Friday, October 26, 2012

Foyer Update

Thanks for your input on my foyer facelift project. Your comments are the fuel that keeps my creative engine running, so thank you.

I used the Photoshop to quickly create a mockup of what the foyer would look like with the transformation I have in mind. It's not perfect but you get the idea. Dare I use the safe word "painting" again? I hope my husband is not reading my blog. :) Yes, I am thinking of painting the staircase riser and wall string in the same antique white as the wainscoting. Do you like it? In the picture on the right, the huge framed art is also gone, so I think I can like a foyer without any art on the wall but we will see.

The foyer project is only going to a slow one with holidays and our long vacation on the way. On the related note, I did pick up these sparkly in time for hosting holiday parties. They are from Origin Crafts in Polished Nickel finish. More update on the mini dining room makeover will follow.
Hope you all have a great weekend! My birthday is next week so this is going to be an action-packed weekend with shopping and good eats.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Project Foyer Art: Need Your Help

As major reno projects wind down, I now have more time to look at some finishing touches throughout the house. The first up is our foyer, in particular, the wall rising up along the curved staircase. Other than adding the wainscoting about two years ago, we've pretty much kept the space unchanged since we moved in.

This is what the space looks like now: those tulip prints gotta go; I am seeing too many vertical lines between the wrought iron spindles and lantern; I am also growing tired of the BM Revere Pewter paint above the wainscoting. On the upside, we have lots of natural light coming in our foyer throughout the day.

This is from the bottom of the staircase.
This is the other side of the foyer: some colors on the campaign chest but not much. The entire room is still pretty monochramatic.
In addition to adding colors to the space, my main goal is also to create a not-so-deliberate look -- what's in place shows I was trying too hard and failed.
So here are a few options I am thinking:
1. Add one (and only one) statement piece like this: it can be a colorful abstract painting.

2. Add a few mid-sized framed arts or paintings rising up with the staircase. This is pretty similar to what I have right now, and it still looks deliberate.

3. Add a gallery along the staircase: I love this option but it'd be painful to carry out -- what goes into the gallery and how to lay them out?

4. Or how about nothing on the wall at all? I will probably have the walls paint the same white color as the wainscoting, and maybe add a couple of sconces just like in the picture?
So which one is your favourite? Do you have any other suggestions? PLEASE HELP!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In The Mail Today: Alanna Cavanagh

This still seems unreal to me, but I just pinched myself and, yep, this is real.

After reading Tim @ Design Maze's blog about the Limited Edition Alanna Cavanagh Linen Tea Towel, I desperately wanted one. I immediately went to the Bay's web site, and it's no surprise that the towel was "Temporarily Out of Stock".

I felt so bummed.

A few days later, I checked the site again, it's still out of stock. I even played with the checkout system but strangely enough, it let me! I added two pieces to the shopping bag, checked out and paid. I was expecting in a day or two I would receive an email saying it's on back order with an expected delivery date a few months or even a year out. But...two days later, this showed up in my mail!


The Limited Edition Alanna Cavanagh Linen Tea Towel by ULSTER WEAVERS from the Bay.

It's such an affordable way to own a piece of art from one of my favourite artists -- Alanna Cavanagh. I first spotted her Big Orange Scissors silk screen print from Wish magazine (anybody still remembers that magazine) back in 2008, and had since fell in love with all her works.

I might steal Tim's ingenious idea to have it framed like this...isn't it fabulous?
Photo Credit: Tim @ Design Maze.

I did order an extra piece, so perhaps a giveaway is in order in light of holiday spirits? Check back soon for updates.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Main Bathroom Reveal: Before and After

As usual, AM Dolce Vita doesn't leave you hanging for too long for a final reveal. Let's take a quick look at the main bathroom before, shall we? This ugly baby is such a distant memory now.

Instead, I will come home to this. It started from this mood board:


Main Bathroom After: I can barely believe this is the same bathroom from two weeks ago. The white walls (in Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace) keep the room fresh and airy.
We kept the huge plate mirror because visually it makes a long and narrow bathroom like ours bigger and wider.

The finishing touch: I love how the yellow accent pops in the bathroom. The Campagnie de Provence soaps smell divine too!

We opted for a more economical (and practical) shower set this time by Price Pfister. Shower control system is from Moen's Brantford collection. I love the lever's vintage touch which balances out the modern stacked wall tiles.

