Thursday, August 28, 2014

Furnishing a Rental

Happy Thursday! The week is almost over and summer last long weekend is in sight. With the closing date of one of our rentals fast approaching, I am beginning to think if I should be furnishing this unit before leasing it out. After all, a furnished suite would rake in more rental income which means a higher ROI. Better yet, it gives an interior design aficionado like me a brand new project to tackle. 

The condo in question was the one that was cancelled by the builder to make room for another elevator. This was the old layout. 1+Den and 2-bedroom are still the most popular units in Toronto's rental market, and ours was a 2-bedroom with only one bathroom. It came with a French balcony (aka not a real balcony). 

The old floor plan: 2-bedroom + 1 bathroom

The builder was very generous by offering us this new unit at no additional cost. It is still a 2-bedroom suite, but it is 50 sq ft bigger and has a second full bathroom with a walk-in shower. Crazy sweet right? Who doesn't like to have a soaking tub AND a walk-in shower under one roof? Just when we thought nothing else could top that, the builder gave us a corner suite which comes with a wrap-around balcony and an unobstructed park view! Our tenant will have access to this humongous balcony from every single room of this condo! I did some quick math, and these pricey downtown Toronto premiums would easily cost an additional $100,000! 

The new floor plan: 2 bedroom + 2 bathroom + corner unit + wrap-around balcony!

That means if we are to sell this unit today, we stand to gain 100K, without even factoring in the appreciation. But we are not going to do that. I am a long-term investor, and I know there is still so much potential in this downtown pocket. The only direction the property value will go is up, and not to say the ongoing income stream it's going to generate for us! 

So back to furnishing the rental suite. One of the options I am considering is a rent-to-own model, a new concept in the interior decorating world that I think would be very neat and has a lot of potential. The idea was inspired by Emblem Furniture, who offer home furniture rental. This model would work particularly well for people who own or lease a rental property. It allows me to re-assess my decision to furnish the suite after a couple of years, and determine whether I want to buy out the furniture (i.e. keep the rental furnished) or return them and walk away. It also gives me access to new and stylish furniture at a much lower upfront cost which again means higher ROI for us. It would be interesting to see if this model actually takes off. Stay tuned for updates on how I furnish and decorate #projectrental.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dream House: Windows and Doors

Project dream house continues here at AM Dolce Vita as we are working through different plans of our exteriors. Windows and doors may not sound so exciting when it comes to the design world, but you would be surprised to find out how big of a role they play in the overall aesthetic of a house. And the selections of them are unlimited: what style (casement, Georgian or sliding)? which colour (black to stand out, or beige to blend in)? and where? Vevo is a resourceful website to help me navigate a sea of choices. 

At this time I have pretty much decided that we want the windows and doors, and especially the windows to stand out, so dark colour it is. Take a look at these dreamy dark window frames and doors. 

The dark roof, windows and doors gives this white Victorian a cohesive look with a perfect balance of modern and vintage styles. It's clean, crisp and sophisticated. You can't go wrong with black and white. 

Charcoal-coloured window frames also work harmoniously with stone and grey exteriors in this Princess Margaret Lottery show home. 

Red brick and sandy tone stone lends warmth to the exterior of yet another PMH show home built by Greenpark, while dark windows and doors add a modern touch to a more classic home. 

Now this is my type of front door, although we would probably still go for a double door for practicality reasons. 

And how about a wall-to-wall glass patio door with frames painted in ebony? 

There is no other way to fall asleep these days than constantly planning the dream house in my head, but it is also the best way to fall asleep, no? :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vintage Bar Cart Styling

Over the past few months I have been slowly gathering things I need to style this Maison Bagues bar cart. 

I was obsessed with these silver-rimmed numbered Tom Collins highball glasses, but a complete set of 8 was extremely (I mean extremely) difficult to find, and they are not cheap. You have no idea how much time I spent online trying to track them down. 

Last week I finally came across this listing by CatamountCurios on Etsy, a complete number 1-8 set, in mint condition! I emailed the store owner Brian, and he replied immediately with a shipping quote. A couple of days later, these beauties showed up on my doorstep. 

Stunning, right?

So this is my bar cart styling, take one. 

Moving things around. 

A bit busy, I think, and more alcohol please. 

If I am going to keep the bar cart in my living room, I think I am going to need to keep it simple and uncluttered, like this. 

It works well with the overall aesthetic of my living room. What do you think? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dream House: Build Over Buy

As mentioned earlier, we've decided to move and have a new house built, and we didn't come to this decision lightly. 

It took a lot of research online as well as scouring through our desired neighbourhood for open houses to finally come to the conclusion that, the dream house we I want does not exist. I had a hunch from the get-go that we may come down to another custom built home, and I was right. When a piece of land opened up in the market, we snatched it without any second thought, so this was the tipping point I was waiting for. 

So why build over buy?

