We had an awesome photographer come by last weekend to shoot some photos of our home – and these photos are just the push I needed to finally get myself in gear and give the photo tour I promised (yes, I know you were all losing sleep).
Alas, low and behold, our magical black and white kitchen!
We are so thrilled with how the kitchen came out (the whole house, really), but the kitchen really is the heart of the home. When designing the floor plan, we knew we wanted a large island space for entertaining and – let me tell you – our friends flock to the island like a moth does to a flame (or however that saying goes). We also love the openness of the kitchen; the path flows from the entrance right through the kitchen to the family room without anything cutting up your way. And then there is the storage – OH the storage! Not even kidding, just the cabinets to the left of the sink is more than we had in our condo! It is scary, though, how quickly all these cabinets are getting filled… Anyways, we love pretty much everything about our kitchen. It is such a happy and bright space that I even enjoy cooking now. Please check out the finish guide below.
Counters: Danby Marble (made in Vermont; more durable than most marble)
Hardware: Gilded Bronze – LOVE the pop of gold against the black
Pendant Lights: Restoration Hardware Vintage Barn Lights in Weathered Zinc (RH frequently has 30% off lighting)
Counter Stools: Restoration Hardware Outlet* (Milwaukee) French Cafe Stools in Weathered Oak
*If you are lucky to have an RH Outlet store within a decent drive, it is well worth it! Once you are there, join their e-mail list. They have on-going sales all the time (30% off dining, 40% off entire store). I would call and ask about the inventory before making the drive. We got our stools for $60!)
Counters: Jet Mist Granite, Honed (incredibly durable with an awesome matte finish; similar look to soapstone)
This week I am going to take a bit of a left turn on this blog. Matt and I went to Bali on our honeymoon two years ago and – believe it or not – I have been asked for Bali recommendations five times in the last month! While we were planning, it was difficult to find some first-hand references, so I figured out I would just put this out and share our itinerary in case any of you out in the interwebs is looking for some advice.
Bali was incredibly awesome. We went for two weeks in May – which, I have to be honest, might have been a little too long. I think we would have been better off doing Bali for a week – week and half and then going to a more urban city (Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore?) for a few days, but that would just be our preference.
We ended up going to four different cities in Bali, thinking that they would have all been different, but in actuality they were really pretty similar – insanely beautiful, but similar. It was also a lot smaller than we had expected, so going from city to city was only a half hour – 45 mins apart. I feel like a total jerk when I say I was in Bali for too long, but our trip lacked variety over the long haul.
Second piece of advice: if you haven’t already booked your flights, consider doing so with a travel agent. We did not use an agent for anything but our flights because someone tipped us off – and flights we booked at the agency were wayyy cheaper than what we were finding online. We booked our flights through Liberty Travel in Chicago.
We used Didi with Bali Drivers to drive us from city to city and for some tours. Would definitely recommend, especially if you can get him. He took us to temples and local lunch spots between cities, picked us up from the airport, etc. email@example.com
Also – just be warned, there is no such thing as nightlife (unless you go to Seminyak, presumably)- which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not what we’re used to. Everyone goes home once the sun sets. We were literally the last people at what was supposed to be the hoppin place in Ubud – Naughty Nuris – I’m talking the staff locked the doors and left while we were still sitting on their patio…if you make dinner reservations past 8, you will probably be the only ones there…but we went in May which was before busy season, so that could definitely be different in other months.
Our flight arrived in the middle of the night, so we decided to stay in Sanur because it was close. The hotel was older, but actually really charming; it felt really authentic even though it’s a Hyatt. We upgraded to a “club” hotel room which was well worth it – you could go and eat breakfast and happy hour everyday, use wifi whenever etc.
Sanur as a town, was cute but small, but the beach was great. We spent 3 days there which was plenty. Rode bikes down the beach, got tons of super cheap massages, etc.
