Furniture swaps

It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for the studio tipping point – the point when we actually move in, the point when the dining room starts to get cleared out, the point when we think “YES! This is why we bought this place.” I’m seriously enjoying the fact that it feels like we’re moving in. Nesting is at an all time high.

So it’s no shock that some unexpected furniture swaps have me doing a happy dance. First we moved our desks into the studio, freeing up space in the upstairs living room.


At the same time, we moved everything into the viewing, freeing up a media unit that has always lived in the studio. Our initial impulse was to sell it, but we decided to try it out in the upstairs living room first.


It turned out to be a great fit. We love that the TV is lower and therefore more in our line of sight from the couch.



This freed up the record cabinet turned media cabinet/bar turned put-the-TV-on-there-for-now. We plopped it down where the desks used to sit and promptly filled it with all our bar parephenalia.


It also gave us a chance to fill and display the decanters we’ve been collecting. Ultimately these will probably live in a bar downstairs, but it’s nice to use some of the fun things we own.






Now the upstairs living room looks like this.


It’s so much less “maybe you should do some work” and so much more “Relax! Have a drink!” Even the view from the stairs is better. Hello wide open goodness.


This, however, is my favorite view. Looking down the hallway from the bedrooms, all you see is living room furniture instead of our cluttered desks. It makes me happy on the daily.


Moving the alcohol back to the record cabinet freed up the white Ikea cubes and they suddenly looked like good temporary night stands.


So now, we have bedside tables! Beside tables that are not made of cardboard and threatening to cave in!



They’re definitely temporary, but the kind of temporary we can live with until we actually get to redo this room. Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I grabbed one of our favorite lamps and pulled out gobs of milk glass to hold my jewelry.



There’s something about a jewelry in a retail display that makes my heart happy.





The closet, former home of jewelery stuck in plastic trays and piles of Aaron’s belts and watches, also got some milk glass. My inner storage geek rejoiced.


Can I get a ‘hooray’ for finally feeling a bit more settled?!?

Minus one tree

We’re minus a tree in the back yard. Those of you who were here for the mulberry angst probably think you know where this is going, but you’re wrong. The mulberry is alive and well. The other tree not so much.

I don’t even know what The Other Tree is because it has received so little attention. In fact, this picture from the fence building is the best shot of it. You can kind of tell that it was a huge tree with dual trunks and a bit of an ivy problem. Really, it wasn’t a pretty specimen.


Unfortunately for The Other Tree, it was also near the power lines. We were not shocked when we received a letter from Ameren stating that a crew would be by to trim the tree away from the lines.

I’m not sure what dictionary they are using, but their definition of “trim” is not the same as mine. Based on what they did to this tree, I think mangle, destroy or kill would have been better choices.


It’s certainly not touching those power lines anymore… it’s also basically a giant stump.


I also find it very ironic that one of the branches they chose to leave is still touching lines (albeit phone lines).

I’m no tree expert, but I’m pretty sure trees need leaves to live. That’s just basic science.

Like any crazy part Sicilian responsible homeowner, I promptly called Ameren to yell at someone express my displeasure and request that they finish the job of taking down this tree. To my complete surprise, the forestry division returned my call a few days later and offered to cut the tree down. They even offered to chop it into firewood. I was elated! Not only would we get some free tree service, but we’d get a bunch of wood just in time for prime fire pit weather! Win/win!


We got about half of that.


Once again, their definition of a word seems to vastly different than… anyone else’s who speaks English.


This “firewood” is not going to fit in our fire pit.


So it’s more like a win/meh. On the plus side, The Other Tree turned out to have some serious rot in the trunk. We probably would have had to pay someone to take it down next year. On the meh side, the tree is basically Humpty Dumpty-d next to our fence until we can borrow/rent a chainsaw… and an axe…

I’m still a little shocked they agreed to take it down. Has anyone else had a run in with the power company’s forestry division?