In our case, we have a very specific hood in mind which we want to settle into. When you have an ideal location in mind, you are usually looking at a well-established neighbourhood with infrastructure and amenities to show for. In such a mature neighbourhood, land is of scarcity so you are not going to find a group of builders building new houses. Your option is either to buy an existing house, or buy piece of land with a rundown house ready to be demolished. 

Need I say more? Having your house custom built allows you to control a lot of things, from the quality of the materials to the overall aesthetics of the layout. Granted, with control comes with responsibility and stress. Although someone else is building your house for you, the onus is still with you to oversee the entire process till its fruition. 

Change the Unchangeable
This is one of the reasons that excites me the most! You could buy an estate home and still have your front door tucked on one corner of the house; your house could look like a million bucks from outside but you would be short of one bedroom inside; your floor-to-ceiling window in your great room was not centred; you had a flat roof and constantly had to worry about the weight of the ice/snow during winter, etc. These are all the unchangeable or at least structural things that are very difficult to change in a ready built home. By having it built from scratch, you can do whatever you want, including an off-centred front door if you so prefer. :)

Reduce Waste
This is another key reason why I decided to build vs. buy. Kitchen and bathroom are where homeowners spend most of their reno dollars, and rightfully so. Have you ever come across those renovations that are too nice to get rid of, but so not your taste that you can't live with? These two pictures are from an open house we recently went to. Would most people think this is a nice kitchen? Yes. All the materials are high-end from the pricey Marron Emperador Light marble tiles to antique white cabinetry to all the millwork. But is this my dream kitchen? Absolutely not. It belongs to a buyer who appreciates this type of style, not someone like me who would rip it apart the moment I moved in. Our landfills are overflowing as is and I don't need to add to the burden. 

How about this bathroom? 

Picture below is from my master ensuite. I am not saying my bathroom is better because it's a matter of opinion - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But you get what I am trying to say, right? Completely different tastes and styles - I can't live with theirs, and they probably can't stand mine. 

Not only is replacing previous owners' expensive renovations wasteful, it also adds up to your bottomline. Instead of paying for other people's renovations, use the same money to pick what you want in the first place as your house is being built. 

So these are the reasons that prompted me to build over buy. What's your experience? Do share! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moving Home Or Office The Easy Way

As mentioned earlier, we are going to have our dream house built in the next few years. It's going to be an exciting ride with numerous tasks and projects ahead of us. Among all of them, moving is definitely not something I am looking forward to. Over the years in our current house, we have acquired a lot of stuff, and just the thought of having to wrap and pack them gives me a headache. Can you imagine how many layers I am going to have to pad all these precious antique teacup sets that are super delicate and fragile. 

And how about an entire cabinet of bone chinaware? Errr...

Today I would like to share an article from a writer of Media Buzzer to shed some light on how to make moving a bit easier.


Moving to another home or office can be stressful. Or is it? Well, it does not have to be unnecessarily stressful. There are things that you can do to make sure that your move goes without a hitch, and the levels of stress are kept to a minimum.

One of the first things that you will need to do before moving is to make sure that you are thoroughly prepared, which includes getting everything that you will need in order to make your move a successful and hassle free one. There are many companies in the Internet that can provide everything that you will need for this task, so you can get everything in one place without even having to leave home!

-Moving Boxes in Different Size
-Packing Paper
-Packing Tape
-Marker Pens
-Bubble Wrap
-Pistol Grip Tape Dispenser

Planning your Move in Advance

As you may have known, properly planning something is already half the work finished. One of the best ways to reduce not only the amount of stress but also the amount of work you have to do during the actual moving day is planning your move in advance. You are best off getting all of your supplies well in advance of your move, so that you can start preparing right away, well in advance of your moving day.

If you are relocating over a large distance and do not want to use a professional removal company, you can look at hiring a shipping container and getting it transported from your old home to your new one.

However you decide your move, you will need to go through each room of your house one at a time and put everything together that is non-essential such as

-Out of Season Clothes
-Toys , Games and Books
-Furniture that is not being used
-Cutlery and crockery

Anything that you can do without between now and the time of your move can be packed up readily, leaving you with a lot less to do on the day of your move.

You may be surprised at just how many things that you can pack away that you are not going to need before you move. If you have a spare room that is not being used, you can dismantle any furniture that is needed and stack up the boxes of all of your possessions in preparation for your moving day.

The Art of Packing Boxes

You will have to consider a lot of things when it comes to putting your belongings into moving boxes. Just make sure that when you buy cheap moving boxes for sale, they are of good quality.

When it comes to the final days on your Moving Day countdown, you will want to start in one room and work your way through the house. The best idea is to start in the room that has the most to pack, which is often the kitchen or the garage.

You will need to assemble and secure your cheap moving boxes using tape. To make the dispensing quicker, easier, and more efficient, use a pistol grip tape dispenser. Make sure that you use enough tape to seal the box properly so that the bottom will not rip apart when you come to lift the box up.

