Category: A little bit personal

Firehouse for sale

EDIT: We accepted an offer! While it will always be bittersweet to leave this place, we do so in full confidence that the new buyers love it as much as we do. (They sent us a letter. I cried.)

Our firehouse is officially for sale and I am officially a mess.

Even though we made this decision knowing we would have to leave this place behind, something about seeing it done and for sale has me in a glass case of emotion.

Let’s tackle the fact that it’s done first. OMG YOU GUYS THE FIREHOUSE IS DONE! I asked Aaron the other day, “If this wasn’t happening, when do you think we would say ‘The firehouse is done.'” We agreed that it would probably be never. At the very least, it wouldn’t be any time soon. He as been working SOOO hard and those of you who follow the blog closely or know our space in person will instantly recognize the dramatic transformations below. I absolutely owe you (and us) some blog posts detailing the updates along with some before and after pics.

(The photos below are just a few from the listing and cover the space as it sits right now. So if some of them seem familiar, there’s a reason for it. We didn’t materially change the spaces that were basically done: studio, upstairs living room, captain’s bedroom, etc.)

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You made it to the end, and I feel like I’m amongst friends. So can I tell you that this is way harder than I expected? When Aaron texted me the link to the listing I cried. This place is so near and dear to our hearts that it feels like a betrayal to shove it out into the world and say “any takers?” I’m doing my best to embrace the good parts of this change (there are many) and accept that sometimes I just need to feel all the feels about letting the firehouse go. I’m taking solace in the fact that everything about this change has fallen in line, and I believe there is a new family waiting in the wings who will be as excited about the firehouse as we are and will step in take ownership of it.

Like I said above, I’d like to round this journey out by sharing the updates we’ve made. And, after much thought and some input from you, I’m leaning towards keeping this blog going in case you want to come along for the ride of finding our next house and making it our own. I already have a few house hunting stories to share. Per usual, you’ll find me over on Instagram with short, real-time updates. Follow me there and tell everyone you know about the firehouse for sale. Thanks, friends.

Where we’ve been… and where we’re going

I honestly don’t know how to say this…

We’re moving.

I know!

I know.

Seriously, I know. It’s crazy and seemingly out of the blue. And it’s the reason we’ve been so silent over the last month and half. I got a job offer in California working for a former boss. There’s a relocation package involved. It’s basically the best way to move to a super desirable part of the country. And when we laid everything out on the table, we just couldn’t say “no.”

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Obviously the firehouse was a factor. We’ve always said this is a dream space. That is still true. We’ve also said it was our forever house. Sadly, that is not true. It just didn’t win out when we stacked it against everything: the weather, the culture, the job opportunity, the company I’m joining, the fact that we could drive to Napa in just 6 hours (FREAKING NAPA! Here’s how I imagine future birthdays playing out. Me: It’s my birthday. Let’s drive to Napa.), the fact that we could camp SO many places within just a few hours of home.

So over the last few weeks, we made a new list of projects – a list of things we need to do to sell. We’ve been slowly marching down that list, touching spaces we thought we’d get to in a few years, making everything feel as cohesive as we can while being cognizant that we’re doing work for the next family to enjoy…

And now I’m crying… It’s what I do – happy, sad, overwhelmed. And this decision is surely a mix of all of those emotions. A year ago, I would have laughed if you told me that we’d set off on an adventure to move half way across the country. But, to be fair, before we met the firehouse I would have laughed if you told me we’d buy something like this. I would have laughed at both but never crossed them off the list of possibilities.

One of the things I love about Aaron and the life we’ve created is that we’re both willing to take chances in the pursuit of happiness and an interesting, full life.

I’m hoping to share the updates we have underway so you can also feel some closure with this space. We have truly appreciated the support we’ve received through this blog. If you could do anything else for us, it would simply be to help us find the next owners of the firehouse once we get this place on the market. We’re taking a bit of a leap of faith (as everyone does when they list their house), but we both believe that this building is special and the right people will fall in love, just like we did.

I’m sure you have questions. Here are a few we’ve been asked, but feel free add more in the comments.

When do you start your new job?
I start my new position on April 17th. It’s lightening fast, but also necessary.

When will you move?
We need to sell the firehouse first. Aaron’s top priority is getting it ready to list. We really hope it sells quickly so I’m not flying solo in California for very long.

Where in California are you moving to?
The LA metro area, likely north of the city.

What are you doing with this blog?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve been blogging for about 6 years now (here and on a personal food blog before) and it seems odd to let it go. But it also seems odd to keep a firehouse themed reno blog going if we move to a more typical house. So TBD…

 

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Living in an Unconventional Space – The good and the bad

I wanted to give this idea some time to simmer before I responded to your requests to know what we love and don’t love about living in the firehouse. It’s very easy for me to focus on all of the good things. I love living in an unconventional space. This is literally a dream come true for both of us, and it’s very hard to picture what our lives would look like in any other dwelling. I’m also an optimist so I tend to focus on the good and let negative things fade away. But the truth is there are some not great things about owning and living in a building like ours. So here’s my list.

