Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Project Recap

2018 was undoubtedly another busy yet very satisfying year for me. Besides three out-of-the-country trips (Portugal in March, Switzerland in July and Hawaii in November), I managed to complete decorating three rooms, and eight refresh projects at home and cottage. Time passed by so quickly that I often felt déjà vu moments. Didn't we just pack away Christmas tree not long ago? Weren't we at this restaurant this time last year? These were the questions we kept asking ourselves throughout the year. As we age, each year becomes a smaller percentage of our life hence time tends to leap forward at a faster pace. As time seems to move at an accelerating rate for me, I learnt to slow down and enjoyed some nothingness from time to time. For someone as tightly wound as me, I would call that a huge accomplishment. 

Here is a recap of my decor projects from 2018:

At Cottage

Kitchen: we had counter-to-ceiling subway tiles installed at our cottage kitchen. You can read about it here

Loft: we turned a supposedly storage loft into a multi-purpose room, link here

Living room floating cabinet: I highly recommend a floating cabinet for smaller space. 

Bathrooms: for our master ensuite, we got rid of the impractical pedestal sink and had a vanity with storage installed. 

For the main bathroom, we replaced lighting fixtures, mirror and faucet for a more modern look. 

At Home

Master bathroom: I finally bid farewell to our two-handle faucets and opted for an easy to operate single-handle ones. As a result, I had to replace the counter, of course then mirrors then vanity lights. You can read all about it here

Dining room: our dining room gets the least amount of natural light all year round, so I brightened it up by painting it white (BM's Chantilly Lace is my go-to white paint. No yellow undertone whatsoever and very livable). I also replaced the dining chairs. It never ceased to amaze me for something that I once vowed I'd love forever (like those solid mahogany dining chairs), I could easily get rid of in a heartbeat when they outstayed their welcome. Link here

Kitchen diner: I refreshed this room on a whim but it turned out to be my favourite project of 2018. 

This shelf has all my heart. 

I will be back to write about my 2019 projects. Happy New Year to you and yours! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Nature-Inspired Holiday Decorating with Brian Gluckstein

Can you believe Christmas is one week away? I for one can't! It's like I blinked, pressed the fast-forward button, and we are already there. I've been feeling equally excited and panicky about this year's holiday decorating. Time is a scarce commodity for busy people like us. Besides the usual hectic work schedules, we've been busy searching for a winter home south of the border in a warmer and dryer climate (more on that later). It's been harder and harder to find days when I could get myself in the zone where my creative juices could run free. It's also the self-imposed pressure that this year's holiday decor needs to be more unique than the last year's. All that unnecessary obsessing aside, at the end I went with whatever my heart desired: a more simplistic, cozy and nature-inspired holiday decorating theme for 2018. 

Picture above features a few of my favourite things this year: faux fur pom-pom stockings by Glucksteinhome, wooden bead garland, antique brass candlesticks with black taper candles, and wispy long-needle pine garland. 

My 2018 holiday mantel. 

Now onto the dining room. Besides kitchen, dining room is where all the holiday fun and memories were made from holiday gatherings with family and friends. After a recent makeover, this space feels more current and more us

This is my 2018 holiday dining table setting based on the Darius Silver collection from Brian Gluckstein by Lenox. Its neutral colour palette and striking geometric patterns create a calm and cozy ambience without looking boring. 

I actually created two versions, one with a blue dessert plate for a pop of colour; and the other with the Brian Gluckstein by Lenox Darius bread/appetizer plate

Blue above, Darius silver below. 

At the end I went with the Darius silver. The tablescape looks so much more put-together this way. 

I also used Leyland Cypress boughs, and Glucksteinhome LED mercury glass tree candle, together with a few glass Paz trees from CB2, to create a simple centrepiece. 

I am really loving how this year's holiday table setting turned out. I went through a few iterations to get to this point, so here are a few tips I would like to share:
  • Start early, so you have time to make adjustments and acquire missing pieces. 
  • Pick a theme, or not. Either way, don't go overboard with accessories, so you can create a more calm and cohesive appeal. 
  • Use natural materials as much as possible, for a more sophisticated yet not over-the-top look, for example, fresh greenery and organic linen tablecloth and napkins. 
  • Serve your guests with the best quality dinnerware possible, like this bone china set from Brian Gluckstein by Lenox

I will be back in a bit to show you the rest of my 2018 holiday home tour. A 2018 project recap list is also long past due so that's coming your way too. Stay tuned and festive! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas 2018 Home Tour

After a few weeks on the road, we are finally back to the comfort of our own home and ready to celebrate holidays with family and friends. And of course, all the halls were finally decked, with only one short week to spare before Christmas. Without further ado, let's start my 2018 holiday home tour. 

