Lighting up the living room and seeing the rooms finally take shape

Today over lunch we admitted to each other that right before the renovation started, we each had a private moment of “Should we really tear this house apart?” Obviously it didn’t stop us, and we agreed that it was still the right choice. Looking at these before photos is only further reassurance that some things needed to change in our space to make us happy and comfortable.

If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know we like light. The living room we inherited was a light-filled paradise during the day… but at night the sole source of light was a lonely, off center ceiling fan.

We actually loved the chevron slat ceiling, but the set up left us with very few options to get power to (much needed) new lights.

We brainstormed quite a bit – considering things like replicating the light fixtures we made in the living room and captain’s bedroom in the firehouse, but ultimately we decided recessed lighting would be the best solution. To install this, it required dropping the ceiling slightly in order to add cross pieces for the fixtures and drywall to attach to.

The finished result is crisp, clean goodness… which I couldn’t show you without revealing all of the drywall. A few notes on that: The original plan for the renovation had Aaron doing everything but the exterior stucco repair. We found a great local guy to help with that and he also offered to subcontract the drywall. Thanks to an unexpectedly nice tax return, we opted to hire that work out. The crew did all of the drywall work on the walls and ceiling (including hanging it) AND smoothed our ceilings in the kitchen, dining room and hallway in about a week. This saved us a ton of time in the overall plan and was worth EVERY FREAKING PENNY.

So I figured we’d take a tour through all of the spaces via a set of before and afters. Ready?!?

This view changed dramatically after removing the built ins, adding the new French doors and smoothing the ceiling.

Boom Sauce.

Flipping around – This view is crazy thanks to our furniture sitting sideways in the space. The built ins, paneling and fireplace mantle were nixed.

Looking toward the kitchen from the living room, here’s a pretty good before shot of the bar, which we said “bye bye” to. That’s a major change, but so is opening the wall behind the fridge and microwave/oven.

Mama likey!

Here’s a reminder of what the kitchen used to look like.

We left the laundry area where it was and built a wall, shortening the kitchen from this direction. This will be a U shaped kitchen with the range at the back of the space, sink to the right (in a similar spot as it started) and 500 miles of countertops (approximately).

Here’s a look at that wall we cut in half to open this space to the front of the house.

These night photos don’t do justice to the amount of light that streams through the space from the front door and front windows.

Shrinking the kitchen from one side was only possible because we stole this dining area for a pantry.

We will take a peek inside later when there’s something to see.

I think I saved the best for last. This door is directly ahead when you enter the house. It used to be an entrance to the kitchen…

Now it houses the much needed, much loved laundry room!

Looking at these before photos and then living in our new space, any doubts about tearing this space up are completely and utterly erased.

Things are looking up

That’s a really silly title. Can you get rusty at blogging? Because I might be. Suddenly a month has gone by! We’ve been working on SO many different things, but haven’t had anything to show for it yet. It’s not our normal MO, but when some necessary parts for the basement workshop had to be reordered, we decided to dive into the the first floor reno, which I detailed our plans for oh so long ago.

Although 2015, felt like a bit of a lost year in terms of visible progress on the firehouse, we kicked off this renovation with some key features routing electric for the basement sub panel, adding windows, and finding and installing our fireplace.

We’re back at it and into some of the really boring/incredibly tedious/worth it in the end, projects that will get the room ready for paint. First up: patching the dining room ceiling. Hence the title of the post. Although, really, Aaron is the one who has been looking up. Get it? Ha! … Sorry.

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This is definitely one of those projects that we waffled on. Was it worth it? Would it make a difference? Could we just paint over the rough spots to make them blend in? That is what we opted to do in the studio.

But the dining room felt different to us. While we love the industrial look, we worried in this space it would just feel unfinished. Also we have so many things going into the space that we want you to notice. It would be a shame if the ceiling detracted from that.

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The ceiling in the living room was previously repaired (and painted black) which also made us lead towards making the change. (That ceiling and the duct will be painted white when the time comes.)

