Category: Overall updates

The Grand Plan V3.0

We’re back! Did you miss us? Boy, did we miss you… and making progress on the firehouse. When we last left off Aaron was battling a year of random health woes that bled into our busiest time of year (fall wedding season). But, now, dear readers, things are ramping back up and we’re all kinds of excited.

A reader (Hi Robyn!) suggested that I give you an update on the grand plan in light of our impending 4 year firehouse anniversary (Feb 14th for anyone keeping track and planning to send us a gift) (And by a gift I mean wine.) It’s been three years since we took a broad look at what we’ve done and what’s to come. So here goes nothing… err everything.

One quick note: I didn’t do ANY staging for these photos except to make our bed and pick up the bra that was laying in the bathroom, because I’m not an animal.


30% done
% change: -10% I think I was being generous calling our exterior 40% done last time. We have LOTS of plans for our outside space and we hadn’t even finished the garage. Since then we’ve picked up even more land (thanks to buying the extra lot) and another list of projects.


Front yard

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Back/side yard

Extra lot


  • Seal the roof
  • Tuck point the building (likely in stages)
  • Replace the bad second story windows
  • Landscape (another tree or two, ivy, tall grass)


95% done
% change: +15% for some minor additions


Entry cube
% done
% change: +15% for getting the fire hose lights out of the way and ordering a new fixture for the space


  • Replace the fire hose lights <– The lights are gone and the new fixture is on order!
  • Finish the drywall <– In progress!
  • Paint
  • Install new door between cube and studio
  • Hang art and/or coat rack system


Downstairs living room
25% done
% change: +25% I don’t think this room looks 25% finished, but we did tackle the major renovations: windows and fireplace.


The plans for this space have expanded quite a bit, here’s a current list:

Dining room
16% done
% change: +15% for fixing the ceiling, adding a window and buying the slab that will become our dining room table


  • Secure the fire pole at the bottom with more bolts
  • Patch all the holes, including the large one that was possibly a coal door. We decided to add a window to this space. It is a little overshadowed by the changes we made in the living room, but we still love it! Also it was an easy solution to removing the ill-patched section of this wall that we think may have been a coal door. See some before and after shots in this post.
  • Skim coat the ceiling
  • Finish the duct work
  • Run more electrical outlets
  • Put the dining room lighting on a different switch than the studio lighting
  • Build a new door for the basement stairwell
  • Re-do window casings
  • Paint
  • Install new flooring
  • Build a light fixture that’s been floating around in our heads for years
  • Build a large dining table <– We bought the slab!
  • Hang art


2% done
% change: 0% It’s crowded. It’s ugly. But it’s functional.


Half bath
10% done
% change: 0%


  • Replace the bricked over window
  • Replace the ceiling <– This is in progress… in that we have no ceiling and guests are forced to use a lantern when using the facilities at night.
  • Add a new light fixture and fan
  • Paint
  • Re-glaze the sink
  • Restore the toilet paper holder
  • Restore the door
  • Add art and accessories, like a mirror and storage


95% done
% change: 95% We made a lot of progress in this space, but it’s a bit of two steps forward, one step back. For the sake of only explaining it once, see notes below regarding the living room.


Upstairs living room
75% done, but with a big project still looming
% change: 75%  This space has come a LONG way from where it started, mostly because Aaron tried to surprise me with a full makeover. Read the full story here. The main stumbling block in pulling off that surprise was ALL of the work he did to fix the plaster on the exterior walls (in the photo below it’s the wall on the left, it’s also a big wall in the stairwell). One major flaw in this building is that the roof isn’t vented properly. It  caused the plaster problems in the first place and we’re seeing the same thing happening. We spend a majority of our chill time in this space and it is grating on our nerves. So this space is back on the list, probably for this year, for us to tear out the plaster and expose the brick walls.

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Captain’s bedroom and bathroom
95% done
% change: +94% We tackled just about everything in this room over the winter in 2015. It’s one of my favorite spaces!

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Awesome bathroom
0% done
% change: 0% Nothing has changed in this room except for the fact that I use it to dry laundry sometimes…


  • Fix the leak that’s bleeding through the studio ceiling (it’s not an active leak because we don’t use this plumbing in this room)
  • Replace fixtures as necessary to make sure everything works
  • Replace the lights over the mirrors
  • Remove the plaster
  • Paint
  • Build/buy a storage solution for towels and other necessities <– We scored a cool shelf which is covered by a sweater above. I think it will probably stay in this room.
  • Build an LED drop ceiling
  • Get a new door
  • Add a Great Dane washing station in one of the showers

100% done
% change: +5% for adding some art



Workout bedroom/extra bedroom
5% done
% change: 0% Not much has changed in here.


