Category: Overall updates

Testing, testing

Lest you think all we’re doing is buying random antiques (exhibit A and B), I dug through my “to be posted” list and came up with this safety reminder. As with any “pre-owned home” that was built in the mid century, we had a few concerns about potentially hazardous materials lurking within. Three materials were causing us to worry a little.

Upstairs the original paint (see red and beige in the living room) made us wonder what kind of lead was within.


We also had a few asbestos concerns. The plaster in the upstairs living room:


And some original pipes in the basement:




Before diving into the upstairs living room overhaul, Aaron took to the internet and found a company that would economically test all of our materials. (We have since lost our reports and the name of the company… because renovations.) He grabbed a few samples of each area for testing.


A few weeks later we had our results. Paint in the living room:



Lead free!

Plaster in the living room:



Asbestos free!

And pipe wrap in the basement:



Womp, womp! We’ve got asbestos.

Honestly, this was the material we were most worried about. The good news is we have no plans to disturb these pipes, so we can coexist without fear. The bad news is that if those plans change, we’ll be in for a hefty asbestos removal bill.

At Home in the St Louis Post-Dispatch

Just popping by on a busy Memorial Day weekend to give a shout out to the St Louis Post-Dispatch for our feature in their Home & Away section in Sunday’s edition. It’s on stands now if you’re local and want to grab a copy. The link to the actual article isn’t online yet, but I’ll be back with an update when it is. [UPDATE] Here’s a link to the article.

We’ve been featured a few places, but this may be our favorite article so far. Susan, the writer, did a great job capturing quotes and taking note of some of the features and furnishings that we love the most. She also said some lovely things about Aaron’s DIY prowess. (I’m so proud of that man.)

Mojo had more than one cameo, which probably makes her more famous than us. She’s certainly cuter.


Photo by David Carson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

They also shot a bonus video in which we blabber on for two minutes when they only wanted one. #talkers Here we are trying not to look awkward.


Photo by David Carson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Our House Hunters episode is online!

UPDATE: The House Hunters site was refreshed and our episode is no longer available. But you can check it out on Netflix. Look for the episode titled “St. Louis Cool.”

One of our awesome photography clients pinged me last night on Facebook to let us know that our episode of House Hunters is online! If you haven’t had the chance to catch it on TV or want to relive it over (and over and over) again,here’s your chance!

Taking stock – updates to the grand plan

Because we hit the 12 month mark, it seemed like a good time to take stock on what we’ve accomplished and update our master plan (original found here). This will give you a snapshot of what we have planned and how far along each room is. (Spoiler: most rooms are still at 0%). To make it a little easier to read, I highlighted any changes that occurred since we drafted the list. At the end of this post, I also highlighted the projects that are on our radar for 2014.

10% done
% change: +7% for installing the freezer, assembling some shelves and starting on the workshop
Plan changes: The functional bits are the same, but a layout redesign really maximized the space.


  • DryLok walls
  • Replace the sump pump
  • Create a cover for the sump pump hole
  • Run electric and build a platform for the chest freezer
  • Add shop lighting
  • Assemble shelving and organize our personal stuff and business materials
  • Add a light to the stairwell
  • Build a door for the stairwell
  • Build a wine cellar
  • Build a workshop <– Going on now!
  • Paint the stairwell


85% done
% change: +20% for crossing a bunch of items off our list
Plan changes: None



 Entry cube
0% done
% change: 0% This space gets vacuumed occasionally, but that’s it.
Plan changes: None


  • Replace the fire hose lights
  • Finish the drywall
  • Paint
  • Hang art


Dining room
1% done
% change: +1% The fire pole was secured in time for our Open House!
Plan changes: None


  • Secure the fire pole at the bottom with more bolts
  • Patch all the holes, including the large one that was possibly a coal door
  • 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
  • Paint
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Build a light fixture that’s been floating around in our heads for years
  • Build a large dining table
  • Hang art


Downstairs living room
0% done
% change: 0% This space has really come in handy for staging other projects, like the time we had to build a new bridal show booth. It’s currently holding some overflow from the workshop that will (hopefully) get stowed away in the next few months.
Plan changes: None


  • Finish the duct work into the bathroom
  • Patch the holes
  • Paint
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Add a cool, modern fireplace
  • Buy new seating (couch and chairs, some of which may be vintage)
  • Add a window or door to the yard
  • Hang art
  • Find a spot for a bar


