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.

Another new to us dresser

You can definitely file this under “furniture we don’t need… but we really, really wanted.” I blame the knobs. Look at them!

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This is yet another (but the last one we’ll talk about for now) find at South Jefferson Mid Century Modern. It’s one I saw on Instagram that made me pause, scroll back and think “Would Aaron like that?” I wrongly assumed he wouldn’t and kept moving because who really needs 5 super skinny drawers?

When we went in for THE desk, this dresser was still available. Aaron gravitated toward it instantly, and I discovered that it was actually a stack of three drawers on each side (and therefore MUCH more functional.) We reasoned that we could swap out the behemoth of a dresser we have in our master bedroom for this much more stylish piece. So we included it on the wishlist and toted it home with our other scores. It waited alongside the Broyhill before being moved to the (future) downstairs living room/current workshop disaster zone to get some love.

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Seriously, the knobs.

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It had a little wear all over and a little rogue paint.

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The worst part was the top, which lost its luster many years ago.

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Aaron cleaned the whole piece with Murphy Oil Soap and gave it a coat of Danish Oil before turning his attention to the top.

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He sanded the top and rubbed on three coats of Danish Oil to bring it back to the right color.

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You can really see what a difference it made.

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Then he coated it with 2 rounds of Feed-N-Wax to bring back some of the shine.

Here’s the dresser we retired to make way for this mid century beauty.

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It was super functional, but also super huge. So huge that we couldn’t open the door all the way.

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Much better!

Here’s a look at the drawer configuration.

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When I shot this I realized that I forgot to fill up the bottom left drawer. This dresser doesn’t really come close to fitting all of the clothes the other one held… but ignoring a drawer completely certainly wasn’t helping!

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Oh those knobs…

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We always prioritize our bedroom really low when it comes to updates. Even at our house in Kansas City, it took us about four years to paint our master a color we liked. In fact, the only reason we painted this room was for an Alive Magazine shoot. Otherwise it would still be the dreadful green and brown combo we inherited.

All that is to say, it’s nice to have a fun update in a space we use so often. And since this is my dresser I get to enjoy those knobs on the daily.

Sugru the shower handle

Have you heard of Sugru yet? You probably have, because, like me, you probably follow many of the popular home/DIY blogs, including the hilarious Katie of Bower Power who talked about the magic of Sugru a few weeks ago. Basically, Sugru is a cool substance that starts pliable and dries as a firm plastic. It’s play dough plastic, and I instantly thought of a spot in the firehouse that could benefit from some fixing.

Welcome to our master bathroom. I don’t talk about this space much because it’s functional and oh so boring. It’s also years away from any kind of facelift. But the shower door was in need of a minor repair.

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In a burst of vigorous cleaning (because soap scum is a B! Side note: When the cleaning crew tackled our house, we tacked on the master bath even though it wasn’t covered in dust. The cleaning ladies actually apologized for not being able to remove all the soap scum from the shower door. In related news: I no longer feel bad about my cleaning skills.) I digress. Whilst cleaning, I accidentally broke some sort of plastic ring that was holding the two sides of the shower door handle together. I’m fairly certain that it was brittle from old age. Another ring soon followed suit and since then we’ve been living with a wobbly handle, which felt like it might break off at any moment.
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Sugru seemed like the perfect solution. I snagged a pack at Target and after our showers one night, it took 10 whole minutes to make the fix. I used one pack on each side of the door, splitting the Sugru into two pieces for each connection. After wiping down the door, I rolled out the Sugru, stuck it in place and let it dry for the prescribed 24 hours. Voila!

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So far it’s working perfectly! Aaron pointed out that it’s not a very pretty fix, likening it to chewing gum. I don’t disagree, but in this destined-for-an-eventual-reno space (and on a handle that we use repeatedly each day) I’m ok with function over form. So are you on the Sugru bandwagon?

I feel like it’s a blogger duty to mention that I wasn’t paid by Sugru. In fact, no one has ever paid me to write a single word on this blog (so far, but if the right company came along, I’d consider it… just putting that out there. COUGHSchoolhouse ElectricCOUGH) I just thought this product was cool and wanted to share.

The master bedroom gets a facelift

The renovation drought is officially over, but a month ago I wouldn’t have guessed that we would choose this space to go first.

Let me back up. Let’s talk about the master bedroom. It’s a fine/functional/we-just-dropped-furniture-in-here type of space. I mean, we were using moving boxes for side tables until September!

We don’t love the space, and there are plenty of things that need addressed:

  1. Awful paint scheme
  2. Random unpainted access panel in the ceiling
  3. Inadequate lighting
  4. Ugly tile
  5. SIX DOORS and no place to put the bed except the half wall
  6. Bizarre closet arrangement that blocks a window
  7. The half wall
    Oh, half wall, you flow interrupting, unfinished eyesore. Before we closed on this place I had grand plans to knock you out. “First thing! FIRST THING!” I swore to anyone who would listen. You’re the worst.