The Good

So much space: When the weather is bad outside, I frequently toss the ball for Hank in our studio. I stand at one end and he happily fetches repeatedly. Every time we do this I think “I really love this building.” That’s just one example of the how great it has to have so much space at our disposal. We have room for everything! Want to horde a vintage fireplace? There’s room for that! Want to invite a massive amount of people over for a party? No problem. The only limitation is seating and silverware. We can dream big and put all of this space to use – like sectioning up the basement into a wine cellar, workshop and storage (in descending order of importance).

Design freedom: Every house has a particular feel to it and I think it’s important to maintain that character. IMHO it’s insane to put a sleek, modern kitchen into a clearly Spanish style home. It just doesn’t jive. (Side note: Has anyone else noticed that when there’s a kitchen makeover on House Hunters: Renovations the designer ALWAYS suggests shaker style cabinets as a way to bridge people’s styles? It literally doesn’t matter what styles they’re trying to bring together, the answer is always shaker style cabinets… and “a take on subway tile” that is usually a bit bigger than average or colored. It’s cracking me up.) The firehouse comes expectation free, like a blank canvas, and we love that. It has so many beautiful features that make it feel like a firehouse (I always think of the banister in the stairwell when I think about this) that we would never change. And those elements work really well with our modern, minimalist, industrial design style

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Live/work balance: We moved to St. Louis in part because we loved that the architecture supports live/work spaces. The first time we strolled down Cherokee street we marveled at the relatively low cost to rent a storefront. When we moved to St. Louis, that’s just want we did – eventually occupying two different spaces on the very street that tempted us to move. We also rented a condo in Benton Park, completely splitting our work space from our living space.

And it sucked, like so bad. Going to the studio felt like WORK. It was the difference between dropping into another room to work vs agreeing “we need to work tonight” and then driving over there, turning everything on, and WORKING. The difference was incredibly stark when we had a no-show meeting with a prospective client. We’d race through dinner, drive to the studio, get everything turned on and then be forced to wait an appropriate amount of time before saying “Well, I guess they’re not coming.” At the firehouse, if someone doesn’t show we can be onto the next thing in our evening in a matter of minutes. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but we hated it.

We knew that we needed to get back into a space that held our photography business and our personal life. The firehouse gave that to us almost perfectly. The studio a contained space with a door. It’s where we work, but it doesn’t FEEL like work to drop in there after dinner and respond to client emails.  (If you want more details about how we go to the firehouse, feel free to dive into this post.)

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Instant connection: The firehouse has given us an instant way to connect with a lot of people. Whether they saw us on House Hunters or just heard that their friend’s wedding photographer lives in a firehouse, we have instant common ground with a lot of people. As an introvert, I also appreciate the fact that I have a conversation filler always at the ready. When you tell people you live in a firehouse, 95% of them have so many questions. The 5% I’ve found that are not that interested are my European colleagues. Perhaps they’re so used to re-appropriating buildings in countries that have much longer histories than ours that they are unfazed? Or maybe I’m just a weird American. I’m not sure.

 

The Bad

So much space: Yes, this is also on the good list. The amount of space is truly a good and a bad thing. The only negative we had when considering whether to purchase the firehouse was the amount of space. It’s massive (5k+ square feet). That means the projects are bigger and take more supplies and more time. It means the messes are huge. Heck, even the amount of finished space that we have to keep clean is overwhelming. And, truth be told, cleaning is not my forte. I’d much rather cook, or workout, or nap or pretty much do anything besides clean when I have time off.

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The proportions are a little funky: It’s a common quirk of an unconventional home that the way spaces are divided up may not fit what you would normally want in a home. For instance, the captain’s bedroom is bigger than my kitchen. As someone who cooks almost every day I would LOVE to have a bigger kitchen, but it’s just not in the cards. Truth be told, if we could start fresh on the upstairs layout we would change a lot of things. These are things we talk about whilst sitting on the couch with a glass of wine. The “what if’s” of moving walls is so easy when it’s just a dream. In reality, it’s not worth the time or effort to make the kind of large-scale changes that dramatically alter the spaces that are already defined.

Water tap meant for a firehouse: People frequently ask about our utility bills, but those have never been a source of frustration because we were paying a similar amount when our rentals spanned a condo and a studio. Actually, the new HVAC systems have already started to pay off in terms of lower bills. But we have finally hit a utility that is painful because of the firehouse: water. There’s a very long story (… really a rant) behind all this, but basically we didn’t pay for water for nearly two years after moving into the firehouse. We paid a bill, but apparently it was only for sewer service. Things are finally cleared up (sadly they didn’t just write off our water use) and apparently the city has an added tax based on the size of your water tap. Not surprising: ours is huge! So despite the fact that this isn’t a firehouse and we’re not using water like a firehouse, we pay triple the price of a normal house just to be connected to a water supply. Ugh.

