Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bathroom Reno on a Budget

Our master ensuite reno was a real splurge: from the vanity to the shower set to the exhaust fan, we spared no expense. And that's the way it should be. Besides being the most used bathroom and our my retreat, the master ensuite is also one of the top selling features of any house.

As I am getting ready for yet another bathroom renovation, my goal this time is to up-cycle as much as possible and stay on budget. I will only get rid of those that absolutely won't play into my overall design such as tiles and vanity countertop. In addition, I will replace more efficient fixtures such as toilet and shower set which are not only good for the environment but also offer great payback through energy/water savings.

Another really inexpensive way to renovate a bathroom is paint. A few days ago we finally dropped off this ugly baby at Paint It Like New, and I made a gutsy move (to me at least)  by choosing a darker shade -- the Benjamin Moore's Pigeon Gray.

And this is the final design plan of my main bathroom. After much consideration I've decided to stick with natural Carrara floor tiles and countertop. Porcelain look-alikes and quartz countertops just don't cut it for me in a bathroom like this.

Clockwise from top right: Pottery Barn Mercer Sconces; Kohler Fairfax Lavatory Faucets in Chrome; Crate & Barrel Bamboo Bathroom Tray; Target vintage glass soap pump; West Elm Ombre Border Bath Mat; Bianco Carrara Marble countertop; 4x16 white gloss subway tile with Carrara mini-brick border; 12x12 Carrara floor tiles; BM Pigeon Gray for the vanity, Valspar Polar Star for the walls; American Standard Hampton Shower Set with Price Pfister hand shower rail.

Reno starts in mid September and I can barely wait to see how my vanity turns out in the BM Pigeon Gray. Stay tuned for updates...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Caramel Pear Jelly

Not sure if you've noticed but Forelle Pears are in season now and they are in almost every grocery store that I've been to lately. Personally I don't particularly like fresh Forelle Pears' texture but they do make great poached pears or jam/jelly.

So after some research online I've come up with this super easy recipe to turn ripe Forelle pears into a healthy and delicious summer desert. It's a great way to get some fussy eaters in your home to have their daily servings of fruit.

Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cook time: 5 minutes.

  • 6 ripe Forelle or D'Anjou Pears. I threw in 1 apple just for flavour but you can skip it.
  • Core and dice the pears, add 100ml of water or OJ and puree them in a blender.
  • Pour the mixture into a sauce pan over medium heat, and gradually dissolve in 50g of gelatin powder (or pectin or alga). Optional: you can also add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon to add flavour. I skipped the sugar because the Forelle Pears are very sweet to start with.
  • Heat the mixture until the texture is consistent for about 5 minutes without bringing it to a boil.
  • Pour it into a jello mold for cooling, fridge it for a couple of hours and you are done.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How Do You Like This?

As a follow-up to my last post about my shower wall tile dilemma, I've come up with two new patterns so far. I plan to put some left-over Carrara mini brick mosaic tiles from my kitchen backsplash project to work.

Do you like this stacked 4x16 white subway tiles with Carrara mini brick border? Am I silly to think the mini brick Carrara will introduce some traditional touch to offset a very modern tile pattern (stack)?

Or do you still think a brick pattern works better?

Yes I know, I am really beating this tile pattern thing to death. :(

Monday, August 20, 2012

Subway Tile: Stacked or Brick Pattern?

The planning for our yet another bathroom renovation is well under way, and stress is slowly creeping on me. Bathroom is in general a pretty sophisticated project, especially at the planning stage, as it involves a lot of decision-making. Here are the questions I usually ask myself before a bathroom reno:

  • Shower System: How many functions do I want out of a shower system? Shower head, hand shower, tub spout or all the above? Do I want volume control? In which finish? Modern, classic or transitional-style levers?
  • Recessed Shelf in Shower: in which wall or how big?
  • Sink Faucet: single-hole or three-hole installation? Style of the lever? Finish? 
  • Vanity countertop: natural marble or engineered stone and their pros and cons?
  • Vanity paint color and hardware.
  • Tiles and patterns.

Another challenge with any bathroom renovation is to be able to cope with changes and surprises. We don't have x-ray vision so we could only hope for the best once the dry walls get cut open. My plan to have "waterfall" tile pattern on the middle wall was toppled because of a ventilation pipe on the right wall. Our contractor doesn't believe he has enough room to wiggle the pipe so I probably need to have the recessed wall shelf in the middle wall which would then break up the waterfall pattern I had in mind, see illustration below. Nothing crashes a design plan faster than structural integrity.

So I am now back to the drawing board for another tile pattern that doesn't involve a waterfall.

Option 1: I could use the 3x6 white subway tile throughout, similar to what I have in my master ensuite shower and basement bathroom. I will likely run one thicker Carrara accent border across the C-shaped wall.

