Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Perfect Home to Renovate

Every once in a while, on a lazy Saturday morning over a soy latte, I start thinking about where we would be had we not moved to Winnipeg and weren't building a new home. We had already started thinking about moving before we got transferred here, so it's likely we would have been on our way to a new-to-us home anyways. And so, I look around on MLS. I look and see what's out there. What might we have bought? Would we have stayed in our preferred area (where we lived before) in a new, smaller home, or would we have moved out further and to an older, larger home?

While going through our imaginary house-searching, I came across this gem. It needs A LOT of work, but it doesn't take much imagination to see what potential it has. I can't even venture to say how much a total renovation would cost, but I feel like $200K would improve this home significantly. I would paint the exterior grey and white, practically gut the interior, paint out all the wood white, replace the kitchen, bathrooms, railings, and flooring - and I think it could be a pretty spectacular place.

This property checks off so many boxes for me:

  • Interesting and unique exterior
  • Large, private, treed in lot
  • Open floor plan
  • Vaulted ceilings
  • Walk-out finished basement
  • 4 bedrooms
  • Priced low enough to allow for substantial renos (under $550K)
Of course, there's no knowing what condition the house is in, what other things might need attention. Who knows if that fireplace is up to code or if the roof needs to be replaced. But, from a purely superficial standpoint for the purpose of dreaming, this baby is a winner. 

I really love the way this house/garage is laid out. Although it's not huge, it definitely seems a tad more impressive laid out in such a way.

Just imagine white painted walls, a new fireplace and reclaimed wood floors. 

There isn't a ton of kitchen space to work with, but starting from scratch I would extend the kitchen all the way to the door frame, omit the half wall, and add an island facing the living room.

The open concept and vaulted ceilings are what really do it for me. This is actually a very similar layout to the house we are building. My husband has already remarked that he doesn't know how easy it will be to go from a living space with vaulted ceilings to one without when we ever leave, so this type of layout would solve the problem.

It's really hard to tell how this master loft suite could be used based on the current situation, but there seems to be enough space to work with to do something amazing. I am not sure, but it looks like it could be missing an ensuite, which would be a very expensive addition. There are apparently two bedrooms on the main level, which I would consider joining to create a master suite, and then separating the loft into two bedrooms. One thing is for sure, those dark beams would really pop if the panelled walls were painted white.

The backyard is full of potential with a great expansive space enclosed by shrubs and trees. Pool, anyone?

Even the entry is inviting, bordered by trees.

And now for some inspiration:

I really like this modern/industrial take on painted wood panels.

Probably the easiest and most effective way of transforming the house in question - paint everything white.

And more dreamy white lofted spaces.

Love this weathered grey look for the ceiling as an alternative to all white.

This is a great kitchen layout that could work for the house (scaled down in size).

Voa Houzz

Although different in style, I feel like grey paint with white trim and wood accents would really complement this house.

So what do you think? Would you ever tackle a big reno like the above, or would you rather move into a completely finished home? Unfortunately for me, my husband have completely different ideas of what we want in a home (he wants new new new, I want old and in need of some love!).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Designing a Home | Kitchen Selections

When it comes to finishes, it's probably no surprise that we've gone for a very white and neutral scheme. Here's a breakdown of our kitchen choices and some of our inspiration.

After many sleepless nights and countless naysayers, we pulled the trigger on a Venatino marble surface for our 9 ft island. Not only am I over the moon about this decision, but hubby is more than on board! Once he saw the samples and the depth and life that marble has over other surfaces, he was sold. It is such a beautiful stone and I know it will be my favourite part of this house. Hubby keeps seeing marble surfaces on TV and in restos/cafes and is almost as excited as I am. The perimeter counters that flank the cooktop are a snow white quartz that will be durable and also a nice break between the marble island and the marble backsplash. 