Adding electric and how to install data keystones in 6 easy steps

Real exciting post, right? There are just some renovation tasks that aren’t sexy…. unless you’re a fan of super high speed network connectivity. If so, this post will totally be your jam.

Among the many, many (many, many, many) tasks that preceded painting the studio, Aaron amped up (hee, hee) the space with some new electrical outlets. It’s as if this space was being used as a garage and not a studio housing a variety of electrical equipment. So strange.



He ran conduit, added boxes, pulled wire and installed 21 outlets.


Tape blocked the holes and wires from being covered with paint.




After painting he installed all the receptacles.



Along with the electrical rough in, he also added conduit and boxes for a data network. A wireless network isn’t something you need in most normal residential spaces (though we would argue that it’s awesome to have). We needed it for 3 reasons.
1. The photography studio deals with lots of more data than a wireless network can handle.
2. Covering a masonry building this big with a wireless signal is nearly impossible.
3. Aaron has always wanted a hard-wired network. He’ll fly his tech geek flag and get excited over the speed and stability of this network. He’ll even toss around insults(?) like “Our network is faster than your network.” So there’s that.

We opted for cat 6 cable (instead of cat 5e) to get the most life out of it. Data requirements change so rapidly. We wanted the system to work at a high speed for as long as possible. We added 10 network drops in the studio and an additional run upstairs for our wireless network on that floor.

If you want to install your own data network, it’s actually pretty easy. Hang the conduit, pull the wires through and then install the keystones (what the wires plug into for us non techy folks). Gather up your tools and then follow these 6 easy steps for installing keystones.

Here’s what you’ll need (left to right): stripper, crimping tool for keystone/jack, punch tool for keystone, wire cutters, mini screwdriver


1. Strip outside sheath. Be careful with a new stripper. Ours was so sharp that it cut the actual wires and Aaron had to redo some of the keystones.



2. Separate and straighten the pairs of wire.



3. Place the wires into the keystone following the colors on the side.



4. Use the data punch to push the wires completely into the jumper. This will also cut off the access wire.



5. Add the cap


6. Insert the keystone into the housing. Pro tip – Label the keystone and jumper (which goes into the router) so each data run is marked.


Anyone else wiring their home (or business) with high speed data cables?

The viewing room

(Thanks so much for all the excitement around our House Hunters episode! It feels so good to let the proverbial cat out of the bag!)

When we tell people we have a photography studio, the intial assumption is that we have a space to actually shoot pictures. While we like to have shooting space it’s not at the top of our list. We’re much more likely to trek into the woods or find a broken down building to use as a backdrop.

Our priorities for a studio line up like this: 1) a space for us to work on our computers (a lot of photography work is unglamorous computer time) 2) a space to meet with clients 3) storage 4) shooting space (which is really a bonus).

The client meeting space is a simple, living room-esque set up (couch, chairs, coffee table, TV, sample albums and some art on the walls). The firehouse garage-turned-studio made it not so simple thanks to floors that slope toward drains. Ideal for washing fire trucks, not so much for sitting on furniture that needs to be level. That unique feature prompted platforms and somewhere in the design process it inspired the viewing room. More than just a simple platform, this room-within-a-room, is designed to provide an intimate space where we can meet with couples planning their wedding and debut images from events we have shot. In our usual “let’s do the coolest thing we can think of”style, the room became an architectural focal point – a shiny, black, floating show stopper that required precise placement (when you walk into the studio you can see through a corner of it, which adds to the airiness) and scale (tall enough to walk into but still intimate).

It was a grand vision and just like with many grand visions there was a point where we thought “are we crazy?” (See also building the coolest fence we could think of.) Our last update on the viewing room construction probably had you echoing the same sentiment. I think this will help:


After Aaron framed the room, he added drywall and began the tedious process of taping and mudding everything. The seams on the plywood floors also got covered in a layer of wood filler to make everything nice and smooth. The recess in the back is for the TV.



Once the seams were smooth (many layers of mudding were not photographed), it got a couple coats of Porter Paint’s Glyptex, a high-gloss enamel floor paint (the same stuff we used for the floor). This commercial coating has a lacquer-like finish. Hello shiny black awesomness.





