IKEA Kitchen Remodel – What We’ve Learned Part I

Hello everyone! Summertime is here and we’re so glad that we can turn back on the A/C during these scorching hot SoCal days! It’s been about 2 weeks since the kitchen’s been remodeled and we’ve already been getting pretty good use out of it. I have to admit, it’s so nice to be cooking or baking in a bright, new, pretty space. In fact, it’s become the whole family’s new favorite gathering spot in the house! It’s probably also because we’ve turned off our TV service so there seems to be more time just to hang out with each other. Ahh, the wonders of not having a TV in the house…

Anyway, I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned from planning, installing and using our IKEA kitchen, albeit it’s only been a couple of weeks. We were so appreciative of all the blog posts out there that talked about their IKEA kitchen experience that we wanted to pay forward! First, the planning stage:

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Matching grout color to flooring sample at Home Depot

PLANNING

IKEA Kitchen Sale and 15% Gift Card:

We started our planning process back in December (2015) and after several visits to our local IKEA stores and talking to as many kitchen staff as possible to extract any juicy info about upcoming kitchen sales, we discovered to our dismay that IKEA was planning to either skip the next two sales or change the terms. To our pleasant surprise, they didn’t skip the Spring sale but they did change the terms from giving out a 20% discount to 15% of your total kitchen purchase in the form of a gift card. So, while you pay full price for your kitchen cabinets (and other qualifying purchases), you get a nice 15% “bonus” to spend at IKEA on anything else you want. We ended up spending ours on kitchen accessories and dining furniture, as they were not part of the sale.

To qualify for the 15% gift card, you have to spend more than $4,000 on qualifying kitchen products. Our purchase was about $9,000+ so our gift card amount was around $1,350. A tip about the gift cards: Break them down into smaller amounts if you can. Our mistake was getting them in $1,000 and $350 – on two separate cards. Well, had we started using the $1,000 first, then we wouldn’t have incurred such a terrible loss – losing our card at one of the IKEA stores. Long story short, we had about $600 left on the bigger gift card and took it shopping with us one busy Saturday evening. Well, the card slipped out of the envelop (another tip, SECURE your gift card in a zipped or closed wallet!!!) and out of our grip forever after a long tiring day. We frantically back tracked our steps a few times, reported it to the store security, talked to the customer service managers but they didn’t help us much. A week later, we went to another IKEA and found out that someone had picked it up and used up the full amount. What was maddening was that we were told at this particular store that there WAS something that could’ve been done to cancel the lost gift card and replace it with a new one, especially because we had all the proof/receipt that it belonged to us and that there was still a remaining balance on it. But the manager at the IKEA store we lost the card at a week prior did not know this and just basically told us, “Too bad, it was your responsibility not to lose the card and you did, so we cannot do anything! Nope, No, NO!” with a stern, unsympathetic face.  So IF this ever happens to you, ask to talk to the Cash Manager at the store or the highest customer service manager and be ready to show your receipt showing your gift card # and balance. I called IKEA Corporate and reported the incident and I could’ve pursued it further by going back to the store and demanding that we needed to be compensated, but that meant driving all the way there to have an unpleasant stressful experience.  So, after aching and grieving over the loss, we made the hard decision against it. Sigh… You lose some, you win some in life… But in the bigger scheme of things, we still got about 8% in gift cards. So it wasn’t a complete loss.

By the way, the summer 2016 kitchen sale is going on right now until August, so I hope you can take advantage. When we went during the Spring sale, the stores weren’t too crowded. We thought it was going to be crazy like I had seen IKEA during their previous kitchen sales. Still, go during the middle of the sale as most people go either in the beginning or during the final week.

 

Kitchen Measuring Service and Treamand:

IKEA offered a “free” measuring service – for someone to come to your house and measure your kitchen for you (for cabinets and installation), so that you don’t have to do the painstaking work of doing it yourself. The service was free only if you bought a kitchen from IKEA afterwards. We almost signed up, because why not? It’s free after all. However, in order for them to measure your kitchen, all the elements, like the flooring, have to be in place and all the walls knocked down and patched up if you’re planning on knocking down walls. Suppose you had your kitchen ready for the measuring person to come in.  Then, they would measure, and within a few days send you a kitchen plan and the estimates of the cabinets and installation. At that point, if you decided to go with Treamand, the kitchen installation company IKEA is contracting with, then they would do the job from start to finish in a few days (JUST the cabinets installation. Anything else would be extra and you’d have to ask them if they can do it.) What we were told was day one they would inventory the parts received, day two, they would assemble, and day three they would install. Of course, this was an estimate and depended on the amount of cabinets and the size of your kitchen. When we researched the price of the installation and compared it with what some of our contractors bid, Treamand was significantly higher. So, in the end, we decided to measure the kitchen ourselves because it was nowhere ready for the measuring person to come in, and to have our contractor install the cabinets instead. More on this later.

