Category: Dining room

6 tips for finding a wood slab

I honestly don’t know when we decided that a live edge slab table would be perfect for the dining room. For me it may have taken root when we were featured in Alive Magazine along with some other owners of unusual homes and peeped Charlie Smith’s beautiful table. Whenever it did take hold, it grabbed on and didn’t let go. We’ve been picturing a gorgeous slab of wood for that space for awhile. It will add the perfect natural, warm element to the white space (are you new here? We love white paint) and black chairs.

The search for the slab was one of the most time intensive processes we’ve undertaken for the firehouse to date. It was complicated by so many variables, some usual, some unique to the particular item we sought. We looked at so many slabs, inquired about several, and lost a few due to timing or miscommunication. So by the time we found the one we bought it was almost a fever pitch of “let’s get this done! SeriouslyHURRYbuyitnow!!” So here I am, well past the point when an enormous piece of wood came to live in our studio and ready to tell you about the hunt, but with basically zero real examples of slabs we loved and lost. #badblogger

What I can share are the lessons we learned along the way. Let’s start with what we wanted: A large, live-edge slab of wood, preferably walnut, rot/holes/knots that added interest welcome, budget: $1,200

1. Measure first
Yeah, I know. This should always be the first step, but we started this process assuming we knew what size we needed. Aaron launched into a search with a rough idea in his head, pulled lots of options and THEN we measured. It was a very scientific effort involving a card table, chairs and some painter’s tape.

table-measure

It turned out that the space could hold a pretty large table: 48 – 50″ wide by 120″ long.

2. Start early, like really early
It probably goes without saying that something natural like wood slabs have a limited and often changing inventory. Also, once you find the perfect piece it may need some time to dry. A green slab air drys for about 2 years and then it goes in a massive kiln for 3 – 5 months, which leads me to the next point.

3. Learn the lingo
It’s critical to understand the steps involved in prepping a piece of wood to live in your dining room because you can buy slabs at every stage. Ultimately, it will affect the cost and how much work you have to put in once it arrives.

After a tree is cut into slabs, those pieces of wood must be dried to be used for furniture. See process above. We knew we wanted a slab that was already kiln dried.

A particular slab can have some cupping, bowing on either side that doesn’t make it totally flat. This is why it’s helpful to get a slab that has been planed to flatten it on both sides. Unless you have an industrial-sized woodshop with an equally industrial-sized planer, you want a slab that has been planed.

Then there are more finishing steps like sanding, adding epoxy or otherwise reinforcing any holes as needed, and coating it (oil, stain, etc). Sometimes you can do these yourself, sometimes they are offered for an additional charge. Know your skill set and choose appropriately. We were comfortable with doing most of these steps on our own if needed.

You can also get sets that are book matched. Basically these are consecutive slices from a single log that are joined to make a wider surface. They look like this:

1765-bookmatch-slab-set-jewell-hardwoods

Source: Jewell Hardwoods

4. Don’t live in the Midwest
Kidding… although it would be easier to buy a HUGE tree chunk if we lived near HUGE trees. There aren’t many slab sellers in the Midwest so you’ll have to accept the fact that you won’t see your slab in person before it arrives. You’ll also want to budget some money for shipping.

5. Be flexible about material and size
Originally we were looking for black walnut, but realized that claro walnut (pictured above) lacked the lighter growth just below the bark. It’s a more consistent look and also more expensive. (Because of course we want the more expensive thing…) We realized pretty quickly that a slab of walnut – of any variety – was cost prohibitive.

That left us open to looking at different species, but none of the tones fit our vision. So we went back to claro walnut and looked for a bookmatched. We don’t love the look as much, but it was cheaper. We actually had a few we seriously considered, but when we were ready to buy after only a few days of consideration the pieces were gone. At this point we jumped the budget to a max of $3k.

Next we moved on to teak options from Origin Teak Cabinet Company.

9b73a314-1e84-4871-a100-e5e0e0227f05

After weeks of emailing, there was a serious miscommunication about the budget (the updated budget) and we had to walk away.

Parota, a tropical tree, kept popping up as an option because of the massive slabs that come from this fast growing species. Originally we discounted it because the finished pieces looked so red. We went back to square one with our search, and unwilling to yield on the overall size, we did some research and discovered the redness comes mostly from the popular way to finish parota. So we turned back to the world wide web.

