Interior make over part 1: the kitchen (the before & process)

I bought my house a little over 2.5 years ago. It was right before the crazy value increases of the Dutch house market. I sold my old house without a real estate agent and had only a few months to find something new that matched my wishes. One of the buildings I had in mind was the St Jobsveem warehouse in Rotterdam west (Lloydkwartier). This building was realized in 1912, survived the bombing during the war and is now a monumental building. In the early days the St Jobsveem building served to store and distribute colonial products under customs supervision, during the World War it was used as a weapon storage, in the ‘00’s as an infamous nightclub and in 2005-2007 the building was completely renovated and made into 99 luxurious loft apartments and 10 penthouses. As I said, I really wanted to live in this building that’s known for it’s cast iron columns and hard wood ceilings. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard I made the best offer to the apartment that was thus far rented out.

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Everyone that has ever been in my house knows I did not like the kitchen. At all. But since I bought the loft on my own, and buying a house comes with moving, notaries, new furniture and many trips to the hardware store I had to be smart. You can only spend your bucks once right? So 2.5 years ago I decided to wait with the kitchen until I saved up some more and knew exactly what I wanted. I focused on other projects as my bed platform and interior decorating. (the photo above shows the house in the early stages when the interior wasn’t done by far). See that bike, punching bag, Barcelona chair and mirror? All gone!

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Project: the kitchen
But the day is here: I’ve redone the kitchen! On the left you see the old kitchen. I was a pretty standard thing with white tiles, white wood and a black countertop. The whole things just looked way too crowded and basic. Also, I’m not a fan of those big extractor hoods and chrome handles.

What I did is collecting a lot of inspiration. I made a Pinterest board and looked around in shops. This way you can narrow your wishlist more and more. In the end I had one starting point: a countertop in marble. First I had to find a place to shop. Over the last year I’ve visited at least 10 different kitchen stores in different price categories. In my opinion most of them are the exact same. Especially the discount stores are everything I dislike about re-doing the kitchen. Slick salesmen, non-transparent prices and a lot of people without a vision. The search for a good partner really took some time. In the end I ended up at a store 20 minutes outside the city.

Finding the right store
The reasons I opted for this kitchen store were 1) great reviews (check them!), 2) transparant prices (no bargaining), 3) the brands they worked with, 4) the fact that they have all departments in-house (from sales, to finance, to the guys installing the kitchen, to aftersales) and 5) the quality and style of the kitchens in the showroom. Really take your time to find a place you feel comfortable and don’t let anyone rush you into buying your dream kitchen. Also remember that you will visit the store several times, so don’t pick one too far for your home. In total I went to the store 5 times, this would have been a timely disaster if I would have picked one in a different region.

The proces of creating your dream kitchen
It all starts with your ideas. The first conversation with your kitchen partner really goes a lot more smooth if you’re well prepared. Show your Pinterest board, bring some samples of colors or textures, list things you’d really want, list the things you don’t want. Know your budget (you’re not obliged to tell anyone but it can make the process a little easier when they know your price range) and bring the measurements of the space. There are a million questions you can ask yourself. Would you like a kitchen island? Induction, ceramics or gas? Do you like overhead cabinets? What’s more important to you: aesthetics or the practical use of materials? Have you thought about the kitchen appliances? And so many, many, many more.