Since we measured the kitchen ourselves, everything was self-service. We had to triple, quadruple measure our kitchen to make sure the measurements were as accurate as possible, especially because we hadn’t demo-ed our kitchen yet. We had measured with our old cabinets still in place, thus the reason for going over the measurements a few times over to be sure. And because house walls and ceilings are never perfectly straight nor at 90 degrees angle, it’s best to measure at different heights and places many times over. For example, if you’re measuring the distance between your light switch to the corner of the room for your upper cabinets, it’s best to measure at the highest, mid and lower points of the wall to get the best or min/max measurements.

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We measured multiple times (before and after the demolition) to make sure our cabinets would fit perfectly.

The “planning” part or the virtually putting together your kitchen part was done at the local IKEA stores and at home on our computer. IKEA has an online kitchen planner tool you can access anywhere using your free account. It was easy to use once you learned what some of the features did. And we got a lot of help from the kitchen staff at the store too. By the way, a shoutout to the Carson IKEA store kitchen and customer service departments!! They seriously are the BEST all around in terms of knowing their stuff and going the extra mile to help you when you have a problem.  Each time we would go and have questions after questions, never once did they lose their patience nor got short with us. I applaud their management and training, because I truly believe that things flow from top to bottom. Anyway, back to the software. Once you have your measurements (windows, doors, ceiling height, etc.), you enter them on the software, creating your kitchen/room first. Then the fun part begins with selecting your upper and lower cabinets and trying out different configurations. One tip is to save copies of your working master so that it’s easy to go back to the previous version if you mess up. We’ve received lots of help from the IKEA kitchen staff on moving around the cabinets and selecting the necessary features, like cover panels. It took us a good two months before we had a solid finalized plan. Once you have your plan, you can print it out and make your kitchen purchase. We went on a weekday afternoon when it wasn’t busy to make the purchase. The ordering process took about 2-3 hours. We still had to make some last minute tweaks and once over before checking out. You do have to be pretty detailed when going over your purchase list. There were a couple of things our kitchen staff member forgot. He was definitely so great to work with but hey, no one is perfect! So you as the owner have to be on the ball with details. I guess the beauty of using a kitchen planner/measuring service from IKEA is that while your inputs are what makes your kitchen and cabinet selections, they are ultimately the project managers and responsible for watching out for details. And there are loads of details when planning a kitchen!! (Like how wide does the filler space for the corner cabinets have to be, any customized measurements, which way should the door swing if you have an option, how about under cabinet lighting and which ones, etc.)

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At the IKEA store, using their kitchen planner software

 

Delivery and Inventory:

The day our cabinets were delivered, it totaled about two tons in weight for 275 boxes. It took us about 5 hours (2 people) to inventory all the boxes and number and separate them in an organized fashion. It was hard work and sweat but we are glad we did it to save us about $1,000 (we’re guesstimating based on the Treamand pricing.) When the delivery truck arrives, ask the delivery people to do an “article by article review.” That way, you can catch any damaged goods or missing items on the spot. The review took about 1-2 hours and there were unfortunately damaged and missing goods.  After the driver leaves, IKEA gives you 48 hours to report anything else that’s wrong with the delivery. But it’s just best to check with the delivery person when the items arrive. We found more damages after the driver left and IKEA asked us to photograph the items and email them. We received the replacement parts within a few days. But the 2nd delivery also had some damaged pieces. Check the boxes when they arrive, especially the corners and the bottom of cabinet doors/cover panels. I’m not sure why they are packaged so flimsily but the taped seal breaks easily with the weight of the doors. So they get scratched up pretty easily.

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275 boxes weighing 2 tons for 27 cabinets!

 

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We numbered and organized the boxes by cabinet numbers.

 

Selecting Materials:

If you are “selective” (i.e., picky) like us, give yourselves ample time, about 5-6 months, to plan and prepare for your remodel. The market is full of design options and it’s best to have time on your side to help you research, learn and know what you are buying before you make the purchase and get the best prices. I suppose we could’ve just let our contractor pick out all of our materials for us, but we wanted to save money (because the contractor will charge you extra for doing the shopping for you) and have full control over what went into our kitchen. This includes flooring, backsplash tiles, cabinet door style, countertop, hardware (knobs, handles), paint colors, trims (baseboard, crown molding), lighting fixtures, etc. It took us a few trips to the stone yards and tile stores, home improvement and kitchen cabinet stores to make our final selections. In the end, all those trips back and forth to compare prices (we also did a lot of phone and online comparing) and seeing things in person (<— very important!!) were all worth it. We had bought a gray and off-white Bodbyn drawer fronts and took them around with us for color reference when shopping. Here’s a photo of our finished kitchen, sans window treatment and decorations. (I can’t wait to post the final reveal!!)  It’s a white and gray kitchen and we’re thinking about yellow being the accent color. For a list of the materials we used, go here.

