the great couch debacle

It was approximately two months from our moving date, right around when we found out that we got the apartment, that J and I decided to tag along with our friends on a trip to IKEA. I’m always good for a trip to IKEA (I think it’s because of the Swedish in my blood!) and for some reason J likes it to so we thought we’d just go along for the ride.

The purpose of this trip, in all seriousness, was that a bunch of us were going in on a desk for our friend, who really wanted a desk for a birthday present. It wasn’t until we found the said desk and were waiting in the longest line ever that I decided to run over to the as-is section to check it out.

For those of you who have never seen the as-is section IKEA, it’s a little something like this: it’s a room that’s usually near the cash but on the main floor, just off of the warehouse. Anything that a customer has returned pretty much goes in there because a piece of IKEA furniture can’t be sold if it’s already been assembled. (Oh the irony!) On that particular day the room was practically overflowing because the staff were changing around a lot of the displays. All of the  gently used furniture that had already been assembled on the show room floor was on sale.

Including this baby:

From ikea.ca

J often talked about wanting a sectional couch as we entertain quite frequently (and by entertain I mean his buddies come over and play video games). We both liked the clean lines of the Karlstad couch and while J preferred a leather cover, we both agreed that neither of us had the inclination to take care of it properly and with two dogs in the house who are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want, it seemed like an impracticality.

J didn’t care about the colour. I was hoping for something neutral and classic- either a brown or a dark grey. A large, expensive piece like that is something we hope to keep for    a long time and my decorating style leans to pops of colour instead of colourful pieces of furniture like this:

So I went in to the as-is section and look was waiting there for me.

From ikea.ca

Okay, so it’s just the same picture again (I didn’t have the foresight to take pictures in the room.) But let’s see that photo from IKEA again, this time with the sale price.

Some people might not get as excited as I do when I see a sale, but $300 off of my dream couch seemed to be just that- a dream, especially considering IKEA very rarely has sales. (And for those of you who think my math is wrong, the Karlstad has just come down in price from $1,299)

It was that moment where J came back from the restaurant to look for me and found me in the as-is section. I jokingly said to him, “Remember how I asked you to buy me something when we went to IKEA?”

He said, “Yeah, so I bought you this ice cream” and handed over the cone he was holding.

I thanked him and pointed at the couch, “I would also like you to buy me that couch, please.”

He took a look at it, looked at the price tag and said, “Okay.”

Honestly? He must have been on drugs or something because that was just crazy talk. But it wasn’t crazy talk and we really did end up buying it, along with a funny little plant that I also found in the as-is section- just because it had a couple of brown leaves!

Now, I wouldn’t recommend buying such a large piece of furniture like that on the fly- not because I don’t love my couch, or don’t appreciate a good sale, but it was the aftermath that really got me in trouble.

See, what we didn’t take into account was that the room of our place where we thought about storing the couch temporarily became no longer available as a storage space. And we hadn’t bothered to measure our doorways, or the overhang of the ceiling of the staircase to our apartment downstairs.

You just fill in the blanks. Yeah, I know. It was not that smart.

This is one time where buying a piece of furniture that is traditionally flat-packed came in handy. We (and I mean J and my dad; I was just hovering around like a nervous helicopter) managed to unscrew one arm of the couch so we could slide it down the stairs, where it’s lived since. Half of it is in the upright position, half of it is being used as an actual sofa.

The couch, even in its split form, has held up during the two months that we’ve had it. Numerous people and dogs have bounced around it, slept on it and lounged on it, and all commented on how comfortable it is. The nubbly fabric seems really durable, holds up to doggie claws and doesn’t collect dog hair the same way our old one did. We haven’t spilled anything on it yet, so I don’t know yet how resistant it is to stains but I will let you know if/when it happens!

So advice to you young, couch-buying grasshoppers is this: when buying a major piece of furniture you must plan, plan and then plan some more. Measure everything, twice. Save your pennies. Think of everything that could go wrong, and then come up with solutions.