We chose maple wood cabinet doors painted in Alabaster (similar to the style above but a tad different and little bit creamier than this white) and charcoal vinyl plank floors. We chose a luxury vinyl plank (looks like laminate or wood planks but is made out of very durable man made material) because we have lived with both laminate and hardwood and wanted a more durable option. Our laminate floors were horrible, all three sets that we've had. Any amount of water made the seams swell, which means cleaning without water is a tedious task. Hardwood isn't great for our dogs (unless it's really rustic and grooved) because it's slippery for them and with the back issues we just didn't want to risk it. This vinyl plank is perfect - it's durable, waterproof, and if there ever were damage the individual planks can be replaced fairly easily. But best of all, there's a grippy texture that will help loads when our pups want to run around and play. It's about the same cost as laminate and some entry hardwoods at an upgrade cost to us of about $6500 from the standard lino sheet flooring that is included in the base price.

Our lighting is still in the works, but I'm hoping to go for this style of pendants over the island (This kitchen layout is VERY similar to ours) with 6 pot lights overhead and under cabinet lighting.

We also plan on having a built-in hood fan constructed after we move in (DIY project via father-in-law) but until then we have a sleek stainless steel hood fan that isn't bulky or obtrusive.

Hardware will be classic with small shiny chrome knobs on the doors and a classic chrome pulls on the drawers.

Backsplash will be done immediately after we move in because I am far too indecisive to make that decision now (because obviously I will change my mind). We are going to go for a marble tile (likely a 3 by 8), I just haven't decided whether I want subway or herringbone ala this dreamy kitchen.

We are very excited about the fridge, going with an all fridge, all freezer option. I'm sure it seems excessive as we are just two people, but if you saw our fridge/freezer you would understand. We spend well over $200 a week on produce alone, so you can only imagine how full our crispers must be. I also freeze loads of meals and ingredients since my vegan dishes are often far too large for one person. Freezer storage is my saviour and allows me to make healthy meal and snack choices when I don't have a lot of time. If there is one appliance we need to be above and beyond the everyday, it's the fridge.

We thought long and hard about our stove top. In our rental house here we got to experience gas for the first time (a really nice GE profile gas range). I love the look of a gas range, I love the feeling of the flame...but, after a year with it I just didn't love the maintenance (funny, considering I'm willing to take on the maintenance of marble countertops!). I just found that under the grills got dirty every single day, and it wasn't an easy clean up. The little black disks where the burners are also got splattered/stained easily.  It looks pretty from afar, but far from pretty up close. I also didn't see any difference in cooking time from any of the other stove tops I've used in the past. So we are going with a modern looking Samsung glass cooktop and I'm happy about the choice.

Our facet looks similar to this style, with an oversized, undermount rectangular sink.

Micro will be built in under the counter in the island along with the dishwasher. 

And what about a pantry you ask? Being the pantry freak that I am, I have THREE pantries. We selected two wall pantries to flank either side of the fridge, and then we have a walk-through pantry connecting the kitchen to the mudroom (think butlers pantry style, although smaller and without cabinetry and a sink). I can't wait to replace the wire shelving in the walk-through with solid wood shelving, and to organize and label all of my jars. It might take me a week, but it will probably be one of my favourite things!

I will try and get a floor plan up so you can see everything in context - and will post about the other finishes sometime soon too! If you're building or re-decorating, how's it going?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Designing a Home | Final Decisions and Marble Countertops

** skip to the bottom of this novel on our house build for photos and countertop info**

If I were to be compensated hourly for my in depth countertop research, well, let's just say I wouldn't need a job. My brain hurts. I'm not sure how much longer I can look at a screen and maintain my eyesight. I might be losing my sanity.

Yesterday marked the day where we had to have ALL of our house decisions in (well, except for the lighting, thank goodness). It feels like forever since we first wrote our contract on our house build (January - but then changed our lot and plan in early February). Here it is, mid- July, and we have a basement. It's seems at once both an incredibly slow process and a quick one. I started picking out my finishes last August before we even bought, and nearly a year later, here I was, still stumped by some decisions.

There are lot of factors for us to consider. How long we will be in this house (not long). Will everybody love our design choices for resale's sake (probably not). Will spending buckets more mean we will get buckets more (probably not). Do I want to make decisions based on the fact we may sell it in a few years and forgo my own desires (not really).

