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Pinterest Sucks but is Also Great

Searching Pinterest for beautiful home remodel inspiration is so much fun!... and a huge pain.

On one hand, there are so many possibilities! Everything looks amazing! It matches my style perfectly!

But then you realize it’s super expensive. Or that a lot of the fixtures don’t meet certain requirements (i.e. California’s WaterSense specifications that only allow 2.0 gallons per minute). Or your pipes just aren’t arranged the right way to handle certain configurations. It’s beyond discouraging and frustrating to see something that’s so close in a photograph, yet so far away in reality.

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My biggest piece of advice is to use Pinterest in the beginning of your remodel, but wean off of it as you start to work more closely with your contractor, especially towards the end. Your contractor will be able to tell you what’s actually feasible so you can stay within budget and have a result that works for your space.

Here’s a look at my Pinterest board. As you can tell, we were actually able to pull some of it off in our house. Other photos were purely inspirational… or we’ll save it for the next house. ;)

We're Moving TOMORROW

After our final inspection just hours ago, we finally (FINALLY!!) have the all clear from our general contractor to move in tomorrow!

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This is the happiest we've been throughout this entire process. When we bought the house, we were happy, but VERY nervous. We had a vision that many people couldn't imagine (even contractors we interviewed). They doubted us. They warned us that it would be a ton of work. It was. But our result is even better than we could have imagined.

We had planned to move in at the end of March to align with out apartment lease ending. When that didn't happen, we were bitter and stressed. What could we have done sooner to keep the project on track? What other costs would creep up on us? Would we have any money left in our bank account? Did we make a huge mistake??? But we forged ahead, checking in with our contractor multiple times a day for the past month. Slowly, everything that we had ripped apart started to come back together. Fresh, clean, new.

There are still a few things left for our contractor to finish next week, like installing some lights, baseboards, and the tankless water heaters. We're waiting for the city to turn on the gas too, so we can't cook and don't have any hot water at the moment.

Tomorrow, we'll wipe down the countertops and vacuum. His cleaning lady wouldn't be available until next week, so we're foregoing that and cleaning up ourselves. Plus, we have so much painting, sanding, and staining ahead of us that everything will just get dirty again anyway.

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To document our renovations, I've kept a running list of all the steps we've taken from when we bought the house in December until now, which I'll post later. I've managed to condense it to a 50-step bullet point list LOL. For anyone who is renovating or interested in renovating, the one word that sums up our experience is intense. Every day was an unpredictable roller coaster of emotions and problem-solving. A kind of controlled chaos. There is no way we could have done this without guidance from Alex's mom (thank you!!!). And since Alex and I both have desk jobs, we had the flexibility of taking phone calls, squeezing in meetings, and always having tabs open to work on spreadsheets and mood boards for the house.

There will always be little details that I wish I had thought about more or done differently. But overall, we are so incredibly happy and thankful to call it our home – demolished and designed with so, so, SO much love and care.

Micromanaging towards the End of Renovations

We're nearing the end of renovations. It's exciting, but there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up. Here's what we've accomplished this week:

  • All windows are in! We were waiting on the sliding patio door and one last window in the living room which were both installed on Monday.
  • We passed one inspection on Tuesday. There's another final inspection right before we move in.
  • All electrical outlets and fixtures are in!
  • IKEA bathroom vanities are in!
  • Countertops are in!
  • Sinks are in and cutouts have been made in the countertops for the soap dispensers!
  • Plumbing is done!
  • Shower door measurements are happening tomorrow.
  • Drywall guys patched up any loose holes and blemishes.

We've realized that in order to remain on track, we need to micromanage our contractor. At this point, he and his subcontractors are working on new projects. Instead of weekly e-mail updates, we're giving him daily texts and phone calls. We're also triple checking all our invoices to ensure that we've covered everything we've paid for.

