A little lipstick for the house…

We knew from the day we moved in that we wanted to paint our front door. It’s not so much that the white door didn’t go with the house. It’s just that the white paint was showing every mark and scuff and just looked messy.

Here are a few photos of the front of the house prior to any changes (except for our red wreath, which helped dress it up a bit temporarily)…



With so much light on the house when I took these pictures, it is hard to tell the shade of the brick, so here’s a close-up:


So the [short term] game plan is:

1. Paint the front door
2. Install a kick-plate and new door handle/lock
3. Touch-up the white trim around the door
4. Get a new exterior light
5. Update the house numbers
6. Get some nice urns/potted plants for the front steps

Long term, we’ll need to re-do the the front steps, but that’s not happening in the next 12 months. So far, we’ve completed the first step and since it is likely the biggest change, I’m sharing that first.

We looked through tons of colours at the Benjamin Moore paint store and settled on three possibilities: Flint (dark grey), Azores (blue/green) and Caliente (red).

Benjamin Moore Red Paint Colour caliente AF-290  Benjamin Moore® Aura® Paint - Azores

Without scrolling down, can you guess which one we picked?

First of all, I think we would have liked any of those ones. I was personally torn between Azores and Caliente. I thought the Azores blue-green would add to the beach house feel but wasn’t 100% sure it would go with the brick colour and look of the house. Let’s face it, we’re not fooling anyone into thinking we live near the ocean with our brown/red brick!

Cesar liked both Flint and Caliente… He thought the dark grey would look “classic” and Caliente would make it stand out more.

Notice the common denominator?

TAAA DAAA! (Imagine me as Vanna White showing off our house.)



So what do you think?!?! We’ve had it painted for a week now and we both like it. Although I think it’ll look awesome after we add the new door handle and kick plate that we picked up today. Stay tuned for those updates!


Deals in our living room: Part 2

The first post about the deals in our living room was too long to cover everything, so I’m back to talk about the finer details that add our style to the room and make it feel personal and cozy. A few of these things we brought with us from the apartment, so it’s not like we had to buy EVERYTHING when we moved. I love that accessories from some areas of our apartment got switched around and used in different ways in our new house… it’s all been trial-and-error, and we still tweak as we go along.

The trio art, for example, used to be above our head board in our bedroom, but just seemed to work perfectly on the wall adjacent to the dining room in this house.

 I love these paintings for the colour, the texture and the memory. I bought these in Lima, Peru on a short trip to visit my now-husband, back when we were dealing with the challenges of a cross-continental long distance romance. I liked picking out home decor with him on those trips, because I wanted him to feel at home when he eventually moved to Canada. At the time, I was living all by my lonesome in an apartment. So when I look at those paintings, I’m reminded of that particular trip.

These 3 paintings came to under $100 total, and I had the vendor package them thickly in bubble wrap and then wrapped together so I could take in back with me on the plane as carry-on. I have previously brought back art from my trips and had the canvas rolled and then framed it back home… but these three babies are painted directly on the constructed wood frames, so they were a bit bulkier. Totally worth it!

Here’s a close-up view so you can see the texture I’m talking about:

Another example of “global finds” are the throw cushions I bought in Yemen in 2008 when I went for a friend’s wedding. We’ve put one on the rocking chair and the other 3 on our bed in the master bedroom. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for them but I think they were $4-5 each. It adds a bit of *bling* to our living room.

Here’s a look at the whole wall, where we just recently hung a set of 4 black and white prints. The prints and the black frames are from Michael’s craft store and cost about $50 altogether.

The throw pillows on the couch are some of my favourites! When I read over on Young House Love (www.younghouselove.com) about Sherry’s addiction to pillows, and how they migrate around her house… I thought “I’ve found my throw-pillow soul sister”. We started off with red pillows, along with black and white patterned ones… which looked good when we first moved in ’cause it was the holiday season. But by February/March, we had outgrown the bold red and were looking for something more calming. Enter these beauties:

The pillows on the sofa (first photo above) are from HomeSense (starfish pillow: $25) and Walmart (2 blue-grey pillows: $30 + 2 beige trellis pillows: $30), and the pillows on the chairs are from HomeSense (2 aqua pillows: $35) and Ikea (2 black and white pillow covers: can’t remember the price, but let’s assume in the $30 range). So overall, that’s about $145 for 9 pillows.

We searched high and low for a large tray to put on our two ottomans so that we could serve food when guests come over or house our remote controls. We first bought a metal one for $35 at Crate & Barrel in NYC when we were visiting my husband’s parents last new year’s eve. The same trip, we found a woven basket-like one at another kitchen store and decided to buy it too and try them both out (we didn’t think ahead that we’d have to bring them back on the plane with us – fun carry-on!). We went back and forth between the two, not deciding which was best until I found this large white wood one at HomeSense for $20 and ditched the other two (they won’t go to waste – we still use them for serving and occasionally in our dining room).