First stop has to be the living room. Unlike last year, we moved the tree to the opposite side of the room for a change. I am used to having my first coffee while catching up on morning news in that chair to the right, so standing up the tree on the other side would mean I didn't have to compromise my daily routine during holidays. 

Picture below: my 2018 Christmas holiday living room.

My 2018 Christmas tree, unlit. 

My 2018 Christmas tree, all lit up. 

Mantel, wispy long needle pine garland, antique brass candlesticks with a simple DIY eucalyptus collar. 

Picture below: the only new baubles I added this year were these amber glass ball ornaments from H&M Home. 

Gifts wrapped in craft paper. 

Next step is foyer. Ever since we moved the tree from our usual spot (by the staircase) in the foyer to the living room, this space felt a bit lonely during holidays. There's no wow factor for our guests when they first came through the door. So this year I added a small but fresh Balsam Fir here to add a touch of festivity. The same long needle pine garlands draped over the staircase handrail. 

Along the wall on the opposite side of the staircase is this new Article BIOS sideboard which is now my favourite piece of furniture at home. 

I kept this wall simple. The reflection of the garlands in the mirror was a nice touch. 

So there you have it, my 2018 Christmas home tour. Dining room and holiday table settings are up next. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Home Improvements that Increase the Curb Appeal

~ This is a featured post.~

When it comes to renovating your house, there are numerous things you can do to increase its value. However, there are other projects you can undertake that aren’t worth the extra expense unless you’re not planning on selling your property ever.

If you can see yourself putting your house on the market sometime in the future, here are the top home improvements that give a good return on your investment.


One thing you should think about before spending a substantial amount of money on any home improvement is to address the basics:
  • Make sure the attic is well insulated
  • There are no leaking taps
  • Your gutters and downpipes aren’t rusty
  • There are no leaky windows

You might have become accustomed to all these niggly jobs, but it’s very likely a potential buyer will notice them first.

Essential renovations
The kitchen is the heart of any home, and it’s often the first place any potential buyers will look. It’s also the room where families spend a lot of their time together, but when you look around your kitchen, it can be confusing to know where to start. Installing granite worktops and stainless steel appliances will immediately improve the aesthetics of the room. In a kitchen, there are also lots of opportunities for adding unique details such as a shiny new faucet or unusual knobs on your cabinets.

The bathroom is another room that is ripe for improvements. If your toilet and vanity are looking decidedly tired and worn, change them for something that’s more eye-catching. Bathrooms are often damp and dingy, so consider adding a window to allow more natural light to enter the room. Bathroom improvements often require the help of an expert, as there are plumbing and electrical issues to contend with. Luckily, Focus Development is a Chicago real estate development company who can help. 

Not all properties will have a cellar or basement,  but if you’re lucky enough to have one, invest in transforming it into a living or storage space. It’s not that difficult an improvement to make either!

Think Energy Saving
A major selling point for anyone looking to sell their home will be whether it’s “energy-efficient.” We’ve all become very conscious of the effect we’re having on our environment, and not only that, an energy-efficient home is going to save money on energy bills. A house needs to be correctly insulated, and the windows should have low-E coatings. Changing your water heating system for a more up to date one is also a good improvement to make.

Aesthetic Upgrades

Landscape the Front and Backyard
An increasing number of people are appreciating the benefit of having a garden. Not only is it something nice to look at from your living room window, but it’s also very enjoyable to spend time outside. You don’t need to spend a vast amount of money on the landscaping, but it can potentially bring a return of as much as four times what you pay.
Many of the repairs and maintenance that need doing only cost a few dollars but have the potential to increase the value of your home by a few hundred. It’s a buyer’s market when it comes to selling your house; only those in the best condition get a second look. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

6 Ways To Prepare Your Home For Renovation

~ This is a featured post. ~

Now that winter is most definitely here; it is the perfect time to plan out some home renovations for the new year. You can take the time to sit down and scour the magazines and websites that will give you inspiration, or you might find that you are more easily able to get in touch with professionals who can come and appraise your property and give you a cost for the job or jobs that you want to get done. Book them in for the spring, and you have plenty of time to save up the money and increase your budget if need be, plus you will be able to prepare your home in advance for the renovation work that is to come. 

Although this might not seem like something that you need to think about, it is essential. Without the proper planning, you can become stressed, your budget might run out, and your home may be much more of a mess than you ever thought it would be. Preparing your home for a renovation is vital for everyone’s comfort and happiness; here are six ways to do it.

1. Work Out Your Budget
Yes, financial budgeting can be dull, and it certainly isn’t everyone’s forte, but without a budget in place, how will you know how much you can spend on your home renovations? How will you know whether or not to accept a quote from a builder or craftsman if you don’t know if you can afford it or not?