  • Remove the “stage”
  • Remove the pole closet
  • Build a Murphy bed and extra storage along the south wall
  • Extend the laundry room by stealing the closet space and a window
  • Fix the window sills
  • Finish the trim
  • Build out the exercise area (mirrors and a weight rack)
  • Mount the TV
  • Replace the flooring
  • Remove the plaster
  • Paint
  • Replace the fan and add lighting
  • Install storage and a Murphy bed


4th bedroom
0% done
% change: 0% I “re-organize” this room about once a year.


To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what we’re going to do with this space. Originally, we thought we might make it into a closet for our master suite. Now I’m leaning toward keeping it as a bedroom just from a value standpoint.


Laundry room
0% done
% change: 0%… not much to see here, folks.


  • Expand the laundry room by stealing space from the workout room
  • Build storage and a clothes drying rack
  • Paint


Master Bedroom
0% done
% change: 0% We painted this room a few years ago and it was enough of an upgrade to keep us happy for now. This is pretty low on the priority list.


  • Remove the half wall
  • Remove the double closets
  • Seal the brick
  • Adjust duct work
  • Install a new door
  • Update slide dimmers to something more modern
  • Replace the flooring
  • Redo the lighting
  • Build a platform bed
  • Buy/build side tables
  • Add a fireplace (maybe)
  • Buy additional furniture as needed (chairs, dresser, etc) – maybe some vintage pieces
  • Paint
  • Add light blocking window treatments
  • Hang art


Master Bathroom
0% done
% change: 0%


We actually discuss plans for this space quite a bit, maybe because we use it a lot, maybe because we stayed at a hotel in Kansas City over the holidays that had a huge shower that we both want? We haven’t settled on a layout, mostly because we’re not sure if we actually need to keep a tub (not that tub, that tub is going no matter what). Any thoughts on that? Will someone NOT by my firehouse some day because it doesn’t have a tub?

50% done
% change: +40% for finishing the workshop
Plan changes: Not much as changed down here, but thanks to some water issues (read all about it here) we invested in a water proofing system that should keep things nice and dry

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  • DryLok walls
  • Replace the sump pump
  • Cover the sump pump hole
  • Run electric and build a platform for the chest freezer
    <– We actually swapped out the chest freezer for an upright freezer with a lot more space. That was our exciting purchase with the bonus I received last year. We’re wild like that.
  • Assemble shelving and organize our personal stuff and business materials
  • Spend more money than I’d like to publish on a water-drainage system
  • Build a workshop
  • Add a light to the stairwell
  • Install a door for the stairwell
  • Build a wine cellar
  • Paint the stairwell

Overall updates

Whew! I feel like I need a nap after reading all of that. Per usual, we’re tackling things in smaller segments and the kitchen/living room/entry cube/half bath are squarely in our sights. Aaron is working on some of the less glamorous elements, like drywall and fixing the duct work. I hope to have some progress photos to show you soon!















Video tour 2015

I liked the first video so much when I stumbled on it back in July that we’re back with an update. I’m a little sorry that it is 16 minutes long, but it’s a big space! So kick back and watch me awkwardly talk at the camera.

A few notes:

  • There are two new projects, one big (fireplace) and one small (Aaron has a new desk), that have not hit the blog.
  • 1:50 – Yay Mojo!
  • 4:03 – I don’t know why there is a saw sitting at the bottom of the stairs… which is literally what I am thinking while Aaron walks down.
  • 6:38 – Hank!
  • 6:46 – Hank jumping in Aaron’s face!
  • 7:08 – Hank playing with a log. He’s a nut.
  • Also, sorry our backyard is a mess. We have extra ipe under the tarp out there and the wood for the fire pit is a mess. Clearly Hank doesn’t mind.’
  • 11:10 – Argh plaster issues! Remember how much time Aaron spent on that?!? Yeah it is already falling down. The only solution is to take it out. So it’s on the list….
  • 13:03 – Aaron pointed out that we just put in a new light bulb in the pole closet, not a whole new fixture.

So what do you think? We hear that floor plans don’t always explain the space, so maybe this helps?

Replacing the broken AC… and going all in on three new HVAC systems

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of our air conditioners bit the dust.


Of the four units on our roof, three of them are past their prime. (Hint: The three on the right.) The unit cooling the kitchen and future downstairs living/dining rooms wins the prize for going out first. Initially, we turned to the company that (used to) service our HVAC to get a new quote, but were frustrated by the salesman’s lack of interest. So Aaron decided to cast a wider net. He contacted several HVAC companies and decided to get quotes that would not only cover our one dead AC unit, but would give us options for replacing the whole system (AC and furnace) as well as replacing the two other older systems.