2% done
% change: 0% We haven’t made any changes to the kitchen, but we are noodling some options (like the wall removal and flooring) as we head toward a total overhaul (hopefully starting later this year)
Plan changes: We’re tinkering with the layout. My desired island is off the list, but I’m still excited about the additional counter space we’ll be able to squeeze into this space


  • Replace two of the bricked over windows
  • Add a new lighting fixture
  • Buy appliances
  • Open up the kitchen to the rest of the first floor
  • Build a new backdoor
  • Vent the range hood outside
  • Run new floors throughout the first floor, maybe lifting the floor to add a radiant heat system
  • Basically completely gut the kitchen. We’re still figuring out what this looks like. It will definitely have more cabinet/counter space, an electric wall oven and built-in microwave


Half bath
10% done
% change: 0%
Plan changes: None


  • Replace the bricked over window
  • Cover the Swiss cheese ceiling
  • Add a new light fixture
  • Paint
  • Restore the slop sink
  • Restore the toilet paper holder
  • Restore the door
  • Add art and accessories, like a mirror and storage


0% done
% change: 0%
Plan changes: None


  • Decide whether to keep the original door, if so, refinish it
  • Patch the walls and paint
  • Paint the railings and refinish the banister
  • Add new lighting

Upstairs living room
0% done
% change: 0%  Despite being the second most used space in the house (the studio wins because Aaron is in there every day), this space has seen very little love. We’ve cleaned it up and set up a bar, but that’s it. We have our sights set on a renovation in the downstairs space, so we’re planning a help-us-live-with-it upgrade this spring in the form of paint (white, obviously).
Plan changes: None


  • Tear down the plaster on the west side to expose the brick
  • Make the roof hatch usable
  • Fix the plaster on the ceiling
  • Remove old fire alarms
  • Run more electric and add outlets
  • Hide the electric panel
  • Replace the closet doors
  • Insulate the furnace sound deadening material
  • Refinish or remove the hall door
  • Run new flooring throughout the second floor (some sort of old factory-weathered wood is our dream option)
  • Add windows on the west wall (maybe)
  • Investigate the ceiling ducts to determine if we can add a skylight
  • Replace the lighting
  • Paint
  • Build a “mega couch” for ultimate TV and movie viewing
  • Hang/hide a projector and screen
  • Hang art


Captain’s bedroom and bathroom
1% done
% change: +1% The fire pole was secured in time for our Open House!
Plan changes: Originally I thought we would keep the closet, but with no hopes of replumbing the bathroom we’ve decided to make that space into part storage, part vanity. We’ll keep the mirror and build an area where someone could do their hair or makeup. You know how a wet bar doesn’t actually have any plumbing? Kind of like that. We also added a reading nook to the plans thanks to some Pinspiration (follow our ideas on Aaron’s pinterest page).


  • Secure the top of the fire pole with more than just electrical wire
  • Replace/add screens to the windows
  • Fix the duct work
  • Refinish the original door
  • Refinish the window sills
  • Use the water connections (maybe for a coffee bar?)
  • Replace the flooring
  • Add a bed, dresser, side tables and other necessities for a guest room
  • Hang art (maybe a large pull down map)
  • Demo the closet
  • Turn the bathroom into part storage, part vanity
  • Build a reading nook


Awesome bathroom
-5% done
% change: +5% for narrowing down the leak
Plan changes: None


  • Find the leak that’s bleeding through the studio ceiling and and fix it (Hence the negative percentage. We didn’t realize there was an issue when we bought the firehouse.)
  • Replace fixtures as necessary to make sure everything works
  • Replace the lights over the mirrors
  • Redo/cover the plaster walls
  • Paint
  • Build a storage solution for towels and other necessities (maybe a rendition of pipe shelving)
  • Build an LED drop ceiling
  • Build a new door
  • Add a Mojo washing station in one of the showers


95% done (for now)
% change: +95 for painting
Plan changes: This space didn’t even make the original list. After the coat of white paint, I’ll call this space mostly done for now. Eventually we need to decide on some layout changes, which could affect the door and the lighting.