Then check those random sales at your favorite furniture store. You might be surprised!

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bathroom upgrades: it’s all in the details

My new bathroom was looking pretty sorry for itself that last time we checked in on it.

B's Bathroom, Pre-Makeover
Awkward storage facilities meant that items were strewn all over the counter, and said items were getting sprayed by the shower as we had yet to hang a shower curtain. And by hang, I mean we had yet to get a shower curtain.

I don’t even want to talk about our makeshift bath mat.

(For anyone that’s wondering, that’s an old beach towel that has since been converted to dog towel after baths and cleaning up muddy paws.)

Something had to be done. There had go be at least one room in the apartment that was going to function (somewhat). But when you’re stupid and convince yourself that only taking the day off for moving will somehow allow you to do all the stuff that needs to get done, it doesn’t. So I had to call in the reinforcements.

I called my parents.

Luckily, they were due for an IKEA trip so I handed them a wad of bills and a laundry list of items a mile long of things we needed for the apartment, and they very nicely came back not only with some fresh new towels, but a shower curtain and a bath mat as well.
B's New Towels
Isn’t it amazing how changing up the linens in your bathroom can make a huge difference in the design?

B's New Bathroom

For those of you that know me, you’ll probably be surprised at my choice of color scheme. I like to have at least some color in every room, even if they all verge on being quite neutral and tasteful. But the bathroom is almost entirely covered with this peachy-beige tile that makes the whole place look dingy. The matching covers on the shower curtain rod and the towel bar are also not the most flattering design feature. I chose black, white and some of that dark grey to offset the room looking too dirty all the time by giving it pops of fresh graphic elements in time to make the room look updated.

If you live in a rental, consider what simple upgrades you can complete that compliment the existing hardware in your bathroom (read: the stuff that you’d like to change but you’re legally not allowed to).

Try choosing colors and using patterns or texture to give it that extra oomph. I think the subtle tone on tone stripe of my shower curtain goes perfectly with the squares on my bathmat.

B's Shower Curtain Close-UpB's New Bath Mat

The other thing that would help is perhaps cleaning my bathroom. That could be a thing. And now that everything is put away, I’m really starting to dig that uncluttered look. Unfortunately, an uncluttered look on the outside only makes me tremble in fear every time I open a cupboard door.

Cluttered Bathroom Cupbord

I’d like to add some hooks to the back of the door for things like house-coats or extra towels. I also have a wall-mountable drying rack that is looking for a home.

Last, but not least, it would be great to give the bathroom a fresh cost of paint and stick some not so precious art on the walls so it doesn’t get damaged by steam or water.

What’s on your bathroom to-do list? Do you love it/hate it? Are you in the middle of doing it all over? Give me a shout at thetwentiesproject@gmail.com and tell me what you think.

’twas the night before moving day

‘Twas the night before moving, when all through the house

No one was speaking, not even a mouse

Their stuff was in boxes, all stacked by the door

But B and J, they were speaking no more.

 

J wanted to nestle all snug in his bed.

While visions of gaming danced in his head

He begged girlfriend B to cut all the crap.

He was so very tired; he wanted a nap.

 

But B wouldn’t have it- they needed to pack.

J wanted to stop; he wanted a snack.

B argued that there was much more left to do.

He could have a snack, but only when through.

 

J said, “But I have been packing all through the day.

I was busy packing while you were away.”
B replied, “I wasn’t away,” I was going to work

I need to make money for rent, you dumb jerk.”

 

They both were so tired, it had been a long night.

So naturally, B and J started to fight.

She wanted to pack, he wanted games.

So they hooted, and hollered, and called each one names!

 

Like stupid, and foolish, and mean, and crazy,

And nutty, and selfish, and anal, and lazy.

B said, “You just want to play games, nothing more!”

And J responded that she was a *****.

 

Well, after B thought that was really quite mean.

She knew she could be a packing machine.