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Preview of our remodeled kitchen (before adding on window treatments and decorations)

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Trying out paint color samples on our old wall before the remodel

 

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Above is the Bodbyn off-white drawer front with LG Cirrus Quartz sample

 

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Comparing countertop quartz stones

 

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Checking out faucet styles. Found this at Orchard’s.

 

Selecting Appliances:

One of the most important advice I can give about appliances is to have them picked out PRIOR to selecting your kitchen cabinets (if you’re getting new appliances). This is so that the correct cabinets can be selected to house them. For example, you’d want to shop and finalize on your new refrigerator to know its measurements.  Let’s say they’re 37″W x 75″H x 34″D. Then, you can pick out the cabinets that would fit above and on its side(s). Another advice that’s equally important is to purchase your appliances a couple of months in advance to your remodel date. This is crucial because it’ll take time for your appliances to be delivered, depending on the availability of stock and delivery schedule. We got ours during President’s Day Sale in February and our remodel was scheduled for early May. Originally, we were going to wait to get them during Memorial Day Sale in May, but we’re SO GLAD we got them in February instead. For some of the appliances, the earliest delivery date was April! Imagine if we had waited until the end of May, we would’ve had a brand new kitchen that was unusable without any appliances for at least a month or two!

Holiday weekends (some of the sales begin the week prior and extend to the week after) are the best times to get deals on your appliances. We went to Sears for ours and the more you bought, the better deal they were willing to give us. They were having a killer sale on Kenmore Pro and Elite appliances. Buy two and get 50% off on both! They were also able to price match on non-Kenmore appliances and throw in a couple of other sweet deals. I started out by showing interest in only a couple of the appliances. Then we left the store and came back the same day, which got the salesperson’s attention even more. That’s when she started to tell me about how I can get even bigger discounts if I bought more appliances. Well, the fact was we were shopping for all new appliances, so that totally worked to our advantage.

Don’t forget to buy your hoses that need to accompany your refrigerator (ice maker line), dishwasher and/or oven! We got ours online for cheaper and better options than at the stores.

 

Selecting Contractor(s):

The last on the list  for today is about selecting contractors. We began interviewing contractors starting February. Most didn’t like the fact that our job wasn’t going to start for another 2-3 months. But still get them in early to check out your kitchen and give you an estimate of their work.  We were looking for someone who had experience installing IKEA cabinets. Out of the five contractors we interviewed, only two had the experience and one other was willing to take on the challenge. They each quoted at least $1,000 cheaper than what Treamand would have charged us for 27 cabinets (including large pantry wall cabinets.) The way we got contractors were through personal recommendations via friends and through home improvement stores. We walked into Home Depot one day unsuspectingly and met a super helpful kitchen department guy who was willing to sit with us at the store for about 2 hours, going over his own kitchen remodel experience and giving us tips. We asked whom he used and he recommended to us his contractor, which we interviewed. Another recommendation was from our flooring store where we had gotten our laminate flooring last year. This was the contractor we ended up choosing for these reasons: He had remodeled the flooring store owner’s kitchen twice, which told us a lot about his skills and trustworthiness; his prices were reasonable compared to the others;  he had experience installing IKEA cabinets; we saw the photos of his previous projects and they looked good; and he was very good about getting back to us in a timely manner every time. Communication is key to your project’s success! You need a contractor who understands your style of communication and what you want to accomplish through the kitchen remodel. We rated the contractors we interviewed on their communication skills – how promptly they responded, how they kept their promises, etc. For example, if you cannot get a hold of your contractor on the day your countertop arrives because he’s at another job site and forgot about yours (we’ve heard some horror stories), everyone’s time (and money) gets wasted. Also, ask him to show you pictures of their previous jobs (or better yet, visit the homes they’ve worked on if you can), so that you can determine their workmanship and taste. Oftentimes, they’re the ones choosing materials and finishes for clients, so you can get a feel for their aesthetics through the pictures. For our kitchen, my sister and I were the designers and we had selected all of our finishes and layouts ourselves. But we also felt that the contractor needed to have some sense of style so that in times when we didn’t see eye to eye on certain design or functional elements, we can trust him to make better suggestions.

A note about most contractors is that they are usually late to your appointments. Some are better than others. But most showed up 15-30 minutes late to the interviews and on the days they were supposed to work on our house. Or they were a week+ late on giving us the estimates. I’ll share more later about the actual installation timeline and what to expect. But the tardiness also spread into the project finish line. Also, most will promise you a shorter timeline and a lower estimate. Expect to add at least one-two weeks to what they’re quoting you (or in our case, our two-three weeks estimate became six weeks ’til completion) and you don’t know what your real cost is until you open up the walls. In our case, we ended up changing out some of the pipes and putting a water snake through the drainage and the latter alone was $600 additional. Thankfully, we didn’t have any asbestos, mold nor termite issues, which would have been thousands of extra! Whew!

