Powering the basement and starting the first floor reno

One advantage to living in a space before you make any changes is that you really get the chance to think about things and get input from other people. A big hurdle for the basement, in particular the workshop, is the lack of power. There is only one circuit down there, which, frankly, isn’t enough for all the power tools and lights that need to live in that space. Aaron was resigned to only using one tool at a time, when a conversation with my dad led to the revelation that adding a sub-panel would be remarkably easy.

It required running conduit from the panel in the living room, through the studio and down to the basement through the furnace room. Which worked out really well, because we already needed to reroute some electrical runs in the living room to account for two new windows we want to add.

Let’s take a look. The living room power ran from the panel, over the stairwell door and then down to provide outlets in the space.

002LivingRoomElectric 003LivingRoomElectric

We decided to push all of this higher and add a run of conduit to power the basement subpanel. While this is well within Aaron’s capabilities, in the interest of time, we decided to get a few quotes for the work. The winning bid came out to just a few hundred dollars for labor (we considered parts a wash as we would need them no matter who did the work), which seemed well worth it! Over the span of a few days, the electrician added the new runs and removed the unnecessary conduit.



After (Don’t worry. We replaced the cover on the panel.)




After – The conduit is much higher! It’s touching a portion of the wall that the previous owner decided to paint (well… started painting) black. Because it’s always a good idea to make your ceiling feel lower than it is. (Sarcasm.) Eventually, this will all get painted (predictably) white.










This is a super functional update, but it paved the way for exciting things, like new windows (!!!) and FINALLY tackling the workshop. And maybe you already figured out from the tape that we’re going to add a fireplace! I’ll give you the full low down on the plans for the first floor in the next post.

Epic fail – Our damaged living room floor

In the interest of keeping it real, I bring you our biggest fail to date. The floor in our living room is f*cked.


That light gray spot… yeah that’s not supposed to be there.

It’s no secret that we’ve been using the downstairs living room and dining room as renovation central. We’re storing ALL the tools on the floor (it’s a great method that allows us to easily find anything we need… NOT!) and miscellaneous building materials in this space. That included eight sheets of treated plywood we needed to finish the walls of the workshop. We dropped it in the living room several months ago because those sheets are heavy and we were in the midst of another huge project.

When we moved the plywood to the basement to make space for working on the trailer components, we uncovered this.


We hoped it was a stain and instantly tried some citrus cleaner and wire brush, which did next to nothing. Which led to lots of anger and curse words. This is an epoxy floor! It’s supposed to be indestructible!


So now we think it was probably some sort of chemical reaction between the chemicals in the plywood and the epoxy floor. A little internet research revealed that this can happen when an epoxy floor isn’t installed properly. What? Something in this place wasn’t done correctly? I’m shocked (sarcasm).


We have one more heavy duty cleaner to try, but we’re not holding our breath. So we’re probably going to have to strip the top layer of floor and paint it with a heavy duty coating, like we did in the studio (although that was on top of concrete, not an epoxy floor.) Oh, and did I mention that this flooring runs throughout our downstairs living room, dining room and bathroom? Hello extra work we weren’t expecting. Ugh.

This is our one appeal to the interwebs to see if anyone out there knows whether this can be fixed or has experience removing epoxy floors OR scuffing them for paint/recoating.

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




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)




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)



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




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




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.


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?




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.)


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





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


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!




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


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



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


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



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.


Tour – First floor

Now that you have a lay of the land, let’s get into the good stuff: pictures!

This is your view as you step into the studio space and look left. It’s around 1,700 square feet of open real estate. We have plans for a workspace for Aaron, a meeting space for clients, workspace for me and a conference table. First we’ll have to fix a myriad of holes, hang new lighting and give everything a coat of white paint.


Look to your right and you’ll see the garage door and the mechanical room. Nothing too interesting over here. The mech room will likely be converted to storage.


Looking back into the space from the living side.


A small entryway separates the two spaces. The drywall needs finished and painted, but the former owners decided to make a bold lighting decision. Yes. Those are old fire hoses. I assume that you love that because nearly everyone who has seen the space thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread.

What do we think? WAAAAAAAAAY too kitschy. They’re coming down. Before you get upset, you should know that we’re not going to throw the hoses away. We’ll find a new home for them (in our space or with someone who can truly appreciate them).


From here, we’ve stepped through the entry way and to the left. We’re looking from the dining room into the family room (right) and kitchen (left). Another bold light fixture that won’t be sticking around for too long. Anyone in the market for a massive chandelier? I think we can make a deal…


From the living room, looking into the dining room. If you didn’t notice in our inaugural post, you can see the fire pole straight ahead (to the right of the plumbing stack). The door back there leads down to the basement.


Here’s a closer look at this space.


At first glance the kitchen looks pretty good. The cabinets are fairly new and in great shape. It really starts to fall apart in the details, like the missing range and the missing window (that white rectangle next to the range opening). It’s hard to tell from these pictures, but the cabinets are hung really high. My 5’5″ self can barely reach the first shelf in the stack above the sink.


Standing back near the range, you’ll see the other side doesn’t have much to offer either. Missing fridge… missing window… There’s space for a table or some open shelving, which I think will win out when we see just how little we can put in the cabinets. The kitchen is going to be an adventure for awhile.


One last shot looking back through the door.


The only thing we missed getting a picture of is the half bathroom. It’s a closet of a room thanks to another bricked up window, but the huge slop sink has a lot of character.

So that’s the first floor. Any questions?