Option 2: I could use a change and set the 4x16 subway tile in either stacked or brick pattern. My only concern is that the "stacked" pattern might look too modern for my bathroom. Here are a few examples of the stacked setting:

Via Houzz


So which option would you go for? 3x6 or 4x16 subway tile? Stacked or brick pattern? Please help!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stripe Drapes

We have a spare bedroom on our second floor which we are yet to decorate. Hubs is using it as his home office for the time being when he is not in between airports. It's the first room we see when we get to the second floor, so I've had this itch to turn it into something more eye-pleasing.

I spotted this white and grey wide stripe linen fabric from Fabricland during a clearance sale and I took all the remaining stock. The deal was too good to pass, and I knew I could make good use of it.

And I was right! A few months later after a few hours of measuring and sewing, Mom effortlessly turned the fabric into these dreamy draperies/curtains I've always wanted. Fully-lined linen draperies like these easily go for hundreds of dollars -- I love a beautiful score like this!

This is a more close-up look of the horizontal wide stripe curtains. They are so versatile that they will work nicely with a home office, or another guest bedroom, or maybe even a nursery down the road.

Do you love the wide stripe curtains as much as I do? What's your typical decor jumping off point? I am gradually drawing the conclusion that mine is the fabric.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Steamed Sponge Cake and Summer Break

Summer is great and slow, and I thought I would take a couple of weeks break from blogging. Before I go, I will share with you a super easy recipe for making steamed Chinese sponge cake, or Ma Lai Go. If you've been to a Chinese Dim Sum lunch, I am sure you will recognize it as it's a must-have. My recipe is super low fat (as a matter of fact, no oil needed so the only fat comes from eggs) and low in sugar.

Prep time: 10 minutes;
Steam time: 20 minutes.

  • ‎4 large Omega-3 eggs;
  • 1 cup of sifted (cake) flour;
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or less if you prefer tiny sweet);
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract;
  • 1/2 baking soda;
  • and 1/4 tsp salt.
Beat the eggs on high speed, add in sugar and vanilla/almond extract, for about 4 minutes or until foamy and fluffy. Fold the sifted flour, salt and baking soda lowly into the egg mixture, then pour the batter into cookie-sheet-lined (or lightly greased) pan. Steam for 20 minutes and you will get this -- simply. delicious. I usually flip it on a cake stand to show off the pretty texture at the bottom before serving.

See you in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Featured on Houzz III

I've always loved botantical and architectural prints. Living in a newly-built house and being an "old soul", I especially see the need for having such artworks to add vintage interests to the overall decor.

I am glad to see one of the writers for Houzz Lisa Frederick also agree. For the third time, Houzz has featured my design pictures in the article titled "Botanical Prints Turn Over a New Leaf" cool! Here is a snapshot of the mention, and you can read the rest of the article here:

Hope you all have a great Civic Holiday long weekend! It's one party after another get-together for us again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bathroom Tile and Vanity Combination

This summer has been great. There is little to do at home and work hasn't been awfully busy. Besides constantly catching up with friends over dinner and outdoor parties, we've managed to piggyback a couple of short leisure trips here and there with our work travel. One thing though that's always on my mind is, and as much as I am still recovering from all the reno fatigues, when can and should I start the main bathroom renovation?

Over a month ago I started contemplating different design ideas of a shared bathroom on our second floor.

This is the first iteration:

This is the one I came up with yesterday:

In the second iteration, I swapped out the dark grey vanity with a white one to test how it goes with dark floor tiles. For the shower enclosure I've decided to go with the Option 1 tile pattern, so with that set, I moved on to select floor tiles as well as deciding on a vanity cabinet color.

Here are a few options I am considering.

Option 1: Rona's Mono Serra 12x24 Porcelain Tile in Basalto + White Vanity. I really like how this tile resembles slate, and was very surprised to see Rona carries a vast selection of ceramic tiles. I've always liked to shop at Rona and found that for the same products their prices are overall better. The only thing I wasn't quite in love with was their web site which offered very little information for shoppers like me who research to death online before going to a store. However, I am pleasantly surprised by Rona's recent changes and additions to their web presence. Not only does the site offer detailed product descriptions, images and prices, it also allows you to check store inventory.

In terms of the vanity, I plan to have this ugly baby spray-painted in BM's Chantilly Lace, similar to what we did in our master bathroom. I've requested a painting quote from Paint It Like New, and they are awesome to work with so far.

Option 2: Rona's Vega Grigio Tile-alike + White Vanity. In this option a lighter-shade of grey tiles will be used but still dark and solid enough to ground the otherwise pretty white space.

Option 3: Bianco Carrara Marble Tile (or Porcelain Lookalike) + Dark Grey Vanity. After using Carrara in both our basement and master bathrooms, I was pretty determined to use a different tile and pattern in this bathroom for a change. With the high traffic I am anticipating, porcelain might be our best bet. Plus how could you say no to a chic dark-grey vanity like in Sarah's Herringbone?

So which one is your favourite? Which one would you choose for a long and narrow bathroom?

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