6. Google, Google again, Google some more
Slab vendors are on the interwebs, but only the biggest shops are good at SEO. Don’t stop at page 1 or page 20 of your search. Go deep down the list and if you start over, get more specific. Look for a particular type of wood (you’ll know what you want because you followed all the tips above) or search for vendors in a particular area. A friend recommended we look in Canada thanks to the favorable exchange rate.

Eventually we found the perfect vendor in CaliforniaWoodSlabs.com. This small company was established by two friends, one in Costa Rica where huge Parota trees grow, and one in California with warehouse space in Colorado and inkling to start a business. They offer sustainably harvested, kiln dried, sanded Parota slabs, and they include epoxy work on any imperfections for free. Remember why all these things are important? It means less work on our end. Basically these slabs are ready to finish.

Thanks to an old email chain, here are some slabs we actually considered:

797fdb_97563910cb754408acd93875d612774e

California Wood Slabs – G15551

This slab is a really nice size – very uniform width and fantastic length for the price. The grain pattern is very even, a little on the boring side.

797fdb_129a3a312b4f48c4ae16a14aa0bb0a5a

California Wood Slabs – G15612

Nice size, even a bit on the long side. Really pretty grain and wide enough to work.

797fdb_4c667a2a7b5a4114851c3ff41c65ed4e

California Wood Slabs – J16302

This one stopped me in my tracks. This is the kind of uniquely grained, imperfect piece I wanted. Sadly, even with the upgraded budget, at $3775 it was a budget buster.

We settled on a slab that was perfectly sized for our space: 48″ x 120″ with enough visual interest in the grain and a price that actually came in below budget.

Slab15840

So now we live with this beautiful piece of wood that is just quietly waiting for us to finish the dining room and give it a home. When the time comes we may need to host a table moving party. Who’s in?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Things are looking up

That’s a really silly title. Can you get rusty at blogging? Because I might be. Suddenly a month has gone by! We’ve been working on SO many different things, but haven’t had anything to show for it yet. It’s not our normal MO, but when some necessary parts for the basement workshop had to be reordered, we decided to dive into the the first floor reno, which I detailed our plans for oh so long ago.

Although 2015, felt like a bit of a lost year in terms of visible progress on the firehouse, we kicked off this renovation with some key features routing electric for the basement sub panel, adding windows, and finding and installing our fireplace.

We’re back at it and into some of the really boring/incredibly tedious/worth it in the end, projects that will get the room ready for paint. First up: patching the dining room ceiling. Hence the title of the post. Although, really, Aaron is the one who has been looking up. Get it? Ha! … Sorry.

001diningroomceiling

This is definitely one of those projects that we waffled on. Was it worth it? Would it make a difference? Could we just paint over the rough spots to make them blend in? That is what we opted to do in the studio.

But the dining room felt different to us. While we love the industrial look, we worried in this space it would just feel unfinished. Also we have so many things going into the space that we want you to notice. It would be a shame if the ceiling detracted from that.

002diningroomceiling 003diningroomceiling 004diningroomceiling 005diningroomceiling

The ceiling in the living room was previously repaired (and painted black) which also made us lead towards making the change. (That ceiling and the duct will be painted white when the time comes.)

006diningroomceiling

So we decided it was worth the time to fix the ceiling… even though that means in the end you WON’T notice the work. The project itself was more labor and time intensive than expected, because isn’t everything in a renovation? Aaron started by scraping off the loose bits of plaster and patching the numerous holes. Then he carefully layered on 150 pounds of mud.

The result was so worth it! (Says the person who did none of the work.)

007diningroomceiling 008diningroomceiling 009diningroomceiling 010diningroomceiling 011diningroomceiling 012diningroomceiling

It’s nice to have a clean slate in here. We’re working on a few DIY light fixtures that will give some much needed light to this space.

013diningroomceiling

As I mentioned, we’re ping ponging between projects a bit. Lately, we’ve been sourcing wood slabs for the dining room table, and Aaron is in the basement this week installing the dust collection system. Updates should get more frequent as we start crossing things off the list for both spaces!

Plans for the first floor

Now that the dust has settled (and been removed) let’s chat about the major reno for the year. We’re taking on most of the rest of downstairs. Functionally, that means we’re tackling the entry cube (fire hose lights, your days are numbered), downstairs living room, dining room and half bath. Here’s a bit of the floor plan for reference.