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Besides the long list above the room had some other minor issues, like a missing doorknob. (Broken off with a brick from the yard in a fit of panic at the sound of rushing water. Don’t worry, the water was actually seeping through some random holes in the laundry room and this occurred well before we had anything in the firehouse that could get ruined.)

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Plenty of light switches and outlets that simply don’t work. Some were painted to match the wall. Some were plate-less.

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Missing trim…

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This mess… which is certainly our fault, but easy to look past on a daily basis.

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Trim that is in place but not nailed down…

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And this mess… which is ironic because we’ve had the mount for the TV since before we moved in. It did get a  lot of action through the temperate months when it held one of the windows opens for us.

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And, honestly, none of that bothered me that much until (there’s always an until) a local magazine contacted us wanting to include the firehouse in an upcoming issue that highlights interesting rehabbed spaces. I tried explaining that the studio is the only space that’s really done. While looking at pictures on our blog, the editor said, “The master bedroom looks pretty good.”

I (obviously) protested. She wanted to talk to her art director. I wanted to talk to Aaron.

When I looked at the space with fresh/maybe-we-could-fix-this eyes, I thought, “It wouldn’t take that much paint.” I causally brought up the idea of, “Hey, if this magazine wants to come shoot our space, maybe we should paint the bedroom.” Which snowballed into his suggestion to paint the trim, doors and half wall to make some of the suburban disappear. Cut to us grabbing some paint swatches from Home Depot.

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Because this is truly an “in between” makeover (we have big plans for this space… and every space so there was no reason to linger over the choice) and I’m married to a photographer who has a color sense that would make any designer jealous, we quickly honed in on Dark Cavern (bottom right). We wanted to go with a darker shade than our previous bedrooms (we’re still strongly considering black after we renovate) and the warm tone matched our bedding the best.

In the meantime, the editor decided that “yes, we would love to feature your space” and gave us a whopping 10 days to complete the makeover. A few days later and a LOT OF EDGING we had this:

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What a difference a few cans of paint make!

Of course, we took a few minutes to add some trim (which had to be custom fabricated, because nothing is ever easy at the firehouse), replace the switches and outlets with black versions and spray the handles and hinges a darker color so everything blends in.

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I have momentarily stopped cussing at the half wall.

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The access panel (upper left) even got a quick swipe of Antique White so it would blend in. Can we not talk about how much it pained us to buy “white” paint with any kind of tint?

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I went into full staging/nesting mode in light of the impending photo shoot. My bedside table got a few new pieces of milk glass that we picked up in recent jaunts to surrounding antique malls.

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The walls even got some art. (ART!!) A few fog pictures from long ago.

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And Aaron got his very own side table staging thanks to some vintage pieces that haven’t seen the light of day in nearly a year.

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Oh my! It feels good to decorate!

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Obviously, it’s not perfect. The half wall disdain will surely creep back, in and we decided to nix the light gray curtains in favor of black pull down shades, which are on their way. But I actually smile when I walk in the room. We can certainly live with this, and actually enjoy it, while we focus on some more public spaces over the next few years.

This wasn’t the only thing we painted in that tight timeline. The others are looking a bit brighter (white… obviously). Any guesses?

 

Furniture swaps

It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for the studio tipping point – the point when we actually move in, the point when the dining room starts to get cleared out, the point when we think “YES! This is why we bought this place.” I’m seriously enjoying the fact that it feels like we’re moving in. Nesting is at an all time high.

So it’s no shock that some unexpected furniture swaps have me doing a happy dance. First we moved our desks into the studio, freeing up space in the upstairs living room.

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At the same time, we moved everything into the viewing, freeing up a media unit that has always lived in the studio. Our initial impulse was to sell it, but we decided to try it out in the upstairs living room first.

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It turned out to be a great fit. We love that the TV is lower and therefore more in our line of sight from the couch.

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This freed up the record cabinet turned media cabinet/bar turned put-the-TV-on-there-for-now. We plopped it down where the desks used to sit and promptly filled it with all our bar parephenalia.

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It also gave us a chance to fill and display the decanters we’ve been collecting. Ultimately these will probably live in a bar downstairs, but it’s nice to use some of the fun things we own.

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Now the upstairs living room looks like this.

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It’s so much less “maybe you should do some work” and so much more “Relax! Have a drink!” Even the view from the stairs is better. Hello wide open goodness.

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This, however, is my favorite view. Looking down the hallway from the bedrooms, all you see is living room furniture instead of our cluttered desks. It makes me happy on the daily.

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Moving the alcohol back to the record cabinet freed up the white Ikea cubes and they suddenly looked like good temporary night stands.

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So now, we have bedside tables! Beside tables that are not made of cardboard and threatening to cave in!

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They’re definitely temporary, but the kind of temporary we can live with until we actually get to redo this room. Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I grabbed one of our favorite lamps and pulled out gobs of milk glass to hold my jewelry.

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There’s something about a jewelry in a retail display that makes my heart happy.

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The closet, former home of jewelery stuck in plastic trays and piles of Aaron’s belts and watches, also got some milk glass. My inner storage geek rejoiced.

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Can I get a ‘hooray’ for finally feeling a bit more settled?!?