IKEA fans unite!

I love you IKEA and I promise not to stay away for so long ever again! I am coming to visit you soon!

Ikea, I love your royal blue and yellow environment, with Swedish meatballs and room after room of clean lines and bargains galore! Every style and budget you could ever dream of. Ikea don’t ever leave me!

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Ten Tips For Picking A Kablan

Ten Tips for Picking a Kablan

First and foremost, let me just say that I am not responsible for any retivut (leaking) in your walls merely because you have read this article! This advice is free, and as long as I am not standing there watching how the Kablan (contractor) works, you may not come back and complain to me! Secondly, I am a feminist but I have not yet met a female Kablan, so please excuse the fact that I will refer to the Kablan in the male form for the sake of this article. Phew! Now down to business.

A Kablan should be responsible for ensuring the highest quality of work in your future home. He will listen to your requests, always answer his phone and make sure to keep coming back until you are completed satisfied. The finished job will make you happy and when you look around your home, you will have only good memories from the building process and your dealings with him. Does this sound even vaguely familiar?

Most people flee from building and renovations like nobody’s business. Why is it so difficult to know how to pick the right Kablan?

People constantly fall into a few traps:

  • A low price quote

Do not always think that saving that money will pay off in the end. Sometimes it is better to hold off on some of the things you wanted to do and to pay a little bit more for better quality. Remember, you get what you pay for! In addition, if the work is of a low standard, you will probably end up paying more, in the end, to fix his mistakes.

  • A friendly smile

A smile is nice if you are married to him, but sometimes a gruff nature is reassuring because you know that he will be able to stand up and fight for things when you need them. He needs to deal with difficult workers and issues all day, make sure he has the ability to do so.

  • He’s your friend’s husband/brother/father/neighbor

Someone I know who wanted to help her co-worker, hired this woman’s husband to be their Kablan. This Kablan was so deep in debt that he took the first payment from them, gutted the apartment and left them living in vile conditions for a few months until he came back. Apparently, he used their payment to pay off his other debts and had to wait for more money before he was able to buy the necessary materials to start their job.

Here are the top ten things you should consider when hiring a Kablan:

  1. Get references. Usually three are enough. Make sure to speak to people who just finished their construction so that things are fresh in their minds and to people who are a year or two after finishing so that they can tell you if any problems have come up. Try to get the opinion of an unbiased skilled third party like an architect or engineer. It is important to know what materials and level of workmanship you are getting for your money.
  2. Make sure that he is willing to work with your architect or designer. A skilled architect will make you a refined and well-detailed plan but the builder needs to be knowledgeable enough to be able to improvise on these plans to maintain work progress. Improvisation and planning are both essential steps to the building process.
  3. Even excellent laborers make mistakes; the question is how they recover from them, what they learned and that they do not make the same mistakes twice.
  4. The three traits you should look for in a Kablan are character, competence and dedication!
  5. Let us not forget about honesty! Clients generally know much less about design and construction than the people they are dealing with. The best strategy to combat this is to use professionals with unquestionable integrity.
  6. A Kablan should be flexible. How does he react when you change your mind or have a change to the original plans? Is he able to adapt?
  7. Get detailed quotes and make sure that you account for all the details in the building project. Sometimes a lower quote is missing some of the hidden costs that one of your other quotes included.
  8. Do not compare your project with seemingly similar projects since, more often than not, it leads to faulty expectations and does not provide much help in your decision-making.
  9. Make sure that the Kablan has the payment fees set up fairly so that you can manage the payments and so that the money transfers hands after a fair amount of work has been completed.
  10. Finally, if you are already fighting with each other and you have not even signed yet, then do not sign! A lot of the work with a Kablan is personality and if you are not getting along now then go with your gut feeling. You need to be able to speak openly and regularly with your project manager. Open dialogue minimizes future construction problems and misunderstandings.

Getting Rid of Clutter- Part 1

“Why are you throwing that thingy ding out?? It’s still good!”

This is the response I got when I attempted to throw out this old dusty doily, still in the plastic and never used, that we received as a present ten years ago. It became so much a part of the living room scenery that no one ever thought to throw it out or to give it too much attention.

