Staining the fence posts

After installing the ipe section of fence, our fence posts were starting to look a little bare. Originally we planned to paint the posts a rusty color to blend in with the steel, but the warmth of the ipe totally changed our minds. Instead, we had a gallon of Behr Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing All-in-one Wood Stain and Sealer tinted to chocolate, which looked like it would provide the closest match to the ipe. Then it was as simple as wiping down the posts with a wet rag to rid them of spider webs and grass clippings then brushing on the stain. I used a large taping knife shoved against the steel/ipe to keep a crisp line on the edge. Voila!


What? That’s not the most blinding transformation ever? Ok, let’s take a look at some before/after combos. Everything is looking a little raw before the ipe was oiled.


After oiling and staining:




Here’s a good side by side by side (ipe, post, steel) – un-oiled/unstained vs oh so pretty.


Against the steel, the wood posts looks warmer and much more finished. Before:





It’s a bit more subtle against the steel, but it definitely moves your eye pasts the posts instead of causing a visual break.




We were happy with the look after one coat, so this update only took a few hours to complete. Even better, it was an update I tackled solo while Aaron (you guessed it) worked on wrapping the carport. (It’s the build that never ends… yes it goes on and on, my friends… we started building it, not knowing what it was… and we’ll continue building it forever just because, it’s the build that never ends…)

Good news: He’s on the last few rows of the last side of the carport! Bad news: The weather has turned to steamy summer mode, making long days working outside nearly impossible. In the meantime, I’m getting my stain on (is that a thing) on the backside of the garage.

Firehouse B&B now open

Just kidding. We’re not really starting a bed and breakfast. The last thing we need is another business venture… or random people wandering about our house construction zone. But friends and family should be happy to know that we have a legitimate place for them to spend the night!


The captain’s bedroom has long been a dumping ground for excess furniture and all sorts of miscellaneous decor that doesn’t have a home yet. That was bound to change when we found a bed for the room. As usual, our hearts were set on something vintage, but we were stuck on having a queen size – for comfort for our guests and because I didn’t want to manage multiple sizes of sheets (our bed is a queen).

We looked all over St Louis for a vintage, queen size frame, even making a last minute search through the antique peddlers in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Nada. Where are all the mid century queen bed frames?


So we settled for a Trysil frame from Ikea. The clean lines, dark tone and price won us over. It’s a good for now (… ok, let’s be real, for a few years) solution.

We were already headed to Ikea to check out some kitchen cabinet options and pick up a mattress. We got the Sultan Finnvik (which I’m not seeing online). It seemed like a good guestroom option, and the price was better than we expected thanks to an Ikea family discount. A mattress cover, duvet, duvet cover, pillows and pillow cases rounded out the bedding situation.


The room is by no means perfect. There’s still excess furniture and bar paraphenalia (which we have plans for) on either side of the room, but it looks a lot more orderly. And can we not talk about the electric orange and bright blue paint, lack of baseboards, roof caps on the HVAC pipes and lack of overhead lighting?



There are some vignettes in the room that make me very happy, like this vintage typewriter cart topped with photography books and a plant.



We wanted to add some color with the bedding, but we’re a long way from properly styling this room (see: electric orange paint). The blue and white striped Nyponros duvet set seemed like a great option. Plus those buttons!


The legs on the Trysil frame make it feel substantial and airy at the same time.


Hey cool, vintage lamp! Where have you been hiding? Oh… in this room… that’s right.


And this air plant (a sweet housewarming gift from a friend who has great taste in nurseries) has a more permanent home.


I’m not hating that I have a place to store some of our random books and one of the many pots we got on the same Ikea trip.


What makes me happiest is the new view from the living room.


I realized that this is our first real guest bed. We jettisoned a futon (it had a thick mattress so it was actually comfortable) when we downsized and moved across the state. I have to say this inviting view is making me want to jump into that bed for a late afternoon nap…

Since it is our first, always made guest bed, let me ask a really dumb question. Do you wash the sheets before guests come? I’m worried they won’t be fresh if they stay on the bed with no use for months.

LED lighting – One year later

It’s been almost a year since we did some math and bit the bullet to light the studio with LEDs. Aesthetics were a driving factor, but the potential savings ultimately pushed us over the edge.


The savings can only be realized if all of the LEDs live up to their guarantee to work longer than their incandescent counterparts. (More on that math here) I’m happy to report that all 50 bulbs in the studio are going strong. If our math is right (which I assume it is because Aaron did it) we should start seeing an ROI on our investment of the bulbs before the end of this year!



We’re so in love with LEDs that we even used them outside. Those have been in service almost as long as the ones in the studio and they’re still going strong even after the polar vortex.

So far, we’re giving LightKiwi LEDs a huge thumbs up!¬†(They also make Cree bulbs, which you may have seen advertisements for.¬†Does anyone else laugh out loud at those commercials or is that just me?)

