Lighting up the courtyard

When we first stepped back and said “Hey this looks like a courtyard,” we knew there was one thing that would really give it that courtyard feel

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Based on the fact that you can read the title of the post, I’m sure you know that we opted to string some lights!

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Eighty eight lightbulbs to be exact, procured from PartyLights.com (specifically this type with 11 watt bulbs.) We strung them between the firehouse and garage, creating a ceiling effect in the space. They are hard wired to a dimmer to provide maximum ambiance control.

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When you’re standing under the lights, they really distract from the power lines coming into the building, which is a nice bonus.

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This area is really turning into a gorgeous spot.

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Please note, this is the only time our dog looks small…

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BUT the best part is how they look at night…

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Can it get more magical than this??

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Here’s the part of the post where I get all sappy and can’t believe that we LIVE here. For two people who never thought they’d find a “forever” home, I’m continually amazed how the firehouse allows us to craft exactly the space we’ve always dreamed of. (There will be much more of this as we work on the kitchen and create the wine cellar.) (WINE CELLAR! Eek!)

I digress… here’s more eye candy.

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That wraps up the courtyard updates and all of the projects we jumped on for the House Hunters: Where Are They Now episode. (Sometime in March 2015.) Our wedding season is also winding down, so we’re looking forward to some extra free time (watch out antique malls, here we come) and prioritizing our list for 2015. One particular project is looming large (literally)… more on that later.

New electric + ipe planter

This post didn’t come together well. First, we lost all of the pictures showing the building process, and now, I’ve rewritten the intro to this post so many times that I’ve finally given up.

Here’s what you need to know. We didn’t run electric from the firehouse to the carport (i.e. future garage) before we laid the concrete for the patio/parking pad. Doh! That left us looking for an aesthetically pleasing way to run the necessary conduit across the patio. Our solution: Hide the conduit under a gorgeous, custom ipe planter.

Viola! I love it! (SQUEE!)

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First we had to remove an unnecessary fence post. (You can see it below in the middle of the fence.)

I should back up and explain that we hired a contractor to install the requisite posts for the fence. Given the sheer size of the yard and the brick laden soil, we felt it was well worth the money to farm out that piece of labor. Something got lost in translation and we ended up with this totally unnecessary and barely-bolted-to-the-ground post between our back door and the carport. We knew we would take it out eventually, and we didn’t even bother drilling into it when we installed the cor-ten. Instead, this piece of fence is attached to a post that is secured to the firehouse on one end and directly to the carport on the other.

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Anyways, back to the post. A little brute force left us with a clear stretch of fence. The ghost mark from the post will eventually rust and be less noticeable.

Then Aaron installed plastic conduit from the junction box on the firehouse (where he ran electrical outside last year), over the back door, and then across the gap from the house to the garage. Here’s where I would love to insert all of the process pictures that were accidentally deleted.  Sad face.

What’s hiding under the ipe is a box made from treated lumber that sits on legs to raise it off the ground and level. Running beneath that is the conduit, which is attached to the bottom to offer some extra support.

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The planter also has a small bump by the garage door to allow the door to open entirely.

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A middle support beam offers extra stability.

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I am totally smitten with this piece. It’s a gorgeous, custom piece that demonstrates my husband’s craftsmanship. He made this from scratch, drafting the plans, working with the slope of the patio, carefully layering on the ipe (the lines of the ipe match up to the ipe on the garage for goodness sake!) It’s not the first thing he’s constructed (or even the largest, see the viewing room) but it’s so beautiful. Honestly, I feel so lucky to have a man who can create a custom piece that would have cost thousands of dollars to have someone else conceive, design and build it. Geez! Sorry for the love fest… Long story short, I’m in love (with the planter and my husband.)

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Obviously it will make a bigger impact when everything is in place, but I didn’t want to wait to tell you about it, especially because it will be apparent in some of the wider shots of the patio. Plus, we really needed to get this project done so  we could get rid of the extension cord that’s been powering our garage doors for… um… months. #renovationrealities

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In the spring, we’ll line the inside with landscaping fabric and fill it with dirt to create a home for herbs and vegetable plants. This will give me lots of space to expand my existing, potted herb garden. Since this planter sits against the cor-ten, which gets quite warm in the summer, we’ll have to see which plants thrive in which area. We’re also considering trellising a column of ivy up the side of the firehouse. All of which will bring some life to this space and break up the brown tones.