Lastly, DO NOT pay your contractor in advance of them completing some of the work. We gave ours a 10% down-payment before starting the work, but we didn’t pay him until some of the work got done and paid him a small percentage at the end each week. Know the tasks that need to be done and have the contractor itemize the labor and materials. He/She’ll probably want to negotiate a payment schedule. However you schedule the payments, WITHHOLD the very last payment (I would say 15-20%) until your kitchen is absolutely finished to your liking.  The reason for this is that contractors tend to work on multiple projects simultaneously and in the beginning of your project, they work diligently and make good progress. But towards the end, after they have collected most of your money, they slow down the pace, come up with excuses why they need to wait a few days until they return to your site, send less workers to work on your house, etc. So withholding the last payment, preferably a bigger portion, would motivate them to finish your project sooner.

Well, that’s it for today!  Next post, I will share about the installation experience.

Kitchen Remodel Progress

Hello folks! I wanted to do a quick post on our kitchen remodel progress. We started six weeks ago and the contractor finally finished last Saturday.  We MADE IT (!!) through the stress of going through a major remodel and eating out of a make-shift kitchen and wondering when the contractor will be done. I will share more about the remodel experience and about installing IKEA cabinets in the next few posts. And for those who’ve been waiting to see the “before” pictures, I want to save them for the final reveal, so that you will have a good side by side comparison. For now, here’s how our gross, UgLY, 1970’s kitchen transformed in the last 6 weeks!

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Obviously, the last few pictures are not the final reveal. I’ll have much better pictures taken with my DSLR for the final post in way better lighting. We started moving into the new kitchen and figuring out the window treatment, picking out the fabric for the banquette seating, shopping for decorations, etc. You know, the real fun part of remodeling! There is no set deadline for everything to be done but we desperately need some window covering so that the whole neighborhood stops driving by and peeking into our lives! (We like our neighbors, but still…)

In my last remodel post, I mentioned about sharing a design board of all the components. Well, sorry, I didn’t get around to making a design board but I made a list of the materials we used:

  • Cabinets: IKEA Bodbyn doors in gray (island) and off-white (the rest)
  • Quartz Countertop: LG Viatera in Cirrus
  • Vinyl Floors: RC Vinyl in Walnut
  • Backsplash Tiles: Jeffrey Court 3×12 in Allegro White from Home Depot
  • Farmhouse Sink: IKEA Domsjo double bowl sink
  • Faucet: IKEA Glittran
  • Over the sink lighting: Style Selections 5.52-in Polished Chrome Mini Crystal Pendant from Lowes
  • Dining area lighting: Possini Euro Metairie 20″W Silver Fabric Crystal Chandelier from Lamps Plus
  • Island Hood: Frigidaire
  • Dishwasher: Whirlpool
  • Refrigerator: LG
  • Cooktop and Oven: Kenmore Pro
  • White paint: Valspar’s “Soft Wool” in semi-gloss finish from Lowes for the ceiling/trims/doors & Behr’s color match in the off-white cabinet color. The Soft Wool color did NOT match the cabinets all that well. It is on the whiter/lighter side. So, I got some color matched paint and repainted the upper cabinet’s crown molding. Much better now!
  • Grey wall paint: Benjamin Moore’s “Stonington Gray” in semi-gloss finish

My favorite element in the kitchen is the ~~beautiful~~ over the sink lighting from Lowes. It is absolutely gorgeous in person with all the crystals glowing and sparkling in the light. Second is the gray wall paint color (Stonington Gray) by Benjamin Moore. We’ve had a wall color change once, which went from Behr’s “Historical Ruins” greige color to this one. Our front door is painted with Historical Ruins and it looks very nice against the blue exterior of our house. But in the kitchen, this greige ended up looking too green unfortunately. BM’s Stonington Gray has a blue tint to the grey but not in the slightest bad way.  It is clean, soothing and sophisticated, which is what we wanted for the kitchen.

Well, that’s it for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Feel free to leave a comment or question below and I will do my best to get back to you soon!

Free Digital Art Download from the New York Public Library

When you find something good, it’s best to share with others! While I was looking for some artwork to be hung on our kitchen walls, I stumbled upon an article that led me to the New York Public Library’s digital download site. I went on it and it is freakin’

AWESOME!!!! It has a huge collection of botanical prints, ancient maps, old book covers, historic photographs, etc, etc. They’re high resolution prints that you can download and print all for FREE. You don’t even need a library card to do it. If this kind of art is for you, you are in for a treat!  Here’s a sampling of what’s available. I’m looking for botanical prints, specifically fruits and herb pictures, so these are perfect!  You can get these here.  Have fun!!

