Category: Kitchen

What a difference paint makes

NOTE: 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.)

It’s probably not a surprise that the process of interviewing for, thinking about and ultimately accepting a role that would relocate us happened over the course of many, many days. During the very necessary interim period, we faced a major choice in the downstairs renovation: finish it the way we wanted or finish it to sell. In order to put that decision off until the future became more clear, we started making changes to other areas of the firehouse. It was a list of “If we move, we’re that much further ahead and if we don’t at least we have made some of our untouched spaces better.”

First up on that list was the master bathroom. It was a good target because all it needed was paint and virtually anything would be better than the light blue it was already sporting.

Before:

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After:

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We wanted to go with gray to tone down the blue in the tile (which the old paint color highlighted) and to tie it into the master bedroom. We coated our bedroom in Behr’s Dark Cavern about three years ago, which is apparently long enough for Behr to discontinue a color. In lieu of going with a lighter shade of that, we opted for Behr Silver Bullet.

Ultimately, it reads a bit too dark in this space, but I’m splitting hairs because it looks so much better overall! We opted to paint the trim around the tub to give it more of “built-in” feel and less of a “LOOK AT ALL THE WHITE TRIM” vibe. That’s all this space needed besides art, a fresh coating of caulk in the shower and fixing the GFCI outlet that never worked (because the previous owner ran a wire that stopped mid hallway and was helpfully marked “master bathroom,” but not helpfully connected to an outlet. I just can’t.)

At this point, we still didn’t have a clear answer on move vs. stay. So we decided to tackle the “4th bedroom.” It has always had quotes around it because it’s never been used as a bedroom and, as previously mentioned, good friends of ours didn’t even know this room existed. Basically it was a sometimes organized storage space with no windows, very little light and a furnace dominating the room (you can see it at the top left of the photo below). To get this space ready to sell (or just happier to look at if we stayed), we needed to repair some peeling plaster on the ceiling, give it a paint makeover (the ceiling was teal), install a new fan and light (and center it between the air ducts), and install new floors.

We had a few decisions to make regarding the paint and the floors. Initially, we dubbed this whole project: Project Greige…. as in, we have to go with a “sell-able” color and grey/beige is popular. After looking at a lot of greige swatches (and losing a little bit of our souls) we decided we just couldn’t do that to the firehouse. Instead, we opted to go for a light gray that we would like in our extra bedrooms and could continue through the downstairs spaces if we did renovate to sell. We grabbed a bunch of swatches and settled on Behr White Metal, which happens to be one shade lighter than the Silver Bullet we used in the master bath.

Floors were another adventure, but let’s look at a before/after set first!

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We installed a new fan and LED light kit, along with a light in the closet (not pictured) which made a huge difference in the space. We also wanted to cover up the furnace, but not totally enclose it and screw over the next owners. The best solution we came up with was a huge curtain. It does a great job of not drawing your eye to the ceiling and also won’t be in the way for any maintenance that is needed. (Thanks to my mom for her seamstress skills!)

We also put in new floors! And that is a story in itself. Originally, we wanted to match the floors in the workout room. They weren’t particularly nice, but at least we wouldn’t be introducing another floor type to the building. (Feel free to scroll down to the next pic to see what we were working with.)

We looked online with little success and decided to pull a piece of the floor to take to Home Depot. The option that came the closest was some of the cheapest, ugliest, still doesn’t super match floor I have ever seen. We kept wandering the aisle looking for something else… anything else. In doing so, we noticed a clearance palette of some really pretty, dark brown engineered hardwood. It’s a perfect mid-century tone and we instantly said “Oooh we wish we could put this in… but then we’d also have to re-do the workout room…” I’m sure you know where this is going…

We decided that having some hardwood floors in the firehouse would only help with the value. So we bought enough for the 4th bedroom, workout room and downstairs living nad dining rooms. (You may remember that the epoxy floor downstairs space we irrepriably damaged when we left a piece of treated plywood on it for too long. Oops!) If anyone in St. Louis happened to also fall in love with Home Legend Wire Brushed Forest Trail Hickory engineered hardwood at the clearance price of $1.53 a square foot, sorry not sorry but we cleaned out all the stock in the metro area… and bought a few boxes online at full price.

