Don’t Cry For Me Either, Argentina

Last day in Buenos Aires and headed to Brazil tomorrow. Hope to have one last steak dinner tonight and just relax and enjoy this interesting city.

On this trip, we are very relaxed tourists. We have been just strolling through neighborhoods, stopping at cafes, napping in the park to get ready for late dinners and super late clubbing :). All in all, life ain’t bad.

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For this to be such a cosmopolitan and bustling city, it’s amazing the sheer number of trees and parks everywhere. It’s gorgeous!

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For some reason, people are fascinated with the cemetery where Evita is buried. I’ve never understood this but, of course, we went and took the obligatory pictures.

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So far we’ve had parilla (Argentina meat), Italian, tons of cafe food, and a little Peruvian. Luckily this is a walking city because it might be easy to get fat here.

Adios!

Argentina!!

I’m away for the next few days traveling around Argentina and Brazil!! I’ll be dropping in a few times to say hi (and share some pics) but will not have design posts up until next week.

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The Pink Palace – I think I deserve one of these.

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Sunday antique market. So many stalls we couldn’t finish!

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Here’s hoping you have a great week – including a little tango on the street!

P.S. Who knew that Argentina had world class ice cream … Things are going to get real ugly 🙂

Obsession: Wallpaper Backsplash

Wallpaper backsplash1I’ve been dying to put in a wallpaper backsplash in a kitchen for a while.  In my opinion, a tile backsplash can seem a little cold and uninteresting even when done really well unless it’s a colorful mosaic or pattern.  I think it’s just my desire to bring in a little pattern into a space that usually doesn’t have much pattern. Or bring in a touch of softness to an area with so many hard lines and surfaces. Whatever it is, I’ve been in love with a wallpaper backsplash for a while.

Wallpaper backsplash2

Obviously, a wallpaper backsplash needs to be covered with a clear protective cover to ensure that it doesn’t get destroyed with what actually happens in the kitchen.  But I don’t mind the look of acrylic or glass on top of the wallpaper…I don’t think it takes away from it.

Wallpaper backsplash5 So now that I’m in a position to install a backsplash (and an empty wall), I’m obviously gravitating towards wallpaper.  I’ve had this idea of something very dramatic (and expensive) for a while but may be backing off this idea because the navy cabinets and brass hardware with the lighting is just so damn fabulous that I don’t know if I want to take away from it.  I’ll be deciding in the next week or so and will definitely keep you updated once I’ve made a decision.

Wallpaper backsplash3What say you? Yay or nay on wallpaper as a backsplash?

Renovation Realities: Lessons Learned

While I’m clearly no expert in renovations or contractors, I’ve learned a few lessons (some the hard way) during this process.  I thought I’d shared a few tidbits this morning.

 

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Lesson 1: It’s OK to Be A Micromanager (or It’s OK to Be A Nagging Bitch)

In general, I’m the opposite of a micromanager.  I believe that every person should be responsible for their own work and I shouldn’t have to constantly check on the work.  However, this philosophy works (sometimes) when you’re supervising legal associates who also have a stake in the process (i.e., not getting fired) and much less so with contractors who don’t really give a shit how your house looks/works when they leave.

Hiring a contractor is a scary process for most people.  Essentially you’re hiring an “expert” in an area you clearly have no idea about and they often come in with big, confusing words and descriptions about what needs to get done.  It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and confused by the work being performed by the contractors and to feel like your constant questions and concerns are annoying or slowing the work down.  But so what?!?  You’re paying for the work and deserve to get the information that you want.  If you don’t ask now and along the process, you’ll feel like you don’t know what’s going on and then at the end of the process, you’ll have less of a leg to stand on when things don’t turn out the way you want.  While asking questions clearly won’t also make you an expert, and at some point you have to trust the people that you’ve hired, it is in your best interest to stay on top of the work and check in on a regular basis (throughout the day) to ensure that everyone stays on plan.

Trust me – I started out letting people get started and checking in sporadically.  And there were several things that I had to either pay to have redone or changed myself after paying someone to do it because it wasn’t done properly.  If I would have been more focused on the projects and supervising the contractor, I wouldn’t have had that problem (or I could have been more self-righteous about the problem after it happened).

Instant Bitch

Lesson 2: Speak Your Mind or Forever Hold Your Peace (or It’s OK To Be a Outspoken Bitch) 

Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t generally have a problem speaking my mind.  (I often should try to keep some of my thoughts inside ;)).  But similar to the issues with hiring a contractor as mentioned in Lesson #1, having an “expert” tell you that something is fine or not a big deal will make even the most outspoken person take pause.  This is where it pays to be stubborn and outspoken.  It is imperative that you voice your concerns and speak your mind with your contractor.  If you see something that you don’t like and want to be changed, do not let the contractor (that you hired) talk you out of it.