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So we decided it was worth the time to fix the ceiling… even though that means in the end you WON’T notice the work. The project itself was more labor and time intensive than expected, because isn’t everything in a renovation? Aaron started by scraping off the loose bits of plaster and patching the numerous holes. Then he carefully layered on 150 pounds of mud.

The result was so worth it! (Says the person who did none of the work.)

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It’s nice to have a clean slate in here. We’re working on a few DIY light fixtures that will give some much needed light to this space.

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As I mentioned, we’re ping ponging between projects a bit. Lately, we’ve been sourcing wood slabs for the dining room table, and Aaron is in the basement this week installing the dust collection system. Updates should get more frequent as we start crossing things off the list for both spaces!

New desk and new(ish) conference table

I’ve hesitated to call the studio completely done because we’ve been reserving a space in the rear for a conference/work table. Exhibit A

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We’ve even been hoarding a table base for it since late 2014. (Should I be embarrassed by that??) But as you probably know, 2015 didn’t leave much time for extra projects.

We can cross this need off the list thanks to Ikea, which opened just down the street from us last autumn. We used our first free weekend from weddings to check it out and walked out spending just over $100, which is a massive feat and probably deserving of some sort of medal. The trip reminded us that Ikea is offering sit/stand desks, and after mulling over it all night I told Aaron just to go get one. So the second trip to Ikea was not as easy on the wallet, but it resulted in this new set up.

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Ikea has a cool powered base for around $400, but we opted for the cheaper, man-powered Bekant frame that came in at just $119. After installing a white top, some cable organizers and a felt half wall that hides some of the mess, Aaron was up and running (standing?) with a new office.

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So far we’re really happy with the quality of the desk, and he has yet to lower it to a seated position. This may be because I stole his desk chair… but to be fair I’m rarely in the studio during normal business hours so he could take it back anytime he wanted.

That left us with a spare table. (Here’s a tip: if you need a big desk just buy a table. It’s usually cheaper than an oversized desk.) And we had the perfect spot for it.

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Ultimately, Aaron will probably still build something to sit on the other table base, but for now this works great. It also makes this area look less like a chair graveyard. Those beauties are in a holding pattern and destined for the dining room.

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We are dangerously close to calling this space finished! According to the list, we only have a few items left:

  • Build a cool light fixture to hang over the conference table <– Probably will get scratched because we don’t really need more light here
  • Build a new front door <– We need a workshop for this. Any guesses as to what is at the VERY TOP of the list for this year?
  • Design and build a screen door for the garage door <– Interesting concept…. I would give this a 5% chance of actually happening

 

Finding a fireplace

As with most things related to the firehouse renovation, the living room fireplace has evolved as we became acquainted with the space and started looking for options. The one thing that never changed was our desire for a wood-burning fireplace. We both love the warmth (literal and figurative) that you get from a wood fireplace.

As usual, Pinterest was a great spot to save some inspiration, as evidenced by Aaron’s extensive Fireplace board on Pinterest. Not all of these were contenders, but we thought it would be interesting to walk through our thought process.

When we signed the papers on the firehouse, we envisioned a floating fireplace situated in the middle of the room. Something like this:

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Pinterest/Source

Side note: When we bought this place, I wrote a long letter to our future selves detailing all the plans we had for the place. We printed it out, trashed the electronic copy and stored it with a bottle of wine that we’ll open on our 5 year anniversary. We picked 5 years because we would (obviously) be close to finishing this place at that point. Ha Ha HA! Oh, pre-renovation Aaron and Heather, how naive you were. I only mention this because the floating fireplace was definitely a detail included in the letter that clearly won’t be happening.

But, I digress… Floating fireplaces are cool. I’ll also take that tree. Please and thank you.

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Pinterest

After we moved in, we got a better sense of the space. This room is actually on the small side. We always talk about how BIG the spaces are in the firehouse, but if I could add square footage anywhere it would be to the kitchen and downstairs living and dining rooms. The living room clocks in at just 135 square feet, which has to include a sizable walkway to get to the bathroom and stairs.

