I’m Renovating My Apartment

“Here’s what you should do…” is probably one of those beginnings to sentences that will set me off and land me in a fistfight. I’ve come close a few times, especially with people I love the most, and we all deal with our triggers differently.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I know it has and will be received with mixed reviews. I haven’t been very vocal about it because of this, but I’ve decided to do renovations on my apartment.

I get the impression that my friends think I’m wasting my money or that I just really hate my money or something. Why spend the money on a perfectly useable space? Your apartment isn’t leaking. It fits your things. Sure, some of that stuff is old, but it still works. Why bother?

“Here’s what you should do. Save your money for something else. Nobody cares about a new kitchen sink.”

Dudes, you know what? I care. A lot.

I work from home. It’s a happy joke that I am willing to play along with, but the truth is, I spend 23 hours a day on average in this apartment. I know every inch of this place by heart, and I do a lot to keep it well-maintained and loved.

I also come from a family and culture of people who love their homes. My family in Manila, we invest time and energy in our homes because it’s one of the most important things in our lives. It carries our memories and our eccentricities, physical manifestations of our habits and flaws. Our homes are a reflection of who we are. My family and I aren’t fucking nomads like the people who travel and find themselves and do whatever. I’m not Julia Roberts. I don’t do that Eat, Pray, Love shit.

Decorating and designing a home for me isn’t just a fun thing that lonely housewives or bored celebrities do. It reminds me of my mom a lot. She loved doing this shit as much as I do. I remember when she did a renovation on our first Manila house.

We had shirtless workers in and out of the house for weeks. Our shit was all over the place. I even remember being tasked with peeling off bits of wallpaper from the room I shared with my brother. She transformed this house that was originally a 1970s bungalow for a newlyweds into a family home for six.

And my sister, bless her, went slightly over-budget with renovating our new Manila house, but you know what? It’s fucking glorious. It’s a beautiful space that she worked hard to decorate, and when I saw it on my trip back, I was immediately comfortable. It was a decent house when we purchased it, but now it’s actually our home. And therein lies the difference.

She put in touches and details that considered my shirtless father (shutter blinds in his room and a full-wall built-in for his trinkets and collections) and my brother (large desk space for his computer work station and drawing area).

Our kitchen is now open and inviting, and makes you want to have breakfast with each other in the mornings. It overlooks the back yard where we can have our cousins over for BBQ’s and pool parties.

Now that I’m older, I feel like I’ve stepped into the same shoes, and our feet are the exact same size. Now that I’m actually able to accomplish this, I’m so excited to do it. If not just for the shirtless workers. But this is Canada. People here don’t work shirtless, unfortunately.

I’m not putting in a stripper pole in the middle of the room or adding an extension for a bowling alley. I’m just updating my apartment to how I’d like it to be. Sure, there are cheaper ways to do it, but I want to do it the proper way. You go spend time re-sanding and re-finishing that weirdo Craigslist tabletop with the gargoyle feet. I don’t give a shit.

Some people get new fancy cars or nose jobs, or they go travelling around the world to find themselves (again, Julia Roberts). Well, I don’t want a fucking Lexus, Trung thinks my nose is cute, and I hate flying.

This apartment helped me grow up and out of being a shitty baby from Emily Carr. It’s given me a wonderful place to appreciate Vancouver and all its fine points. It’s helped me host many dinner parties and family guests over the years. It’s a milestone that marks my responsibility and obligation, both financially and emotionally. It’s become mine.

This is something just for me, and I don’t think anybody has much of a right to tell me what I should do.

My Plans for the New Year

Trung recently asked me what I intended to do in the upcoming year. A few things are already underway, and others I’ve already decided on. But as is the time of reflection and resolutions, I suppose it’s appropriate to make yet another list.

JavaScript—the Reckoning!

I fully intend to create a working app by the end of 2014. Well, really, by mid-2014 would be great.

