Tagged: st louis

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.

 

Exterior
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.

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Front yard

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Back/side yard

Extra lot

Other/Overall

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

 

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

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

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  • 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.

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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

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  • 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

 

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

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Half bath
10% done
% change: 0%

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  • 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

 

Stairwell
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.

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Upstairs living room
75% done, but with a big project still looming
% change: 75%

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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…

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  • 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

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

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

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  • 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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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%

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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?

Basement
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!

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Living in an Unconventional Space – The good and the bad

I wanted to give this idea some time to simmer before I responded to your requests to know what we love and don’t love about living in the firehouse. It’s very easy for me to focus on all of the good things. I love living in an unconventional space. This is literally a dream come true for both of us, and it’s very hard to picture what our lives would look like in any other dwelling. I’m also an optimist so I tend to focus on the good and let negative things fade away. But the truth is there are some not great things about owning and living in a building like ours. So here’s my list.

The Good

So much space: When the weather is bad outside, I frequently toss the ball for Hank in our studio. I stand at one end and he happily fetches repeatedly. Every time we do this I think “I really love this building.” That’s just one example of the how great it has to have so much space at our disposal. We have room for everything! Want to horde a vintage fireplace? There’s room for that! Want to invite a massive amount of people over for a party? No problem. The only limitation is seating and silverware. We can dream big and put all of this space to use – like sectioning up the basement into a wine cellar, workshop and storage (in descending order of importance).

Design freedom: Every house has a particular feel to it and I think it’s important to maintain that character. IMHO it’s insane to put a sleek, modern kitchen into a clearly Spanish style home. It just doesn’t jive. (Side note: Has anyone else noticed that when there’s a kitchen makeover on House Hunters: Renovations the designer ALWAYS suggests shaker style cabinets as a way to bridge people’s styles? It literally doesn’t matter what styles they’re trying to bring together, the answer is always shaker style cabinets… and “a take on subway tile” that is usually a bit bigger than average or colored. It’s cracking me up.) The firehouse comes expectation free, like a blank canvas, and we love that. It has so many beautiful features that make it feel like a firehouse (I always think of the banister in the stairwell when I think about this) that we would never change. And those elements work really well with our modern, minimalist, industrial design style

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Live/work balance: We moved to St. Louis in part because we loved that the architecture supports live/work spaces. The first time we strolled down Cherokee street we marveled at the relatively low cost to rent a storefront. When we moved to St. Louis, that’s just want we did – eventually occupying two different spaces on the very street that tempted us to move. We also rented a condo in Benton Park, completely splitting our work space from our living space.

And it sucked, like so bad. Going to the studio felt like WORK. It was the difference between dropping into another room to work vs agreeing “we need to work tonight” and then driving over there, turning everything on, and WORKING. The difference was incredibly stark when we had a no-show meeting with a prospective client. We’d race through dinner, drive to the studio, get everything turned on and then be forced to wait an appropriate amount of time before saying “Well, I guess they’re not coming.” At the firehouse, if someone doesn’t show we can be onto the next thing in our evening in a matter of minutes. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but we hated it.

We knew that we needed to get back into a space that held our photography business and our personal life. The firehouse gave that to us almost perfectly. The studio a contained space with a door. It’s where we work, but it doesn’t FEEL like work to drop in there after dinner and respond to client emails.  (If you want more details about how we go to the firehouse, feel free to dive into this post.)

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Instant connection: The firehouse has given us an instant way to connect with a lot of people. Whether they saw us on House Hunters or just heard that their friend’s wedding photographer lives in a firehouse, we have instant common ground with a lot of people. As an introvert, I also appreciate the fact that I have a conversation filler always at the ready. When you tell people you live in a firehouse, 95% of them have so many questions. The 5% I’ve found that are not that interested are my European colleagues. Perhaps they’re so used to re-appropriating buildings in countries that have much longer histories than ours that they are unfazed? Or maybe I’m just a weird American. I’m not sure.

 

The Bad

So much space: Yes, this is also on the good list. The amount of space is truly a good and a bad thing. The only negative we had when considering whether to purchase the firehouse was the amount of space. It’s massive (5k+ square feet). That means the projects are bigger and take more supplies and more time. It means the messes are huge. Heck, even the amount of finished space that we have to keep clean is overwhelming. And, truth be told, cleaning is not my forte. I’d much rather cook, or workout, or nap or pretty much do anything besides clean when I have time off.