We ran into some expected hiccups because our electrician didn't inform us of areas that would affect the final inspection (i.e. making sure all the lights are LED energy efficient, having a chain instead of a cord for the dining room chandelier, etc). So in the meantime, we're capping off those areas or putting dummy fixtures which we'll switch out later after the final inspection (shh...). At this point, we just need to get past final inspection and hopefully be moved-in in two weeks!

Choosing Doors and Doorknobs

Our new obsession last week was door handles! To be honest, they completely crept up on us. We thought it would be one of the final touches after more of the renovations were done, but when we saw the carpenter last Thursday, he asked us to get the door handles ASAP so we could securely close the doors.

When we re-did the bathrooms, we had to re-frame one of the bathroom doors. This meant that we made the door bigger and needed to fit it with a new door (and new handle). In addition to the front door, we also re-framed the other two exterior doors because they were damaged (one leads to the backyard, the other leads into the kitchen). So three new doors meant three new handles... but we also wanted to re-do all of the door handles to match, so now we were talking about eight new door handles in total.

To make things even more confusing, we quickly realized that we had an overwhelming amount of handles to choose from. I wanted something contemporary that would match the front door, and I had gravitated towards the Schlage Latitude handle at Home Depot from some of our previous research. After we saw the carpenter, we immediately went to Home Depot before work to purchase one so he could start measuring where the latch would go. However, I wanted to get the black handle to match the front door, and the color was currently unavailable even though it was on display. Much like when we were shopping for shower heads, finding the right finish was a challenge we weren't 100% prepared for.

Long story short, we bought a Latitude handle in nickel so that the carpenter could start measuring. In the meantime, we purchased 5 black privacy handles on Build.com which has quickly become one of my favorite sites. They came within 2 days! We made another order a few days later for the same handles, except this time, they were passage door handles for the closets (i.e. they don't lock).

That leads into one more curveball: deciding which doors should lock, and what kind of lock it should be. We settled on making the back door a deadbolt with a privacy lock handle (this is the only handle that has an aged bronze finish because Home Depot only carried the aged bronze deadbolt to match. Literally no one else will notice this because it basically looks black... but it's a fun little Easter egg for all our blog readers!). And for the kitchen door, we decided on a privacy handle. It leads to the exterior now, but eventually we want to turn that area into a laundry room so a deadbolt won't be necessary.

The doors themselves are flat and simple to match the existing doors (which we'll repaint). They feel a little plain now, but they fit our budget and will provide a nice, simple backdrop for our furnishings.

Why We Chose to Install New Windows

Installing new windows was a significant chunk of our budget that we decided to do now instead of later. Here's why.

Firstly, security purposes. The old windows had to have been from the '70s or '80s. The glass was thin, frames were rusty, and the hinges and screens were flimsy. A few of the windows were even made out of plastic and the window on the backdoor was boarded up with wood. We would have been prime victims for a break-in.

Another reason was insulation and soundproofing. The freeway is basically in our backyard, and with our old windows, we were getting quite a bit of noise and improper temperature regulation. New, double-paned retrofit windows would help solve that.

And then of course, resale value. Like many of our remodel decisions, we want to make sure that our improvements will also be profitable when we eventually sell the house. New windows will add a ton of much-needed curb appeal.

After researching and contacting at least 15 different window companies and receiving quotes back in December, we decided to go with Window Design Group. It was very difficult to find a reputable company with flawless reviews, and to be honest, it hasn't been the most pleasant experience. But overall, we're happy with our decision because the price fit our budget and their quote included helpful, organized details like all the measurements and window materials.

They sent an installer out to measure the windows for the initial quote. After we revised it a bit and had final measurements taken, we put down a deposit and placed our order by February. It usually takes about 3-4 weeks to actually make the custom windows so we were very excited when our sales rep told us that they would be ready to install by mid-March.