The blue glass jar is also from HomeSense (noticing a trend yet?) for $7 and the pot pourri filler is from Loblaw’s home section for $8 on sale. The little white pot is from Ikea for $1 and the greenery and flowers are cut from our own backyard!

We’ve already introduced our round mirror above the mantle but I thought I’d also point out the glass candle holders (Home Outfitters – $16 for two), two white ceramic birds (bought at the airport in Lima, Peru on a stopover, for $8 which supported a charity for street children), the painted wooden starfish votive holders (bought on our honeymoon in Bali for $10), a little potted plant from Loblaw’s for $4 and the now-aqua wooden candle stick holders ($5 for a can of spray paint… they were made by my grandfather and originally gold, and I spraypainted them aqua).


I also neglected to include our Ikea footstool in the first post. I bought this for our apartment living room and have left it [for now] as a foot rest in between our two Ikea Ektorp chairs, since the black and white pattern matches the decor. The footstool was about $150. (Ignore the blue-ish tint to this photo… I’m still figuring out white balance settings on my camera.)

You may have noticed the 2 black side tables with lamps in the photos… the black metal side tables are from Ikea and were $14 each (we had them at our apartment). The lamps were a steal from Costco – the box of 2 was $50! We changed the lamp shade on one (the black lampshade was one my mom had on hand she wasn’t using).

And finally, in the corner beside the fireplace, we have temporarily put a tall white shelf (believe it or not, this is actually from my childhood bedroom) and displayed some other items we’ve collected from our travels….

Starting from the top… the white planter is from Ikea for about $15 (I liked the sculpted look), and we use those cool blue watering balls to water our plants – yet still manage to kill most of them. On the shelf below is a silver frame that was given to me by my grandparents from Mexico, a white beachy frame that was used at my bridal shower, and two black and white ceramic pieces bought in northern Peru (chulucanas pottery, for anyone who might recognize it) for a couple bucks each. Next shelf down is a dark wood sculpture of a pregnant woman carrying wood, bought in Gabon, Central Africa (probably about $15), a red-ish vase with a baobab tree carved out from Malawi (Dedza Pottery! but I honestly can’t remember the price), and two small ceramic figures (also chulucanas pottery from Peru, $6 for the pair). And finally on the last visible shelf (the bottom shelf that you can’t see in this photo houses board games and kleenex, so I spared you the details), is a vase from Bouclair Home that was on clearance for $7 and some photo frames and reed scents (to keep our living room smelling lovely!).

And there you have it! All the details, big and small, that come together to make our living room what it is today!

If you’re budget conscious like me, you were making a mental tally in your head of how much it costs. If you lost track, here’s a quick reminder:

– Flower art from Peru (3 pieces) – $100
– Black and white photos – $50 – and throw pillow from Yemen – $5
– 9 throw pillows – $145
– White tray on ottomans ($20) and contents ($25)
– Various items on mantle – $43
– Ikea footstool – $150
– 2 lamps from Costco – $50
– Various items on white shelf – $51

… for a Grand Total of …. $639

And if you subtract what we already had on hand when we moved, it only adds up to $223 (mainly the throw pillows, white tray + contents and items on the mantle). Add to that the total for furniture from the last post of $797, which comes to $1020 out of our pocket to complete our living room in our new house OR an even more impressive
$2364 for EVERYTHING in our living room.

Good on us! (I’m giving myself a pat on the back)

There is still so much we want to do in the living room:
– Refinish the hardwood floors (which we’ll do at the same time as the rest of the hardwood in the house)
– Find a nice, large rug for the space (I’m thinking jute or a neutral colour, 8×10′ and under $500… any suggestions?)
– Find and refinish a long narrow sofa table to go on the wall below the 3 flower paintings (I’m searching Kijiji)
– And last but certainly not least, install built-in bookshelves on the walls on either side of the fireplace, which would house our TV and related equipment, books and items we’d like to display, as well as hide away some items we don’t want to display in cabinets (like extra serving trays, blankets, pillows, etc). This last to do item is a big one, and will likely require the help of a carpenter (or maybe a knowledgeable Ikea employee!). We’re putting this off until next year!

So there you have it… the first tour of one of our favourite rooms in the house, and all the deals we found along the way.

Next up… an exterior update!

Deals in our living room: Part 1

When we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a four bedroom semi-detached house, we knew there would be many items we’d need to purchase to make our house feel like a home…. cozy, lived-in, our style.