Firehouse-floor-plan_first_floor

When we are done, the only part of the first floor that will be relatively untouched is the kitchen. We really wanted to tackle everything at once, but a financing hiccup put the kitchen on hold. It’s a bit of a bummer (and a story for a different day) but we’re both very excited to use space that has basically been a landing zone/construction area the entire time we’ve lived here.

So what’s on tap? Here’s a high level overview.

Overall

  • Finish the HVAC
  • Fix the drywall
  • Remove and repair the plaster on the ceiling
  • Paint walls, ceiling and now the floor, because blah

Entry cube

003masterplan2014

This connects the studio to the living space. The only “finished” thing about it is the lights. Besides that it’s a jumble of half-mudded drywall. Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Ditch the fire hose lights (Don’t worry. We’ll find a good home for them.)
  • Install a commercial door that fits the character of the space
  • Hang a new light and maybe some art

Half bath

006firehouse_two_years

This small bathroom got a big upgrade when we replaced the windows on the first floor before we moved in. It’s totally functional, which is great because it gets a lot of use since it is the only bathroom on this floor. This space only needs some cosmetic touch ups:

  • Refinish the sink
  • Fix the ceiling – It has some random holes, a few fans (one works, one doesn’t) and an old, ugly light fixture
  • New lighting
  • Add some functional storage and a mirror

Dining room

003openhousecleaningfrenzy 002openhousecleaningfrenzy

The dining room also got a new window. Since then it has basically been a staging place for tools, except for the one time I cleaned it before our open house. In this area, we’ll:

  • Add a window
  • Procure/buy new furniture (we’re pondering a custom table)
  • Build the coolest light fixture we can imagine that we’ve wanted to hang somewhere for years
  • Finish it with art and accessories, maybe an indoor tree?

When we tackle the kitchen, we’ll bust down the wall between these spaces. In the interim, we’re going to close the kitchen off with a swinging restaurant door and new frosted glass for the transom.

Living room

004openhousecleaningfrenzy

We have big plans for this space! We already have a very comfortable TV/movie watching area, so we want this to function as a great place to relax and entertain. We’ll still incorporate a TV (in case we want to toss the football game on during Thanksgiving) but the main focus will be chilling in front of the fireplace. Here’s the plan:

  • Add TWO news windows that flank a new fireplace (EEE!) You can sneak a peek at the layout at the end of this post.
  • Create (or buy) a storage unit that includes a hidden TV and firewood storage
  • Layer in furnishings, accessories, lighting and art

This project is actually slated to start AFTER the workshop, but we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather to get the windows cut out (by a mason) and then installed (by Aaron.) So I’ll have another post on that when they go in, then work in this space will halt while we get the workshop done and finally make a home for the tools.

So fresh, so clean

NOTE: We just realized that after proofing this post last week, each of us thought the other one had actually hit “publish.” Ooops!

Isn’t it amazing how motivating a party can be? It’s almost like it gives you a fresh perspective on your space. In our case it brought on a lot of “People shouldn’t see us living like this!” It’s one thing to share on the interwebs, but leading people through the sheer chaos on our first floor was not something I was interested in. For weeks before the open house we sacrificed our Sundays to cleaning and organizing this place. And in a crazy whirlwind the week before the premiere, we finally managed to turn this space into something presentable.

So here’s a little before (from our 6-month recap) and after montage for the spaces that saw the most change

Studio

004sixmonths

001openhousecleaningfrenzy

Even though it feels like progress has slowed in the studio, this comparison tells a different story. Hello viewing room and Aaron’s floating office and art! (More details coming soon.)

Dining room (formerly studio storage)

005sixmonths

002openhousecleaningfrenzy

003openhousecleaningfrenzy

We kept saying all of the stuff in the dining room has a home. Thanks to finally erecting some shelving (more details soon!) we were able to clear out most of this space.

Originally, we planned to move the table from the kitchen to this space, but then we took a good look around. The lighting is depressing. There is unfinished drywall everywhere. And there’s barely any natural light, especially in the winter evenings. So we swapped our plans, keeping the table in the kitchen and moving some of the extra kitchen bits (mostly small appliances) out to the dining room.