This hotel was absolutely incredible. We stayed in a pool suite there – totally worth it. It was huge and overlooked the rainforest!!! we would be eating breakfast outside and parrots and toucans would fly by! The staff was awesome. The only negative was that it was not right in the center of Ubud, but it was still walkable and they had a shuttle that would drive us to dinner and pick us up. If you do stay there – breakfast is included (which you can get delivered to your suite) and it is awesome, as is the best massage of your life. We were total pigs. We really felt taken care of there and would definitely recommend. I have stayed in many hotels in my life and this might be the best room I have ever stayed in.
Ubud was a very cool city and where most of Bali’s art & culture scene is. We stayed there for 5 nights. We saw a royal cremation ceremony being built at the temple, hiked up a volcano for sunrise (mixed reviews on that – Matt loved it, I thought it was hard – but I’m lazy–killer views). Ate a few great restaurants, went to the monkey forest (awesome – they will climb all over you), whitewater rafted (pretty enjoyable/easy ride), biked (beware – it is hilly and extremely humid), and just relaxed….more massages. We ate at Mozaic which is supposed to be the fancypants gourmet restaurant in Ubud which was good, but we preferred Minami and Bridges. Naughty Nuri’s was good bbq. There are probably some new restaurants since.
Lombok is an island off Bali – we took a 2 hour boat ride out there, saw a ton of dolphins which was incredible…it is supposed to feel like the real Bali before it was developed by hotel chains. I do not think i would recommend going there (granted it rained a LOT while we were there)… it was a little more work than it was worth. We stayed at a nice hotel, Tugu Lombok, it was an old museum converted into suites, but it felt reallllly old – like smelled like an antique store. We had an outdoor bathroom, which sounds great in concept, but it downpoured one day and we woke up to literally 500 worms all over the bathroom – SIIIIIICK – and since it is not developed, there is no where to go besides your hotel (do not go wandering like we did – ended up getting lost in the pitch dark and hitchhiking a scooter ride back to our hotel from the nicest staff at a neighboring villa rental/ cannot say enough about how incredibly kind the people of Lombok are). Very pretty, though, and we went to the Gilis and snorkeled from there which was beautiful. We also both got sick there because the water is not so clean….all in all, if you are crunched for time, I would skip Lombok.
Ayana is a must-do. The resort is huge and incredible – food and drinks delicious. They have a bar called Rock Bar that is literally built into the side of the cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean (and recently named one of the most scenic bars in the world). You take a gondola down to it and the waves crash under it – it is so friggin cool. Everyone goes there for sunset – including people from other hotels, so even if you don’t stay there, you should definitely check it out. They also had an awesome seafood restaurant, Kisik, on another set of cliffs where you pick your freshly-caught fish for your meal and sit overlooking the ocean with sand on the ground – probably the best restaurant we ate at our entire trip. The staff at AYANA is also awesome. We did the “club” there, too, which was pretty great. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be had there, with alcohol and tea, etc. (I got hooked on their ginger tea!!!). They also upgraded us to a honeymoon villa, so make sure you play that card 🙂 AYANA had an awesome salt water pool (in addition to many other pools) built into the cliffs. AYANA was probably the most “American” resort we stayed at in terms of size and amenities, which could be viewed as a good or bad thing, but we loved every bit of it.
I think this goes without saying, but if you are ever presented with the opportunity to travel to Bali – GO! It is truly a magical place that transcends you to a whole ‘nother world. Not only is the scenery drop-dead gorgeous, but the Balinese people are some of the warmest people and invite you to learn about their land and culture; we were welcomed as “guests to our beautiful land” on multiple occasions, including on our impromptu scooter ride across Lombok.
If you are planning a trip to Bali and looking for some additional feedback, please feel free to get in touch!
We are now all moved in and could not be happier about it! It has taken a week to unpack and get settled, but it is really starting to feel like home sweet home. We are so glad we decided to take the new construction route as each and every decision in the house is reflective of us – from the floor plan and material choices, all the way down to the door hardware.
