New plans for the basement

When I showed you a few updates from our massive pre-Open House cleaning spree, I neglected to shoot the basement thanks to a burnt out light. It’s all good though, because you deserve a proper update on our nether regions (not THOSE nether regions…)


The basement isn’t looking too bad. Nearly all of the tools and construction equipment that was residing in the living room made its way downstairs.


It certainly isn’t perfect down here, but I don’t have to walk by it every day. So there’s that.


We put up some shelves in the corner by the water heater. They are holding miscellaneous photography business stuff, Christmas decorations and boxes of childhood memories that our parents forced upon us when we bought our first house. Apparently, they were done fondly remembering the years of our youth and wanted to make better use of their space…


Aaron also installed our new chest freezer!


And apparently the sump pump is collecting yard tools.


The real story down here is that we inadvertently lied to you. After we sealed the basement, I said “guess what’s coming next guys?!?!” and tossed down this not so subtle clue.


Even in our 6 month update, I perpetuated the now discarded layout.



So maybe “lying” is a bit harsh. There was no malicious intent. The notion of living in a space before you make changes is certainly a wise one. Things are a changing down here:


Still the same basic functions (workshop, wine cellar, and storage) but in a new and improved configuration. It might make more sense if we take a bird’s eye view.


The focus of the original plan was to send people straight into the heart of the wine cellar. Basically, everything else was secondary. And we even had a big chunk of space that was just going the be open. (Yeah, I’m confused looking at this too.) A few things prompted the layout change:

  • The wine cellar square footage really started to shrink once Aaron thought about how much clearance he would need for tools and furniture to come in out and out of the basement. Walking things straight in and out is a much easier path.
  • Moving the workshop also allowed for access to the two windows. These will provide much needed ventilation and some natural light. As part of the wine cellar they would stay boarded over and Aaron’s respiratory system could be in serious danger in the other corner of the room.
  • The arrangement actually allowed us to expand the footprints of the workshop and the wine cellar, which I’m sure we’ll put to good use.
  • The storage space is filling in the cracks a bit. The storage between the two will be narrow, but we’ll utilize all the space by building shelves between the pillars. Larger items can go near the water heater.

Still with all those changes we worried that we were losing some of the elegance of the original design. We really wanted to be able to send guests down to the wine cellar and not “past the workshop and around the water heater to the door with the wine behind it.” We settled on a longer path to the wine cellar, but one that was a bit more finished feeling. So the white space in the layout will be semi-finished with walls and doors covering all of the useful bits. It will make a bit more sense once we can implement some of our design aesthetic… which seems to be our mantra here. “Just wait. It will make sense… and then totally blow your mind.”

So that’s what’s going on in our down under. It took a little more thinking to get to a design that really maximizes the space. What’s your M.O. for tackling renovations? Do you dive right in or make a plan and let “living in the space” tweak it to perfection?

Hanging canvas – in which we finally have art on the walls of our studio

When we originally designed the studio, we knew we needed lots of room for art. This is kind of a challenge in a wide open area like a former firetruck garage, so we decided to take advantage of our vertical space. Our original intent was to put a floating gallery between Aaron’s desk platform and the viewing room.


Here’s an incredibly crude Photoshop rendition. The blue lines represent a tension system that would stretch from floor to ceiling and allow us to hang images. Once the platform and room were up we started to realize that things were going to feel really cramped.


We also needed a solution to hide the printer and my desk (Apparently, you can put Heather in a corner.) Ideas abounded, but we were leaning toward some sort of wood screen. Drawn in (very poorly) in the image above. Yep, the brown and white stripes near the back of the room = screen.

After nixing the center gallery we realized that the canvas prints would serve as the perfect screen solution. Aaron got to work installing the system. This involved drilling a hole in the ceiling for a toggle bolt and installing the base plate.



The floor got a similar treatment: hole, screw, plate.





The wire is trimmed to length and tension is added with a spring. Hooks are slipped on to hold the prints.



So this where we landed – prints as the screen and a few bonus prints hung near the stairwell, but I’ll get to that. First let’s drool over the pieces that went up on the wall.



Hello gorgeous images, where have you been hiding all this time? Oh? What’s that? On the computer? That’s right.


Hopefully this gives you a sense of the gallery feel that we’re after. These pictures make it look a touch stark, but it has a nice effect in person.




Here you can see the gallery system at work near the stairwell. We wanted to add one more print to each stack, but we ran out of ink and time… and suddenly this looked like the perfect amount for now.



The gallery system turned screen works perfectly… now if only the DIY elves would come out and paint that furnace room already…



Yay for art! It really pushed the space from “I can see where you’re going, but this is pretty bare” to “Ooooh! It’s a photography studio. I get it.”


How to make wrapped canvas prints

In the flurry leading up to the open house, the top priority (besides fixing the fire pole) was getting some art hung in our studio. Canvas wrapped prints are our favorite way to show off our work, but even at photographer prices, they add up quick. When we made the move to St Louis and opened our first stand-alone studio, we invested in a large format printer that has more than paid for itself thanks to numerous prints (for us and for clients). Printing is just the first step, so Aaron put together a little tutorial on how to make wrapped canvas prints.

First miter cut 1 x 2 pieces of pine to create the stretcher bars.



If you’re a perfectionist (which I say with love, because I am one as well), you can bevel the front edge so just 1/8″ of canvas touches the wood on the front of the frame, making for a nice sleek edge.


Nail each frame together.




Flip the print over (it’s good to have some Kraft paper down at this point to protect the image) and center the frame.


Wrap and staple, starting with the long edge.


A stretching tool will allow you to pull with one hand and staple with the other. Make the print as tight as possible.



After the edges are stapled, fold and staple the corners.






Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat (as necessary)



For the back, cut Kraft paper so that you have some overlap then attach it with hot glue.


Run an edge cutting tool set to 1/8″ along the side of the print to get a perfect edge.





Then add hanging hardware.


So, is this just a photographer skill or have any DIYers out there been dying to know how to stretch canvas prints?


Mechanical room shelving

The studio has a lot of rooms within a room. Most of them we’ve added (see: Viewing Room and Furnace room-ish thing that still needs to be finished off. We keep debating our options), but one was inherited: the mechanical room.


The construction of this room is very fortress-like. Seriously, you could repeatedly ram a firetruck into the room and the mechanical controls would still be safe. They were not messing around when they built this feature, which begs the question “How poorly do firetruck drivers drive?”

Long story short, the room had to stay and it seemed like the perfect place to store some of our frequently used office paraphernalia and camera equipment that might not enjoy or survive life in a basement.

While prepping for paint, Aaron covered the window opening with a piece of plywood and caulked the edges. He also removed any wires that he could from the defunct systems, like the fire alarm box.




Everything got a nice coat of white paint.



Aaron constructed the custom shelves from 2 x 4’s and plywood. It’s not the most elegant option, but this space is all about function… and one that will probably only be viewed by the two of us (save for this extensive post).









Originally we planned to purchase a new door for the space, but the opening turned out to be a very strange size. Plan B included covering the transom window with plywood and a coat of paint and adding a simple curtain (repurposed from the last studio).




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We can pack a lot into the space, making it super functional. It’s not the most glamorous project, but it precipitated some furniture swaps that I’m still pretty happy about. Is anyone else cramming storage into every nook/cranny/room-within-a-room?