There are a few steps necessary to get rid of clutter. Sometimes belongings can be so overwhelming and such a burden that you just give up. It’s not surprising that minimalism is sometimes a reaction to a prolonged exposure to clutter! Don’t give up! Remember that no one is going to clean for you, at best they will push things around or hide them from view in a cupboard so that you get attacked by stuff the next time you open your cupboard.

Therefore, here is what I am going to suggest as a start. First, decide on an amount of time that you are going to give to clearing unwanted belongings and stick to it!

Do not forget to reward yourself too. For example, ten minutes of work gets you 1 point, 5 points mean that you can buy yourself a new bathroom or kitchen accessory or bath soap/oil, 10 points means that you should go out to eat with a friend and have a celebratory brunch. You would be surprised how much can be done in ten minutes! Next time you have a basket of laundry that needs folding and you are procrastinating about it, fold the entire basket and time how long it took you. Not more than ten minutes for sure, and it helps clear that unsightly basket from your living room!

Now before you attack any space make sure that you have three baskets or boxes;
• One box for giving away
• One box for throwing out
• One box for relocating to another space in the house or for returning to someone else

Many times when you are cleaning, if you do not have those boxes you get distracted from the main task. You will sit down at the computer to check the charity hours for giving stuff away, then you check your email, then you take something upstairs to the kid’s rooms to put away, and then you start to do something upstairs etc. Before you know it, you are an hour into your work and you do not see any noticeable change.

So you are almost ready to get started, you have the three boxes or bags and your timer…

One last tip, try to get an impartial person or third party to help you with your task. They do not have to do the dirty work but they have to sit there and pass judgment on some of the items when you are unsure. Make it fun for them, bake some cookies, and make some yummy coffee to go with it. It is very important because something that has become ragged or decrepit can sometimes slip by us because we remember it in bygone days as new and eye catching.

A few years ago when I was moving overseas, my sister Deena came over to keep me company and to give me moral support (and to eat my muffins). She taught me a very valuable lesson. I had a huge doll collection, dolls from carnivals, childhood, presents etc. I did not know if I should keep Tweety or Sylvester, Barney or Bob the builder? So she said to me, “Devora, first decide on the number of dolls you want to own. Now, pick that number and the rest give away!” This was amazing advice! I choose the ten best ones (with her guidance, of course) and the other 30 (ha-ha) I gave away. I never looked back.

Let me sum it all up, again. These are the first steps to getting your home in order:
1. Designate an amount of time that is doable for you
2. Reward yourself
3. Have three spaces/boxes/bags for giving away, moving around and throwing out
4. Decide on amounts you can/should keep and then make your decisions based on that number or amount.
5. Have an impartial bystander who can help you make decisions without emotions

Now we are ready to begin.
To be continued…

Paying a Professional

“Come over and see the renovation we just completed. I want your opinion. I am sure you’ll love it!”

“Maybe you can just stop in for a second and see my kitchen. I want to redo the entire thing, break down the walls where the balcony is, dig up the plumbing system etc. etc. and I just want to know what you think. It’ll just be for a second, okay? When you have a chance…”

These are the types of questions and comments I encounter regularly when I tell people that I am an interior designer. The first comment usually comes from a person who has already gone through the entire renovation process. They have some last minute things that need fixing up but otherwise, they are done! Finished!

In order to respond to this scenario I have to be as realistic as I can. It is like a case of someone who already had a haircut and asks you what you think. The hair is gone. There is no point in dwelling on the past. Just say you like it and that they look great and move on.

Eventually when I go over to see their renovation, I try not to focus on the work that was done. I like to comment on the nice feeling that I know people have from completing a renovation on their home. I will say things like, “I am so happy for you that you have more space,” or, “It must feel so great to come into your kitchen every day and feel that feeling of happiness from it being so new and open.” They are happy and I am happy for them.

The second comment means that the person wants you to come and give them lots of advice for free and then leave. They will handle the rest on their own (or so they think), they just need an initial push. Even if I do spend an hour offering my opinion, I know that there is so much involved in the renovation road ahead of them that the advice is really only useful if they follow through properly.

On the other hand, there is a response that I get, when I tell people that I am an interior designer, that I feel gives me the strength to continue to create and design. It is usually after someone has seen the work I have done. For example, if someone enters my home, looks around and then looks at me waiting for me to offer an explanation. I tell them that I am a designer and their response is usually, “Well, that explains it.”