At the end of the day, we don't know what the future holds, what this market will be like, what the design trends will be, nor what people will like. We could be here for longer than 4 years, and in that case, it would be ashame to make decisions based on resale value. And really, if I were to look at 95% of the homes on MLS right now, none of them are my style. Which also means that my style may not please 95% of buyers. Oh well, c'est la vie. It's my house and I'll do what I want to (please make sure to sing that line in your head while reading or it comes across horribly bratty).

The plan is to design this home to our taste (I guess I should say MY taste because my amazing hubby is really letting me take the reigns) and not overspend. There are definitely things that I would do in our "forever" home that we are not doing with this home. But, things can always evolve. If we are in the house for a while, there's no saying we can't upgrade as we go. We are upgrading nearly every single thing from the base options, but for some we aren't going crazy. Our ensuite comes with a tiled soaker tub, a basic one-piece fibre glass shower, and a vanity with a single sink (base includes basic lino flooring, basic laminate countertops, etc). We are upgrading the cabinetry, the countertops, adding a dual sink (WHY on earth do builders think one sink in an ensuite with a large vanity makes any sense at all?), flooring, and tiled tub surround. To upgrade to a tiled frameless glass shower was going to be around $10,000. Yup. I also really wanted a free standing tub, but it's another item that I cut off the list as soon as we realized our upgrades were getting up there. Like, our upgrades cost almost as much as the lot. Yup. Crazy.

Okay, back to the countertop research. I *thought* I had my mind made up. I *thought* that I was going to be happy as pie with my stark white countertops and marble backsplash. And then as soon as it came time to schedule our design meeting to make the final choices, I started thinking about marble again. What if I just put in on the perimeter? Then I could do a white backsplash and still get some marble counter love. Or... what if I did it on the island? Oh my, that would be beautiful. That would just make the kitchen. It would just make the house. What if.

And so the wheels started turning again and I decided if I was going to forgo my hearts desire, I should at least really give it a fighting chance and look into it as best I could (again). This time, I supplemented my online research with a visit to a slab yard, and some rigorous sample testing. I could recap all of my marble tests in great detail, but there are so many available online, that if you are reading this through a google search, you've probably already found them. I can't add more to them, but I will summarize my findings.

First things first, slabs. I was hoping I wouldn't be as enamoured in person. Or that the slabs they had weren't pretty slabs. Or that something else would jump out at me. Nope. This trip to the quarry made me want marble even more. It is just so beautiful in person. Directly comparing them to the quartz slabs we found there would be unfair. Quartz is a great material (one that we will be using at least in part) but to compare a man made, uniform slab to a gazillion year old piece of stunning metamorphosed stone just cannot be done. Here is the Venatino Marble (priced at $104/sq foot + $8/sq ft for honing + installation which ends up totalling $160/sq ft when all is said and done).

As expected, the staff there tried their best to warn me about marble. As expected, I was told I would have to sign a waiver. Unexpectedly, they apparently have only ever had one customer choose marble for the kitchen, and apparently it has been replaced by them THREE times (cue the now-in-effect waiver). I found this incredibly hard to believe because I think they are the biggest (if not ONLY) supplier of stone countertops in the city. But then again, my all white, marble heaven of kitchens is something I have yet to see in my year of perusing the local listings on a weekly basis, so maybe it is true. They did show me some "quartzite" (in brackets because I've read in quite a few places that most Super White or White Fantasy is not quartzite but in fact dolomite marble - not quite as soft but still an etchable marble) that I thought was pretty, less the "eggs". Someone, somewhere (through all of the blogs and forums I've read) referred to the round blobs of veining in this stone as eggs because they are egg shaped, and now that is all I see. I knew I didn't like the veining. It's not subtle and pretty like marble. But I thought I would give it a fair consideration and took a sample too. Super White/ White Fantasy "Quartzite" $114/sq ft + installation.