She thought he should know that she meant no harm-

Being anal-retentive was part of her charm.

 

J told her he knew how much she liked her list

But no matter what happened, there’d be something she missed

He suggested that she try and “be more like me”

“More laid-back, and cheerful, more calm and carefree.”

 

“I’m cheerful!” she screamed. “I’m so not uptight!”

“Calm down, B,” J told her. “I don’t want to fight.”

“Moving is good, although it seems strange

But both of us knew that we needed a change.”

 

“Our apartment’s much bigger, it has much more space.

And you always wanted a sunnier place.

There’s restaurants and cafés all within reach

There’s a park for the dogs, and even a beach.”

 

Though B was reluctant, she had to agree

The end goal for them had become hard to see.

It’s hard to get ready for such a big move

But when they were finished, they’d get back in the groove.”

 

She’d have an office which is just what she needed

And plenty of space for their friends to be seated.

J could take the dogs for a walk by the lake

And there’d be a kitchen so at last B could bake.

 

Although moving from here will make us quite sad

We know change is good, it’s not always bad.

But no matter where or how far we roam

When we’re together we’re always at home.

 

J picked up a box and started to pack.

B stopped him and said, “Why don’t we have a snack?”

“Let’s take our time and not get in a fight.”

So happy moving day to all, and to all a good night!

 

home office blues

IKEA office

I'd love this office from IKEA but I still don't think it has enough shelves to fit all my books!

For those of you fellow writers and bloggers out there, I’m sure we’ve all learned by now that working from home isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. But for some reason, even though I’ve been at it for a couple of years now, I still find myself clinging on to that dream of the perfect home office, yet I always seem to find that space is much more elusive in reality.

Maybe it’s because when I first started working from home, I set up shop in a closet. No, I’m not even kidding. Across the hall from my bedroom was a giant walk-in closet with electricity so I thought, “Hey, why not?” and set up a little desk and bookcase in there. Was a little strange? Yes. Was it cramped? Definitely. Did people often mistake my closed door for an empty office and turn out the light as they walked by, thus shutting off my power? More often than you think. But it worked and from time to time I still miss that tiny little room affectionately dubbed “the cloffice”. (Which is apparently now a thing. Who knew?)

But lately I’m feeling the home office blues more and more. I do have a little set-up in our second bedroom which can pass for an office, but it shares space with our pantry, the microwave, and assorted boxes and bags that are half for packing, and half are just things that have no homes.

It’s made me excited for my new apartment and my new home office because the possibilities seem endless. But sometimes when you aren’t challenged for space your options seem to increase by ten-fold and you’re faced with more choices than you ever have before.

I know. Boo hoo for me, right? But in all honesty I kind of envy the people who have their neat little work station in a corner of their living room, or the makeshift home offices that seem to proliferate in recent kitchen renovations. How can you set up stall like that, in the middle of everything, and yet function still so well? I can barely function if there’s a dirty glass somewhere in my reach and the fact that my current office doesn’t have a door sometimes results in me daydreaming about fancy doorknobs rather than focusing on the desk I should be eventually getting.

I guess the key to everyone’s dream home office is knowing what it is they like and what they don’t; what works for them and what doesn’t. Then it’s just a matter of taking into consideration the money and space you have to work with and go from there. And because I’m really into making lists, here’s one of all my home office must-haves:

- a door that can close! Writing a blog post, let alone an intense financial report for a client is hard enough. Try doing it with constant video game noise coming in from the living room, followed by a stream of cursing. You get my point.

- a nice big desk. I’ve done small and compact long enough to realize that I need to space to spread out everything as I’m working. I just work better knowing that all the relevant materials I need are somehow within reach. It sounds messy, but it’s really quite organized. My desktop often ends up looking like a complicated game of office-supply Tetris.

- a window. For some people it’s a distraction but I somehow work better knowing that if I need to take a break there’s a window I can gaze out of wistfully while pondering all the other things I could do instead of working.