I then go on to explain to them everything that goes into creating and designing. There are the planning stages: making sure to satisfy the needs and preferences a client wants in a home, using the right suppliers and trades people. Then the renovating stage which includes meeting deadlines, overseeing workers, adjusting to unexpected events and problems, being flexible! And finally, the finishing touches: color palettes, lighting, finishing the punch list, fabrics, furniture placement and one last look. We’re done!

Here is an example of a kitchen that was in desperate need of a makeover:

 

Kitchen before renovation

Kitchen before renovation

 

 

This kitchen was lacking everything! There was no style, no storage, the space was not used properly and the lighting left a lot to be desired. This was a designers dream…or nightmare! Depending on how you look at it.

Renovated kitchen

Modern Elegant Kitchen After Renovation I opened up the space. I made the most of the natural lighting and under counter and ceiling lights, dark cabinetry, Caesar stone counter-tops and stainless steel appliances to design a truly fantastic and usable kitchen.

I would never try to be my own dentist. I would not attempt to cut my own hair. I wouldn’t spend the years and years learning how to be my own lawyer. And I know, that when I do a job, my interior design experience and style are what make the final outcome look complete and truly beautiful.

Paying a professional is the first step to getting what you want done and to reaching your renovating goals. Properly. Professionally. With Style.

Is My Laundry Following Me Again?

My Laundry Basket

My Laundry Basket

I have laundry piled up to the ceiling.

The floors in my kitchen are dirty and sticky.

I haven’t made the beds.

There is nothing cooking on the stove for supper and my kids are all in desperate need of a bath as they happily dig a hole in the sand in hopes of reaching the other side of the world.

But I put on some lipstick, clean clothes, push my hair this way and that, deodorant, perfume, sunglasses and I am out the door leaving it all behind. No one knows anything about the disaster I left behind my closed door because I look clean and put together. So there!

You can leave your laundry at home but your body and your physical being you take with you everywhere. That is one of the main reasons why personal image comes first when a person is looking to upgrade their sense of self.

Yes, I admit, there is great satisfaction in putting away the laundry, clean floors, dishes neatly stacked and all the kids in bed, nicely bathed and nails trimmed etc. But wait! I am sorry to cut in (if you read my previous articles you already know that I am a party pooper) who besides yourself (and maybe your closest partner, if they are sensitive to your plight) knows anything about the utmost effort you put into reaching this pseudo goal?

And guess what? You are never finished, so don’t think you are…you see those crumbs in the corner, the pile of clothes that need hand washing, the broken items that should be fixed? It is all still waiting for you.

This is the first in my long list of arguments as to why it is important to invest time and effort in yourself. All battles are constant and never ending. But your time and energy are valuable resources that are limited.

So make good choices. There is beauty inside every person just waiting to be recognized. Waiting to be maximized. Sometimes I wonder how the events in the Garden of Eden could have turned out differently. Maybe if Adam had spent less time trying to impress Eve by rubbing two sticks together to create fire and more time focusing on her beauty and complimenting her then things would have gone smoother in their relationship. I mean, it was their first Saturday night together!

It all starts with a person’s commitment to themselves and to their health, well being and image. Sometimes change comes slowly by committing to never wear socks with holes in them anymore. No one knows about this change except you but it is the beginning of empowerment by caring about yourself. Sometimes the change can be more noticeable like some new clothes, a better hair style, skin care. Awareness is the first step.

Change follows closely behind.

To be continued…

Setting Up Your Home

Ten years ago, when I still newly married and living in Toronto, Canada, I used to love to visit this houseware’s store called Cayne’s. I used the excuse that I needed something specific but I really didn’t need a reason to go there because I would always find something there I needed or could use at home anyways.

I drove 45 minutes from my home to buy this specific item of the utmost importance to my life although I don’t remember what it was. I would never leave that store without a cartload of things that I didn’t come for and I would usually forget the thing that I did. No matter, since it was probably something boring anyways, a peeler, dish-drainer, strainer…

At the store there was this woman shopper who was obviously engaged to be married, and was going through the store with the saleswoman who was “helping” her make a list for her registry. You know, the usual household necessities like pots & pans, fondue sets, glasses, cutlery…FONDUE SETS!