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The proportions are a little funky: It’s a common quirk of an unconventional home that the way spaces are divided up may not fit what you would normally want in a home. For instance, the captain’s bedroom is bigger than my kitchen. As someone who cooks almost every day I would LOVE to have a bigger kitchen, but it’s just not in the cards. Truth be told, if we could start fresh on the upstairs layout we would change a lot of things. These are things we talk about whilst sitting on the couch with a glass of wine. The “what if’s” of moving walls is so easy when it’s just a dream. In reality, it’s not worth the time or effort to make the kind of large-scale changes that dramatically alter the spaces that are already defined.

Water tap meant for a firehouse: People frequently ask about our utility bills, but those have never been a source of frustration because we were paying a similar amount when our rentals spanned a condo and a studio. Actually, the new HVAC systems have already started to pay off in terms of lower bills. But we have finally hit a utility that is painful because of the firehouse: water. There’s a very long story (… really a rant) behind all this, but basically we didn’t pay for water for nearly two years after moving into the firehouse. We paid a bill, but apparently it was only for sewer service. Things are finally cleared up (sadly they didn’t just write off our water use) and apparently the city has an added tax based on the size of your water tap. Not surprising: ours is huge! So despite the fact that this isn’t a firehouse and we’re not using water like a firehouse, we pay triple the price of a normal house just to be connected to a water supply. Ugh.

Whew! So many words and so few pictures! So, what did we miss? What would you still like to know?

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Starting the natural fence

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement on last week’s post. We were both pleasantly surprised by the number of comments and the outpouring of support. You guys are awesome! Virtual hugs for everyone!

I remembered that we finished a project this summer that I have yet to share. So before we dive into some other topics (like Paris and what we like/don’t like about living in an alternative space and PARIS!), let’s take a look at the start of the natural fence. Ta da!

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… It’s the 5 new trees next to the fence… I feel like you’re not impressed…

To be fair, as with most landscaping projects, this feels a bit like “before and before” pictures, rather than “before and after”, because we need everything to grow to achieve the desired effect.

But, let’s back up. We bought the extra lot (LOTS of detail on that here) but never intended to redo the fence to make it part of our yard. Still, it needs some barriers to prevent people from walking through it/dumping trash/messing with the garden we intend to build. In the back we’ll install something a bit more standard, but up front we thought it would be nice to plant a living fence in the form of a row of evergreens.

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Aaron spotted some nice sized specimens at Home Depot earlier this spring. We planned to grab the trees we needed when they went on clearance at the end of the summer. So we bided our time.. and apparently we bided too long… We stopped by in mid-August to find all of the shrubs had been sold!

Thankfully the interwebs knew we needed some shrubbery, and after a little research on what should grow well, we landed on Leyland Cypress. The Tree Center had several heights available and good reviews. We decided on the 3′ – 4′ option (mostly based on price) and ordered seven. They were on sale for $44.50 each and we scored free shipping for spending more than $100. Winning!

It’s been a few years since we drug hundreds of pounds of bricks out of our yard, but we were quickly reminded just how much debris is lurking beneath the surface of these lots that once contained a brick home… and now contain a good part of that home beneath the surface.  This is just some of the pieces we hauled out of one hole.

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It wasn’t totally smooth sailing, but by taking turns digging we were able to plant a tree about every 35 minutes. We opted to stagger the trees (using the measurements from here) so that the fence fills in faster.

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We also only planted five of them. As we were working, we decided that the area furthest from our fence is too shaded to support this type of tree. Eventually, we’ll add a section of horizontal ipe to finish off the row.

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Here are a few before and after shots.

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The whole tree buying experience got us really inspired to think about what other trees we ultimately want for the yard. We talked about adding something that has nice fall color near the front of the yard and grabbing additional evergreens to stick in the back corner (which is a bit bare after we lost a tree). We almost added more to our order, but decided that planting seven trees in one weekend was more than enough. I’m so glad we waited, because we knew just what to do with the two extra trees.