Okay, now on to the testing. I did tests on unsealed samples, on polished and unpolished, and on freshly, crappily sealed samples (I didn't let it cure for 24 hours, I didn't use the best impregnators on the market, just a run of the mill Home Depot sealer which is not recommended).

These are my findings:
1) Stains do not seem to be an issue in sealed marble. Sealing = no staining.
2) Etches are very real. They happen.
3) Etches can buffed out or visibly reduced by buffing out.
4) Throwing sharp or heavy things at your marble will create dings and scratches (things like other sharp stone samples, a heavy knife, a cast iron pan, etc).
5) If you want a "perfect" countertop that looks like the day you bought it, marble isn't it.
6) Nothing compares to the depth, beauty and life of marble. Nothing.
7) If you can embrace (not just accept) the perfect imperfections of marble's living surface, then you and marble are a match made in marble heaven
8) Honed marble is infinitely better for kitchens because it doesn't show etching nearly as much
9) Marble has been used as all sorts of surfaces from counters to tables to bars and stairs in Europe for centuries.

Other points to note.

  • Dont' throw stuff at your counters, marble or not
  • Honed marble is one of the only surfaces you can actually "refinish". Like a solid wood floor needs refinishing every so often, marble counters can definitely benefit from a surface refresh (unless you really love holding on to every bit of patina you can, then don't do this). 
  • Not only can marble be rehoned in place by a pro (rumour has it Martha has her gorgeous counters rehoned annually), but you can do quite a bit on your own. Some methods I tried on my samples (try at your own risk) are:
    • Wiping vingar or lemon juice all over to blend in etches
    •  Rubbing a thick mixture of baking soda and water into the stone
    •  600 grit wet sand paper
    • Comet and a Scotch Brite Scrubber
    • Haven't tried: professional marble etch remover
  • Once I really understood the nature of marble, I felt a little less angst. It's very much like wood floors. There are lots of alternatives like laminate and vinyl plank that look SO much like wood, but nothing really really looks and feels like wood except wood. Like marble, wood isn't "perfect". It can scratch (I once slipped in stilettos on my parents freshly done wood floors and left a huge gauge) and it can stain and swell from water. But it also has a warmth to it. It looks comfortable and beautiful at the same time. The scratches give it life and a story.
  • Quartz CAN scratch and it CAN stain. It's not indestructible, just a lot more durable.
I can say now my only reservations are the chipping around the sink from pots and pans (we cook two separate dinners every single night, which means double the dishes, and double the wear), and potential resale issues (not everyone will embrace the patina as I will).

But, I just can't imagine anything else in my kitchen. I can't let go it. I've dreamt of marble counters since I was a young teen girl enamoured with home decor magazines.

I will embrace the patina. I will still do my best to prevent chips by being careful when doing dishes (I'm sure to start I will put a tea towel around the rim of the sink), and I am sure I will try to blend in some etching every once in a while if something really sticks out, but I'm going to love every minute with those counters.

And what if we go to sell in a few years? I will get our counters rehoned to minimize the inevitable scratches and etching, and will cross my fingers that someone out there will appreciate them as much as I do (having a mostly white house, I feel like similar minded people will be the only ones attracted to it, but who knows!). And if not, if it becomes a big issue and we need to replace the island, we can either try and sell the top, bring it with us to the next house, or (and probably best case scenario) have it cut down into a few smaller pieces we can use for bathroom vanities and side tables.

So really... what have I got to lose?

And, I can't write this post without referencing these two testimonial blog posts that really helped push me back towards my beloved marble. It really has been accounts like this that have made this experience that much more - so thank you!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Designing a Home | Ongoing white marble kitchen dilemma

This is the post where I apologize for being the worst blogger ever, and beg for your help in making up my mind on certain house decisions. There are so. so. many. But I will start with a few. Thank you in advance.

By now you probably are aware of my love affair with white. Not many people here in Winnipeg get it, and many are worried that I'll tire of it. Nope. Nada. My admiration of a white kitchen started years ago - before we even bought our townhome in BC - and it has never faltered. So white on white on white it shall be! You may remember this post on marble because of my serious marble obsession, and my sadness over the reality that it just might not be the best material to use if we plan on not staying in this house for a long time. So now I'm committed to quartz counters. But, here is my dilemma: do I do solid white counters with a delicious marble backplash, or do I do the new Caesarstone Calacatta Nuvo (marble-looking) counters with a simple white subway tile backsplash?