The financial side of it
I can be very blunt about this. You can make your kitchen as expensive as you’d like. You can keep the old structure and redo it with some simple changes. Such as upgrading with some new and pretty handles, other cabinet fronts, a new color on the wall and or only opting for a new counter top. What’s also very popular is using a very affordable IKEA kitchen as the skeleton for your kitchen and make it more your style with partners who upgrade IKEA kitchens. There’s a huge market of companies that make (concrete) countertops or wooden cabinets for just IKEA. It’s something I looked into as well, but in the end decided to take another route. Honestly, I kind of love the simpleness of some of their designs. If you’re very handy yourself this is a great option. When you let IKEA install your kitchen, it’s getting less of an affordable option. Just something to keep in mind. Back to money. How much does a kitchen cost? Well, there’s no right answer. Somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 euro. But that’s not helpful at all, is it? It’s the same when buying a car. You can buy a second hand Fiat Panda or a brand new Tesla. They both bring you from A to B. So first of all think of what you would be willing to spend. There’re many guidelines of the costs a kitchen. From budget (5k) to average (10-15k) to high-end (25-35k). Another thing to keep in mind is the rest of your house. It might not be advisable to install an expensive kitchen in your short-term rental. Some salesmen would say a kitchen can cost up to 10% of the worth of your house. I don’t know if that helps you at all, but it’s just another way to look at things. What I did is first create my dream kitchen and from there see where I could chose budget options over nice to have’s. I opted for cheaper kitchen appliances (oven, hot plate) and did not get a Cooker faucet. I also made decisions that didn’t come cheap but really made the kitchen for me. Such as the counter top by SileStone, the golden faucet and sink by Lanesto and the extraction lamp by Airo Design. In the end the total price of the kitchen was still a big expense for me, but one I really felt good about. You can choose to save up for your kitchen renovation or talk to the bank. There might be a construction depot or credit depot available within your mortgage (sometimes even without the visit of a notary). When you’re done redoing your kitchen don’t forget to update your home insurance and it might also be wise to bring someone in for a house taxation. The increase of value might even get you an interest rate reduction on your mortgage.

Are you curious about the end result? Stay tuned, in January I can show you the result with all ins & outs about my brand new kitchen.

Photos by: Nicoline Rodenburg

Travel journal: USA road trip (part 2)

The problem with waiting too long to write about your trip is all the details you lose. So yeah, here’s part two of our epic road trip through the USA. Missed the first one? You can check the USA road trip (part 1) via the link. Which ended at the marvelous lower antelope canyon.

On the road again: cowboys, ghosts & aliens
Since we were well on our way to visit all the natural highlights in the west of the USA we might check off another one: Monument Valley. This area full of red rock formations became famous because of all the cameos in western movies. There’s a loop where you can drive around and see all the formations from the comfort of your car. Honestly, it’s impressive and I liked the idea to have seen it with my own eyes but I wasn’t wowed. Partly because of the annoying selfie culture that’s hanging around. The area of monument valley - Navajo country - is one of my favorites. I love the rugged nature, the cultural heritage and the warm nature of people. Our plan was to find a motel somewhere on the road between monument valley and Roswell. The further the better. Because of some navigational problems (No worries Kim, I won’t let them know you fucked this one up) we ended up in Aztec. Honestly, we couldn’t have stranded better. This little cowboy town is known for its historic main street and has some alien stories (we would found out about this only in Roswell). Of course we had our Mexican food and frozen margaritas at the local bar where we met a very sweet waitress. She asked us to send us a postcard from the Netherlands, and since Kim is the nicer one of us she did! We stayed at one of the better stays in Aztec: the Step Back Inn. This beautiful historic hotel is well preserved by a pioneers family in the Victorian style. Honestly, I didn’t sleep at all because there were about 13 ghosts looking at me while I was sleeping but that didn’t make our stay any less of a succes. Next morning we had a fantastic breakfast at the local diner before we had to drive the six hours to Roswell. This drive was boring. So so so boring. I cannot imagine being an alien and crashing here. You might die of boredom. Okay okay Moniek, we get your point. There was not a lot to see on this drive. The last 2 hours were just a straight line through flat farm land. Seriously, if you would have said we were back in the Netherlands I might have believed you. Finally, we were beginning to see cheesy road signs with aliens. Getting closer! So before we dive into the world of Roswell I feel the need to explain why I wanted to go to Roswell in the first place. If you’ve ever seen the tv show Roswell.. well there’s your answer (Oh lord, that trailer is giving me all the flashbacks!). I’m still fangirling over Max and Liz and all the others. If you haven’t seen the teenage angst tv series Roswell, here’s a summary. 3 pretty aliens, 2 naive teenage girls, 1 manhunt (or should I say alienhunt?). Anyway, there are a lot of possibilities to stay in the city, so we picked the cheapest one. We finally had the chance to take it slow after some very long days of driving and exploring. So we did the following days. We spend hours in Wallmart and enjoyed the bizarre crowds and all the fine things this shop has to offer. (it was packed with Halloween stuff, so yeah we enjoyed ourselves like little kids) We visited the Roswell UFO museum and the countless antique and thrift shops. Being there with Kim you can only imagine the stuff we bought and searched for: horseshoes, post-mortem photography, a brother for Hendrik-Jan, stones and rocks, vintage postcards and alien patches.