How to build a horizonal ipe fence

I know I sound like a broken record, but work on wrapping the carport in ipe continues. It’s a tedious project, but each row makes a visual impact. In case you’re interested in (or crazy enough to think about) building a horizontal ipe fence, here’s a guide.


Obviously you need to order some wood. Here are some other products you’ll need:

The folks at Advantage Lumber helped us estimate the quantities. Once we’re done, we’ll let you know if they were on target.


Let’s talk for second about ipe clips. Each box includes:

  • 175 ipe clips
  • 190 screws
  • A star drill tip
  • A drill bit
  • 12 ipe plugs
  • Instructions

You want all of these things. If you don’t buy them, you can just drill each board into the fence post and live with all of those screws staring back at you. But your yard (and your eyes) deserve better than that. These fasteners will anchor the wood to the post and remain hidden. Plus they help space each row appropriately. They come in different gap sizes, we opted for the smallest gap.

Ok, let’s build a fence! Choose a piece of wood. Ideally you want a piece of wood that is rather straight. We’re working with B grade wood, so sometimes that means chopping off a bit that’s warped.

Cut the wood to size. Note: It’s helpful to have someone who is good at measuring perform most of these steps. (You’ll notice that it’s not me.)


The boards are held together and anchored to the post with ipe clips, but to start a row you’ll need to secure the bottom directly to the post. On each end of the board, measure how much the board will overlap the post and then mark the center point. Keep that measurement in mind (or write it down) because you’ll use it a lot.


Drill a hole using a 1/8″ drill bit and then a 3/8″ countersink bit. Aaron loves this one from Rockler. The hole is for the screw and the countersink is for the ipe plug. (More on that later.)



Then seal the end of the wood. This keeps the ipe from cracking over time. It’s also important to do this after you measure/drill so you don’t end up with wax all over your tools.



Liberally apply the wax to the ends of each board use a brush. It’s a good idea to do this in the grass in case there are drips.


Construction adhesive offers additional holding power. Add some to the post before placing your board.


For the first board, screw one side into the post.


Level it. Then add a screw to the other side.


The boards will need a space for each ipe clip. This is easily achieved with a biscuit joiner set at the appropriate depth for the ipe clip. We did a few tests on scrap wood to get the depth correct. For the first row, we opted to make the biscuit cut once the board was in place.





Drop an ipe clip into the biscuit cut.


Use the drill bit from the ipe clip kit to pre-drill a hole for the screw. Then use the screws from the kit to attach the board and clip to the post. Screw down and at an angle.


Choose another board, cut it to length it and mark the center points that you measured earlier. From here on up, make the biscuit cuts on both sides (and both ends) of the board now.


Don’t forget to seal the ends. Add construction adhesive to the post, and place the board onto the ipe clips from the row before. Level the board <– This is very important to ensure your fence stays level all the way up. If you’re working with B grade wood, which we are, most of the boards are not going to be perfect. You can compensate some by pulling down on one end of the board (or sitting on it in extreme cases) to make it level.

Repeat until you reach the top of your post. For the last board, make your biscuit cuts only on one side. Then drill a hole to attach the board to the top of the post.

Use the ipe pegs from the ipe clip box to fill in the screw holes. Add some wood glue.


Tap it into place with a hammer.



Once the wood glue dries, chip off the excess with a chisel so the plug is flush with the board.



Congratulations you just built a section of horizontal fence. From here you can apply ipe oil if you want to darken the wood or let it weather to a silvery color. We opted for the former.


It’s a pretty simple process, but it is time consuming. This section of fence took us an entire Sunday. Of course, we took A LOT of breaks to admire the progress and exclaim how excited we were. Make sure you build that into your timeline.

The front of the firehouse: Post clean up

Is there an award for longest time between “before” and “after” shots? If so, this project might win. Last summer, the front of the firehouse looked really, really sad. There were a lot of things to be embarrassed about, not the least of which was the half finished, tarped trailer and mismatched panels on the garage door. It was looking a little hoosier (not a good thing if you’re in Missouri). Oh, did I mention we met with prospective photography clients here? Yeah. No bueno.


So we embarked on a clean up job that started with moving the trailer.


We also removed a crappy sign, got new flags, painted the garage door (including a touch up job after a little snafu with the weather stripping), and updated some of the lighting. Then we promised “afters”… Nine months later we’re finally delivering!


It’s looking pretty fly up there, especially the bright red door and emerald green carpet of grass.


It looks just as good at night!


You can see how the new fixtures (and LED bulbs – which are working out fantastically here and in the studio) cast an awesome glow above and below.




There is still plenty to be done out here. Weed management, uplighting for the cor-ten fence, eliminating the “garden bed” around the mailbox. But we’re happy with how far it has come!