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<Some prints of herbs>

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<I love these black and white drawings of trees.>

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Quartz Countertop Shopping

Shopping for quartz countertops can be overwhelming due to all the wonderful options out there! We’re skipping all the major brand names (Ceasarstone, Silestone, Cambria) and going for the lesser-known ones to make our selection for our new kitchen! We found that the generic ones (that usually “copy” the major brands’ designs) are cheaper in price and slightly lesser in quality (90% quartz versus 93%).  But the 3% difference is not a big deal according to all the quartz vendors we’ve been talking to. So far, our top choice is from LG Viatera quartz in Cirrus.

LG Viatera Quartz in Cirrus
Cirrus

When you look at it in person (which I recommend that you do for any countertops/flooring/back splash tiles, etc.), it’s grayer than what the website describes it to be (“White with subtle hints of gray”). Since we’re going with white cabinets and a gray island (IKEA BODBYN), we wanted the countertop to be in the gray family but nothing too dark or crazy. There were many contenders in the last few weeks but so far, this is the winner.

IKEA Bodbyn Kitchen

IKEA Bobdyn Kitchen

Ideally, we would love to have a Carrara marble countertop. But the maintenance seems too daunting for all the Korean food we’re going to be cooking! Can you imagine spilling kimchee jigae all over your beautiful marble top and having red stains all over your expensive investment?! But we do LOVE the look of Carrara marble… It was funny how we were immediately drawn to it every time we went to a showroom. One time, we saw a sample of it with a bunch of quartz samples and thought, ‘OMG! We finally found THE ONE quartz manufacturer that got it right!! They made their quartz look exactly like Carrara marble!’ Ha! We were promptly told that it was marble with a chuckle.  Wishful thinking…

So we had no choice but to resort to quartz stone that resembled marble (we didn’t want to deal with the maintenance of granite either.) Most of the marble-like quartz we’ve seen were too blue-cheesy for our taste. Or the veining was too dark or pronounced against the light background. But close contenders were: PentalQuartz’s Onixaa, Silestone’s Lagoon, Silestone’s Ariel, MSI Q quartz’s Cashmere Carrara and a few others. I’ve been Pinteresting like crazy to my kitchen board of all of these options. Feel free to check it out here!

We’re starting our kitchen remodel planning waaaaay early, like several months before.  But we wouldn’t be the Lee Sisters if we didn’t start this early! Last year’s remodel was getting rid of our carpet throughout the house and re-flooring with laminate, painting the house inside and out, replacing our central AC/heating, updating our electrical, and refurnishing a few rooms from scratch. This year’s going to be gutting out the kitchen, combining the current kitchen space with the adjoining dining room to make one big kitchen with an island. In the last few weeks, we’ve measured, drew up our own blueprint, shopped and researched countless hours online (Google image search to the rescue!), drove over to the Anaheim stone and tile district, Home Depot/Lowe’s trips, Floor and Decor (which we just got in our town a few weeks ago), and talked to as many pros in the industry for estimates and tips.  It feels so much better now that I have a ballpark of what things are going to cost. We’re hoping to meet our budget and I think we will if we balance our splurges with economic options. But we’re also being realistic and setting aside some contingency fund (for possible mold, asbestos, termite – the three monster problems I really wish we have none of!)  This planning stage is exciting but also could be anxiety-producing, as there seems so much to do and go through to reach the end. But I’m just imagining a pristine white kitchen with just the right accents to be the reward and that would be worth all the trouble.

My next post will include a design board of all of our kitchen remodel components. Stay tuned!

DIY Christmas Ornaments

Before we get to the DIY ornaments…

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and maybe some Black Friday shopping done? I’m still in disbelief that we are well into the end of the year holiday season! 2015 was pretty eventful to say the very least, starting with my kitty getting diagnosed with stage 2 kidney disease last December and our home remodel in May-June. A lot of things had to take a back seat to get my life and family in order. But now that the dust has settled, I can finally move onto the hobbies I enjoy (well at least until our kitchen remodel next year!) A quick summary about our remodel: we finally replaced our super gross carpet with laminate flooring all throughout, painted the house inside and out, replaced our A/C and heating system, upgraded our electrical outlets and modernized our light fixtures. I’m telling you, reflooring your entire lived-in house is a MASSIVE project and not to be taken lightly!! We had to schedule several weeks prior to D-day to pack and move everything out of the house. That was probably the hardest and the most labor-intensive of the project, probably because we had so much junk! Planning and shopping for the flooring and picking out the paint colors were fun. Dealing with difficult workers was not. Keeping up with logistics and handling the budget was more than manageable. After about two weeks of noise and dust and living in one cramped bedroom with two kitties, the house looked nice and new. And every weekend after that, it was spent on cleaning, organizing, decluttering, getting rid of (a LOT of) stuff, shopping for new furniture and decorations, assembling and painting furniture, mini decoration and sewing projects, etc. etc. I think we had the Salvation Army and the Bulky Items trucks come out to our house practically every week. We worked diligently on the house for about 3-4 months straight, which took a toll on all of us. I know I talked about posting pictures of the remodel on my Facebook page, but frankly, I’ve gotten so tired of anything that had to do with decorating that I just gave up on finishing the house… well, until some time passes and I get inspired again. At this point, it’s about 80% done and I am completely okay with a living space that’s not magazine-worthy. It’s just not worthy enough for a blog post. 🙂 Maybe when one of the rooms is done and is to my liking, I will do a post on it.