The size of your budget is less important than having one, to begin with. Even a small budget can be enough for some excellent renovation work, depending on what you have done, who you hire, or whether you do the work yourself. The key, though, no matter what size your budget might be, is to have one in place and not to deviate from it. Once you start to think that a little extra here and there won’t hurt, you’ll soon find that you’ve added a big chunk of money to your budget that you can’t afford.

2. Research Costs
Once you have your budget in place, you can then start looking at how much different items might cost you. Start by looking at home improvement websites to get some idea of the kinds of styles and looks you like, and then, when you know what it is you are looking for, work out how much it would cost you in terms of both materials and labor (your own or someone else’s) to get it done.

Compare that cost against your budget and see if you can afford it. If not, you will need to compromise. The granite countertops may need to be changed to tile or wood, or something even less expensive. Your roll-top bathtub may need to become a standard corner bath. Make little changes and adjustments until your shopping list matches your budget.

3. Know What You Want
You have a budget to work to, and you know what materials you can afford. Plus you know whether you can use a professional or whether you should do some of the work. Now you need to determine the look that you want.

This is the fun part, as long as you stick to your budget and your skills. There are many different styles that you can choose from, and each one will offer you something wonderful. You can pick something classic and comfortable, or something wild and wacky. The choice is yours, but you should know what you want before you get started otherwise you may find the job takes a lot longer than it should do.

4. What Can You Do Yourself?
Now you know what design you want and how much it is going to cost you, but is there anything you can do yourself? Some of it will be possible to DIY in some cases, and this, of course, will reduce your budget (you may even be able to switch back to granite in the kitchen after all). Working backward like this means that your budget is only going to reduce, and that’s a positive thing, giving you more leeway in what you can choose or who you can use to do the work, or saving you money.

Jobs such as painting, tiling, or even putting furniture together if need be can usually be done yourself, but larger or more complicated jobs such as plumbing and electrics should only ever be handled by a professional.

5. Speak To The Professionals
Once you have determined what it is you are going to need a professional to help you with, it’s time to speak to at least three to get an idea not only of price but of what they are like to work with as well. This is particularly important if the job is a long one, where they will be on site (in your home) for many days or even weeks. You need to be able to get on with them as well as afford them, and this is why interviewing more than one is essential.

Find the professional that you like and whose estimate fits with your budget, and you will have a much easier time when it comes to having the work done and feeling less stressed about the situation. Of course, you should also look at testimonials and reviews to make your final choice, but a gut feeling, although not scientific or quantifiable, can often be a help.

6. Declutter
Once you have booked in your home renovations, you have the perfect opportunity to declutter your home. Whichever room the work is going to be carried out in, it will ideally need to be cleared and tidied to make it easier to get the job done in a timely, professional way. Take a good look at what you have in the room and place it into three piles. One pile is to keep, one is to take to Goodwill or to sell online or even at a garage sale, and the final pile is to put in the trash.

The items that you want to keep will need to be kept elsewhere during the renovations, and if many rooms are being worked on at once, a storage facility may be your best option. Paying a little for this for a month or so will save you a lot of worry and is well worth the money.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Holiday Tablescape with Brian Gluckstein by Lenox

It still felt like yesterday when I was contemplating on the style of my holiday table setting last year. And just like that, Halloween was already over and we are now in 2018 holiday homestretch. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'd know winter holidays and Christmas are my favourite to decorate, and I often started early just so I had extra time to enjoy and appreciate the fruits of my labour. 

Below is my 2018 holiday design board. The jumping off point was this Winston durable bone china place setting from Brian Gluckstein by Lenox. If you think "hygge" was only a phase of my design journey then you would be wrong. My pursuit for "hyppe" is growing ever stronger, so my holiday decorating is all about simplicity, warmth and nature. Wood beads, amber glass, greenery, linen, Kraft wrapping paper, and black and white dinnerware all contribute to this organic yet sophisticated look. 

So this was my Thanksgiving table setting based on the Brian Gluckstein by Lenox Winston dinnerware. I love the simplistic, clean and a touch of masculine design patterns and the basic black, white and platinum colour combination. And the fact that it's made of durable bone china but dishwasher-safe is just icing on the cake. This table setting is so versatile that once I replace fall branches with Christmas greenery, it will be all set for hosting festive feasts. 

Bonus for you is that you also get a sneak peek of my newly designed dining room. Be sure to come back in a few weeks to check out my 2018 Christmas decor - my plans are ambitious this year. 

Disclaimer: All the Brian Gluckstein by Lenox Winston dinnerware sets were generously gifted to me but all the opinions are my own. 

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