Turns out, it was too good to be true. Our new windows weren't installed until the beginning of April, and we're actually still waiting for two of them to be installed. One of the biggest hold-ups was our sliding patio door. Our contractor noticed that the quote didn't include the metal waterproofing pan that goes along the sliding track — a detail that would be required for our final inspection to pass. After A LOT of back and forth because they didn't seem to understand what we were requesting, our contractor finally decided to install the pan himself. As of this morning, I had to book a date for the final installation of the sliding door, but their earliest available appointment is next Monday morning. Like I said... not the most pleasant experience, but we're happy with the results so far.

Of course, we'd probably feel a little differently if we weren't on such a tight timeline. We were aiming to move in by the end of March, but the timeline has been pushed farther and farther back. Now it feels like moving in at the end of April is wishful thinking. But at the end of the day, we'd rather have the job done right than rushing it and making mistakes we'll regret.

Choosing Baseboards

Baseboards are another thing that you NEVER think about before buying a house. To be clear, they're the narrow wooden boards that run along the base of an interior wall that covers the joint between the wall surface and the floor.

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Baseboards are considered a type of moulding. Other moulding includes crown moulding (on the ceiling), door and window trim (a.k.a. casing), and many others. Plus they come in a bunch of different materials, styles, and profiles. Here's Home Depot's full buying guide.

We looked at some at Home Depot, but our contractor referred us to a flooring place that specializes in baseboards and had more options. Too many options.

We knew we wanted something modern and simple so that helped narrow it down a little. We liked the look of this baseboard, but the notched out area would 100% collect dust, dirt, and grime.

Since we didn't want the baseboards to be the main focus of the room, we opted for this very simple, modern trim with a nice smooth edge (anything that's too square and sharp will hurt if you bump into it!). I don't remember exactly how thick it is, but it's thin enough that our furniture will be pretty flush against the walls.

After it was ordered and installed, we also had to take into account some of the areas that needed smaller trim. For example, the area around the kitchen cabinets and closets have smaller trim so that the doors can swing open all the way and not interfere with the hinges. The more you know!

What I'm Loving Right Now

Starting tomorrow, we'll be living out of a suitcase at Alex's mom's house until our house is ready to move into. There's a lot of change happening, so I wanted to take a moment to capture everything I'm feeling, thinking, and currently obsessed with in this moment.

  1. Favorite color: Used to be blush pink. Then it became rose gold. Now it's somewhere in between ivory and gray.
  2. Favorite clothing store(s): Irene's Story, Morning Lavender
  3. Favorite show: "The Office." I'm finally watching all the way through! Definitely much-needed after a stressful day of work or house chores. I relate WAY too much with Pam. :)
  4. Favorite outdoor spot: Fiesta Island. As part of our Valentine's Day tradition, Alex and I spent the weekend in San Diego with our two dogs: Chef (7 yr. old rescue Chiweenie) and Shabu (1.5 yr old Shiba Inu).
  5. Favorite Disneyland ride: Space Mountain. We've been annual passholders for the past 2 years, but we won't be renewing to save up for the house instead. 
  6. Favorite song: "Good Old Days" by Macklemore and Kesha
  7. Favorite snack: fried chicken wings, as usual
  8. Favorite furniture store: Room & Board
  9. Favorite Instagram girl crushes: Carizza RoseThe Little Bukowski, A Cozy Kitchen
  10. Favorite destination: Bali! Well... we haven't been there yet, but we're getting married there in September! We've locked down all our vendors with the help of our wedding coordinator, and we'll be visiting at the end of May to scope everything out in person.

P.S. Follow my personal Instagram or Pinterest for more!

French vs. Sliding Patio Doors

As a little girl, I remember falling in love with French doors (and outdoor courtyards) at a restaurant in Chicago called Versailles that has since closed. Romantic, elegant, and charming, French doors have always been a huge YES for me at hotels or Airbnbs. But when it came time to think about installing them in our master bedroom, I had to put my personal preferences aside and really think about what made sense for our lifestyle.