We started with a white Ikea Ektorp couch, a rocking chair, a black metal side table and our tv + stand – which filled our apartment living room but seemed sparse in our new home’s living room. But since our living room wasn’t the only room we had to fill – we still had the dining room, guest bedroom, and office to contend with – we had to do it on the CHEAP!

So I’m devoting my 2nd post to the deals from our living room… since it is one of favourite rooms in the house thus far and doing it on a dime just makes me love it even more!

First, here’s the before – taken on the day  of our home inspection:

We loved the light from the windows and the fact that it had a fireplace. It is hard to tell from this photo, with the wall painted white, but we also loved the large baseboards, and the faux-crown moulding (it is just a piece of wood trim place about 6″ below the ceiling). It is also a decent-sized space – about 11x16ft.

Now I wish I had the hind-sight of taking a photo of just our apartment furniture in this space, to show how sparse it felt… but alas, I didn’t know in November 2010 that I’d want to blog about it! So here it is today, in all it’s work-in-progress-glory!

I call it a work-in-progress because there are still some more major changes we’d like to make, including refinishing the hardwood floors, and building built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace. But for now, let’s focus on the DEALS!

Overall, I want the room to feel light, sunny, natural, and cheery. And as my blog’s name might suggest… beachy! So when shopping for items for the living room, I always kept an eye open for something that would fit in perfectly at a beach house… but without going overboard with a theme (painting fish on the wall, for example!).

In the photo below, I’ve started with some of the larger items in the room. A good place to start, ’cause that’s also how I began piecing everything together…. larger furniture items first, smaller decor touches after.

So here’s the rundown:

a) Ikea Ektorp Sofa: We had this sofa from our apartment. It is such a great “starter-sofa”, ’cause the price is great (you could even try buying it 2nd hand on Craigslist or Kijij), and the whole couch cover is removable and washable… otherwise I would never put my feet up on a white couch! We just toss the cover in the wash with a bit of stain-remover and bleach every 3 months or so, and voila!… sparkly new again.

b) Two Ikea Ektorp Chairs: Although we already owned the Ektorp sofa, I scoured Craigslist, Kijiji, HomeSense and all the big department stores to find 2 chairs that would complement our white sofa without being the same. But after the best deal I could find for chairs I liked was about $400 each (so $800 total!), I decided to hold off and wait for a better deal to come up. Low and behold, the weekend we moved into our house, Ikea was having a “buy one, get the 2nd half off” sale on all their living room furniture. The white Ektorp chairs were $250 each, so 2 would cost $375… and when we ran it through at the cash, they came to $350. Needless to say, we didn’t ask questions! Two sofa chairs for $350… can’t be beat!

c) HomeSense leather ottomans: Our chincy wood coffee table from the apartment just wasn’t cutting it in the larger living room, so we decided to look for a larger piece. I was torn between a glass coffee table that would be large but give the space an airy feel, and an upholstered ottoman that would be comfy to put my feet up when watching tv. We decided on the upholstered ottoman (living rooms are for LIVING, afterall), but then search high and low and couldn’t find anything large enough under $1000 (gulp!). I debated saving up for it (but just couldn’t justify it!) or having it made (turns out that can be more costly), and then on a trip to Home Outfitters came across these 36″ square leather ottomans for $120 each. One wouldn’t be big enough but two pushed together (36″x72″) would definitely be big enough… $240 later, they are sitting in our living room!

d) Ikea TV stand: I have to admit, I don’t remember how much I paid for it. I think it is the Leksvik line, and since I purchased it when I first moved into my apartment, and was on a budget, I can’t imagine having spent more than $100 on it. The drawer underneath serves us well for hiding living room stuff that isn’t “pretty” to have on display (DVDs, CDs, extra TV cords, etc) and the shelf is a perfect size for our DVD/surround sound system and our digital cable box, so we saw no need to replace it. At least until we install built-in shelves on the opposite wall… more on that down the road.

e) Fireplace screen: I love having a fireplace in our living room… although we have yet to light a fire, it still adds a cozy element I think. But the inside of the fireplace isn’t exactly sparkly new, so we wanted a fireplace screen to cover it up. A quick search online turned up very little in the way of non-brass fireplace screens and it started to look like I’d need to spend a couple hundred dollars at least to get anything beyond a very basic rectangular screen. It then occured to me to look for a 2nd hand one and THIS beauty turned up on Kijiji! For a measly $30, I was carrying it home (ok, I took a taxi) and I think the antiqued white finish is a perfect fit!

f) Flat screen TV: I’m no electronics guru, and was unwilling to shell out big dough for a TV. When I moved into my apartment, I checked out Future Shop for sales and while in store, came across this Insignia brand 37″ TV for somewhere between $500-600. Not too bad. The sales person then helpfully pointed out that they had one in an opened box, which meant a discount… total price: $399. Four years later, it still works great!