City bound: Roswell - Austin - New Orleans
We slowly drove out of the rugged landscapes and entered modern civilization. Not only civilization, but also the authorities. We might have been stopped by the police because we were speeding. And we might have gotten a fine from our friendly police friend Carlos. Back to the road. Our GPS marked Austin. This hipster city in Texas is one of the cities many people told us to visit. I understand why. It’s packed with lovely coffee bars, small shops with local goods and rooftop bars. It was nice to finally be able to eat something tasty (I’m sorry, but the American cuisine isn’t all that if you know what I mean) and enjoy city life. Hello great filter coffee, avocado smash and interior design. We shopped, walked around and got tattoos. Whaaat!?! Yes, we did. Kim and I both got a horseshoe but of course in very different styles. This was time spend very well, since it was pouring rain outside. And staying in our room wasn’t so shabby either, because we were staying at the fabulous Driskill hotel. This icon is the oldest operating hotel in Austin and gives you instant Romanesque vibes. Run by Hyatt, so impeccable service of course. This relaxing stay gave us also the opportunity to really plan our next move: our trip to New Orleans. This city has been on my want-to-go-list for a long long time. So we wanted to make the most of it. We decided to wake up early AF to be able to visit Oak Alley Plantation before we drove to the city. In exchange for this awful morning we spoiled ourselves with breakfast in bed. Yes, thank god for roomservice! Oh my, waffles in the shape of Texas packed with berries and all things good in life. And coffee! So with a kickstart like that we were well on our way before other people were even thinking of coming out of their warm and comfy beds. To be able to have the time to visit the beautiful Oak Alley PIantation we had to be there around 3 in the afternoon. The drive from Austin would be a little over 7 hours so we had to be really quick and smart about it. It made our gasstops something out of a F1 race. We also played a lot of Beyoncé (or to be specific The Carters ‘Apeshit’) since we were driving through her hometown Houston. (Where Queen B was performing that night, omg omg #starstruck #beyhive) …. Sorry ‘bout that. This drive was insane! Once you drive into Louisiana state it just gets more beautiful by the minute. Insert green and swamps and rivers and bridges. Such a joy to slowly enter the world of bayous and the Mississippi river. Around 3 we arrived at the parking lot of the Oak Alley Plantation. Does it look familiar? Well, this place starred in several movies. We took a tour and wandered around with sweat on our foreheads. Dang, that New Orleans humidity! I don’t want to say too much about the tours in the house and grounds because it was such an overwhelming experience to be there. Really something you should see/hear and experience for yourself. But let me just say how wonderful they preserved the grounds and the building to be able to learn and feel how things must have been during the ugliest chapters of the American history. Just for scale remember that this is just one plantation that had an on average enslaved community of 120. In the direct area along the river there were 300 more plantations. (you do the math)

N’awlins
With our thoughts filled with stories we drove the last hour to the city of Mardi Gras, swamps, black magic, jazz, gumbo, chowder and po-boy. N’awlins baby! I remember I loved the city before we even stepped out of our car in front of our hotel: Ace Hotel New Orleans. Good vibes only, will always recommend, might even live here. We had 3.5 days to explore and we made the most of it. We wandered around the French Quarter, listened to typical New Orleans live music, watched and bought art, walked around the infamous cemeteries, had our palms read, got some tarot cards, ate the best foods and drank the best cocktails (still dreaming of those blush cowboy cocktails, gawd). And to finish this most perfect city visit we canoed our way through the bayou in the Fontainebleau State Park across lake Pontchartrain. I spotted an alligator! But this was not the scariest wildlife that night. Because we were canoeing during and just after sunset we attracted a lot of mosquitos. And with a lot I mean all of them. Literally all mosquitos in whole Louisiana. We were seriously covered in bites, I counted over 80 bites on just the left side of my body. The itch was just unbearable. It gets me scratching even now. So if you’re ready for an adventure bring a bucket of Deet into the bayou.

