The controversial fire hose lights

One of my favorite moments on our House Hunters episode is when we see the fire hose lights. Our realtor, Ted, comments on how cool they are. We awkwardly look at each other while trying to think of something to say that won’t offend him… because we hate the fire hose lights. Instantly and forever.

001fire_hose_lights

Don’t worry if you love them, as Ted does, you’re in the majority. I would say 90% of people love them… maybe even 95% because I assume some people who like them might hold their tongue after we explain our distaste.

They’re just too kitschy for us. “Oooh – you’re in a firehouse and you have fire hose lights.” Blech! I’ll give the guy who installed them a pass because he IS an actual fire fighter. We’re not.

002fire_hose_lights

They were destined to come down since day one, and with the downstairs renovation ramping up, it was time to see how exactly these lights were constructed. All we knew for sure was that each pair of yellow hoses had a bulb of some sort and the white hose housed an HVAC line.

003fire_hose_lights 004fire_hose_lights

We suspected that the lights were part of a track lighting system. The lights were clearly suspended from something and that’s the only way we could envision safely hanging them. We’ve actually had several people email us offering to buy these lights when we take them out. Each time I’ve explained that we really don’t know if there would be anything to sell once we dug in. We were right about that… but oh so wrong about the construction…

005fire_hose_lights

A few weekends ago, I helpfully offered to start taking down the patchwork of drywall that makes up the ceiling in the cube. Then, not so “helpfully,” I couldn’t reach the ceiling while standing on the ladder that fit in the cube. Aaron obliged my curiosity and agreed to take down a panel.

006fire_hose_lights

That led to another and another before he exclaimed, “This is so much worse than I thought!”

007fire_hose_lights

Pulling the ceiling revealed a curious network of cords… that looked a lot like extension cords… Odd…

008fire_hose_lights

Closer inspection revealed that they were in fact extension cords that led to two power strips that were plugged into an outlet.

009fire_hose_lights

010fire_hose_lights 011fire_hose_lights

I understand that not everyone who reads this blog has an in-depth understanding of electrical, but those who do will surely realize the clusterfuck that we uncovered. This is at least six different kinds of wrong. It’s NEVER OK to put a LIVE ELECTRICAL OUTLET behind drywall. Never. Period. This is why electrical codes exist! Because shit like this can cause a fire or get someone injured or killed.

The rest of the lights are made with an under cabinet puck taped to an extension cord. In other words, just as unsafe as the rest of this mess.

We were so flabbergasted by all of this that all we could do was laugh… and be thankful that we never turned those lights on anyways. Oh, and, hey we scored two new power strips!

So the definitive answer to anyone who had hopes of buying the lights is “Sorry, we can’t be responsible for possibly burning your house down.”

Plans for the first floor

Now that the dust has settled (and been removed) let’s chat about the major reno for the year. We’re taking on most of the rest of downstairs. Functionally, that means we’re tackling the entry cube (fire hose lights, your days are numbered), downstairs living room, dining room and half bath. Here’s a bit of the floor plan for reference.

Firehouse-floor-plan_first_floor

When we are done, the only part of the first floor that will be relatively untouched is the kitchen. We really wanted to tackle everything at once, but a financing hiccup put the kitchen on hold. It’s a bit of a bummer (and a story for a different day) but we’re both very excited to use space that has basically been a landing zone/construction area the entire time we’ve lived here.

So what’s on tap? Here’s a high level overview.

Overall

  • Finish the HVAC
  • Fix the drywall
  • Remove and repair the plaster on the ceiling
  • Paint walls, ceiling and now the floor, because blah

Entry cube

003masterplan2014

This connects the studio to the living space. The only “finished” thing about it is the lights. Besides that it’s a jumble of half-mudded drywall. Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Ditch the fire hose lights (Don’t worry. We’ll find a good home for them.)
  • Install a commercial door that fits the character of the space
  • Hang a new light and maybe some art

Half bath

006firehouse_two_years

This small bathroom got a big upgrade when we replaced the windows on the first floor before we moved in. It’s totally functional, which is great because it gets a lot of use since it is the only bathroom on this floor. This space only needs some cosmetic touch ups:

  • Refinish the sink
  • Fix the ceiling – It has some random holes, a few fans (one works, one doesn’t) and an old, ugly light fixture
  • New lighting
  • Add some functional storage and a mirror

Dining room

003openhousecleaningfrenzy 002openhousecleaningfrenzy

The dining room also got a new window. Since then it has basically been a staging place for tools, except for the one time I cleaned it before our open house. In this area, we’ll:

  • Add a window
  • Procure/buy new furniture (we’re pondering a custom table)
  • Build the coolest light fixture we can imagine that we’ve wanted to hang somewhere for years
  • Finish it with art and accessories, maybe an indoor tree?