g) Paint (Benjamin Moore, Gristmill Gray): Hands-down one of the cheapest upgrades to a room is paint (I sound like a host on an HGTV show!). Our white walls just weren’t cutting it, and we wanted to warm the space up a bit. Ironically, this $67 was no deal… you can buy a gallon of paint for cheaper at Home Depot, Rona, Lowe’s, etc. But I’d heard such great things about the Benjamin Moore Aura paint so I figured it was worth the splurge. With only 2 coats needed, I was happy we did, and have bought only Benjamin Moore paint for our house since (dining room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, office, basement bathroom, hallway, front door… wow! We’ve done a lot of painting!). And as you can see, we left the “faux-crown moulding” white to make it stood out even more.

h) White trim paint: As our “Before” photo shows, details of the fireplace were painted black and that just wasn’t our taste. For ~$50, we picked up a gallon of white trim paint (also Benjamin Moore), since there was a lot of white trim around the house that needed to be touched up. This was by far, one of the best changes to the living room… the fireplace looks much more classic contemporary. (See photo above)

i) Round Mirror: We’ve had quite the roller-coaster ride with our over-the-mantel mirrors since we moved in. It’s a long story – which I’ll get around to telling eventually – but ends with having had 3 different mirrors in that spot within a 6 month period. THIS mirror however, is my favourite! I found this beauty at Home Sense (in my opinion, the best place to find cheap but unique mirrors) and it was on clearance for $59! The white-washed branch frame was so perfect for this space, and I love that it is round when all the other big pieces in the room are more angular. This mirror has now survived the last 5 months, and I think it is here to stay!

So there you have it (for now)… the deals on the big items in our living room! For anyone keeping track, the money out of our pocket adds up to:

– Ektorp sofa ($429) and chairs ($350) from Ikea
– Two leather ottomans ($240) from Home Outfitters
– Paint for walls ($67) and white trim paint (~$50)
– TV stand (~$100) and TV (~$399)
– Fireplace screen ($30)
– Mirror over the mantel ($60)
GRAND TOTAL (so far): $1725

That is certainly not chump change (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used that expression), but considering we could have spent that on just a sofa, or some fancy TV, I think that amounts to a great deal! And considering we already owned the sofa, TV stand and TV when we moved in, we only forked over $797 for our new living room. Not bad!

And here it is again, just ’cause it makes me happy!

But the deals don’t end there… in Part 2, I’ll share all the smaller details in the room, including how we incorporated some cool “global” finds from our travels without it looking too wacky… I hope! Stay tuned…

Ali gets a blog!

I am so excited despite the fact that I have no idea what I’m getting into! I’ve hummed and hawwed about starting a blog, wondering what I’d write about, what my “take” would be, who would read it, why bother… and then decided to take the plunge and give it a try. What do I have to lose?!?!

So what is this blog about? I recently read that whatever you do when you procrastinate is what you should really be doing. For me, that varies day by day. My blog posts will therefore vary day by day, ranging from our latest update to our semi-detached brick house in downtown Ottawa, budgeting and coming up with new ways to increase our income, setting (and keeping) goals to stay fit, our travel plans, and generally being frugal (with the occasional slip) to make the most of what we have. 

So let me give some context to my first post. I’m sitting in a hotel room on a Saturday night in La Paz, Bolivia. Crazy, eh? (did I mention I’m Canadian? so that “eh” will slip out every now and then) I travel occasionally for work, usually to South America. And I am in Bolivia for the next week and am taking advantage of the weekend off (and a bit of boredom) to get this party blog started!

If I know myself, I know I’ll need a list to keep me on track. To get this blog started, here’s what I have in mind for upcoming posts;

– an explanation of our home-buying process (spoiler alert: it took more than a year!)
– a room-by-room tour of our beloved house
– our monthly budget process and our savings goals
– how we increase our income by “pimping” our house
– where I get my inspiration – blogs, magazines, tv
– setting and staying accountable to my goals – travel, fitness/weight-loss, career, relationships, financial

But before I get lost in a million and one tangents, I feel I need to explain the name of the blog: Frugal Beach House. I love being a home owner and as most first-time home owners do, I’m told, I treat my house like my baby. When I have a free moment, I am coming up with my next idea for what I want to do to tweak a room. And as most first-time home owners also must do, we budget, save and get creative to do what we want to do in our house. Despite living in the middle of the continent, I consider myself a beach-girl at heart. I grew up going to Maine every summer with my family and dream of one day owning a house on the beach. Until then, I want to bring the feeling of ocean air / sand between your toes / lazy days to our darling 1400 sq ft semi-detached brick house in the city.

So there you have it… it’s our Frugal Beach House! Without further ado, here is our abode…