FRENCH PATIO DOORS

Pros:

  • Beautiful, duh
  • When both doors are open, it’s large enough to move things in and out or host large groups of people

Cons:

  • Hinged doors must be propped open, inviting lots of bugs and dirt inside (unless you hang mosquito netting, which takes away from the open-airness)
  • Swinging doors can also be loud and problematic if it’s windy
  • Inswing or outswing doors require unobstructed floor space which affects the configuration of furniture
  • Often found in homes with more traditional architectural styles
  • Could potentially be more expensive depending on the door design

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SLIDING PATIO DOORS

Pros:

  • Sliding door can easily be opened, closed, or propped open in any type of weather
  • Built-in screen door
  • Door frame is usually narrower than French doors, allowing in more sunlight and taking up less space — ultimately making the space feel larger

Cons:

  • Sliding track must be cleaned and maintained to ensure smoothness

Ultimately, we decided to go with sliding patio doors for their convenience factor and sleek, modern style. We know that we’ll be using the door mostly to let our dogs out in the backyard, and keeping it closed otherwise to help reduce the noise from the freeway. I’ll save the French doors for my future Tuscan villa. :)

5 Ways to Save Money for Your Mortgage

After years of paying rent, it still feels weird to say we have a mortgage. On top of that, we’re budgeting for the renovations and planning our wedding in September.

We’ve been saving up for this moment, but now that we’re living it, we’re still looking for ways to save as much as possible. Here are a few spending rules we abide by.

  1. Make budgeting spreadsheets. Spending trackers are essential to saving. It’s so easy to swipe a credit card here, Venmo someone there… but before you know it, all these little expenses really start to add up. Keep track of how much is going into your bank account, factor in your monthly bills, and figure out how much spending cash you really have.

  2. No shopping for clothes. Period. As much as I’m tempted to buy a new pair of shoes or cute sundress, I have to remember that we’re spending thousands on a HOUSE. In the long-term, I’d rather have a quality shower head than a new pair of jeans. But I admit, sometimes I'll add things to my online shopping cart just to get it out my system, and then immediately close the window.

  3. No splurges. As much as it saddens me, we will not be renewing our Disneyland annual passes this year. We’ll be too busy with the house and the parks are going through some major construction anyway. Instead, we got Moviepasses which are still a bit of a splurge but pays for itself once we watch a few more movies. We also cancelled our Barkbox subscription (but we’ve saved up a ton of treats and toys from previous boxes for the dogs). We consolidated our Spotify accounts into one family account (that saves us $60 alone). I also cut my own hair and Alex’s. We only get Starbucks on the weekends when we’re running house errands. And when we’re craving dessert, we eat cereal or fruit.

  4. Pack lunches. We take our menu planning very seriously to make sure we have enough food to last us for lunch and dinner throughout the week. We only go out with friends on the weekend or with coworkers for special social events.

  5. Keep it minimal. Our goal for the new house is to keep everything very simple and clean. We try to spend very responsibly to minimize hoarding clutter and junk. Plus, that means less things to move or shove into storage containers later!

We Have a Front Door!

Took a sick day because I caught a nasty cold over President’s Day weekend. But, since we can’t sit still, Alex worked from home and we drove up to the valley to purchase our front door from Urban Doors. Initially, we were going to keep the current door and save up for a new door later; but since we decided not to go with the side light (it’s an extra glass panel on the side), we were able to save a bit.

Also, windows have been ordered!

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Shopping Day

Today was the first day that all the pieces of the vision physically started to come together. We visited a bunch of showrooms and specialty stores with Alex’s mom to start picking out the kitchen island design, countertops, flooring, backsplash, lighting, and ideas for appliances (not to mention window quotes which we’ve been gathering over the past month and decor ideas that I’ve been compiling).

Just a few stores we visited:

On Sunday, we covered the garage in painter’s plastic and applied one coat of this BEHR ultra pure white semi-gloss to the cabinets. Starting with the edges and corners, we used a paintbrush to get all the crevices and polyester rollers to fill in the rest. We’re already loving how it looks with the hardware and can’t wait to start applying additional coats this weekend.

We’re also meeting with Shay the electrician tomorrow to start planning lighting!

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