- a big, comfy chair. There are days where I simply. Cannot. Work. At. A. Desk and curl up somewhere to edit an article, or whatever else it is I’m working on. Having a chair would be such a novelty to me but the more I think about having an alternative workspace like that, the more I think I must have it.

- tons of boxes. I hoard a crazy amount of office supplies and the way they’re organized is just…shameful. Honestly. It’s pretty sad that for someone who organizes people for a living can’t get it together to find some sort of pen storage. But I hold out the hope that this will happen someday.

- a filing cabinet of some sort. I currently don’t have one. This disturbs me, possibly more than the pen thing as I can generate a crazy amount of paperwork for such an average-sized person. Maybe all that spreading out is actually counter-productive (see point B).

Ultimately everyone’s office wish list is going to look different, as their unique needs will depend on their jobs and lifestyles. You don’t necessarily need to use my wish list- the thought of going paperless terrifies me, for example, so a minimalist craving a modern, mess-free office might crave a scanner for all of their important documents.

The bottom line is that your workspace is best designed by you to suit your own needs. As long as it has a good workspace, adequate storage and lighting and allow you to function (somewhat) like a normal person than it’s all good.

cleaning up and moving on

I am by no means a neat freak (I leave that title to my beloved S). But I do like to keep things beat and tidy to  the point where it kind of hurts me if things aren’t organized. I can only take so much clutter before I start a mad cleaning frenzy- you know, one of the ones that starts with trying to clean up your desk and somehow ends up with you re-organizing your entire filing cabinet. Of course, these kinds of mad cleaning sessions occur when I’m attempting to work or avoiding a task that I’ve put off for far too long.

So as you can imagine it’s quite difficult for me (as it is with everyone) to clean up when everything is so cluttered and confused in the middle of the packing process. Not only do you want to keep a general sense of decorum in between packing projects and the growing amount of boxes, you also want to keep in mind that other people are going to come into that space afterwards and will probably notice that you haven’t mopped in a month.

I must admit that my cleaning schedule has not been well-maintained as I start to pack and accumulate stuff for our newer (and bigger!) place. But  I keep on reminding myself that I have to let some things slide because if I don’t it’s just going to drive me crazy. My disorganized and disheveled apartment is not going to look great no matter how much effort I put in, but there are certain things I can do in the meantime to keep a general sense of order. For example, I’m trying to keep all of my packing materials and boxes stored neatly together in a similar place. Every time I feel like it’s time to start packing another box everything is right there to make it easy, and that way random packing supplies don’t get strewn around the apartment to make it look as if I’m living in a storage locker.

As more and more stuff is getting packed away, I’m starting to notice little areas that have been neglected- places that need to be vacuumed or dusted (behind the entertainment unit, all the windowsills) or need an extra little bit of TLC (the shutters need a good wipe down, and I don’t even want to talk about my laundry room). I’m trying not to let it distract me as I go and instead make sure I write those tasks down so I can have one last really good clean before we head to our new apartment.

It’s really important to make sure you leave your space nice and tidy for the next person, especially in a rental unit as you may be responsible for any “damage” that the new tenant might report (think: holes in the wall). I always think it’s a really good idea to save your cleaning supplies to pack last so you can mop, dust or sweep away any of that last debris and clutter you find out that you may be leaving behind for the next person. Can anyone say dust under the couch?

It’s basically a nice thing to do that shows respect to the people who move in afterwards, but there’s an ulterior motive, a method behind my madness, if you will. When you pack your cleaning supplies last, you’ll be unpacking them first when you move to your new place so you’re able to clean right when you move in. Hopefully the previous tenants will have been just as nice and fabulous as you, but you never know.

Landlords in Ontario are always required by law to paint and steam carpets in between tenants, so I have heard of some of them hiring a cleaning service to make sure the rental is as “fresh” as possible. However, most landlords will just paint and/or re-do the floors (if you’re lucky) but a lot of the time I find people are so anxious to move in and landlords so anxious to get them moved in that cleaning can often get lost in between.