We reasoned that this would give us some leverage in the price. Also because the units are located on the roof, we would only need to pay to bring a crane out once (rather than each time a unit kicks the bucket.) A large scale replacement would also offer the biggest impact to our monthly heating/cooling bills.

Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating made the list thanks to great reviews on Angie’s List. They were great to work with from the start. They did a thorough walk through and asked for measurements of the rooms to ensure they quoted the right systems for the space.

Their quote wasn’t the lowest that we received, but it was on the lower end of the scale. We also felt like the owner went above and beyond to give us the best price he could.

Ultimately, we purchased three Carrier Infinity 19VS central air conditioning units paired with Carrier Infinity 96 gas furnaces. That allowed us to replace the two furnaces in the studio:


And one of the upstairs units:


Anton’s scheduled our work quickly and sent extra installers to make the install as fast as possible. All of the material was delivered and then they got to work!


Paying for this once, instead of three times = winning.


The new furnaces are much smaller and SO much more efficient. The studio unit (pictured here) is 100,000 btu and is 96% efficient.


The other furnaces are 80,000 btu and also 96% efficient. The older models were only 90% efficient.


The AC’s (not pictured because we forgot to ask them to take one) were huge upgrades as well. The studio AC is 4 ton and the ones for the living spaces are 3 1/2 ton. Most impressively (per Aaron who, per usual, became an expert in the lingo) the AC units are 19 SEER (the measurement for efficiency… don’t worry I didn’t know that either) far surpassing the former units’ paltry 8 SEER.

We also added humidifiers, which should make a world of difference in the winter. (Three cheers for less static electricity!)


The high-efficiency units came with fancy thermostats. Besides being programmable, they control the humidity and connect to our wifi to tell us the outside temperature and weather.


So here’s my love letter to Anton’s. We’re avid DIYers, but ones that recognize that we need to outsource large or labor intensive projects. Because of that we’ve dealt with a number of contractors over the last 2 ½ years and have had mixed experiences across the board. We’ve had issues from communication to cleanliness and quality of work to can I say communication again, because OMG most contractors are SO bad at this. All of this is to say that we know what it’s like to work with bad and mediocre companies. That’s why our experience with Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating stands out far above the rest and was hands down the best service we’ve received to date.

The team at Anton’s made every part of the buying process easy… neigh enjoyable. And if you’re going to give that much money to someone, you want to feel good about it. They helped arrange a fantastic financing plan and even completed much of the rebate paperwork for our local utilities.

The extra installers cut the install from around 3 days to 2. Ultimately they finished in just a day and a half despite the intermittent thunderstorms. If that was the sum of the story, we would be happy. What ticked us over into the love zone was the extra effort. On the first day of the install, the team stayed late to make sure our upstairs back quadrant (this covers our upstairs living room, where we spend most of our evening) was functional. They also added an overflow pan and water sensor to our upstairs furnace to guard against damage should the humidifier fail. And they cleaned up after themselves! When I asked Aaron if he had vacuumed the (slightly embarrassing) amount of dog hair in the living room he told me that the Anton’s crew cleaned a bunch before departing, including wet mopping most of the studio. Be still my heart.

So, Anton’s Air Conditioning & Heating – THANK YOU! Thanks for being great people and being  great at what you do.

Once Anton’s was done, there was still a little work left. The upstairs furnace and furnace closet lacked any kind of insulation or seal between that space and the attic space.


That jagged hole allowed attic air (not temperature regulated and definitely not clean) to flow into the living room.

Here’s a view from the neighboring closet. Aaron pulled down the drywall (it was just screwed in) to access the attic space.


We’re so glad he did because he also found a significant break in the HVAC line. That meant some of the air we were paying to cool/heat was leaking into the attic and some of the attic air was getting pumped throughout our second floor. No bueno.  He sealed the junction and every gap around the furnace room and attic before adding lots of insulation.

The new systems have been running  for a few weeks, and we are thrilled with change. Aaron has the thermostats programmed to spool up or down based on our routine and the house just feels more comfortable (cooler in this instance) throughout. I seriously had to grab a light blanket last night when we were on the couch. Plus (and this may be the absolute best thing to come out of all of this) the upstairs back quadrant furnace, which is in a closet RIGHT next to our couch, is SOOO much quieter. We’ve spent the last few years adjusting the volume of the TV up (WAY up) whenever the furnace kicked on. Now it’s so blissfully quiet and so peaceful.