So that’s the story of how we decided to put down new floors in the workout room. It also (desperately) needed paint… because the sea foam green/dark purple/light purple combo wasn’t working for anyone. The benefit of putting down new floors is that we could spray in this space and not have to worry about protecting the floors. It also made it much easier to paint some of the “WHY DID YOU PAINT THAT” items, like the duct work, which was sporting green stems and purple vents… because who doesn’t want to highlight their HVAC in contrasting colors….

This space also got a coating of Behr White Metal, including the small amount of exposed brick. Sorry exposed brick purists. It made more sense and I’m in love with how it turned out.

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Truth be told – at this point, we hired painters to help speed some of the renovations along, and I regret nothing! I have never felt so fancy as when we had someone else painting spaces in our house. Besides being a luxury it also made sense considering the amount of work we needed to be done. At this point we knew we were MOVING!

I’m so happy with this change… so happy that it makes me think “maybe we should have done this sooner.” More on that later. Besides the paint and floors, we did some plaster repair, replaced the light kit on the fan and finished some trim work in the closet and around the door.

The awesome bathroom was up next. It is one of the least photographed spaces in our home. Probably because until about a week before listing it had a drop ceiling with damaged tiles (from a fixed roof issue) and missing tiles that allowed an ugly fluorescent light to hang below it. I never took proper before photos of this space, and I regret it. Aaron replaced the ceiling tiles, added recessed LED lighting and fixed the duct work. The difference is incredible! I can’t show you that, but what I can show you is the awesome dark blue paint we picked.

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BAM!

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I love this color so much. It really draws your eye to the beautiful stone, and thanks to the new lighting the space is bright despite the darker color.

That completed ALL of the rooms in the upstairs and it was so weird to be completely finished with an entire floor of the firehouse!

The kitchen needed a little prep work, like taking down the exit sign and conduit, but this transformation is mostly thanks to paint and I basically can’t….

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GAH! It looks so good. That yellow glazed brick was making this room so, so sad. If you haven’t caught the theme yet, the paint is Behr White Metal. It makes everything in this room look better – the cabinets, the countertops and the floors.

And so, do I wish we would have done this earlier? We’ve gotten that question from quite a few people. The answer is yes… and no…

Yes, because OMG look at that kitchen! And the workout room feels like a chic Ney York City loft.

But, actually, no… because I stand behind our rationale for tackling spaces one at a time and doing them to completion. We took a long view because we were in it for the long haul. Painting a space just because seemed a bit like a waste, let alone paying for and installing new floors and lighting. The captain’s bedroom is a good reminder that when we do a space from top to bottom is sings. It wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful if we had simply painted.

So while I’m happy that we touched these spaces (which needed to be done just to sell this place as finished) I don’t see our ultimate vision. They fit with the look of the firehouse, but they don’t feel like us. A coworker asked if it has been emotional to let go of the firehouse. It has. But projects like this – finishing spaces but not feeling like their ours – have helped us (or at least me… Aaron is still recuperating from many, many weeks of work. I’ll ask him when he wakes up) begin to see this place as someone else’s home.

Noodling the kitchen walls

Clearly things are slowing down a bit here at the firehouse. Aaron is trying to edit his way through our fall wedding season and we’re gearing up (or maybe down is the right word) for winter. It’s always been our chance to recoup from the craziness that is our life 9ish months of the year.

That doesn’t mean things will totally stop. We have a few winter break plans that are good “for now” changes and could ultimately save us a step in the long run. I’m looking at you awful skin-toned and red walls in the upstairs living room. I have a bucket of white paint with your name on it.

We’re also scheming for next year, which seems to be a hot topic as I know my parents have some sort of wager over what space we tackle next. Even though part of me wants to wait until we have an Ikea (OMG! I can’t even explain to you how close this is to the firehouse. Like, we could walk… long walk… and we couldn’t buy much, but still…), the kitchen is high on the list for the next major project. It has us pondering what we could do in the spring and summer to get ready for an overhaul next winter.

The biggest question in this space is the layout. Right now the kitchen is firmly hidden behind two walls, which really flies in the face of our desire for an open floor plan. Here’s a few views from the dining room.

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This is the view walking into the space from the studio. Dining room to the left, living room to the right.