New York, New York
Early morning we dropped our beloved car (there might have been some crying) and we flew from New Orleans to New York. The last chapter of this out-of-this-world-trip. We wouldn’t be Kim and Mo if New York wasn’t all about hats, pizza, walking, jewelry, yellow cabs, MoMa, Michelin star lunches at the Modern, designer bags and some more shopping. New Yorks also housed our worst stay of the trip. The Hudson Hotel in New York looked all glitz & glam online but the real world showed a faded glory reality. Rating 0 out of 5. Thank the lord that the New York way of life is outdoors. We not only walked the streets of Manhattan but also the super cool streets of Brooklyn. It wasn’t my first time in the big apple (my 3rd time actually), but it was the first for many things: seeing the Biggie mural, hitting the superduper cool Nolita area, drinks at the house of wax bar and spending some big bucks on designer items.

Road trip facts
And then suddenly, it was time to go. Three weeks of crazy across America. Some facts:

- 2800 miles / 4506 kilometer
- 9 cities
- 1 ghost
- 1 speeding ticket (well worth it though)
- 9 orders of guac (and countless frozen margaritas)
- 2 tats (1 for me and 1 for Kim)
- 18 diners
- 137 mosquito bites

Honestly this was one of my favorite trips i’ve ever done. For sure coming back to explore many of the national parks. But for now I’m just looking back with the biggest of smiles. Well Kim, where are we going next?

Travel journal: USA road trip (part 1)

Oh. My. Gawd!

I’ve been on the best trip of my life. And that says something. Together with my friend and partner in crime Kim we drove from San Francisco to New Orleans. Then flew to New York for a couple of days before heading back home. Wowsa! The trippiest of trips. Amazing cities, gorgeous nature, historic sites, famous landmarks, shabby motels and A-list stays. We’ve seen and done it all on this trip. Interested? Fasten your seatbelts and continue reading!

Our route

Our route

Pre-work

You can’t really make such a big trip within a short 3 weeks happen without a little (or lot) pre-work. Luckily Kim and I are both the nerdiest sheet freaks with a hint of OCD. Yes, we’re talking Google Docs gasms. As soon as we booked our plane tickets (AMS -> SFO and JFK -> AMS by KLM) we started to roughly plan our trip day by day. How many days in what city? What are must do’s and must visits? What about tours? When we knew when we had to start driving from San Francisco and head out of New Orleans we could book our car and our flight from New Orleans to New York (MSY to JFK by Delta). We picked a car slightly bigger and more comfortable than the cheapest options. This car would be our home for many many maaaany hours so it better be comfy AF right? Hertz provided good options for pick-up and drop-off and didn’t have weird pricey one-way fees. The hotel we booked in SF was a three minute walk from our pick-up spot. These little preps saved us a ton of wasted time on public transport. We also booked all excursions we really really really wanted to do in advance so it matched our tight schedule the best. We did so with the Alcatraz tour, the Lower Antelope Canyon tour, our canoe sunset paddle in New Orleans and the cemetery tour in New Orleans. For as sleeping we booked most cities and touristy spots such as Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon, Ace Hotel in New Orleans, the Hudson hotel in New York. All other spots in between we arranged on the spot. Most of the time these were cheap motels but that didn’t mean they weren’t good! We had many places that were super clean, super spacious and super cheap. (and there were loads of places to choose from!)

San Franciso & surroundings

We had only two nights in San Francisco so we had to be picky in what we wanted to do. We decided to not over plan our trip. It’s not necessary to see every highlight, eat at all the best restaurants, visit every museum there is. It’s still a holiday and not an Instagrammable-tick-off-this-box-so-we-can-share-how-amazing-our-lives-are kind of trip. It’s going to be cool anyway, so let’s get rid off the perception of what we should do and focus on what we want to do. Now since that was out of our way we could easily relax and pick one highlight a day and for the rest let luck decide. The highlights for fog city consisted of: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Victorian houses, old trams and all the food. It’s a gorgeous city to walk through, there are plenty of cutesie neighborhoods where you stand still every five houses to take photos of the crazy architecture. In my opinion: skip the painted ladies and just walk around the city to see even more spectaculair buildings. Absolute favorite was the audio tour at Alcatraz Island, this is one of the finer excursions I’ve ever done. Not only is the interior design (yes, kinda weird in a prison but well..) beautiful, also the stories by inmates and wards gave the tour around the cell blocks more depth. And the food. The food. Gosh, boy can they cook and bake in San Francisco. The sourdough! Oh man. And really everywhere else we stepped in for a bite was top notch.