Living room (former toolbox)

006sixmonths

004openhousecleaningfrenzy

I don’t even know what to say. Basically the toolbox/workshop exploded in this area and there was nowhere else for everything to go. Aaron organized it all and we transported it to the basement. (I’m missing a picture of the basement because there’s a light burned out and it’s really dark. Trust that it doesn’t look nearly as bad as this “before” shot.)

Captain’s bedroom

010sixmonths

007openhousecleaningfrenzy

008openhousecleaningfrenzy

It’s amazing what a little bit of organization and unpacking will do. Some things were moved into the closet (a novel idea, right?) I corralled all of the decor and pushed the furniture to the walls so the space is a bit more open.

Workout room

012sixmonths

010openhousecleaningfrenzy

011openhousecleaningfrenzy

This room really deserves it’s own post because I took out the stage (in the top picture the mirror is leaning against it) that was hogging way too much floorspace. Based on the listing pictures, we surmise that it was a child’s bed with a cubby underneath. To us it looked a lot like trash, albeit well-made trash.

One Sunday when Aaron was laid up with the remnants of the flu, I unscrewed the stage, kicked out the drywall and dragged most of it downstairs, only pausing for this Instagram.

photo

It was a bad blogger moment, but I was riding the high of demolition. THEN Aaron said “Do you want to just toss the drywall out the window instead of dragging it through the house?” Um, YES! Hell yes! It was like a real live demo show up in here… except one where I still had to drag the remnants to the dumpster.

This was followed by another “just call me the queen of DIY” moment, I used a sawzall! Without injury! The pieces of the stage were too big to fit in the dumpster so Aaron gave me a lesson sawzalling and I went to town. Ok, so I really just cut each piece into thirds so it would all kind of fit into the dumpster. In related news, if this whole photography and blogging thing doesn’t work out I really feel like we could monetize a YouTube channel of me trying to put large objects into the dumpster. Even whilst trying to wrestle something into that bin, I think, “This is ridiculous. You’re so uncoordinated and awkward.” It has to be hilarious for the neighbors… although I hope no one is actually watching.

So things are cleaner, more spacious and less embarrassing around here. We’ve been so busy that I’ve got a backlog of posts coming your way… as long as we remember to actually publish them…

Let there be light

Did you notice anything in the moving day pictures?

01newwindowpeek

02newwindowpeek

 

That’s right, we have windows and natural light in the first floor! Woot!

When we looked at the firehouse we were instantly struck by the lack of windows… scratch that… we were instantly struck by the abundance of bricked over windows. Who does that?

We knew our happiness in this space would depend in large part on putting those windows back in. We’re photographers (maybe you already knew that) and we thrive on natural light. When it came time to talk finances, we opted for a loan that would let us tackle some major projects at the outset. New windows were at the top of the list.

In total, we added 8 windows, leaving just one in the kitchen bricked over. We know the kitchen is due for a major overhaul and the window is on a wall that will be perfect for cabinets. So it stayed Bricky McBrickerson and the contractors got to work on the others.

You guys, this made a HUUUUGE difference in the space. Let’s do a quick refresh.

Studio before – Resembles a cave (in real life… this photo was taken by a pro who was trying to make the space look good. Also, sorry for the lack of respectable “before” pics. We’ll get better as we go. The window wall is on the left in this picture.)

001studiobefore

Studio now: WHAT!?! I can see the sky!

01newwindows

02newwindows

03newwindows

 

You can actually see light through the end of the building thanks to this addition…

04newwindows

That bright square in the background is a window in the yet-to-be-seen-on-the-blog-because-it-was-basically-a-closet first floor half bath!

05newwindows

06newwindows

 

Dining room before: I’m so sad that white square by the fire pole isn’t a window.

003studiolivedine

Dining room now: It’s so bright I can barely see!!

07newwindows

 

Kitchen before: There’s some light from the door…

001kitchenbefore

Kitchen now: Oooh! I could almost see myself cooking and taking pictures for a blog in that light-filled corner.

08newwindows

09newwindows

8 new windows = happiness.

I’ll toss up some outside pics in a separate post because we actually gave all of the windows a happy exterior makeover. We’ve had the windows for a few weeks, but I still find myself gazing at them (and out them) lovingly. Like everything in this space, opening up the holes yielded some surprises. More on that in the next post.