I can’t be the only one with an inordinate amount of love for a seemingly random home project. What are you crushing on in your abode?

Staining the fence posts

After installing the ipe section of fence, our fence posts were starting to look a little bare. Originally we planned to paint the posts a rusty color to blend in with the steel, but the warmth of the ipe totally changed our minds. Instead, we had a gallon of Behr Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing All-in-one Wood Stain and Sealer tinted to chocolate, which looked like it would provide the closest match to the ipe. Then it was as simple as wiping down the posts with a wet rag to rid them of spider webs and grass clippings then brushing on the stain. I used a large taping knife shoved against the steel/ipe to keep a crisp line on the edge. Voila!

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What? That’s not the most blinding transformation ever? Ok, let’s take a look at some before/after combos. Everything is looking a little raw before the ipe was oiled.

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After oiling and staining:

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Here’s a good side by side by side (ipe, post, steel) – un-oiled/unstained vs oh so pretty.

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Against the steel, the wood posts looks warmer and much more finished. Before:

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After:

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It’s a bit more subtle against the steel, but it definitely moves your eye pasts the posts instead of causing a visual break.

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We were happy with the look after one coat, so this update only took a few hours to complete. Even better, it was an update I tackled solo while Aaron (you guessed it) worked on wrapping the carport. (It’s the build that never ends… yes it goes on and on, my friends… we started building it, not knowing what it was… and we’ll continue building it forever just because, it’s the build that never ends…)

Good news: He’s on the last few rows of the last side of the carport! Bad news: The weather has turned to steamy summer mode, making long days working outside nearly impossible. In the meantime, I’m getting my stain on (is that a thing) on the backside of the garage.

The front of the firehouse: Post clean up

Is there an award for longest time between “before” and “after” shots? If so, this project might win. Last summer, the front of the firehouse looked really, really sad. There were a lot of things to be embarrassed about, not the least of which was the half finished, tarped trailer and mismatched panels on the garage door. It was looking a little hoosier (not a good thing if you’re in Missouri). Oh, did I mention we met with prospective photography clients here? Yeah. No bueno.

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So we embarked on a clean up job that started with moving the trailer.

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We also removed a crappy sign, got new flags, painted the garage door (including a touch up job after a little snafu with the weather stripping), and updated some of the lighting. Then we promised “afters”… Nine months later we’re finally delivering!

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It’s looking pretty fly up there, especially the bright red door and emerald green carpet of grass.

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It looks just as good at night!

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You can see how the new fixtures (and LED bulbs – which are working out fantastically here and in the studio) cast an awesome glow above and below.

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There is still plenty to be done out here. Weed management, uplighting for the cor-ten fence, eliminating the “garden bed” around the mailbox. But we’re happy with how far it has come!

The current state of the yard

The thing about landscaping (or anything having to do with plants) is that the reward is not immediate. Being a very visual person, I always find this frustrating. So if you asked me what my least favorite project was over the past year, I would definitely say starting the yard. It was an entire weekend of hauling of trash and buckets full of bricks out of the yard, manually tilling some of the bare spots and laying expensive seed that didn’t take root. The whole time I told myself, “Someday this will be a gorgeous yard. This will all be worth it.” Well, someday got here a little sooner than we expected.

Let’s take it way back – to the only picture we have of the “yard” right after we purchased the lot.

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It was blank canvas that didn’t stay that way for long thanks to the addition of a huge patio. The patio came with a side of jacked up dirt, which we shaped into a yard in the aforementioned weekend. After we procured the correct type of grass seed, Aaron gave it lots of water, 3 total rounds of grass seed and 4 rounds of fertilizer and weed killer.

Here’s the view from the back of the yard looking forward (before, during and now)

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Near the patio stairs looking forward:

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Front of the yard looking to the rear:

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The concrete guys got a little overzealous with the bobcat so we had some work to do up front as well.

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What a difference a year makes! We’re really happy with how the grass is coming along, especially in such a short time frame. The cor-ten fence is also rusting beautifully. The vision is finally coming together!

Is anyone else starting a yard from scratch? Or maybe taking over a yard that’s seen better days? Aaron got lots of yard rehab experience at our first house, which he’s putting to good use here.