West Elm's Stripe Shower Curtain in Feather Gray is simply per-fect!

The vanity from another angle. I am always amazed by how much a few coats of paint will change the overall look and feel of a piece of furniture or a room. In this case, the Benjamin Moore Pigeon Gray completely transformed the cabinet unit into a stylish and classy vanity and the focal point of our main bathroom.  

Our main bathroom reno was a quick one-week project, and we only went slightly over budget. Here are the details:

  • Wall color: Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace.
  • Vanity: Benjamin Moore Pigeon Gray, spray-painted by Paint it Like New.
  • Bianco Statuario countertop by Modern Stone Works. It's 98" in length, crazy!
  • Kohler Fairfax lavatory faucets in polished chrome.
  • Pottery Barn Mercer wall sconce.
  • 4x16 white subway tiles from Tile City.
  • West Elm stripe shower curtain in feather gray.
For further details please go to the Source List page.

So there you have it, our main bathroom transformation. How do you like it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Working With Contractors

We've been dealing with an unprecedented number of contractors to renovate our builder home room by room since we moved into our current house just over three years ago. My experience in working with contractors however went way back to my early 20's when I owned my first condo. I've worked with great, good and not-so-good contractors and thought I should share some of my key findings with you.

1. Go ugly early.

Would you agree that most estimate appointments are very pleasant? That's correct, because contractors are trying hard to win your business (and so they should). I am not saying contractors tend to "over promise under deliver", it's merely their way of showing you they are capable of taking your project at a reasonable rate. This is your opportunity to tell them ALL you want, including some worst-case scenarios.

When it comes to renovation contract, especially with those contractors that you've never worked with before, make sure you itemize everything. For example, my recent bathroom reno contract says "all plumbing, rough in waste and supplies for vanity including the installation of vanity faucets. Home owner to provide faucets.", to me, that reads as if all I need to give my contractor were the faucets, and the price I paid him was inclusive of all rough-in materials. But I was wrong (and I caved in because I wanted the project done within a week). I ended up paying this contractor another $300 to cover PVC pipes among other tiny little things.

2. It's a matter of opinion (and expectation).

I've learnt from my most recent main bath renovation that those contractors recommended to you may not meet your own expectation. Homestars type of rating system may give you some reassurance for mid-large companies but a lot more independent contractors are never registered there. Therefore, always try to manage your expectation and share it with your contractor early on. Just to be fair, if contractors know from the very beginning I am such a nitpicking perfectionist, they might just be scared away (ha!).

3. (Almost) no contractor would treat your house like their own home.

I didn't think I could still keep you awake reading all this without sharing a picture. Do you see anything wrong with this shower control lever?

How about the giant gap between the wall plate and the lever? I don't know if any contractor would install a shower system like this in their own home unless they have no sense of aesthetics. To minimize the gap, all a contractor needs to do is to install the shower valve more recessed into the wall (and we have more than ample space for them to do so).

So far I can only confidently endorse two companies that, by my standards, treat my house like their own home: Lusso Glass, who installed our front door with wrought-iron insert:

And Expert Crown Moulding, who installed most of wainscoting and crown moulding for us. They were extremely carefully when laddering up against any wall or staircase, and cleaned up after they were done. I was able to work while they were working because they were also extremely quiet and gentle.

4. Trust, but verify.

I trust the workmanship of most of the contractors, but when in doubt, I research on my own and speak up.

The toilet in our main bathroom started to leak immediately after the contractor left. He was so certain that nothing was wrong with his installation and it was the toilet that was defective. See the tiny little nut (circled area) above the toilet bowl deck for connecting to the bolt of the tank? Well, I noticed that he actually put the nut underneath the bowl together with washer and mounting nut. The rubber washer would never be airtight because there is always going to be a tiny gap between the tank and the bowl (and hence the leak).

Had I completely taken my contractor's words, I would have gone through the ordeal of ripping the toilet apart, sending it back to the store (or manufacturer) for a replacement and having it installed again.

So trust, but verify.

5. It's your project and house, be there.

This is by far the most difficult thing for us because our jobs require constant travelling. However, I always try to be home at the end of a day to check the progress. That way I can correct certain or make any adjustments before contractors move past the point of no turn (e.g. patch up the drywall).