So clean up before you move up. Do it because it’s courteous and nice and you don’t want anyone to think you’re a giant slob, even if you are one. Know your rights and feel free to say when the place you are moving into is in an unacceptable condition to move into.

Until then, keep on trucking! I mean packing!

mirror, mirror on the wall

It’s good to have friends who are undergoing renovations and A., a former client of mine and long-time family friend, was no exception. After almost twenty-five years of living in her beautiful four-story house she finally decided it was time to update and I was the gracious recipient of some of her unwanted furniture, including some bookcases (which I can’t wait to move into my new office!) and a couple of odds and ends including this baby:

White Wicker Mirror

As much as I’m a not-so-secret fan of the Shabby Chic style, the romance of the white wicker didn’t jive with the vision I had of my new apartment and certainly didn’t fit with J’s more masculine tastes. Not one to be daunted by a little painting, I decided that a little spray painting would do just the trick.

Our new apartment is going to be right near the water (can anyone say lake view?) so I settled an espresso colour to evoke a kind of beachy, tiki-torch vibe like a lot of the furnishings at a Dominican resort we went to last year. So armed with my can of spray paint and a whole whack-load of newspapers, I started in on my task.

Painting Supplies

To be perfectly honest, I never spray-painted anything before so I took my cues from Young House Love and made sure I held my can a good 8 inches away from the surface (okay, it was closer to a foot) and used a slight waving motion to spray thin, even coats which I was able to do frequently as the paint was fast-drying and according to the can, could sprayed again every fifteen minutes. I waited about half an hour each time just to be sure.

I also started with the back of the mirror so that if I needed more time to practice my spraying technique, I wouldn’t completely screw up the front of the mirror.

Back of Mirror with First Coat of Paint

My first attempt at spray painting- not bad, right?

In the end, there really wasn’t anything to screw up. The paint was so dark that after three coats- applied as thinly and evenly as possible- the paint dried a beautiful colour that I would say ended up being more “chocolate” than “espresso” but was definitely more the colour that I was going for. Bonus: the wood grain of the frame of the mirror ended up showing through slightly much more than it did when it was white, so I was happy that should the mirror ever fall off of the back of the wall, any guests could admire the lovely paint job on the back.

Then it was just a matter of turning it around and doing the other side. Same thing.

First Coat of Paint on the Front

One.

Second Coat of Paint

Two.

Third Coat of Paint

Three.

And for anyone wondering, I opted not to use primer on this particular project as this particular brand boasted of a built-in primer that would coat just about any surface, and also because the surface I was spraying was so light to begin with. I think if it had been the other way around (going from dark to light) I would have used a primer to make sure none of the darker paint could show through. I did give the wicker a good wipe down with a barely-damp J-cloth just to make sure there was no dust/debris/stray bits of wicker that were going to get trapped in my paint job and look icky.

Completed Mirror

All done.

Mirror Close-Up

Gratuitous close-up.

I’ve been so happy with the results I have been madly scouring the rest of our apartment for more things to spray paint. It honestly is so addictive! Luckily, I have a few more D.I.Y. projects up my sleeve to accomplish before our big move at the beginning of May and I’ll be so busy with other stuff once we move that I’m happy to have little annoying things like this mirror taken care of.

As to where I’m going to put it, that’s going to be a secret for now. (Much like a couple of other things that are going to happen in my apartment, as described here.) In the meantime, there are a couple of other things that I can’t wait to spray paint, and already I can feel my spraying finger twitching, ready to go.

For those of you who like a budget breakdown, here it is:

Newspapers: Free

Can of spray paint: around $8 (I picked it up on sale at Canadian Tire a few weeks ago)

Mirror: F-R-E-E

Total cost: $8

Not bad considering I think a similar mirror would retail for a lot more. Everyone might not like the idea of a wicker mirror, but in the space where it will live, there are a lot of furnishings and accessories that have clean, modern lines and although it’s a uniform colour, I like the idea of adding some texture into the room. Plus, I am a firm believer in incorporating natural materials into decor whenever possible. (Can you tell that I miss having houseplants?)