Getting over humps and bumps of resistance for this will require a lot of patience and discipline, and it’s going to be awesome.

Right now I am thinking of making this knit-centric. Like a simple gauge calculator that I can use to help me make sense of the math for when I want to swap out a different yarn for a specific project. If anything, it will also really help me with my math skills. Because I have none.

Homelifes, Decorating, Furniture

After three and a half years, I suppose it’s time to come clean. I have really come to dislike my furniture.

I’ve inherited most of this furniture from the original owners of my current apartment. And while I’m grateful, I think it’s time to take that step up and finally make decisions based on what I would like, rather than what is convenient.

Last year, I found myself getting rid of my university furniture, shedding off memories of being dumb and young. Well now I’m just dumb, really, but I like to think I was a little bit dumber back then. Items that will ring truth in every young twenty-somethings’ ears: futon, Ikea, cheap computer table, Ikea, folding couch, etc.

Speaking of Ikea, I’ve just traded my last vestige of cheap university life for a more solid structure. Still Ikea, but like, one step up from “that table” that everyone knows:

This year, I’d like to look forward to pieces that have a bit more of a story and effort from me.

I have 2 simple projects lined up:

A wooden bench piece with hairpin legs.

And this bitchin’ daybed that my buddy Ben and I are going to be building together.

The daybed will be more work, obviously, but the possibility of creating a custom piece that I can control sounds so amazing to me. It will come in two pieces that come apart, and we have plans to build it out of pine kill lumber, which I think is a beautiful wood.

More Crafting!

I’ve gone on a full knitting rage these last few months, and I don’t intend to stop there. Fiona and Amanda have totally inspired me to test more waters, and I will be pushing through with more sewing projects as well.

This book will come out of the woodwork (I purchased it a few months ago) and I will be working hard to make some really awesome garments and homewares.


As a side note as well, I’ve made a resolution to stop buying yarn and finish off this giant stash that I have somehow accumulated over the course of a few months. Seriously. My yarn drawer is barfing yarn right now.

I think these three major things will be a great start to the year. I’m looking forward to 2014!

I’ve Devised A Cunning Plan

So basically Trung has concluded that I am fucking insane. I think he might leave me before the new year.

He came over and saw me working on this:

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“What’s that?” he asked. He thought I was working on some prints or more greeting cards.

I turned to him slowly and awkwardly smiled. “Um. I…”

And then he came closer, looking over my shoulder. “Is that…?”

Yes, Trung. I made an Illustrator file of my apartment and all the furniture inside so that I can move things around like a crazy woman without actually physically moving them.

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I’ve set up various artboards to see where the fucking sectional can go, and if it would make sense to put the dining table back into what was originally the dining room. I was up until 3am moving things around and adjusting measurements.

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Look, I don’t know what the big deal is. I think it’s FUN.

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I Like to Tend to My Apartment

I know I have a problem, but it’s not really something I consider necessarily bad.

So I move furniture. A lot. Some people think it’s insane, and other people think it’s stupid. But for me I think it’s a kind of therapy. Whenever I have visitors, they always remark about what’s new. And I like it. It’s like a surprise each time.


Trung worries that it’s an indication of my fickleness and has expressed fears of me leaving him for another man. Mainly because I always seem unhappy or dissatisfied with the current arrangement.

But in my mind, it’s not really about being unhappy about a situation, but more about looking at improving it. Whenever I try out a new arrangement, it takes me a while to grow into and and notice different things.

Here comes the nerdy part, but whatever.

I like to study my living habits and see how my physical belongings play into that. I also look at how much light goes where, and what part of the room I’d like to spend more time in. It’s a constant evaluation of my surroundings and implementing ideas to make it better. Maximize sunlight, create a functional space, have an organized flow to my shit.