A central floating fireplace was definitely out. This ultra modern beauty caught our eye next, but was eventually ruled out because of the configuration of the flue.

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Pinterest/Source

We planned to bust out the glass block window to allow for the vent/chimney.

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A fireplace hanging from the ceiling would require busting through the upstairs living room and roof to add the requisite smoke removal. No bueno.

The piece had some mid century modern charm, which we we love. That sent Aaron looking for a retro inspired piece. This Malm was the next thing to catch our eye.

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Pinterest/Source

The simplicity was nice and the price was good, but I don’t think we were ever terribly in love. It mostly hung on as a good, economical back up.

This guy though… this guy is just cool.

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Pinterest

BAM! Fireplace! Unfortunately the multi sided configuration didn’t make sense in our design plan.

Part of the problem we kept running into is that all the cool, minimal, wood-burning fireplaces are made in Europe. Because European design > American design. While we could (and would) ship one over, differences in the fireplace code and the sheer cost made it prohibitive. So I did what anyone does when faced with this problem: poured a glass of wine and pulled up Pinterest. That led me to the Stuv brand, which offered stand-alone fireplaces AND sold versions in the United States.

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Pinterest/Source

We loved several of the cladding options (the material that wraps the exterior of the fireplace) but overall the cost was more than we could spend.

Stuv also offered this really sleek option.

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Source

It comes with a really cool “face plate” that makes it look like a super hero (or villain considering the fire) when it is closed. Plus, you can order a grill kit and actually make food on it. Aaron was basically sold… until we found out it was even more expensive than the other version of the Stuv. Womp, womp.

Around this time we completed our refi and with the prospect of actually having the money needed to do this project, Aaron kicked into high gear. That man can source materials like nobody’s business. Seriously, is that a job? Professional Sourcer?

He turned up these sleek beauties from Wittus.

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Pinterest/Source

We didn’t like that the firebox was so small, and they were extending past the budget we hoped to hit.

With stand-alone fireplaces (except for the Malm) seemingly out of reach, he focused on fireplace inserts. Which led him back to the original Stuv, which was available without the cladding.

Aaron reached out to Stuv to get pricing and see if they would sell direct. They would, but the insert was STILL out of reach. The fireplace is such a focal point, that we decided to crunch the numbers again. After pulling up the spreadsheet, Aaron realized he had money set aside to remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Because we can’t tackle the kitchen right now (more on our plans here), that wall is staying in place, and the extra funds put the Stuv insert within reach! Huzzah!

We ordered the Stuv 21/85 sf (single face).

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We absolutely love the minimal design. A slim 1-1/2″ frame is all you see. The glass door slides up into the model and the track is hidden. The unit is fully insulated, which makes installing it to code much easier. This was important because we thought we would be tackling the whole job ourselves. More on that in the next post…

Video tour 2015

I liked the first video so much when I stumbled on it back in July that we’re back with an update. I’m a little sorry that it is 16 minutes long, but it’s a big space! So kick back and watch me awkwardly talk at the camera.

A few notes:

  • There are two new projects, one big (fireplace) and one small (Aaron has a new desk), that have not hit the blog.
  • 1:50 – Yay Mojo!
  • 4:03 – I don’t know why there is a saw sitting at the bottom of the stairs… which is literally what I am thinking while Aaron walks down.
  • 6:38 – Hank!
  • 6:46 – Hank jumping in Aaron’s face!
  • 7:08 – Hank playing with a log. He’s a nut.
  • Also, sorry our backyard is a mess. We have extra ipe under the tarp out there and the wood for the fire pit is a mess. Clearly Hank doesn’t mind.’
  • 11:10 – Argh plaster issues! Remember how much time Aaron spent on that?!? Yeah it is already falling down. The only solution is to take it out. So it’s on the list….
  • 13:03 – Aaron pointed out that we just put in a new light bulb in the pole closet, not a whole new fixture.

So what do you think? We hear that floor plans don’t always explain the space, so maybe this helps?