So, after all this, was the remodel worth it? Absolutely! I love coming to a de-cluttered pretty home with new furnishings and decorations. And now that the holiday season is upon us, we have started to deck the rooms with Christmas decorations. We’re still working on the living room so I won’t write about that today. But here are some pictures of DIY’ed ornaments for my pink and grey bedroom. First, holiday greetings from this cute little birdie I found at Target:

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Oriental Trading provided these awesome clear ornaments that I used to make these pink balls. I swirled Martha Stewart’s pearly acrylic paint on the inside to coat the orbs. I mixed two colors in some them. You just open up the clear ornament, pour some of the paint on both sides of the orb, close it and shake it until the globe is coated well. I’ve had to reopen the globe to add more paint when there wasn’t enough. Once you do one or two, you’ll get the hang of how much paint to put in. The “Happy Holidays” sign and the white snowflakes are also from Oriental Trading.
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On a few ornaments, I brushed some Elmer’s glue on the outside and sprinkled either some fake snow or glitter. To finish the look, I added a mini holiday wreath from Michaels to a big white decorational bowl and arranged the ornaments inside. Since my bedroom wall is pink (it’s actually a violet that’s close to pink), I painted the ornaments in shades of pink to match. It’s feminine but also Christmasy. What do you think?
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For the living room, the color scheme is red, green and gold. So I made these golden ornaments by drawing on the outside with a gold metallic sharpie and putting gold glitter inside. These will be going back to the living room Christmas tree after this photoshoot. 🙂
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We got this LED lit ornament tree from Target. It adds a nice ambience to the room and will be staying as part of the room throughout the year! We LOVE Target and their fashion-forward products!
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Hope you all have a nice and cozy rest of the year! This probably will be my only post for 2015 and I’m not promising a more fruitful 2016 blog-wise. lol. But I still love my blog and sharing my craft ideas. So please look on my Facebook page (click on the icon on the top of the page) for announcements! And let’s also remember the less-fortunate during this season. My prayer is for the good Lord to provide them shelter and food, hopefully through people like you and me! Blessings!

**I received the pre-made and materials for the ornaments from Oriental Trading Company for this review. All opinions are my own.

2014 Sewing Projects!

Hello cyber world! I’m back with some goodies to share; some sewing projects I’ve enjoyed working on over the past few months. It was such a relief to FINALLY check off some of the items I’ve been meaning/dying to make (thanks to my ever-growing list of things I want to make in life… which none of it is truly necessary. But I just like hoarding ideas and creative undertakings I would eventually get to do one day.) Like my sister’s laptop bag, with the fabric was that bought specifically for it over 2 years ago! And I made a few simple tank dresses for my madre who wanted some not-too-shabby home clothes. Next on my “list” are tops I could wear to work and I bought a cute skirt pattern from JoAnn’s during their 99 cent pattern sale. But that’s for another rainy day… Onto my projects!

Ok, so my sister’s laptop bag is made with this adorable British fetish fabric (we found at Michael Levine), featuring vintage scooters. It was originally supposed to be a messenger bag she could carry to work. But she later decided that a laptop bag would be more useful.
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Here it is hung on the dress form (which I really wish wasn’t so purple-ly) with a tank dress I made to wear during the hot summer SoCal days. (Oh, how I miss the warm summer nights…) Because the over the shoulder strap was wide, I had a heck of a time finding hardware that fit its size. I found one at the fabric district but it was a belt buckle instead of a strap adjuster. Oh well. It still works.
Laptop Bag with Tank Dress

Next, is a summer tote I’ve been carrying around all season long (even now I take it with me everywhere!) I didn’t realize versatile tote bags were until carrying this around. Now that they’ve gotten rid of plastic grocery bags, it’s been so practical to have a tote on hand to carry your smaller grocery purchases away. As for the straps, if you remember a few posts back, I had shopped at a leather store and got a bunch of scrap pieces. Well, the straps were made with one of the scraps. (Straps, scraps, straps, scraps – that’s hard to say.) I really like combining leather with fabric. I am “planning” on going back there and getting bigger pieces to make myself an all-leather tote. Yea, let’s see when THAT’s going to happen. lol.
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These next two, I made these with the intention of selling them on Etsy if they turned out well. But I wasn’t so confident they would sell. So I’ll just give them away to someone’s daughter if they want ’em. I used mesh fabric for the Fairy Head Piece and some sparkly silver Christmas ribbon I got from Michaels.
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This one I wanted to call it the “Miss Little Diva” headband if I sold it. But it just didn’t look all that diva to me. Oh well.
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Next, I found an easy dress pattern for little girls in a Liberty book and thought, ‘Why not make a dress for my niece in Korea?!’ I call her my niece, but she’s really my cousin’s daughter. The fabric isn’t from Liberty but it was so darn adorable that I couldn’t pass it up. I made matching headbands and sent them on their way across the Pacific. My niece liked the dress so much that she wanted to wear it for four days straight! lol. Oh, that made me soooo happy. 🙂 Here she is!
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Seriously, she’s the cutest thing ever!!!