Part of it is also seasonal. Summers are hotter, so why not move the couch away from the windows? I live on a main street where idiots like to ride motorbikes when it’s sunny. Why not keep the television away from the windows so I can watch Gilmore Girls in peace? In the winters, it’s much more important to keep the heaters on, so I don’t like shit blocking my baseboards.

Also, I don’t like my neighbours seeing me cut my toenails on the couch. (Another reason to move the couch away from windows.)

As for functionality, sometimes putting shit next to other shit makes my life easier. When I found that it was a total pain having to disconnect my laptop in order to connect it to my TV to stream videos, I put my work desk next to my TV set-up.

That didn’t last very long. I learned that while it was loads easier to watch Rookie Blue without getting up and finagling with cords, it made me about 1000x lazier and way less productive. Sometimes when things are made easier, it actually starts to affect you negatively.

And so a lesson was learned.

I would compare this very closely to the type of work I do now. Especially with projects like Cycling ’74, the idea is to implement a change, study its progress, and adjust accordingly.

I love that my apartment is a constant work in progress, and that there is always room to improve things. Whether it is getting rid of an old bookshelf or just re-imagining a room from a dining area into a small home office. I consider my apartment a living, breathing thing, much like Hugo or my plants.

Again, some people think it’s because I am restless and idiotic, but I think there is a bit of a method to my madness. While it seems like I am looking back with dissatisfaction, I am actually looking ahead towards other opportunities for change. The same way people tend to their gardens, tending to my apartment yields a sense of comfort and control. I’m just saying.

Shouldn’t that count for something? :)

Good Work: Beth Kushnick, Set Design for The Good Wife

I’m continuing my collection of Good Work here.

A while back, I mentioned Melinda Ritz, the set designer for Will & Grace. I believe Beth Kushnick (a board member of the The Set Decorators Society of America, in which Ms. Ritz is also a part of) is another talent to admire.

Eggplant-coloured walls… whaaat?! Amazing. Sometimes I think painting a room all white (walls, moldings, floors) is a bit of an easy way out. It’s hard to go wrong with that white-gallery setting, and please don’t get me wrong—many pull it off really well. But there’s a bit more to look at here. It just feels like a step upwards, and the way these rooms are put together is still as bright and welcoming.

She has a similar eclectic style, and is also not afraid to pull weird shit together. The looks are posh and clean, but not too clean. No unhappy hipsters here. She really considers the set design as an extension of the character.

The way I approach decorating a film or television set is by considering the depth of that character’s existence, of the experiences they’ve had in life that lead up to this single moment in time. Look around your own home and you’ll see the layers of life that surround you – photos, mementos, family heirlooms mixed with newly acquired objects. This is an essential thing to capture in order for a film set to feel authentic.
from Christie’s Feature Archives: “Arbiter of Style: Presenting…Critically Acclaimed Set Decorator Beth Kushnick”

This collection from The Good Wife is not as theatrical as that of Will & Grace, but man, do these rooms look great. Granted, the characters are vastly different from Will Truman/Grace Adler—it’s an upper-class Illinois family of four. My favourite features are the wall of books (lawyers!) and the panel molding all over the apartment.

Also notice the image above that peeks into one of the teenagers’ rooms. Thank goodness Alicia Florrick does not have goths in the house.

Another thing: the television! It’s like the one reality that is hard to find in a lot of decorated rooms. An apartment with public figures and kids cannot realistically exist without it. Especially with the show, they’re always watching the dad doing speeches and public apologies. The television needs to be there!

I always try to look for good places for the dumb TV without making it look like I watch it all the time (even though I do). It’s a good consideration, a small detail that matters, I think. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, without looking like a glazed-over EVERYTHING-FACES-THE-TV sort of person.

Kitchen detail includes shelving in front of the windows, instead of around it. Funnily enough, the light isn’t blocked, as the items are clean and only provide more visual interest.

On top of that, The Good Wife is an excellent series. Argh. We need more stories like this, where it’s intelligent and good people living lives, and not high school storylines played out by the middle-aged.