Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lets Talk Upgrades Budget

Budget is a dirty dirty word, and money talk in general is quite uneasy for me. But I can't discuss our upgrades for the townhouse without bringing up the topic of budget. I mean, choosing is one thing, paying for what you've chosen is quite a different matter altogether.

We consider the townhouse to be our long term home. At this point, unless we win the lottery, this is where we're staying. Choosing a new build where we could actually make floor plan changes was deliberate and gave us the best balance between: (1) not renovating again and (2) getting the renovations/upgrades we wanted.

We all know that renovations are funded by out of pocket money and involve saving, budgeting, and giving up of non-reno related expenses. Upgrades in a new build are rolled into a mortgage. In terms of cash flow, upgrades are a much more reasonable expense. Yes, you get a higher mortgage, and yes you pay interest on your upgrades, but you are able to maintain a lifestyle where you have spare dollars to allocate to kid's activities and travel vs. hardwood floors and counters. Financially we found our previous renovation projects to be a complete and utter drainage of our bank account (isn't it for everyone?), not to mention an insane imposition on our home, free time and sanity (again, all common side effects). For us extensive upgrades seemed like a great opportunity to enjoy more of what we wanted sooner and with higher convenience (!!!).

Right upfront we made the decision to go with a smaller, less expensive property, further away from the city core, that even with tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades would still give us a small mortgage and financial room to play.

I also think that going through a renovation in the past has given us a pretty good idea of what things cost, materials and labour. This way we avoided the usual shock and "no" response to upgrade prices. Upgrades while not cheap by any means, from our experience did not seem too completely out there. Yes, they are expensive, but you get what you pay for and nice things cost money. It is an unfortunate reality of life and that is that.

Going into the upgrades appointments we had a budget in mind, but we also knew that it was something we would be able to stretch. Instead of fixating on the dollars we fixated on how we live, how we use the space and what would benefit us most in the long run. We (and here I mean "I"), considered what would be the right things to do for the house. And we did those things.

In the end, and after much discussion (to the point where I can't stand it any more), we have considered every upgrade, every choice and we are absolutely happy with what we got. I feel the things we passed up were not essential to how we live and the things we did get will improve usability of the home, our level of enjoyment of the home and give us the ability to begin enjoying the home right away.

(I'm still annoyed by our inability to get the builder to smooth the ceilings in the bedrooms, as we will not be doing this once we move in (one for hubby). But it is one of those things that is non essential to how we live and I had to let it go).

How do you feel about upgrades?? Or renovation budgets?? Have you gone over your budget and do you regret it?? What value do you place on convenience?? And what does convenience mean to you (shorter commute vs. nicer home, is MY trade off)?? I would love to hear what you think!

I always go back to THIS post on budgets and cannot agree with it more.

For a breakdown of our upgrades, here's a list. Some things might overlap from previous posts (HERE):

*hardwood throughout the entire house (hardwood on main floor was provided by the builder);
*upgraded all vents to hardwood vents on all floors;
*extended tile in foyer down the hallway to the family room;
*upgraded the underpad on the stairs and carpet on the stairs;
*did not upgrade tile or grout as we were lucky to find basic tile we loved and it worked beautifully with basic grout colour. We also did not stagger any of the floor tile as the tile design is busy enough as it is and did not call for additional interest.
*used the same floor tile throughout the entire home

*upgraded to painted birch cabinets
*upgraded to all self closing drawers and doors
*switched out three cabinets for banks of drawers
*adjusted cabinetry to accommodate an undercounter freezer
*upgraded for a deeper over the fridge cabinet and installed a fridge gable (panel)
*upgraded electrical to add two pendant lights over the island
*upgraded electrical to add a second power outlet on the island
*upgraded counters from builder granite to quartz
*brick pattern basic white subway tile

*basic subway tile was staggered
*quartz counters
*painted birch vanities
*self closing doors on vanities
*removed medicine cabinets
*removed all towel bars and toilet paper holders

*replaced the shower mold with tiled shower walls
*upgraded to frameless pivot shower doors

*removed powder room on the main floor (where the kitchen is)
*took optional powder room and walk in closet in the family room
*oak hardwood floors, 2 1/4 width, no stain
*oak railing and spindles, stained black
*added two extra pot lights in the narrow foyer
*additional shelf/clothing rod in kids' bedroom closets

If you would like pricing for any of this, I would be happy to talk numbers in the comments.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Townhouse: Contraband Photos of Drywall and Insulation

These are contraband pictures as we're not supposed to actually go into the unit. But we do. And we are excited every time we visit. There's new things done and it give us a sense of how our home will feel. Not having a finished model home to refer back to is a pain. But also a blessing. We don't have other people's tastes imposed on us. So it is a clean slate. Scary and exciting all the same.

These pictures are what cartoons and toys will get you for 15 min of quiet time in the car. Taking turns running in and seeing firsthand the progress.