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Ideally, we’d like to take out the whole wall facing the dining room and the corner the juts into the living room. Here’s a mock up.

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From the living room side it looks like this.

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And we want to get ride of that blue section.

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Just like in a normal home, this all comes down to whether the wall is load bearing. Even if it is, we could add a post and beam to keep the structure intact. The problem is we can’t tell whether it’s load bearing because it’s made of glazed brick.

This seam (in the dining room) makes us think that the kitchen wall is free standing.

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We’ve also been able to peek into this hole (which is right at the corner and maybe used to be a drinking fountain?) We can see a vertical I-beam on the dining room wall, but not much else.

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Then we realized that the kitchen ceiling is a lot shorter. It was nearly impossible to photograph, but we’d basically be left with this much height difference. I’m sure we could make it work, but we’re not totally sure the glazed brick would stay in place long enough to re-support it if we tore everything out in the blue area.

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Right now our worst case scenario is only demoing the wall facing the dining room and building back an upper wall (probably with drywall) so that the opening looks something like this.

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So that’s a long way of saying “We don’t know what to do.” We think an architectural engineer could give us some guidance. Is there a section for that in the phone book??

 

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

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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)

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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)

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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

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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

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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.

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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…

Move-in day surprise

The day we moved into the firehouse (I kind of can’t believe that was just over 2 weeks ago) I was greeted with a few sweet surprises in the kitchen. Actually, I didn’t even notice them on my first trip to drop off the contents of our fridge. I was so focused on getting back to the condo that I didn’t turn the light on in the kitchen. In fact, I didn’t even look up. This conversation ensued:

Aaron: Did you notice the surprises?
Me: What surprises?
Aaron: In the kitchen
Me: Umm… no, but I didn’t really look around at all.
Aaron: (laughing) Clearly

On my next trip to drop of some breakable items the kitchen was my first stop. I was greeted by a (very obviously new) light fixture and pot rack!

This boring fixture with it’s make-me-want to-claw-my-eyes-out light, came down and was replaced with a stylish, Pinterest-inspired fixture.

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Aaron had the hardware store cut a 10′ piece of 3/4″ steel pipe to 8 ft to match the size of the fluorescent fixture (and reduce the number of holes in the ceiling. We all know we have enough of those.) Each end got an elbow, a 6″ nipple (stop laughing, that’s what they’re called… or am I the only one that finds that funny…) and a floor flange that is screwed into ceiling.

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Aaron used the existing box to get power for the lamp cord. Each strand got a lamp base and some extra yardage that he wrapped around the pipe for added interest. The 5 incandescent bulbs give off a ton of light. These pictures don’t do it justice and light fixtures are hard to photograph.

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Sigh. I’m in love.

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The inspiration for the pot rack came from an unlikely source. A week before we moved, we joined two good friends for drinks and a book signing. Deb of Smitten Kitchen recently put out her first cookbook. She is one my favorite food bloggers. Derren and Lisa share my affection for SK, Aaron… not so much. He’s not into food blogs, so he was there for the pre-signing food with friends. He was a trooper sitting through a cooking centric question and answer session. At one point, someone asked Deb the best thing about her kitchen. She immediately answered “the pot rack” because it saves so much cabinet space. I didn’t notice the light bulb going off over Aaron’s head, but I’m sure glad it did.

After a bit of measuring, he grabbed pre-cut 1/2″ steel pipe, elbows, a few T’s and floor flanges.

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He slipped conduit hangers over the pipe and added pot rack hooks.

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This addition saved me some serious heartache when I was unpacking the kitchen. There seem to be a lot of cabinets, but most of them are not deep and only accessible by step stool. Hanging the pots saved a ton of space for other essentials, like wine glasses.

Seriously ladies, if you can’t marry for love then marry for handiness and the willingness to put that skill to good use. (Ok, really marry for love… handiness is a super, awesome, mega bonus.)

Anyone else getting surprised by their significant other with light fixtures, pot racks, or other home projects? I picked up a meat smoker (free assembly courtesy of Home Depot) for Aaron as a “Thanks for doing so much work on the firehouse” gift. Apparently, home gifts are now how we show affection.

Let there be light

Did you notice anything in the moving day pictures?

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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.)

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

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

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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!

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

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

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

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

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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.