3-in-1 30 pc. fondue set

3-in-1 30 pc. fondue set

Did you hear me?? What is this woman? Martha Stewart? Julia Child? For goodness sake! Who makes fondue?

She fell for it hook, line and sinker. She registered for the fondue set.

I was thinking about this woman this past week when I was privileged to see my cousin’s daughter get married. She is young and just starting out on her path in life with a wonderful guy whom she has known for years. They are a sweet couple. So excited, idealistic and energetic. There is such beauty in seeing young people dancing enthusiastically at their wedding.

But just like at many other points in my life, I am purely practical. I am no fun! When they bring out the fried chicken pieces at the buffet reception all I can do is stare in awe at people loading up their plates and say, “Yuck! Do you know how fattening those things are?” Party Pooper you say? That’s me!

At this wedding my highly practical mind began its designated purpose in life. I start thinking about the proper organization that goes into setting up your first home. Whether a person has just gotten married, moved out on their own, moved to another city, or just started out their life anew, there is the need for stuff! Lots and lots of stuff. Stuff that makes day-to-day life bearable and maybe even enjoyable (gulp, did I say that?)

I would love to meet the woman from the housewares store today. I want to ask her how she felt about her registry. Was there anything that she wished she had bought? That she was sorry she wasted the money on? What were the items that she decided to donate to the “poor” many years ago? Did she ever use the football shaped chip bowl or the glasses set that included all shapes and sizes most of which are only useful to someone who is a professional bartender or who has kidney damage and needs to drink 1.5 litres of water at every sitting.

I most likely won’t meet that woman so I will have to rely on my own judgment and personal experience. I have compiled a list of the important items a person should prioritize when setting up their home. These items you will use on a daily basis and unless you have a family tradition to make spring rolls every week under duress, this list should suffice. To all you newlyweds out there, newly divorced, just moved to a new city, just left home et. al, this if for you! And to all of you people who are pondering whether to keep the vacuum cleaner or the electric volcano light, this one’s for you too!

Kitchen

  • Dishes- cutlery, glasses (water, wine, old fashioned), mugs, plates, bowls
  • Baking Utensils- cookie sheets, baking sheets, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, spatula
  • Cooking Utensils- Colander, cutting board, knife set, ladle, serving spoons, pots and pans,
  • Much Needed- bottle opener, can opener, oven mitts, pot holders, peeler, wooden spoon
  • Small appliances- blender, coffee maker, hand mixer, toaster, microwave, kettle
  • Kitchen Furniture- Chairs, kitchen table, garbage can
  • Miscellaneous- dish towels, dish drying rack, plaastic food storage containers, paper towel holder, salt and pepper shakers, sponges, tableclothes, placemats

Bathroom

  • Scale, bath rug, shower curtain with liner or plastic, and shower rings, toilet brush, towels, towel bar or ring, trash can, toilet plunger, soap dish or dispenser, toilet paper and holder, shower head with bar and caddy

Living Room

  • Storage- Bookshelf, CD storage, DVD/VHS storage, magazine rack, TV stand, wall hooks for hats and coats
  • Seating Area- Coffee table, couch, rug, floor lamp
  • Office area- Desk, desk lamp, office chair

Important Odds and Ends

  • First Aid- Band aids, anti-biotic ointment, antiseptic, thermometer, acetaminophen, ibuprofen
  • Safety- Carbon Monoxide Detector, flashlight, smoke detector, fire extinguisher
  • Tools/Hardware- batteries, light bulbs, drill, extension cords, hammer, screwdriver set, level, measuring tape, pliers, step ladder, wrench and surge protector on your more important plugs and appliances
  • Cleaning Supplies- broom, dustpan, mop and bucket, rags, vacuum, cleaning supplies, rubber gloves
  • Laundry Room- drying rack, iron, ironing board, clothes hampers and laundry baskets.

Bedroom

  • Headboard or bed frame, mattress, boxspring, nightstand, bedside lamp
  • Bed Sheets, pillowcases, comforter, duvet cover, mattress pad, pillows
  • Alarm clock, hangers, fan, full length mirror, clothes cabinet or clothes storage