I am SO torn and every day I change my mind. I would say I am 50/50 right now and I need some tipping in one direction.

Here are my thoughts so far on the options:

White Counters/ Marble Backsplash
Pros - Backsplash will make a nice statement and add some visual interest to the kitchen. This option also let's me bring in some natural stone into the kitchen design. The marble backsplash is the main appeal to this combo.
Cons - Not excited or in love with white counters although I do like them.

Marble-looking Counters/White Backsplash
Pros - More excited about this countertop option. It's a new product that looks so much more like marble than anything else out there on the market within our budget, and I spend most of my time in the kitchen looking at and using the counters, so it would be really nice to have pretty counters. Also, I like the fact that since there is some veining, any little crumb or drop on the counter during a party won't be screaming "I'm a dirty counter- clean me!" so hiding small messes is also a plus.
Cons - Still not sure if we can get this new product in time for our build. Also not sure if it will be too creamy against the whites that we've chose for the cabinets.

Okay kids, this is where I need your help! Please try and convince me one way on another!


Oh, hi.

Yup, I've fallen off the blogging bandwagon. Instagram and life have just slowly taken over. Truth is, I barely read the blogs I used to love anymore. My noon-ish start times at my past job in BC gave me the perfect schedule to get in some blog reading and writing over my morning latte. Now I'm lucky if I can squeeze in breakfast before I show up late to work (NOT a morning person whatsoever).

I do still try and catch up on my blog reader every couple of weeks and often think of things I would like to write about here, but it just never really happens. So, in a very truncated and random post, here are some recent updates.

The House
Its been a really long road to this stage, but we are ALMOST ready to dig. I think we are just waiting for the excavators but hoping to see a hole in the ground this coming week. Building a home has been mucho stressful. There are so many little details, so many upgrades, lots of expenses, and loads of unknowns. Because we customized one of the builder's standard plans, we have no idea what the home will actually feel like once built. Will the island (which we flipped) feel odd in the space? Will the kitchen/dining room flow well? Is my front laundry/craft room combo instead of a den going to work? Will the exterior colours look good together? It's enough to sometimes make me question why, but we are still really excited and can't wait to start seeing our plans come to life. It's been a loong time in the making. Hoping to be in within 6 - 9 months, but nothing seems to be certain at this point (I will post our floor plans and other details sometime in the future).

We just passed our one year anniversary here which seems absolutely bonkers. How we've lived here a year is just beyond crazy! Happy to say we survived the worst winter in nearly 100 years, which made me question many times why this piece of the continent is even considered habitable. But we are here. We survived. The really awesome, consistent summer weather stretch has yet to grace us, but we have had some nice and warm weeks scattered with a couple cooler/rainy days keeping everything lush and green. Winnipeg feels more like home now. Or more like home for now. It seems to be an ongoing Winnipeg sentiment to both love and hate this city at once. And I get it. I totally get it. It has so much potential, so much to offer, yet many frustrations at the same time. We continue to do our best at exploring all Winnipeg has to offer and look forward to weekends at the lake and adventures in the city. I am trying my best to realize that the pace of growth here will never be the same as Vancouver, that infrastructure takes time and money, and that despite its blemishes and problems, Winnipeg still has so much to offer. I love exploring the boutique cafes, hipster dining spots and the historic Exchange District.

We just moved. To another interim rental. This time we left a beautiful, new house for a very basic apartment. The move was horrendous. So. Much. Work. We rented a POD to store stuff until the build is ready, and a U-haul for the rest. Insert copiuos amounts of regret. We worked for hours on end hauling bins and furniture to our second floor apartment and I was sore and exhausted for days. Definitely hiring movers for our next move, only 2 kms from where we are now. The apartment is fine. It was pretty much our only option that allowed both two pets AND month to month meaning we will have flexibiility for when ourr house is ready. Why we moved? Long story short we couldn't commit to another one year lease at the house because of our new build - so here we are. Best part? I can walk to work. In 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Best thing ever.