6. Know when to move on.

We had solid oak floors installed throughout our first floor. The reality is that a new house like ours takes years to settle. The possible shifting of sub-floor coupled with humidity changes had made our floor slightly squeak at certain high-traffic areas. Another reason could be the wood was never properly dried to withstand Canadian weather. As the wood continued to dry after it's installed, it shrank which then snapped free from the nails. I called the flooring company within the warranty period for repair and they blamed it on us for not turning up the humidity high enough during winter months. I could debate with them forever and at the end they might show up, but I decided to cut my losses and bring in a squeaky floor repair expert Silent Floor Solutions. Within a matter of hours the floor was fixed and the squeakiness was completely gone. I was also able to save my own sanity by knowing when to move on.

That's about all for now. Do you have any tips or interesting experience working with contractors that you could share?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Main Bathroom Finishing Touches

I hope the Canadian readers had a great Thanksgiving long weekend. For us this holiday is  typically filled with way too much food so hopefully I have the rest of the week to work it off.

I've always wanted to visit the Belle de Provence at the Bayview Village, and on Saturday a lunch meeting finally took us there. Belle de Provence is one of those boutiques that once you step in, you will never want to leave. It carries a wide range of loveliness from one of my favourite hand soaps of all times -- Campagnie de Provence to another stylish Provencal brand Lothantique to scented candles and kitchen linens.
From top-right corner, clockwise: Belle de Provence boutique; Lothantique collection, Coucke linens (I want them all), Campagnie de Provence collection, store overview.

 I walked out of the store with a set of these Campagnie de Provence's hand soap and body lotion in Pamplemousse or Grapefruit. I love everything about them: the elegant glass bottles (which I look to reusing), the peppy yellow accent on my grey Statuario countertop, the delicious summer grapefruit scent, and above all, how gentle and moisturizing for my hands.

I've chosen yellow as the accent color for my main bathroom -- are you surprised yet? For once I am not using blue, or grey, or pink, but a cheerful shade of yellow, and I can already see, together with grey, how they can be a super couple. Other finishing touches for this bathroom include shower curtain (which should arrive sometime next week), lacquer tray, towels and framed art.

Hope you all have a productive working week, and stay tuned for the final reveal hopefully by the end of the week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feeling Thankful

I was travelling pretty much all week so I haven't done anything home front.

While in Calgary I reunited with my buddy Jessie from college who I haven't seen for 13 years. It was a very emotional moment when we first connected. Although we've been keeping each other up-to-date on our respective lives, it felt so very different (in a good way) to finally see each other again in person. Back to the days when we were in college, we promised each other that we'd be godmothers to our respective first-borns. Years later, Jessie is already a mother of three, and I am still childless. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet my precious goddaughter Olivia for the first time. As fate would have it, we clicked right away.

My precious little goddaughter Olivia. Isn't she the most beautiful girl?

Minutes later we'd already warmed up to each other as if I've been around all along. While Jessie and I were catching up, Olivia disappeared for about 15 minutes and just when we were wondering why she had been so quiet upstairs, she came down and handed me this that almost put me in tears!

I wish I had taken some pictures of her other acrylic paintings on canvas to show you. They are way too sophisticated for a little girl of her age. I am so proud of her.

In the late afternoon Jessie and I took a peaceful walk down the trail along the Calgary's most scenic Bow River and had a nice long chat. I only wish I could stay for longer and spend more time with her and kids.

As we are celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, I feel so thankful that I have friendships like what I have with Jessie, a talented and beautiful goddaughter Olivia, a loving husband who is also my best friend, a life that I am content with and a job I enjoy.

Have a great Thanksgiving long weekend everyone!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Main Bath Sneak Peek

It was never fun to have a bathroom reno project while we both had hectic work commitments, but thankfully it's officially over. I am travelling again this week, so I can only get to the finishing touches the following week. After that I can then show you the final reveal. For now, here are some sneak peaks into our main bathroom reno to-date:

The Benjamin Moore Pigeon Gray on the vanity cabinets turned out to be exactly as I envisioned (thanks Paint it Like New! more details to follow). The gray shade is almost identical to the Bianco Statuario countertop. I intended to pick a Carrara slab but then ended up walking away with the Statuario. I couldn't take my eyes off those veins. The polished nickel knobs are from Marth Stewart's Bedford collection via Home Depot.

Here is another picture from the same angle with a higher exposure setting.

 I picked the Kholer Fairfax single-control lavatory faucet for its ease of use and vintage the Hot-Cold porcelain plug button.

That's all for now and I will post more pictures in the following week.

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