We are also thrilled with our location. Each of our commutes have been cut in half and the number of insanely delish local restaurants and coffee shops within a stone’s throw is incredible. Not to mention all the wonderfully welcoming neighbors we have met so far! Our block has a great sense of community and we are excited to become a part of it.
The next few weeks I will be going through room by room and detailing all of the finishes and the process so that you can nab some ideas for yourself.
Last week we had to choose the floor stain which was REALLY HARD. The wood floors will be throughout the entire first and second floor and are not easy to refinish – so we have to like it. Plus, they set the tone for the whole house. After seeing the the unfinished wood installed in the house, we loved how the light bounced off the light floors and kept the space nice and bright. We also knew we wanted light floors to keep the dog scratches down to a minimum (my friends with really dark floors love the look, but hate what their dogs and kids can to do them!).
So I scrolled through dozens and dozens of photos on Houzz finding finishes I liked, like so (right?!):
Only to realize that the base wood product was different than the red oak which was installed in our house, so it is going to absorb the stain differently and have a different overall appearance – which makes a whole lotta sense. So then I dove deeper into Houzz and researched red oak and some specific Minwax Stains I had in mind, which is when I found this baby, light and clean without looking unfinished:
So I relayed this to our contractor and he put some samples down of the Classic Gray Minwax and the Pickled Oak Minwax:
The Pickled Oak was pretty, but I was afraid the floors would look unfinished in that stain – the pink of the red oak was still very prevalent. The Classic Gray looked great, but it was much darker than what we were looking for. So next on the sample board was a 50/50 mix of the Pickled Oak and Classic Gray, as well as some Provincial Stains as I wasn’t sure I wanted to totally rule a brown tone out just yet:
The 50/50 Classic Gray and Pickled Oak mixture was exactly right; it kept the floor light enough that the space wouldn’t feel too heavy without being so light that it looked unfinished – and it is interesting. Now if only I could have realized that before I picked the Classic Gray, had a major freak out moment, and then went back and changed it to the mixture – whoopsies, luckily they had not started yet…
We wanted more of a matte finish to show some texture and keep the floors from ambering later on, so the floor installer used a water-based satin sealant as opposed to an oil-based high gloss. Here is what the final product looks like:
The cabinetry is being installed today and I can’t wait to see how they all look together. Heeeere’s hoping! I hope this post saves anyone else an ulcer that is trying to pick their stain.
Now that all the tile is installed (!!), we had to head over to the house to choose the grout colors that will be poured next week. Here is a glimpse into the master bath (as it currently stands).
The photo on the left is a corner of the Master Shower, which I am very excited about. We wanted to create a calm oasis, if you will, and this arabescato carrara marble seems to do the trick. The photo on the right is a view from the entrance. The shower sits in the nook at the top left of the photo, with a tub (that we will never use) centered as the focus. Not seen: a window over the tub, which seemed like a great idea during the planning phase (yay natural light!), but in reality is a front row seat for our neighbors to hang out on their balcony and get a free show (note to self: make appt with a window treatment company immediately). The tile on the actual floor of the bathroom is an Eleganze Varese tile, which is meant to look like poured concrete. This should look pretty cool (fingers crossed) contrasting the hard and industrial concrete look against the soft and elegant marble. Next up: choosing the hardwood floor stain!
Whoops! Looks like someone (and I’m not going to name names) forgot she had a blog. I have been super busy at work/ working on the house that I am a bit behind…
Anyways, I have been stresssssing out while on the search for the perfect white paint color for the walls. Who knew there are so many shades of white? Luckily, it seems I am not the only one who has faced this dilemma and found some great advice on the interwebs from the Hunted Interior, Thistlewood Farms, and of course Houzz.