Other news
I spent my pre-birthday weekend with my best friend in Toronto and absolutely fell in love with the city. I've been there a million times as my mom's family is from there, but this time I got to see it from a new perspective. Turning 30 ain't so bad ;) Looking forward to heading home in a couple of weeks and watching one of the most beautiful souls I know get married, spending time with family and friends, and soaking up as much of beautiful British Columbia as I can while I'm there.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Love it? Large Scale Tile Backsplash

Small square mosaic. Matchstick. 3 by 6. Herringbone. Slab. Subway.

Backsplash options are endless, and extend beyond just tile.

But I'm hear to talk about a backsplash option I never really thought of until recently, and I just can't seem to get it out of my head.

Large scale tile. 12" by 24" tiles (or bigger). Love it. It helps achieve that full slab backsplash that is oh so pricey, for a lot less dough. Not to mention, it's got to be easier to install and requires less grout than tiny mosaic tile.

So what are your thoughts? Love it? Not so much?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NEW Marble Countertop Alternatives

In my never ending quest for the perfect countertop, I've researched nearly every option on the market. I was willing to take the plunge and just baby the heck out of that marble, but hubby is not as keen. In fact, he is adamantly against it. Considering I'm making 90% of the decisions for this house, I do feel obligated to let him chime in when he feels the need, especially considering he cooks everyday and is about as messy of cooks as they come.

My fear of choosing our number one contender, quartz, has been that sometime in the near future, possibly mere months after moving into our new home, a new product will come out that actually does a better job of mimicking the natural veining of the white marble I oh so yearn for. I can't imagine spending $6000+ on countertops that I won't love, so to help quell this horrible feeling in my gut I scoured the internet some more.

What did I come up with? Two options that have yet to penetrate the blog universe in a big way... but they will. It's a coming!

First up (and my favourite) is porcelain slab. This isn't your Home Depot porcelain tile porcelain. This is a solid slab of absolutely stunning and durable porcelain that completely mimics the look of marble, in my opinion.

How much do you love this? I was actually first introduced to this product from a kitchen designer in Winnipeg on Instagram - she installed the first ever porcelain countertop in the city (see her original post here) The catch for having the loveliness of marble with the durability of porcelain? Cost. The aforementioned countertop cost $11,000 vs. the $7000 quote for quartz.

That said, if it's in your budget, or you were going to splurge on Calacatta or a higher end marble, this could be a fantastic alternative for you!  Read more on porcelain slab here and see the source for the Instagram slab here.

Next up addresses my fear mentioned earlier. I just had a feeling it was going to happen, and it is. Caesarstone Australia is releasing a stunning new marble-look countertop that is the closest look to marble that a quartz ever did see. It's called Caesarstone Calacatta Nuvo. The porcelain slab still takes the cake for realism in my books, but Caesarstone is sure to be a more affordable option.

It has such a nice look to it and makes choosing quartz over marble not that much of an aesthetic sacrifice. The problem? It's not coming out in Aus until this July, and as far as I can tell from my googling, it's not set for US launch until 2015 (who knows when), which means it probably won't be in Canada, or more specifically Winnipeg, ohhh, until maybe 2020? Okay I kid, but it sure takes forever for us to get "new" releases up north.

What this does tell me, though, is that "IT" is coming. The "it" being the best of both worlds - a countertop with the durability and (somewhat) affordability of quartz that replicates the veining and soft depth of real marble. It might take a few more years, but it's on the way! This makes me incredibly excited - but also a little disheartened, because this house that we are building is sure to miss the boat. But this does provide hope for the future (or for those in Australia or those with a bigger budget than ours).

What will we end up doing? Now, I'm confused more than ever. Thank goodness we still have a few months to decide.

Had you heard of these options before or know of any others? White quartzite is one that has been suggested, but I know it's not as readily available as other products.