Next up: matching wicker accessories? I’m looking at you.

Do you have the urge to spray paint something like B? Got any more ideas as to what she should paint next? Or maybe you have a spray paint horror story to share. Let us know at thetwentiesproject@gmail.com and your story could be featured in an upcoming article of ours!

b’s apartment: design challenges

With every space there comes a design challenge. I’m sure some wonderful decorator/organizer/architect has said something similar beforehand, but at the moment I’m going to take credit for it and declare that it doesn’t even matter if your space has been completely made just for you, or you think you have it all planned out. You just never know you have a design challenge until you run into one. Kind of like carpenter ants.

Fortunately for me, my new apartment offers several design challenges that I am already aware of because S (fellow blogger, twenty-something and bestie) lives in the same apartment complex, so the layout of our apartments are very similar. In fact, when I called him to tell him I had seen the place, I described it as being “like yours, except flipped around”. Do I sense a he says/she says décor post in the future?

Coupled with my photographic memory of my apartment tour, I’m already facing a few design challenges when it comes to my new space:

1) It’s not a game. This is serious stuff. Ha. Of course I take decor very seriously. Too seriously. Like, in an I-wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-doubting-my-paint-colour kind of way. But one of the biggest design challenges involves just that: a game. Or more specifically, a boyfriend with a huge gaming addiction. Fortunately, he’s no Angry Video Game Nerd, so he doesn’t have shelves upon shelves of games that we need to store. But we do have two PS3s, an Xbox, a Wii and dozens of wires to account for in our living room. Coupled with our surround-sound system and our giant TV, I need to find a way to make the space pretty enough for everyday living but user-friendly enough that the legendary party known as “Game Tuesday” can be pulled off without a hitch.

2) But we have little ones. I love our dogs, Milo and Gemma, so much but designing with dogs in mind can be a challenge much as designing around kids can be a challenge. The materials that we use must be non-toxic and not so precious that they can’t tolerate the occasional (the occasional!) accident and what must amount to mounds of pet hair per year. I also have no idea where to put their dishes, randomly.

3) Ch-ch-ch-changes. This is one of the biggest issues in a rental because there are so many things like fixtures that just cannot be changed. This can sometimes be a good thing. (Hardwood floors are almost unheard of now in an apartment building.) Or it can be a not so good thing. I’m thinking specifically about the colour of the bathroom tile on the walls. I can’t even talk about it right now.

4) I like clothes. And we have two closets in the master bedroom. There’s even a second closet in the second bedroom. But I need to figure out how to configure the closets in the best way so they can house all of the things we need to house in the apartment: off-season clothing, winter gear, day-t0-day clothes, linens, and cleaning supplies. And shoes. That’s another thing we’re not talking about right now.

5) I also like books. But short of having a multi-story library that the Beast has in his castle in Beauty and the Beast, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with the arrangement of my books. I am armed with a few bookcases, but after having the majority of my books in storage for over a year, I’m not entirely sure how many books I even have anymore. That could be an issue later on down the line.

I’m sure there will be a few other design challenges down the line too. I visited S’s apartment recently and could already begin to see  my list growing: unconventional window placement and spacing, decorating around a piano, squeezing things into a too-small foyer…but I’m remaining optimistic. There’s way more space in this new apartment than it is in the one we are now. So who cares if some of the windows are a little funky? In my experience (re: voracious reading of design magazines) it seems like the most beautiful spaces are the ones in which the decorators have used innovative ways to make the most of what they had. If it means working with what I’ve got in order to make my new apartment the beautiful living space that I imagine, then I’m up for the challenge.

Do you have a design dilemma that you’ve recently overcome? Your story could be featured in an upcoming article of ours! Give us a shout at thetwentiesproject@gmail.com and add your name to our growing roster of writers.