Since there is already going to be a lot going on in the kitchen with the black & white cabinets/counter tops, I wanted to use white as a nice grounding color for those louder elements and let them breathe a bit. I, like everyone else lately, am a big fan of grey as a neutral, but did not want to add one more color of weight into the mix. Confusing?
Here is the space as it currently is – the progress has been amazing btw.
Plus the space is already inviting and bright with just the drywall that I would not want to take away the lightness of the space with a darker color. Alas, the white.
Matt and I have been taking frequent trips over to the house for progress checks, but we’ve been careful not to go too often – a watched pot never boils (or however that saying goes). So we did our usual swing by and then grab dinner on Wednesday after work and were pleased with the how things were going:
Not bad, right? The foundation was poured and cured, the basement framed, and the floor/ceiling joists were just getting started.
Then after Sunday brunch with my parents at one of our Logan Square go-tos, Lula Cafe (delish – sit at the bar and order a fancy coffee!), we drove over to the house. HOLY COW was I thrilled with the progress!! In just a matter of a few days the basement/first level floor joists were completed as was the framing for the entire first floor – whoopie! It was finally starting to take shape and look like a home. There’s our front windows! There’s the front door! The fireplace will go right there!
So thar she blows! Our contractor said the second floor and the roof are en route and ready to go, so we are (fingers crossed) on schedule! Time to stop doing the happy dance and start making those decisions I have been putting off… 🙂
Now added to the list of things I never thought I would care about: mullions. Most of you are probably asking “What the h are mullions??” and a few weeks ago, I would have been in that exact same boat. Mullions, you see, are window grilles. But what the h are window grilles? Window grilles are simply the pattern that goes into (or not) your windows. Por ejamplo:
The first step of the process was to decide: do you want any mullions? Sure, why not? I actually have always liked the look without ever really knowing what they were. I like that mullions can add a bit of interest to your facade without being something so in-your-face. Just a nice delicate touch.
Step 2: what color do you want your mullions? Ughhhh. Well, the windows will be black, so how about black? But do you want true black or black bronze? Oye.
Step 3: do you want these mullions applied to your window, integral which is within the pane of the glass, or true separated light (meaning that instead of just adding a grid on top of one large window, the grid outlines 15 mini panes of glass – ie $$$ cha ching). How about applied? Oooh about that, we just looked into your windows and that’s no longer an option. Okay, integral it is.
Step 4: now where exactly on the house do you want these mullions? Everywhere? Okay, but that will cost extra (of course). Ooookay, how about just the front and back facades? But do you want them on every window on both facades? AHHHH!!
This is where I jumped ship because a la Jay Cutler I just “dooooon’t caaaaare.” Then I thought about it some more – well I will be living in this house…I want to enjoy it….maybe I would regret not putting these in.
Alas, Step 5: Research the hell out of Houzz and see if anything resonates with you. I was putting in search phrases which, surely, no one has ever bothered to type in the history of the internet: exterior french door mullions,grilles, window patterns; living room sliding glass doors; back of house windows; mixed window mullions. So here are a few of my favorite grillz that are awesome, but would probably never work on our skinny mini house:
Do you remember when Brooke Hogan had grillz? Or let me try that again: do you remember Brooke Hogan?
Now I know you are on the edge of your seat after reading this really important, mind-bending of a story…SO we ended up going with Colonial style errywhere on the front and the back. All colonial everything.
As some famous person once said, “Rome was not built in a day,” and the same could not be truer for our future work of art house. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we could not be more grateful for the awesome team working on our house and the progress they have made – despite the uber crappy weather we have been experiencing in Chicago.
If you look hard enough and use your imagination, you can see our new basement! The basement is going to have a lofty ten foot ceiling and some nice windows, which we are pumped about. Matt is a very tall (dark and handsome) guy and he had to crouch through the majority of the older home’s basements we looked at. The perk of a new construction: he might as well fit if this will be his man cave. More details to come on that…
Happy Thanksgiving all you turkeys, enjoy the time with your family and friends 🙂