Let’s get real

It’s been a little quiet around here because real life has taken over. Lately that means we’re funding repairs and replacements. Welcome to the un-glamorous part of home ownership.


First up: The basement is leaking AGAIN? Le sigh. Apparently the repair near the stairs didn’t do the job. In the midst of ALL the rain (seriously, can we share some of this with California?) we were left with a veritable waterfall.

The original repair came with a warranty. A few phone calls and the crew was back out for a one-day repair. So far, so good.


About the same time, we also noticed some water on the floor of the awesome bathroom. The very first thing we addressed when we bought the building was patching a seam in the roof. We thought that fix would last for a few more years, but our patch needed a patch.

Thankfully this was a relatively inexpensive and quick fix. But we’ve moved “replace the roof” up the list of renovations. Let the saving commence.


And because bad things come in threes, one of our air conditioners bit the dust. In case you’re not creepily tracking our HVAC situation, the firehouse is zoned in quadrants. That means 4 air conditioners and 4 furnaces. It’s a great set up because we can cool or heat the area we are using and dial back the other sections. It also helps keep our utilities in check. The downside is that we have FOUR systems to maintain and ultimately replace. A large chunk of Aaron’s time over the last week has been shuttling HVAC companies through the firehouse to get quotes. We have a solution that we are happy with and a company we’re excited to be working with… well, as excited as we can be considering what this costs. If all goes smoothly, we’ll have cool air pumping through our kitchen next week! I’ll share all of the details once the job is done.

In in the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in the cooler areas of the firehouse and celebrating America’s birthday. I hope you have a cool and safe holiday that is free of major home repairs!

Two years in

Are recaps annoying? If so, I won’t blame you for skipping this post. I’m doing this for me and for him.


Yeah, that guy. That guy who does amazing things around here. That guy who works tirelessly to make this place amazing. He rocks.

But sometimes he forgets (so do I). We forget how much we can do and do do in a year. So this post is a good time capsule of what the firehouse looks like RIGHT now, a sweet reminder of what changed in the last 365, and a peek into what we have in store for the coming year.


The front stayed pretty much the same all year.


But the back had a radical transformation! We finished the fence!



Then we spent more hours than I’d like to remember transforming the carport into the sexiest garage known to man.





We also realized we built something that basically resembled a courtyard and made it pretty!




First floor

The studio remains our most finished interior space… although it got a little junky this winter when we decided to bring the the trailer in to get it done.


The future living and dining rooms have descended into complete chaos thanks to the trailer work and lack of a workshop (more on that at the bottom of the post.)

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Rounding out the downstairs, the kitchen and the half bath remain the same, functional-but-not-pretty spaces.

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Painting the stairwell offers a nice visual transition from “construction zone” to “where we spend most of our time.”




It’s easy for us to forget that about a year ago the living room looked like this:


and then this…


before finally becoming a serene place to relax, complete with a new paint job, new lighting, some new furnishings, a bar cart and some art!


The captain’s bedroom also got upgraded from “theoretically a guest bedroom” to “actual place where people could sleep” thanks to the addition of a bed.


The hallway’s paint job straddled the “this year vs last year” line. It also got some sweet new art.



The rest of the upstairs rooms remained untouched this year.

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Despite our intentions to work on the workshop last year, we only got as far as framing out some of it.





Since this is a bit of a digital scrapbook post, it’s worth noting that we took a CRAZY AMAZING vacation to the Pacific Northwest in August and launched our print shop! Yay!


You made it this far?! Good job. Extra points if you are not related to us. Speaking of, if you are my parents and have some sort of bet going about what we’ll be tackling, time to lock in your wager and put your money where your mouth is.

So what’s next?
1. The trailer is moving closer and closer to the finish line each day. We owe you an update.
2. You know what goes great with a project? Another project. We decided to tackle the captain’s bedroom… and we owe you an update.
3. The workshop: It’s not anyone’s favorite project. We both just want it done, but we’re less excited about the actual doing. I can’t wait to get the tools off my floor.
4. The downstairs living room, dining room, half bath and entry cube are slated for a complete overhaul!! We have huge plans for these spaces! (And, of course, we need more white paint.)

Those are the definite projects and will probably last us most of the year. There’s still a chance we’ll tear in to the awesome bathroom to make it more functional or build out our wine cellar. Only time (money and energy) will tell.

Speaking of posts I do even if you don’t care about them. Does anyone like the updates to the master plan? Without YHL as a guiding force, I have no idea what blog audiences want to see.