A reminder of what the floor plan is like.
Welcome to our home. This is the view from the front door. Our foyer is narrow and long, but I don't think I mind that at all. The closet is a good size and there are some great nooks that I've got tons of ideas on how to make feel homey and gorgeous (and kid friendly). Over time, of course, over time.
Up the stairs and onto the main floor. Our patio doors let in a ton of light. The balcony will be just beyond the glass.
 The view of the dining room and the top of the stairs from the kitchen.
 From the top of the landing, a view towards the back of the townhouse. The kitchen is in the middle of the floor, with the living room just beyond.
Living room view from the stairs to the upper floor. Digging how huge those windows are.
 Over the living room we have the little boy's room.
And the 4 going on 14 little girl's room. She's a handful these days and I can't wait to get her room all fancied up. This room is our priority #1. That huge window makes me almost jealous.
 The right side of the master bedroom. The back wall where our bed will go.
 The left side of the master bedroom where the PAX closet will go.
 Back on the ground floor, view from the stairs into the foyer.
Around the corner from the foyer is the family room.
View from the family room back into the foyer. That little hallway is all sorts of awkward. Don't I know it too. The doorway on the right leads downstairs into the basement. Thank God for tons of storage and a makeshift future gym!
View foyer into the family room. That awkward hallway. How I love your imperfection. I almost want to pinch your cheeks!

I hope you're not too bored by this tour. I will update the photos as much as I can (or as much as we're able to sneak into the unit).

Tomorrow we go to pick out our final finishes. Our "designer" has requested that we come in a half an hour early to make sure we're done by the time they go home. We are THOSE clients, the troublesome clients. We also bring coffee and donuts for the entire office to soften them up to our inquiries and requests.

Wish us luck tomorrow.

By the way: Maple or Oak for the hardwood floors???? (natural finish no stain).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's All in the Details

Designing a home, whether renovating yourself or choosing options with a generic builder is full of tiny little details. From experience I would like to tell you that a big-box builder won't tell you all the options you have for upgrades big and small. It almost feels like they don't want you to pay for little detailed upgrades because project managing your home becomes an expensive affair that they did not budget on. Their goal is to get your basic colour choices and everything else to leave to a conveyor "basic builder" options.

We half joke that our builder, from the site clerk to the headquarters and design centre hate our guts at this point. Not only do we go into the unit (even though we're not allowed, but since we were refused a pre-drywall inspection we felt we had no choice but to break their rules) we also request upgrades that no one counted on doing or managing. As a project manager, I can see how this townhouse is a lot more expensive for the builder simply in hours it takes their staff to project manage the construction.

Sorry for my little venting session. It just boggles my mind how many upgrades are available, you can almost get a custom home (within reason) but they are not being offered (or requested by the buyer).
Our latest surprise? We have decided against the oak floors in favour of maple. In these images the floors are probably ash, but for lack of that option we are seriously considering going with unstained maple. And, yes, going for black railing and black spindles.

I found these images after I couldn't figure out what was bothering me with the regular railing. I think staining it an ebony black would be a very nice accent. Don't you think?
We have visited the half finished model home a few times already. It doesn't make us the darlings of the sales office, but we politely don't care. We need the n number of walk throughs so we can notice all the details (and we still miss plenty). During our latest one we noticed that the granite over the future dish washer is attached to the fridge gable. In proper construction, the granite is not supposed to float in mid air, but is supposed to be held up by a separate gable. Not to mention that our paperwork states that we are supposed to have two separate gables, one each for the dish washer and the fridge.

So, being the super detailed ppl that we are, we are putting it in our contract. Two gables, no floating granite.
Somewhere else I decided to add a little bit of black?? The counters. On the left is what we considered last time. On the right is our, hopefully, winner!
If I didn't tell you that this was porcelain, would you think it was natural stone?? Well... it's porcelain. It is honed, with warm gray and a little bit of golden yellow. As soon as I saw it I was in love. I was also blown away that this is a level 1 tile. As in, no upgrades, tile. I am doubly in love.
Lastly, I think I've figured out the window situation. I am quite set on the velvet curtains in pewter, but couldn't decide how I wanted these to be hung. The other day we were killing time before an appointment and ran into a model home by another builder in our area. I loved the curtains hung on tracks. Now I just can't decide if we should go with pleated or not. What would you choose??

In all honesty, this townhouse has been such a learning experience. In a very different way than all of our properties before. With every choice I try to keep in mind "long term", "elegant", "understated", "tasteful details". But the most important thing that I've re-learned (because I knew this all along, but sometime its the hardest thing to remember) is to trust myself, my instincts and my inner nagging voice. Because the thing is that we will need to look at these floors, and cabinets and counters for a very long time into the future. And we need to like them. There's too much money at stake to choose things that we do not completely love. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Not a White Kitchen

Next week hubby and I are finalizing our colour selections for the townhouse. We have visited the design centre a few times to pinpoint exactly what we wanted. And, boys and girls, we have settled our minds on a medium gray kitchen. The colour they call "putty" has nice warm green undertones that are hard to capture by a phone camera. So I give you the image above as a close enough example. 