When we tackle the kitchen, we’ll bust down the wall between these spaces. In the interim, we’re going to close the kitchen off with a swinging restaurant door and new frosted glass for the transom.

Living room

004openhousecleaningfrenzy

We have big plans for this space! We already have a very comfortable TV/movie watching area, so we want this to function as a great place to relax and entertain. We’ll still incorporate a TV (in case we want to toss the football game on during Thanksgiving) but the main focus will be chilling in front of the fireplace. Here’s the plan:

  • Add TWO news windows that flank a new fireplace (EEE!) You can sneak a peek at the layout at the end of this post.
  • Create (or buy) a storage unit that includes a hidden TV and firewood storage
  • Layer in furnishings, accessories, lighting and art

This project is actually slated to start AFTER the workshop, but we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather to get the windows cut out (by a mason) and then installed (by Aaron.) So I’ll have another post on that when they go in, then work in this space will halt while we get the workshop done and finally make a home for the tools.

Upstairs art, an announcement and a giveaway

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed.

Our upstairs walls are no longer bare! The art that we mulled over and selected is finally hanging! Let’s take a tour.

Staircase landing:

001upstairs_art

My desire for a huge print in this stairwell has been satisfied. I love when the light streams through the window and illuminates the detail in the sea stack.

002upstairs_art

Long wall between the plant shelf and the TV:

003upstairs_art 004upstairs_art

This series offers a great punch of color and really leads your eye into the space.

005upstairs_art 006upstairs_art 007upstairs_art

Behind the couch:

008upstairs_art 009upstairs_art

Don’t let this picture fool you. That is a massive image, clocking in at 28″ x 76″. Our 8′ couch can dwarf anything.

010upstairs_art

Hallway:

011upstairs_art 012upstairs_art 013upstairs_art 014upstairs_art

Master bedroom:

019newplants

015upstairs_art

The prints have actually been in place for a bit, but I’ve been waiting to show you. We received such great feedback about the images that we decided to make them (and many more) available in our new Etsy shop: Fire Pole Prints

firepoleprints

To celebrate the grand opening and kick things off we’re giving away a free print. We pulled a collection of our favorite images but we’d like to know which image tops your list. Hop over to the store then leave us a comment below telling us your favorite image. We’ll randomly choose one comment and that person will win their choice of print valued up to $125. Official details below.

Prize: One print from Fire Pole Prints. Sizes and prices vary based on how the image was shot. The winner can choose any image and any size up to $125.
Enter by: Leaving a comment on this post telling us your favorite print in the shop
Giveaway closes: Wednesday, November 26th at midnight CST
Number of winners: One
Prize ships: Anywhere
More stuff:  The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on Thursday, Nov 27th in this post. Please include a valid email address with your blog comment so we can contact you if you win. Immediate family members can comment, but are ineligible for the drawing. (We will, however, take those comments into consideration for Christmas and birthday gifts.) The winner does not have to choose the print they comment about (in case you want to bestow the print as an awesome holiday gift.)

So what are you waiting for? Tell us which one you love.

UPDATE: The winner is Annie who loved “Fog Pier” for it’s eery beauty.  (Annie – check your inbox for details.) If you’re not Annie, you can still score a print from the store and take 25% off while you’re at it with this code: THANKS2014. (Technically, the code will still work if you are Annie…)

The stairwell is (finally) painted

Is there some sort of bad DIY-er award for the longest time something has been prepped for paint but ignored? If so, we should submit our stairwell. I think we would win. Remember when we painted the living room way back in March? Well, the stairwell was part of that major project too. Here’s the best before shot I have. (I didn’t know the stairwell was on our to do list. So it was not properly photographed before.)

001stairwell

Just like living room, it had a lot of areas that needed patched and an awesome (sarcasm) paint job that combined fire engine red (irony?) bits of tan and primed walls. 002stairwell 003stairwell

Oh and it was sporting an awesome (sarcasm) commercial-grade exit light system.004stairwell 005stairwell 006stairwell

Aaron turned to Hyde Wet & Set Wall Repair Patch to make the necessary patches on our plaster-with-metal-lathe walls.

007stairwell

Once the walls were white the treads started to look quite unfortunate. We had already decided to to paint them glossy black to offer some contrast to the walls. We thought it would add a huge amount of polish to the space, kind of like putting on eye liner (my reference, not Aaron’s.)

019stairwell

010stairwell

Because this is an industrial staircase, and one that gets lots of use, we opted to not spend any time trying to make the treads perfect. There are paint drips and rough spots and that’s fine. We just wiped everything down and accepted the imperfections.