Interestingly, contractors think they are experts in everything.  So even if you hire a plumber, they think they are an expert in kitchen cabinetry.  Or if you have someone spray lacquer your cabinets, they feel like you need to take their advice on the metal to use for the hardware.  Ahhhh….STFU!!!  So you need to be able to be strong about your opinions and be able to voice them if need be.  The other option is just to ignore them and go on about your plan.  Even if this is an issue where the person is actually more knowledgeable that does not mean that you still shouldn’t voice your opinions.

For example, because of Lesson #1, I was forced to move a newly installed door because it was in the wrong location (obviously a much longer story but just for example).  Of course moving the door required drywall repair and that is one area where I never want to ever try. Accordingly, I hired a contractor to fix the drywall and he came in but decided he needed to shift the door (which was closing perfectly prior to this shift). After moving it, the door wouldn’t close and he had to plane the side of the door to get the door to close.  While the door closed, it was now off-center in the frame and not acceptable.  The contractor insisted that it was fine but I know that over time, I’m going to hate looking at it with the extra space on one side.  So I’m requiring him to come back and take the wall down and fix it next week (which is a total pain in the arse and will cause me more heartache in the short run but is the right decision in the long run).

Tina Fey bitch quote

Lesson 3: Try to Take It All In Stride and Remain Calm (or Try Not to Be a Bitch All the Time)

This lesson should have been at the top because it’s the only way to deal with everything and not go on a murderous spree.  On a daily basis, it’s amazing the amount of crappola that you have to deal with when dealing with subcontractors.  Some of it relates to money/budget, some to quality of workmanship, some to time…but it all amount to very frustrating moments.  I will admit that I have not always taken my own advice and have had moments where I’ve said or responded to someone in a very, very negative/insulting/condescending tone.  However, that type of response did nothing but raise my blood pressure, give me a headache, and cause me to move closer to having a drinking problem.  I’ve found that I feel the best when I just let the problems slide off my back recognizing that sometimes shit happens and just work on a way to fix the problems later.  Don’t get me wrong, fixing the problem might entail firing the contractor, arguing with a sales associate or something fairly unpleasant but I think it’s important that the initial response is a little more calm and retrospective for your own sanity (and any other persons that happen to live with you).

Anger Management

 

So there are three lessons I’ve learned so far.  Trust me – I’ve learned many more lessons so let me know if you want to hear more.  Hope you enjoyed!

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Happy MLK Day!

Before and (Almost) After: Master Bathroom

The last room I’ll show this week is the master bathroom – as it’s the only room left with a significant noticeable difference.  The other rooms (living room, dining, den, etc.) are definitely different but it’s small differences that make it more comfortable – removing popcorn ceiling, installing hardwood floors, new trim, etc.  So I’ll wait to show those until the new furniture comes (and is ordered :)) before showing the rooms.

Anyway, here is the master bathroom before we moved in…in all its pink and sunken tub glory:

Master Bathroom with matching pink sinks.

Master Bathroom with matching pink sinks.

Sunken pink tub

Sunken pink tub

My inspiration for the bathroom was something classic with marble tiles and black accents:

Inspiration image

Inspiration image (Pinterest)

This is where we stand now:

Shower stall tiling completed.

Master Bath 1Master Bath 3

The other side of the bathroom is where we’ve stalled: Master Bath 2But everything is now fixed so we can finish it up:

  • Install light fixtures (already purchased)
  • Install cabinet doors (now that plumbing is fixed)
  • Prime and paint
  • Cabinet handles
  • Install thermostat for heated floors
  • Add storage

This room is clearly the most far along and I actually think we’ll finish this weekend.  I’ve said that for the past few weeks so let’s hope I’m right!!

Have a great weekend!

Before and (Almost) After: Guest Bathrooms

I’m going to call this before and (almost) after the story of how money runs out and things don’t progress.

Powder Room

As mentioned yesterday, we made the kitchen smaller to allow space for a guest powder room.

Final Kitchen Floor Plan

I’m a big believer in powder rooms as I don’t want to have to clean my bathroom every time I have a dinner guests.  It’s a small room that really allows you to keep people out of your business.  Anyway, here is the floorplan for the room:

Powder Room Floorplan

Powder Room Floorplan

As you can see it’s not a terribly large room – approximately 5′ x 5′-6″.  The bones of the room have been done since before we moved in (and it was our only working bathroom for almost a week after moving in).  But we have yet to do anything but put in the hardwood floors and put up a coat of primer (and a leftover light fixture from pre-renovation).  So here she is in all her glory:

Powder Bathroom

Powder Bathroom

Powder Bathroom Pic 2It’s terribly difficult to get a good picture of the small space (and I didn’t try that hard since it’s really just a white box).  But these are the things that are still left to be done:

  • Install trim around door and baseboards
  • Figure out design scheme (including wallpaper, etc.)
  • Purchase mirror
  • Purchase light fixture
  • Install bars and other fixtures
  • Buy accessories

I have no idea where I want to go with this bathroom and it honestly isn’t that high of a priority right now.  I’m just happy we have a working bathroom and increase the overall number of bathrooms in the house fairly inexpensively.