Heavy items should be placed in the bottom of the box, and make sure that you use plenty of packing materials such as foam peanuts, packing paper, and crumpled newspaper so that the contents do not move around. You can also use blankets, towels or bed linen to wrap up your more delicate items such as glasses, crockery, and ornaments.

When you have filled up your box, making sure that it is not too heavy and can easily be lifted, you will need to seal it properly with tape. Get your marker pen and write on the box the room that it came from and a general description of the contents. It doesn’t have to be very detailed; you can write “Kitchen – Plates and Cutlery.” This will make things much easier when you arrive at your new home and start to unpack everything. You will know which box goes to which room or area of the house. When you have finished unpacking one room, you can move on to the next, working your way through your home or office until everything is all packed.

Loading Your Possessions

Finally, the moment has come, and Moving Day has arrived. Good thing you were able to pack up weeks or days ahead!

When you have finished packing up each room, you will need to start loading your possessions into your truck or shipping container. You will want to make sure that you spread the load evenly across the truck’s floor and also ensure that everything is tied down properly to prevent it from moving during transit.

When loading heavier things, pick up things correctly, keeping your back straight. Squat then grip the box or item. Then stand up and lift the box or object, keeping your back straight and using your leg power to rise. Do this to avoid back injuries; if you end up hurting your back during your move, it could turn into a long and painful exercise! A good idea is to wear a support for your back which will help to prevent any injuries.

When everything is loaded and securely fastened down, it is time to say goodbye to your old home and begin the journey to pastures new. The time that you have spent preparing your move will show when you come to unpack in your new home and go through the entire process again but in reverse. Before you know it, you will be all settled down in your new home with your feet up, relaxing, and enjoying a nice drink!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dream House Take One

Ok folks, this is it! We are moving! It's at least a few years out, but we have secured a piece of land in our desired neighborhood, and we are in the process interviewing builders to have this thing built! 

Within days the first builder we met gave us this rendering based on what I had described to them. It didn't have all my "wish list" and I suspect they probably pulled it out of their stock files but it comes very close. I would definitely lose the beige bricks. 

I would also change the portico to a new colonial style like this:

Or this.

Now on to the interiors. This plan delivers most on my wish list including a library/office on the ground floor. I am not too keen on kitchen island facing the great room, and would almost want to rotate the entire kitchen counterclockwise by 90 degree. 

A 5th bedroom on the second floor is a must for the new house, and this plan delivers it. I also really like almost every bedroom (except for 2 and 3 sharing one) has its own ensuite bathroom. And the layout of the master bathroom can't get any dreamier! 

Now onto Option 2. I like the kitchen island facing the patio but really dislike the 45-degree wall (it's bad feng shui so I heard). This layout is not the most effective way of using the kitchen space with less pantry and without a workstation desk. I am also not sure if I want to break up living room and dining room, and tuck a home office in between. The foyer looks really grand though. 

I know this plan is out as soon as I see only 4 bedrooms on the second floor. That tiny library is just not going to cut it. 

Anthony walked into my office this morning with this. We will be celebrating our wedding anniversary this weekend. 

Have a great weekend everyone! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

One Pillow Three Ways

I am still not over animal prints yet. After this recent makeover, I wanted to do more. Pillow is a natural choice: they are an inexpensive way so you can experiment without feeling the pinch; they are not permanent so when you are over the trend all you need to do is to swap them out; they are versatile and can practically go into any room in your house. 

I really liked the Les Touches but I wasn't ready to fork out $100 (which seems to be the going rate) for a pillow which I wasn't even sure was going to work for my house. So I went with a close alternative - the black white Dalmatian Spots by ElemenOPillows on Etsy. I was pleasantly surprised by how affordable ElemenOPillows made them pillows to be. When you find a certain fabric you like, run a price from low to high search on Etsy, and ElemenOPillows always comes up on top. They didn't compromise on the quality either. Rather, their pillows are nicely made and have fabrics on both sides! 

So this is the Dalmation Spots pillow on the settee in my foyer. 

I moved the Mark Tabbener's sketch from the master bedroom into this foyer nook after a comment about it looking lonely in a large space (and I agreed). I have something else in mind for that wall so more on that later. 

The same pillow also works in my living room. 

And bedroom as well! Black and white pillows are so versatile! 

I added this stunning blue flower to my garden this year. Stoke's Aster "Blue Danube" is an easy-to-care-for perennial which gives non-stop flowers into the late fall. I have neighbours come up to ask me what they are and where to get them. I bought mine from Terra Greenhouses

Dipladenia is another high performer that's easy to grow. Although in zone 3-5 they tend to become annuals. 

Limelight Hydrangea has finally started to bloom, almost a month late this year. I cut off some small odd branches and they became a nice little bouquet. A touch of seasonal colours is what my front entrance needs. 

Enjoy the long weekend! 

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