Workout bedroom/extra bedroom
5% done
% change: +5% for eliminating the stage and actually setting up the treadmill
Plan changes: We’re leaning toward giving the closet space and a window to the laundry room and relying on the Murphy bed/storage wall to serve as the closet for this space.


  • 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
  • Fix the plaster
  • Paint
  • Replace the fan and add lighting


4th bedroom
0% done
% change: 0% Technically I organized this space, even though you can’t really tell in the picture.
Plan changes: None


  • Build the old pole closet and furnace into a proper furnace room with a door leading to the hallway
  • Close off the existing door and turn the space into a closet for the master suite by adding a door between this room and the master bathroom
  • Paint
  • Replace the flooring
  • Add new lighting and electrical as needed
  • Add a window (maybe)


Laundry room
0% done
% change: 0%
Plan changes: None


  • 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% While we haven’t done any renovations to this space, the facelift should keep us happy for a few years.
Plan changes: None


  • Remove the half wall
  • Remove the double closets
  • Seal the brick
  • Adjust duct work
  • Build 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%
Plan changes: We took a look at the original ceiling and realized the plaster is in really good shape. Instead of installing a new drop ceiling, we plan to expose the original ceiling, patch it and paint it.


  • Extend the wall of the shower so we can add a steam feature
  • Replace the jacuzzi tub with a claw-foot tub or an uber modern tub
  • Replace the vanity/storage with something more modern
  • Replace the flooring
  • Add a door into the new master closet
  • Add a window to the west wall (maybe)
  • Paint
  • Remove drop ceiling and fix plaster
  • Add new lighting


40% done
% change: +10% for cleaning up the front (we still owe you a good update, but here’s a peek.)
Plan changes: The mulberry tree is here to stay thanks to the electric company hacking the other tree to bits.





Overall updates
10% done
% change: 0%
Plan changes: We realized our main electric panel will need some reworking. It’s not pressing (or fun money).

  • Activate the new security system
  • Incorporate home automation, including smart thermostats
  • Investigate on-demand water, especially for the upstairs bathrooms
  • Rework the main electric panel

Of course, we can’t focus on ALL of that in 2014. Here’s what we (reasonably) expect to tackle throughout the next year:

  • Build the workshop
  • Finish the fence and carport
  • Build a shed
  • Paint the upstairs living room white
  • Start a kitchen remodel

There are lots of other smaller updates on our list and we’ll keep you informed as we go.

One year ago we made the craziest decision of our lives

One year ago we signed a million pieces of paper and the firehouse officially became ours.

As with any anniversary, it’s amazing how long and how short one year can feel. The firehouse definitely feels like home, even though we still call it “the firehouse” (which entertains our realtor-turned-friend to no end.)

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The other night we mused about what life would be like if we hadn’t found this place. It was hard to imagine. Surely we’d be on the hunt to buy a live/work building, but now that we’ve found our dream space, it’s depressing to think about what we might have settled for. Thanks, firehouse, for coming into our lives at the right time.


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Looking back it’s been a whirlwind of a year. One year ago tomorrow, the crew from House Hunters arrived to shoot our episode. After that renovations were in full force, with Aaron and the contractor working to dramatically change the first floor (hello windows!) and exterior (looking at you, carport and patio). We spent more time than we expected outside, putting up (most of) a fence and upgrading the front of the firehouse.

The studio was a constant focus throughout the year. Although we’d hesitate to call it “done,” it’s by far the best looking space in the firehouse. When we finally got word that our House Hunters episode would air in mid-October, it was a mad dash to finish what we could and clean, clean, clean.

Oh, and we did all this while photography 20+ weddings (and engagement sessions, meeting with clients and doing all of the other things it takes to run a business.)

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Renovations slowed over the last three months as Aaron worked to deliver images to our fall wedding clients and we took a few moments to build a new bridal show booth.

A few cans of paint eeked the master bedroom (and a few other spaces) onto the “upgraded in the first year” list.

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Despite all of that progress and many more mini updates, it’s easy for us to focus on the (many, many) items on our giant to do list. At least for today (ok, who are we kidding, at least for this post) it’s nice to take a deep breath, pat ourselves on the back and marvel at what we’ve done in JUST 365 days.

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Thanks for taking this journey with us. Your comments (here, on Facebook, on Instagram and in real life) are always appreciated.

It’s been an awesome, crazy, life-altering year. One that we wouldn’t trade for anything.