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We waited a week to put these guys in their new home (apparently 5 trees in one day was quite enough.) In the meantime, the temperature spiked back to normal August levels and we ended up digging these holes in full sun next our steel paneled fence (which gets really warm.) Basically it felt like we were on the surface of the sun… minus our skin literally melting away. But you get the point. It was REALLY hot and we ran into even more bricks, rocks and chunks of asphalt back here. Progress was slow and we’ll admit that neither hole was the requisite diameter. But they’re in and so far they’re alive.

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So now we water and wait.

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You’re healthy until you’re not

Before you get too excited, we’re both essentially fine – nothing life threatening is happening. This was just the sentence that kept playing through my head last night and spurred me to start a blog post on my phone. (That’s normal, right?)

One of the last times we visited Kansas City, I remember sitting (nearly falling asleep, really) on Aaron’s grandma’s couch as the elders of the tribe discussed their various ailments. At one point, I was called out on not participating in the conversation. I was awake enough to retort “I don’t have any health issues to discuss.”

Such is the way of life. You’re healthy until you’re not. If this year has a theme it is certainly “Aaron is not healthy.”  His injured foot, which ultimately led to canceling most of our spring camping plans and buying a different trailer, is mostly healed.

Thankfully, his foot was healthy enough for us to enjoy a few days on Bourbon Trail in late May. But when we came back, he promptly got poison ivy from the extra lot. Two things you should know: 1. Aaron is highly allergic to poison ivy. 2. Urban poison ivy is a serious issue… at least in our extra lot. In this case, he got poison ivy on his hands (Yikes!) and it was bad. (You’re welcome for not sharing pictures.) Without going into too many details (again, you’re welcome) the poison ivy just wouldn’t go away. It wrecked his hands to the point that it hurt to hold a hammer.

He finally heeded my advice and visited the doctor. The diagnosis: (probably) psoriasis that was triggered by the poison ivy. Medications have been procured and I have nearly every finger crossed for a quick recovery.

I mention all of this because firehouse progress has been slow… actually that was generous. Firehouse progress has been nonexistent. You may have noticed…

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We’re also facing our busiest time of year: fall wedding season. I counted and between both jobs I have 5 (FIVE!) days off during the entire month of October. Dear Lord…

So, I was wondering if there was anything I could blog about in the meantime – anything you’d like to know or see? Maybe you want an update on the fence? Maybe you want to hear about our Bourbon Trail trip or my excursion to Paris (ahhhhhh! I still don’t really believe it!)? Maybe you’d be satisfied with random dog pictures and videos? (Example below where they prove that through teamwork they can block the entire kitchen floor.) Maybe you have some burning questions for us – firehouse or not-firehouse related. Tell me, friends.

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Meanwhile in the half bath

Many a joke (and even a few drinking games) have been derived from the common requests of people featured on House Hunters. While I find most of them laughable (can you really NOT share a sink in your master bath?!), personally I wouldn’t want to buy a house without a bathroom on the first floor. It just seems so inconvenient to send guests up a flight of stairs when nature calls. So, while we haven’t focused much on the half bath on our first floor, it’s a feature of the firehouse that I’m really happy we have.

It’s also been a bit ignored because we’ve done zero updates. That’s all changing as part of the downstairs redo. Let’s take a look at what we’re working with.

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It’s a pretty narrow room, which makes it hard to photograph.

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But it does get style points for the original slop sink!

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It loses major points for the ceiling.

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It’s a hodgepodge that has been made worse over time (and many owners). It features a light bulb socket (“fixture” seemed like it was giving it too much credit), fan, HVAC duct (which is not actually connected to the HVAC system), hole (I’m assuming that was used to install the HVAC or the fan) and an hole that allows a length of conduit with a large ground wire to connect to the water line.

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Also it’s made of plaster, so fixing the holes would be a giant pain. So we’re taking it out, adding some framing and putting up drywall. This will also give us a chance to reconfigure the placement of the light (like, maybe centering it!) and HVAC as well as replace the fan.

Aaron started by removing everything and then basically beat the ceiling with a hammer until most of the plaster was on the floor.

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I came home to this:

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The next step is remove the wire mesh. Then we can frame, drywall, add a light and have our first floor bathroom back in action while it awaits the other critical steps before paint.

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