From Yosemite to the Grand Canyon

We started driving out of San Francisco into one of the finest national parks of the United States of America: Yosemite. Mt feet remember this beautiful piece of land. I’ve walked right through it during the John Muir Trail in ‘17. These pine trees give me life. It felt special to be here again, this time by car. So many memories, it truly felt like closure of the JMT. Due to forest fires we had to take another longer route what gave us the opportunity to see even more Yosemite. Finally we arrived at Mono Lake. A place that was high on Kim’s list to visit. Honestly, I still don’t get it but according to her this natural phenomenon is amazeballs and a must-see. Don’t ask me, I only saw some rocks in a puddle… Anyway, it was starting to get dark and we drove as long as we could on the 395. I love this route, it takes you through all these cowboy-esque villages. We called it a day in Lone Pine and treated ourselves with burgers. We didn’t even hit the saloon that night. The first week we hit the sack sooo early, a combination of jetlag and long drives. But therefore we were at the diner at 6 for a cup a Joe, pancakes and morning preps. What we did is download all the maps we needed in the Google Maps app, take a lot of screenshots and remembered all route numbers so we knew where to go in all possible situations. Our next destination: The Grand Canyon. The trip to Grand Canyon Village was a lot easier than we thought. First off: crossing Death Valley. Yes, this wasn’t the fastest road. Or the coolest one temperature wise, but why be fast if you can drive through epic places and enjoy the show? Even around 10 AM it was already boiling hot. Two minutes out of our cars and our heads were as red as tomatoes. But still, the drive was very relaxing and fun even without air-con at some parts. At one point we listened to Rihanna’s “Bitch better have my money” and it felt like we were in a movie clip. Waiting to get rid of a body that was hiding in the trunk. Ha, we will never tell! These roads, these views, these long roads of nothing. So cool! We continued driving and entered urban playground. Lucky for us, it wasn’t so busy around Las Vegas (A city I was happy to skip. Been there, seen it) and the roads were almost empty. We arrived late afternoon and quickly went out to see Grand Canyon at sunset. I remember the first moment I saw the canyon so vividly, because my brain needed a second or two to comprehend the scale of the canyon. Unbelievable! Gorgeous. I didn’t expect to be blown away by it as much as I did. Just after sunset we sat down at a terrace and enjoyed the natural show with some bites and cocktails. It was such a relaxing moment to take it all in without the need to capture it all with phones and camera’s. Only when all the stars were showing off their beauty we went out for some night photography.

Horseshoe bend & Lower Antelope Canyon

The disadvantage of doing so many things in 3 weeks is that you can’t do it all. I would have loved to do a beautiful hike around or even in the canyon. But the next destination was calling our names! We drove early morning in the direction of Page. Around this area are two famous natural sites that have become even more famous through Instagram. Yes, we’re talking about the Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon. From the parking lot to the famous Horseshoe bend is only a 10 minute walk. But oh dear, that’s more than enough in the extreme heat of Arizona. Worth it though. These views of the Colorado river are something else. With overheating heads we continued our drive to Page where we cooled down in an airconditioned room. I felt nervous. Why? Because we would be going to the Lower Antelope Canyon in the afternoon and that was something I was really looking forward to. It might have been one of the reasons I wanted to do this trip in the first place. First we had some comfort food at the local Mexican place (a place we returned at night for fishbowl frozen Margaritas). The tour took us through the privately owned canyon in a little over an hour. What I really loved was how the guide knew and pointed out all the rock formations that looked like something or someone. The chief, the mermaid, the sea horse and the list goes on. I couldn’t believe my eyes so beautiful. I don’t think I’ve been this blown away by nature in a while.

Want to continue our road trip across Murrica? The final part of this blog, part 2 is following soon!