Before we could officially move in (and while the paint cured), Aaron ran electric into the space through an overhead conduit line on the back side. He tied into one of the strategically placed outlet boxes he installed early in the studio overhaul.





He also added a master switch for the whole room. If anything goes wrong, we can easily cut power to the viewing room.


The overhead lights got a sweet Lutron dimmer. Nerd alert: I used to work for an electrical distributor and have a serious love affair with Lutron lighting control. They are the bomb diggity.


Then he installed the TV.


Behind the scenes there is a fancy mount (it swivels!) and cable pass through.


The last step was loading in our furniture.



This project is one line on our master plan, but it it’s a huge one to cross off the list. It also coincided with a few other OMG-it’s-starting-to-feel-like-all-this-work-is-paying-off!!!! changes, like moving our desks into the studio!


We’re going to be on House Hunters!

You have no idea how hard it is for me to keep a secret. I can barely contain myself when I buy a gift for Aaron at Christmas. It’s ridiculous. So I’m letting out a huge sigh of relief that I can finally tell you that we’re going to be on House Hunters! We’ve been keeping this bit of news from the interwebs since February! (February!!!!)

It’s time to bring you up to speed, but before I launch into some behind-the-scenes details – go set your DVR for October 15th at 9 pm CST.


All set? Great. If you’re anything like the people we’ve told in person, your mind is abuzz with questions. I’m tackling the most popular below, but if you have extras toss them in the comments.

How did you get on the show?
We applied on a whim through the Pie Town Production web site. It took a few weeks, but eventually a production assistant emailed us for more details. We exchanged a few emails and then went through two phone interviews. We covered a lot of the information they need for the show. Why were we looking to buy a place? What did we want in our dream space? What did we not want? Etc, etc.

Once we crossed those hurdles we had to tape a video interview. It basically contained the same type of questions and then we each had to tour an area of our current residence. We assume the goal is to make sure we can act like normal humans when a video camera is pointed our way. Our realtor also had to make a short video (presumably for the same reason). From there it came down to scheduling!


Did they tell you what to say?
No. In fact, our producer wanted things to be as natural as possible. She wouldn’t even let us walk through the alternate properties until we were on camera.

Do you get makeup/hair/wardrobe assistance?
They provide a list of guidelines, mostly for clothes, but you’re on your own in the hair and makeup department. Occasionally, Darby (our producer) would powder us if we were looking a bit shiny. They also vetoed clothing that wouldn’t look good on camera (I couldn’t wear my favorite coat, which sucked because I wore my coat a lot) and anything that came close to copyrighted art (Aaron had to change when he chose a T-shirt with a camera on it).


How did they choose the other properties for you to look at?
The producers worked with our realtor to find the alternate properties. They can be places you’ve looked at during your hunt or places that are new to you but fit your criteria. In our case they wanted to find really alternative spaces for us. This is incredibly hard in the Midwest, which is why we JUMPED on the firehouse. On the third day of filming we were supposed to tour a church. Our producer asked us to preview it and the place needed SO much work. It was just the sanctuary so it didn’t even have a kitchen or bathroom. Plus the roof was leaking so bad that the plaster was literally melting off the walls. We didn’t think anyone would believe it was actually an option so it was scraped.


Did you get paid?
Yes, $500. But we weren’t in it for the money.

Do you get to preview the episode before it airs?
Nope. We’ll see it along with everyone else. We also don’t know which order the houses will be shown in, but we think the firehouse will be number 3. Since you obviously know which one we’ll choose, I think you should use this to your advantage and bet your spouse $5 (or more. Go big, right?) that we’ll choose the firehouse before it’s revealed. You can thank me later.


Three cheers to scamming people out of money! And three cheers to being on TV! (But seriously, I’m going to have to have a drink… or 3 before I can watch myself on national TV.) In the meantime, hit us up with your other questions and we’ll answer what we can.