Ste. Genevieve, MO, to hit up some wineries and wander a few antique malls, OR just stay home and relax.

All those possibilities came to a screeching halt when the driver delivering the steel for our fence called on Monday to say he’d be at our place on Tuesday to drop it off.

So let me back up a bit and tell you about our plans for the fence. Awhile back in the midst of a Google fest, Aaron stumbled on a modern fence made of weathering steel (also branded as Cor-Ten). This type of steel actually gets stronger when it rusts and ultimately looks like this or this or this, i.e. INSANELY COOL. The price is higher than a standard wood fence, but we live in a firehouse/forever house… and you already know what we chose.

Decision made, Aaron pondered a variety of ways for us to move each several-hundred-pound panel into place. Ultimately, those ideas were scraped when he was informed that the delivery driver would not have a forklift to move the steel off the truck. Apparently, people don’t just order thousands of pounds of weathered steel. Normally that type of material is delivered to a business that owns a forklift. So we needed a forklift. No big deal. We could rent one; we would just need advanced notice of delivery. And if we got a rough terrain version, then it would totally solve our issue of moving the panels around. We would just need to clear our schedule, and I would  need to take a day off work.

So when we had less than 24 hours notice that our steel would be delivered, we went into a little bit of a panic. Aaron called all the rental companies he could find and the sunset on Monday found us in possession of a bunch of promises to call back, but no forklift.

Finally on Tuesday, we found a slightly more advanced forklift that could be delivered on Wednesday. It’s a telehandler instead of a standard straight mast for anyone out there who loves details. For those of us who are more visual and less versed in forklift lingo, we got this:


It’s currently occupying my spot in the carport when it’s not working really hard along side of us (really Aaron) to install the 8,000 lbs of steel that will become (most of – more on that later) our fence! It may not be what we originally planned to do this weekend, but we get a little more excited as each panel goes in place!

Anyone else tooling around in rented heavy equipment or doing any renovating this weekend?


Why, mulberry? Why?!?

I’ve repeatedly said that one of my favorite things about our new space is the number of birds we have around. I mentioned it here and real-life friends are probably like “We get it! Enough about the birds.”

Well we finally figured out why. This tree that is only technically half ours and hangs into our yard and provides awesome shade…


This beautiful, mature tree (on the right)…


Is a mulberry. Guess what birds love? Mulberries.

I’ve already been through the five stages of grief with this tree.

Denial: It can’t be THAT bad right? (Said before the fruit was ripe enough to fall.)
Anger: Why would anyone CHOOSE a mulberry tree and let it get THAT big?!?
Bargaining: Please God, don’t let it be such a mess.
Depression: They’re everywhere….


Acceptance: The tree has to go.

I know. I know. I hate it. It kills me (both of us, really) to think about taking down a mature tree. But we tried and we can’t live with this. The tentative plan is to take it out and put in the biggest tree that 1) we can afford and 2) makes sense for the yard.

On the bright side, we’ll definitely use the wood in our to-be-constructed fire pit and in Aaron’s new smoker (which we’re falling more in love with each time he fires it up). It’s not a total loss… but it still feels like one.