The problem with this cabinet colour is that it doesn't work with the granite that I had my heart set on.
This faux marble granite was a relatively inexpensive upgrade from the granite we got as part of our deal. Unfortunately it is too gray (not enough white or cream) and the gray is too blue to work with the gray/green of the cabinets. The only cabinets this granite worked with were white or black, and neither one of us felt super excited about either one of those choices. I mean, we meant to get a white kitchen, but somehow in the showroom the white felt flat and a little boring. I was completely surprised at myself. Seriously, I thought I had this all figured out. But I guess you never know.

I should also say that since we chose the kitchen for our condo last year the builder has signed a new contract with the cabinet makers and there are now at least 4, if not more, excellent grays to choose from. Not to mention at least 10-15 other colours, including 3 whites. Which I think is such a great option to have. 

In the end we needed to decide whether we wanted to keep the faux marble counter or the putty cabinets.
We were able to find a quartz counter that was light and warm and went really well with the cabinet colour. I am a little concerned that it will show every single crumb and that will drive me insane. On the other hand, it will lead to a cleaner kitchen, he he. Also, this quartz (compared to other, busier options) will give the 9foot island a clean look that I'm after. I'm not 100% set on this counter, so things might still change. We will see next week!
As for the hardware we have settled on all knobs. As much as I'm digging the cup pulls, I feel they are a trend that I might not want to live with 5 years down the road. If this was an older home they would feel more authentic. In our townhouse I think they will just be trendy.
My hope is to replace them with these Kohler knobs at Christmas time. A gift to myself because these guys are not cheap! I have found them at half the price in the US, and will keep my eye out for sales. But these would be my ultimate knobs that I will love forever. Geometric, simple, but solid and SO AMAZING!
See?!! They are absolutely gorgeous. Completely different look than what I"m going for in my own kitchen... but gorgeous.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Where To End The Wallpaper??

Is it just me, or does the wallpaper end at the ceiling height?? Seriously?? You can do that?? I"m assuming there's a piece of trim up there to tie in the wallpaper.

Do you think this is a good idea?? or a silly idea?? I"m SERIOUSLY going to consider this as a viable option for future foyer/hallway treatment.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Knobs and Pulls in the Kitchen

I've been hoping to do mixed hardware in the kitchen: knobs on all doors and pulls on drawers. We have two options, paying to have basic knobs and pulls installed by the builder or request no hardware.

If we went with our first choice we could switch out the basic stuff pretty easily (given that I make sure that the pulls I want will match in holes to the pulls provided by the builder). The only problem is that we have to pay extra to have two types of hardware.

Requesting no hardware will not result in a credit to us and will require that hubby spend time to drill the holes. First world problem (I know!). But truth be told, we're so busy right now with the two kids and all the activities that come with them + hubby's been swamped at work for months that I anticipate our kitchen will remain hardware free for months if we choose this options.

So my question is: should we pay a little extra to have the builder drill the holes? Or should I just stick with knobs and call it a day??

Just to give you a bit more to chew on, I"m thinking of getting these Martha Stewart for Home Depot pulls:
And these Martha Stewart for Home Depot knobs (and you really can't beat that price!):
What do you guys think??!!! My brain hurts, so many decisions...

On a different note, I found a kitchen that has our exact future range in it :) and it looks so fabulous! The kitchen is by Meredith Heron and is her own (her house tour is HERE). And I love it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Layered Window Treatments for Playroom/Miss C's Room

 We are yet unsure if the kids will continue to share a room (I know, our mind changes weekly) or if they will each get their own room. Regardless of what we do, one bedroom will get window treatments meant for Miss C. This room will be hers down the road and so I want the expensive work to be done with her in mind.

The room has a gorgeous huge window, but it is off center and doesn't really allow for curtains. I've been staying up nights thinking of how to make the window treatments here work and I think I've come up with a plan.

As soon as we move in the window will get blackout roller blind (layer 1). These will be for night time to block out the light from the street.

When budget allows I would like to add roman blinds to the window (with a simple liner just to protect the blind fabric from burning out in the sun). I would like the blind to fit outside the window, right on top of the window frame. In my mind's eye the blind will let some light in and will be used during the day, and generally act all pretty.

But I couldn't rest because these two layers still felt not enough. Something was missing! Until I realized that a cornice would perfectly balance out the shape of the room, give a little glamour and make curtains completely unnecessary.

That's the plan for now.

My brain is beginning to hurt from trying to work out the budgets and timelines for things. This stuff is not cheap (understandably) so I need to figure out things that will be phase 1, 2, 3... and 10. But it feels good to have a plan in place! (plan A that is, I gotta keep it real and allow room to roll with the punches).