This apron is on my Etsy shop. I saw this fab green apple fabric while shopping in Seoul’s fabric district and immediately fell in love with it. What better way than to make it into an apron?! Et voila.
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These next few are also on my Etsy shop. For a while, I’ve been hearing about “Liberty of London”, especially from my sewing buddy J.B. I’m quite ashamed to admit that for someone who sews often, I’m so late in the game in my discovery of this ridiculously spectacular fabric line. Its prices by the yard speak of its undeniably exquisite quality. And the feel of tana lawn cotton fabrics is comparable to silk. So ever since these luxurious objet de desir caught my attention, I’ve been hooked! I mean, I can’t really afford to buy them in bulk or anything. But even 1/8″ of a yard is suffice to soothe my craving for a little something magnificent. So, I got my fabric from Michael Levine in downtown LA and made a skinny and a wide versions of these headbands.

Liberty of London “Fitzgerald” Fabric-Covered Wide Headband:
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The skinny version:
Skinny-Liberty-Headband-FOR-WEB

I also made these headbands in this awesome turquoise fabric I found at JoAnn’s. (I love love LOVE ~~~ turquoise! It’s just a fabulous color that seems to go with just about anything.) Here’s the wide version of the turquoise headband:
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And the skinny version:
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That’s it for now! I hope to be posting more before the year’s over. But I’ve decided to be more gracious to myself and not push for something that might not really happen…

Spring 2014 Korea Trip – Photowalk Part 2 – Ewha Women’s University

On this last trip to Korea, we stayed in the town behind Ewha Women’s University, literally over the hill. There’s a small entrance on the back side of the mountain that leads to the (only?) dormitory and I usually start from there, strolling through the campus towards the front entrance, taking in the sights of trees and people, being in awe of how lush and gorgeous the campus is, and wishing I could be a college student again. Here are some photos from the walk. Enjoy!

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Spring 2014 Korea Trip – Photowalk Part 1

Hey folks! I’d like to share some of my photos I took on my trip to (South) Korea back in May. I love going to Korea in the Springtime as the landscape is lush with newly sprouted greens and everywhere you turn there are mountains and hills of trees (even in the city!) I finally went through the 400+ photos and sifted out the not-so-good ones. Here’s the first collection of two. I captured some moments and scenes I’m familiar with or identify as quintessentially “Korean”. Like the mound of cigarette butts in the trash can that truly was disgusting, but I couldn’t pass it up because it was quintessential… (So bad, I know! Koreans unfortunately smoke so much…) Some shots are of the Gangnam District (as in Psy’s “Gangnam Style”) and some of my old neighborhood in Northwest part of Seoul. Hope you find these interesting! Enjoy!

Bikes parked along the main road (this was taken about an hour outside of Seoul)
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New leaves (outside of Seoul)
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Gangnam Blvd business buildings (where you can find Korean conglomerates like Samsung.)
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Koreans love coffee shops!
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Workers taking a smoke break
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Cigarette butts
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Many business buildings showcase these types of sculptures or art pieces in front of their buildings.
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Workers coming out in droves for their lunch break
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Koreans must love pastries because there are tons of bakeries all over the place!
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Underground “malls” that lead to subway stations and other buildings
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I saw these red roses everywhere I went in the month of May!
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Rock wall. Koreans seem to use a lot of rocks and stones in their architecture.
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Many of the old neighborhoods are being torn down to make room for new developments (mostly apartment complexes.) I’m going to miss these little residential neighborhoods…
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And old traditional Korean house standing lonesome amidst modern houses
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Iron doors are common in Korean homes. They are like the home’s main gate you must enter through. Inside you will usually find a courtyard/garden that you often have to climb up the stairs to get to.
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A rustic blue door
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Alleyway
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We stayed at a place that looked out to a massive ginkgo tree. Look at all these ginkgo fruits! I remember roasting these and eating them with salt when I was younger. So yummy!
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How this bucket got on top of the roof is a mystery!
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Foodie Artsy San Francisco

Here are a few pics from my food and art-filled San Francisco expedition over the July 4th weekend! Our main goal was to hit as many eateries as possible as our stomachs could hold! San Francisco being a foodie’s paradise, it was definitely worth the short stay. I also had set my own personal objective to explore parts of the city I had never set foot in with my camera in tow. Some of the places we checked out were Philz Coffee (they put mint leaves in many of their yummy drinks!), Tartine Bakery, Craftman & Wolves, Fisherman’s Wharf, and a few other eateries I don’t have pictures of (like Foreign Cinema and a bakery that sold cronuts to die for!). That’s a lot to squeeze in a couple of days! Luckily for my camera, there were tons of points of interest to take photos of throughout the wonderful neighborhoods. There was so much art everywhere we went. Not so lucky was my failure to use a smaller aperture when taking landscape/cityscape shots. So, here are the best of the bunch. Hope you enjoy!

Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee mural

San Francisco post office

San Francisco Latin Quarter

San Francisco church

Tartine pastries

Tartine Croissant

Craftsman & Wolves San Francisco

Craftsman & Wolves strawberry tarts

San Francisco Mission mural

San Francisco Mission street art

San Francisco park

Fisherman's Wharf Eat Crab sign

Fisherman's Wharf crabs

Fisherman's Wharf seafood vendor

Britex Fabric Store San Francisco

LA Flower Mart + Flower Arrangements

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Hellllllllloooo Peeps! And Happy Summer!!! After a month of traveling to my motherland, South Korea, and getting used to the time changes back and forth, enjoying my lazy weekends, etc. etc., I felt the need to be creatively productive again. 🙂 So, yesterday, I visited the LA Flower Mart in Downtown Los Angeles with the intent of getting lots of “cheap” flowers and making several arrangements out of them. Well, I was hoping they were relatively cheap and I could even squeeze in some beautiful peonies into my budget. To my surprise, I actually woke up on my own unusually “early” on a Saturday morning and got ready lightening fast, got in my car and was happily on my way to the flower mart! Aaah, not so fast… The lovely 5 freeway that had an unexpected road closure and everyone was crawling at 3mph. Forget that! So I decided to be brave and go locally the rest of the way, through the daunting streets of South LA…! But it wasn’t so bad after all mostly going through the City of Industry. I just had to pass through a lot of graffitis and bad smelling areas (seriously). And finally, I made it to my destination by 10AM.

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LA Flower Mart 1

LA Flower Mart 2

I brought with me $40 in cash (plus an extra $20 JUST IN CASE I might go fLoWeR shopping CrAxY!) I circled around the entire store before making any purchases, checking out everything and comparing prices. All the flowers were so pretty but there weren’t too many vendors selling my beloved peonies. I found one vendor that had these stunning coral ones but they were being sold for $30 for five stems!! WOWZAS…

coral Peonies

I wasn’t about to blow my whole budget on them, so I made one more circle around and slowly started purchasing some other flowers I spotted earlier. Before my visit, I went on Pinterest and discovered the beauty of wildflowers! I totally fell in love with them… There’s just something so romantic about them. And the arrangements can be carefree and still look perfect. So of course, I knew I had to include them on my shopping list: chamomile, spray roses and a bunch of other flowers I know not the names of. I REAALLY tried to stick to my $40 budget….. (heh heh) But I ended up spending the extra cash I brought, ’cause man, flowers add up! Five dollars here and there, two bunches of spray roses for $10, and I ended up getting a bouquet of pink peonies that were $17. They were my most expensive purchase of the day. But I’m so glad I got them!

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Okay, time to create my bouquets! First of all, I had no idea how to arrange flowers. I had tried putting them together many time before. But alas, they ended up looking like sad limply things, flailing around in the vase. Not this time! I watched several videos of this guy, Michael Gaffney and learned how to make full-looking flower bouquets/arrangements the fast and easy way. Watch his videos. They’re pretty good and full of good info! One take-away is to buy some greens along with your flowers, because it’s the greens that help fill the vase and make your arrangement look good. And here it is. My first time trying out the Michael Gaffney way and I think it turned out well!

Michael Gaffney floral arrangement

As for the vase for the wildflowers, I wanted something rustic-looking. I had gotten these mason jars** from Oriental Trading Company a few months ago and a wooden crate (?) from Michaels.

Mason Jars

Together, I knew they were going to be the perfect pairing to make smaller arrangements look like one big statement! Here’s how the idea turned out. What do you think?

Wildflowers in Mason Jars

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The best thing about arranging wildflowers is that there seems to be no rules! You can just put them in the vase however you want and they turn out just fine. 🙂

Wildflowers

I made a total of four arrangements in different containers. I spent a good three hours working on these and they made me so happy! There is truth in happiness being found in connecting with nature.

Floral Arrangements

Peonies in vase

I think this is my favorite out of all the arrangements. So simple yet so elegant!
Wildflowers in metal pitcher

How would you feel if this came delivered to your door? It would make this girl smile ear to ear for sure! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Wildflowers delivery

**I received the mason jars from Oriental Trading Company for this review. All opinions are my own.