Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Auckland, New Zealand

In case you are wondering why I've been so quiet on my blog. Over the past few days I was in 50-hour 30,000-km air transits between Toronto and Auckland, New Zealand. I was there for a very sad season: my mom's big sister, my beloved aunt M passed away. Though the news didn't come as a complete surprise, secretly we were all praying for miracles and that she would be with us for a little bit longer. 

My aunt M was a very talented and accomplished artist and antique dealer. I spent two summer breaks with her when I was young. She owned an antique and pottery shop at the time, and she often took me to art galleries and antique stores. I credited her for nurturing my artistic spirit, and helping me develop a sense of appreciation of beautiful things, especially those with history.

This is one of my aunt's many watercolour paintings. She painted it when she was only three months into her watercolour study. My uncle titled the painting "Celestial Beauty" which is a perfect way now for us to remember of my aunt's grace and wisdom. 

We weren't really in Auckland for sightseeing, but we were lucky to run into a few interesting restaurants. I would highly recommend the Kokako Cafe in the Grey Lynn neighbourhood. Their vegan quinoa pancake and potato hash in Hollandaise sauce were amazing. 

The restaurant has an industrial-geeky chic-meets-Parisian-bistro ambiance. I love that they use cough syrup bottle-alike for cold brew coffee, and lab baker for maple syrup. 

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you wouldn't want to miss the "Authentic Vegetarian Restaurant" in Panmure. Can you believe all the dishes below are 100% vegetarian? 

After the funeral, the family felt the need to get out of the house so we went to the nearby Cockle Bay Beach which is famous for shell collecting during low tides. As a family we held hands and sat quietly on the beach taking in the ocean breeze. I could feel my aunt was there with us.

The next day Anthony and I met up with one of his cousins in the Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter. If you are into seafood then you definitely don't want to miss The Foodstore
We did the impossible round trip from Toronto to Auckland in 5 days, completely exhausted. It was however completely worthwhile to be able to say my last goodbye to my aunt. We are going back in September so hopefully we will have time to visit Auckland's many breathtaking beaches, vinyards and of course the famous Lord of the Rings tour in Queenstown.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Love That House: Parkview Hills

It's been a while since I wrote my "Love that House" series. As the day gets longer and Spring is in sight (hopefully), real estate market is getting active again. I monitor spring market closely because this is when a lot of home owners rush to list their properties so the market is not short of gorgeous houses with quality and tasteful renovations. After a long winter, sellers are still testing the market and buyer sentiment so spring market is also good for scoring good-value properties.

I came across this 4-bed 5-bath 4500 square foot stunner on ComFree in the Parkview Hills hood at an incredible $1.4M. I couldn't believe my eyes because in the GTA that's a lot of house for that amount of money! Better yet, it's designed by HGTV's Karen Sealy Design!

A well-designed entrance sets the scene for a beautiful home. The goal is to set the tone for what lies beyond. Features like architectural symmetry, centered front door and neutral color palettes this house has will draw potential buyers in.

Two-toned kitchen cabinets are seeing their increasing popularity these days.

I wish I had known Super White granite existed when I had my kitchen counter replaced. It has all the veiny details and grey-white colors of a Statuario, and is more resilient to daily wear and tear compared to marble.

Kitchen and bath indeed sell a house. A gourmet kitchen like this shows a well-planned renovation - the type of flip potential buyers are more willing to pay extra for.

A master bedroom is not complete without his and hers closets.

A serene all-white master bathroom is after my own heart.

Master bedroom balcony: imagine wake up to this in the morning!

Ground floor family room is huge with French doors to patio and unbeatable ravine view.

This house is truly finished from top to bottom.

A house like this really makes me really wonder if I should love it, or list it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentine's Coffee Table Styling

This past weekend as I was waiting for my car to be serviced, I strolled down the street and wandered into a thrifty store. This pink glass brass candleholder threesome caught my eye as soon as I entered the store. Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to buy something pink for decor, but I just couldn't resist this time. The air was filled with love so it's hard for me not to be thinking about Valentine's Day, and all the lovey-dovey red and pink hues. So here you have it, my pink and gold Valentine's Day coffee table. 

The frosted pink tulip-shaped glass is in this most incredible soft shade of pink. Apparently I am already riding this Spring's pastel bandwagon. 

Blush, gold, turquoise, brass, crystal and bone china are just a few of my favorite things. 

Source: Pink glass candle holders - Value Village. White lacquered tray, gold bubbly decanter, gold art deco decanter: Indigo. Antique Tuscan bone China teacup set. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

West Elm Eclipse Chandelier - Yes or No?

I am officially fed up by this year's extreme winter weather, enough already! At some point marginal utility started to decline, and the wintry scenery completely lost its appeal. Today here in Toronto we are taking in yet another 25-30 centimeters of heavy flaky snow. I don't think there's any more room for hubs to blow the snow to, not on both sides of our driveway where snow banks are taller than me, or into the front garden where all our shrubs are already buried and disappeared! Fortunately we both get to work from home, so at least I didn't have to go through all that commute mayhem. 

Enough whining about the weather. Now onto subjects that energize me and make me happy. If you remember the last piece left to do in my kitchen dining room is to change the chandelier. I was really digging these Murano art glass chandeliers, but they are either too small or too pricey. 

Our round dining table is 50" so I really don't want any fixture smaller than 24". The Eclipse chandelier in brass from West Elm is the right size at 36 inches in diameter. Price is also super good especially now at 20% off. But in brass finish though? I love brass but I am not sure if it works in this dining room? What do you think?

The same Eclipse chandelier in antique bronze...a bit plain-looking IMO. 

I also thought about Williams-Sonoma's Devon chandelier. I am pretty sure there are a lot of lookalikes out there.  

I really love the 1920s Odeon glass fringe chandelier from Restoration Hardware, love the size and the wedding cake shape, but I think it might be too much bling for an everyday casual dining room. 

So what do you think? Which one is your favourite for my kitchen dining room? Any other suggestions? West Elm Eclipse chandelier, yes or no?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Today my friend is a good day. As I was neck-deep with work through lunch, something refreshing popped up - an email from Houzz informing me I won the 2014 Best of Houzz in the Design category! If you remember last year I also won in 7 categories. So exciting, and thank you Houzz! 

As I was going through other winning projects, I noticed my main bathroom project was added to 37,519 ideabooks on Houzz, pretty awesome right? 

If you are interested in taking a walk down the memory lane, you can read more about my main bathroom transformation herehere, and here

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