011stairwell

Then, Aaron carefully taped all four sides of each tread and along the wall. The warm weather rolled in shortly thereafter and the carport turned garage took over our spring… and our summer… and our lives…

Sometime in July, I decided to be helpful and start working on the stairs. Wielding a paint brush is not in my skill set as I’m the paint roller in the family. So I  carefully, painstakingly outlined each step and filled in each riser. I spent four hours on the lower treads and another four on the upper – just for the first coat. By my estimation, I was going to spend a total of 40 hours OF MY LIFE painting the stairwell.

Then House Hunters: Where Are They Now decided to pay us a visit and the stairwell painting shifted back to Aaron who knocked out ALL of the remaining coats in under 4 hours total. He’s a whiz!

That included some necessary touch ups due to the oil paint seeping under the tape.

012stairwell 013stairwell 014stairwell

And so, finally, here are way too many pictures of our FINISHED stairwell!

At the top of the staircase:015stairwell 016stairwell

P.S. Don’t those plants make such a difference? I forgot how cold and sterile that corner felt.

Looking down (before anything, after wall paint/before tread paint and donezo):

001stairwell017stairwell 018stairwell

On the second landing looking up:019stairwell 020stairwell

That bright blue blob? That’s our awesome, shiny treads reflecting my blue dress. This is also as close to a “selfie” as I get…

021stairwell 022stairwell

Note the light fixture, which we re-purposed from Aaron’s office at our last studio. It lived in the living room for a while and is now providing a lot of light in the stairwell (after we changed the bulbs.) We have plan for a more permanent fixture in this space, but this works perfectly for now.

On the second landing, looking down:023stairwell 024stairwell 025stairwell 026stairwell

So fresh! So clean!

027stairwell 028stairwell

On the first landing, looking up:029stairwell 030stairwell 031stairwell 032stairwell

I LOVE the contrast of the black against the white. The whole space feels so modern.

From the bottom, looking up the side:

033stairwell

From the downstairs living room:034stairwell 035stairwell

The stairwell also got the first piece of art that didn’t come from our camera. This etching stole our heart at the St Louis Art Fair. It’s perfect in this space – simple and complex, black and white, sweet and creepy. Plus I love that it signals that you are entering into a finished space (and leaving the perpetual chaos in the downstairs living room.)

036stairwell

We’re both SO glad to cross this project off our list! What home improvement projects have been hanging over your head?

White out

Thanks to Apartment Therapy for featuring a before and after shot of the studio. That before shot never gets old. It’s a good reminder of how far the studio has come. Since that “after” shot we hung some canvas prints so there’s a little more life in the space. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

I didn’t tell you the whole conversation that ensued when I suggested we paint the master bedroom before a local magazine came to photograph the firehouse. What really happened is I said, “Maybe we should paint the bedroom.” Then, Aaron said, “Yeah! And the hallway!”I laughed. I think I missed some sort of connecting thought there…

I guess I didn’t realize how much the hallway was bothering him. His rationale was that it wouldn’t take much more time or effort to white out this space once we already had the painting gear out of storage. He had a point. And, honestly, the hallway was a completely awful shade of red that gave it sad cave-like quality.

001whitehallway

002whitehallway

003whitehallway

004whitehallway

Like any project under a deadline there we some hiccups. We didn’t actually get around to starting the paint until Tuesday (the magazine shoot was set for Friday morning).

Also, the primer went up fine, but the paint had some major issues. We have a friend who works for Porter Paints, and after the studio, Aaron is very much in love with their products. For this quick update we wanted something cheap and easy. We grabbed Behr’s Premium Plus for both the bedroom and the hall. The heavily tinted bedroom paint went up like a dream, and I loved the low VOCs.

The untinted white… not so much. A little way into edging, we decided to abandon the Behr and use some of the leftover Porter Paint Pitt-Glaze from the studio.

Rounding out the “Oh man, did we make the right choice to take this on” list, before the paper was pulled up the hallway felt distinctly suburban. We went to bed feeling a bit defeated. We hated the red, but did we just spend time and effort to make our hallway boring?

Thankfully, once the paper was up, the hallway took on a distinctly industrial feel. And it also had us thinking “Huh. We kind of like these floors. Maybe we’ll keep them.” No permanent decisions have been made and you’re probably ready for some “afters.”

Viola!

005whitehallway

006whitehallway

007whitehallway

008whitehallway

White, happy goodness. Just like in the bedroom, the trim, doors and hardware got a coat of paint. The final verdict? We’re kind of in love with the space… and scheming about what kind of art we want to hang.