Guest Bathroom

The second guest bathroom is a full bathroom connected to the larger guest room.  We referred to it as our yellow submarine bathroom for quite some time.  This is how it looked before:

Yellow Bathroom

Yellow Bathroom

You can barely see it but there is a teeny tiny shower in the right corner of the bottom picture that is also covered in yellow tile.  And of course this was another room that had two access points.  I hate the access into the guest bedroom and think the door makes it feel much smaller than it really is.  However, we decided to just reverse the swing of the door (so that it didn’t go into the bathroom) and see how it works in practice.  If it’s not really needed, we could always just drywall the opening later.

After the home inspection, we learned that all the tile (in the entire house) contained lead and needed to be properly removed by a specialist ($$$).  So while this bathroom wasn’t a huge priority for us in this phase of the project, and we had plans to simply spray the current tile white to save money, it just made sense to gut it while the other tile was being removed.

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It looked like that for weeks until a cat decided to walk into our house from the hole left from removing the tub (from the crawl space under the house).  At that point, we realized we at least needed to get the bathroom to the drywall phase.  So today it’s a white box that serves as storage for a variety of items.

Storage galore - dog food and bowl, extra hardwood flooring :)

Storage galore – dog food and bowl, extra hardwood flooring 🙂

The only things we have accomplished in the room are adding a new window and updating all the plumbing.  There is still much to be done to this room including:

  • Figure out a damn design plan
  • Buy tile, vanity, and fixtures (lighting and plumbing)
  • Frame mirror
  • Find someone to do the work!

I would venture to say that these rooms (along with the guest bedroom) are the most “undone” rooms in the house and have received the least amount of attention.  These aren’t the rooms that keep me up at night because I can close the door and (sort of) forget about them.  (I say “sort of” because none of the doors in this house actually have handles so they can’t really be closed or stay closed :-)).

Anyhoo, let’s catch up tomorrow with a view of the den and living room!

 

Before and (Almost) After: Kitchen Progress

Let’s start this progress update with the kitchen.  When we bought the house the kitchen looked like this:

Original kitchen

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MLS13

MLS14

Floorplan

Floorplan

The original floorplan had an opening to the dining room as well as the back hallway.  The kitchen was 16′ x 14′ but had a ton of unnecessary angles and cabinets that made it less functional.

The plan of attack was to make the kitchen smaller but more functional.  Closing the kitchen off to the back of the house allowed us to add a powder room and pantry.  It also allowed us to create better flow throughout the house as I’m not the biggest fan of multiple entrances in rooms.  (We actually had other plans but those involved taking down walls and other changes that just didn’t make financial sense.  You can see those here.)

Here is the updated floorplan:

Final Kitchen Floor Plan

And here are the inspiration board that I put together when planning the kitchen:

Inspiration

After demolition, inspections, and hours of work, this is where we are now:

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Completed Items:

  • Walls moved/added
  • Opening enlarged
  • Electrical upgraded and lights installed
  • Hardwood floors installed
  • Walls primed and painted
  • Cabinet boxes installed
  • Quartz countertops installed
  • Appliances installed
  • Plumbing updated and fixtures installed

We’ve come along way and have a working kitchen but there is still a ton to do.

Outstanding Items:

  • Install these beautiful pendants above the island.  
  • Install shelving in pantry
  • Install custom blue lacquered doors and trim
  • Build box for above refrigerator – due to a cabinet ordering mistake
  • Find pendant for above sink area
  • Install microwave in tall cabinet
  • Determine handles for kitchen cabinets – order and install
  • Install hot water dispenser
  • Buy trash cans for cabinets
  • Pick backsplash and install
  • Finishing items – trim around pocket door, HVAC vent cover
  • Organize, organize, organize!

Cabinet doors are finished and will be installed next week so I’m hoping that I’ll have finished several of the other items on the list by then and we’ll be working with a fully functioning kitchen before the month is out!

Hope you enjoyed this before and (almost) after.  I’m finding it very useful for me to chronicle what has happened as well as keep my list of outstanding items up to date so I don’t get too cocky about finishing :).

Tomorrow, I’ll focus on the new powder room and the guest bathroom (so you can see that not all things have progressed as far :)).

Before and (Almost) After Week

Happy Monday! (Maybe acting excited for Monday will make you feel the same way :)).

So I thought a “great” idea for this week would be to spend the week giving a before and (almost) after tour of the house. Each day, I’ll showcase two rooms. We’ll show how they started on the day we bought the house and then show how far they’ve come in the last 4 months of renovations. I thought it was a good time as we’ve done the bulk of structural changes and actually have no workers scheduled for the near future.

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We’ll start off tomorrow with the kitchen and dining area. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Friday!

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Camera is here! I’ll play around with it this weekend and hope to have some progress pics next week.

Happy Friday!!