Whew! So many words and so few pictures! So, what did we miss? What would you still like to know?

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You’re healthy until you’re not

Before you get too excited, we’re both essentially fine – nothing life threatening is happening. This was just the sentence that kept playing through my head last night and spurred me to start a blog post on my phone. (That’s normal, right?)

One of the last times we visited Kansas City, I remember sitting (nearly falling asleep, really) on Aaron’s grandma’s couch as the elders of the tribe discussed their various ailments. At one point, I was called out on not participating in the conversation. I was awake enough to retort “I don’t have any health issues to discuss.”

Such is the way of life. You’re healthy until you’re not. If this year has a theme it is certainly “Aaron is not healthy.”  His injured foot, which ultimately led to canceling most of our spring camping plans and buying a different trailer, is mostly healed.

Thankfully, his foot was healthy enough for us to enjoy a few days on Bourbon Trail in late May. But when we came back, he promptly got poison ivy from the extra lot. Two things you should know: 1. Aaron is highly allergic to poison ivy. 2. Urban poison ivy is a serious issue… at least in our extra lot. In this case, he got poison ivy on his hands (Yikes!) and it was bad. (You’re welcome for not sharing pictures.) Without going into too many details (again, you’re welcome) the poison ivy just wouldn’t go away. It wrecked his hands to the point that it hurt to hold a hammer.

He finally heeded my advice and visited the doctor. The diagnosis: (probably) psoriasis that was triggered by the poison ivy. Medications have been procured and I have nearly every finger crossed for a quick recovery.

I mention all of this because firehouse progress has been slow… actually that was generous. Firehouse progress has been nonexistent. You may have noticed…

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We’re also facing our busiest time of year: fall wedding season. I counted and between both jobs I have 5 (FIVE!) days off during the entire month of October. Dear Lord…

So, I was wondering if there was anything I could blog about in the meantime – anything you’d like to know or see? Maybe you want an update on the fence? Maybe you want to hear about our Bourbon Trail trip or my excursion to Paris (ahhhhhh! I still don’t really believe it!)? Maybe you’d be satisfied with random dog pictures and videos? (Example below where they prove that through teamwork they can block the entire kitchen floor.) Maybe you have some burning questions for us – firehouse or not-firehouse related. Tell me, friends.

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Checking in

It’s been a bit of an unintended absence the last few weeks and I apologize. It felt like we literally spent the last few days of the 2015 hanging onto a thread and hoping the universe wouldn’t notice and send some other tragedy our way. It worked and 2016 has really turned the corner! So I thought I would check in, chat a bit, show you pictures of our dogs. It’s basically like my Instagram account, but with more words.

The flood waters have receded

Like the rest of St Louis, we faced an unprecedented amount of water falling from the sky in the warm weather of late December. Our basement nearly flooded. Truthfully we were only saved by the drainage system, which Aaron was able to divert most of the leaks into. Our sump pump ran constantly. I spent a sleepless night worrying about the basement literally filling up with water. At the peak of the crisis, water started shooting in OVER Aaron’s head. It was like the firehouse was suddenly built in the middle of a pond.

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But it precipitated (see what I did there) a welcome change. The massive amounts of water and a call from one of our neighbors (we’re not sure who, we tried to to call the sewer department and couldn’t get through) brought out a crew to pump the storm drain. That gave us a chance to tell them about the entire truck of concrete that was emptied into a now nonexistent manhole in preparation for tearing down the building by the substation. That prompted a massive project to fix the line and now the water is gone. It’s like it never happened. Barring an act of God (or another misplaced load of concrete) we think our basement is finally once again safe… and now has added protection thanks to the drainage system.

The workshop is happening

FOR REAL. I’m a broken record when it comes to this space, but things are getting real down there. The lockers are in place and full of supplies. The dining room is being freed of construction paraphernalia. And if it weren’t for an incorrect order of pvc pipe joints (it was marked incorrectly on Home Depot’s side) we would be JUST about done with that space. You’ll get a real update soon!

I got a Roomba!

Aaron surprised me (despite our “no gifts this Christmas”) with a Roomba he scored on an awesome Amazon deal. It is AHHHHHmazing! I feel so fancy, like a have a cleaning lady… even though she’s really only good at floor maintenance.

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Hank is huge!

Hank is still growing, but we think he’s reached his max height. The situation behind the couch went from this…

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To this:

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So that is what’s new with us. Things will get back to their regularly scheduled programming around here very soon. We’ve got our sights set on the dining room/living room and can’t wait to get going!