Tips & Tricks

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 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!

Travel journal: Mauritius

When I was backpacking in Asia 10 years ago I traveled around for some time with a British girl that had roots in Mauritius (Hi Vanesha!). I had never heard of the island or had a clue where on the globe this paradise island was located. Well... I can tell you that I've found it!

Bye bye Dodo
Mauritius is famous for different things. Their Dodo bird tragedy, the different cultural influences and of course the beautiful beaches. The island is the perfect honeymoon getaway. White beaches, lovely temperatures and unlimited coconut sipping. What more do you want? There are loads of options of hotels, villas and apartments where you can stay. From budget to the most luxurious A-list spots. 

Well deserved holiday
The bf and I spent 10 days on this paradise island. (No, we did not get engaged.) Luckily for us Mauritius Airways has a direct flight from Amsterdam (+/- 12 hours) since March so that's saves a ton of time on this already long commute. In all honestly, the airline is far off from Emirates quality, but they are really making an effort. Since it's only a two hour time difference you don't feel terribly awful once you arrive. The drive from the airport to the first hotel took a little over an hour - so far so good.  

Two hotels, two experiences
We stayed at La Maison d'été and LUX* Grande Gaube. Both wonderful hotels with each their unique vibe and feel. I will come up with a dedicated blog for both places, so stay tuned! Since the bf and I aren't the all-day-sun-tanning kind of people we rented a scooter and a car to explore the island. If you're planning to visit Mauritius I would most def recommend to do this! It's easy once you've downloaded the map of Mauritius in Google Maps. 

Food, food, food
Thanks to the huge diversity in cultures Mauritius has a broad range of flavors to choose from. Indian, Chinese, Portugese, Creole, French. You name it, they make it. It was such a fun experience going from place to place, eating our way and hitting the jackpot every time. Best food we had? Peruvian, can you imagine! 

That's it for now. Soon I'll update you with a lot more!

Sleepover: ecolodges & house stays in Iran

Every country has their own way of staying. Some are famous for their hotels, others for hidden riads and sometimes it's best you Airbnb your way through. Not in Iran. In Iran you either opt for couchsurfing or stay in ecolodges / house stays. At least, I've been told that's what the adventurous people do. So off we slept! In Iran I stayed in 5 places and 3 of those I would definitely recommend:

Nartitee Ecolodge (Taft, Yazd)
This place. Ohh this place. It's as you're staying with your new Iranian family. Nartitee can host give or take 20 people. Together you'll enjoy the lovely garden (and the tasty fruits from the trees), Tina's fabulous home cooked meals and laidback evenings with tea and cookies around the fire. Good to know: Nartitee is based in Taft which is only 20 minutes from Yazd. 

Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse (Varzaneh)
The owner of Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse makes it his job to make you happy. It was such a pleasant stay and I felt very welcome. We went on a desert and salt lake tour with others from the guesthouse and enjoyed dinners and lunches here. Crazy chilled out courtyard that's perfect for naps and some reading. 

Noghli Historical House (Kashan)
Kashan is famous for its historical houses. One of the prettier ones is Noghli House. Here you can enjoy the peace and quiet, drink coffees on the rooftop terrace and have homemade lunches or dinners. It's perfectly situated in the old town from where you can explore the rest of Kashan by foot. 

Where did you stay in Iran which is an absolute recommendation?

Travel journal: Iran

So.. I went to Iran. First of all: put this one on your travel bucket list. I've never felt more safe, I've never felt more welcome. Okay, now that's done. Here's my short recap, more detailled blogs about specific places will follow!

Revise your fear
Everyone has an opinion about Iran. When I told people I was planning a trip there I heard so many fearful reactions. And till this day I just don't understand why. When you are respectful of the local manners and skip the problem areas near the borders, you are good to go. Really, this country is warm and heartfelt. 

1500 kilometers
The country is huge, so there's a lot to see and explore. I only had 10 days, so I had to choose wisely. The trip became a nice mixture of city and villages, architecture and nature. The best tip I could give you is to rent a car. This saves you a lot of time and makes it easier to travel to remote spots. We rented a Peugeot 405 for 34€ a day and drove around 1500 kilometers the entire trip. Gas cost almost nothing, so don't worry about that. Driving is an adventure itself, but for the thrill seekers that have driven around the world this won't be hard. 

Itinerary 
After two nights in Tehran we drove the long haul to Taft, nearby Yazd. There we stayed for two nights in the wonderful Nartitee Ecolodge (blog will follow). After exploring Yazd, we continued offroad and parked our car in the desert village Varzaneh, staying at Varzaneh traditional guesthouse. With sand in our shoes, hair and car we drove to the city of Esfehan for one night, which was more than enough in my opinion. Last stop: Kashan. There we combined some much needed down time with bazaar shopping, sipping coffee and cultural sights. Luckily we could drop the car off at Tehran airport so we didn't have to drive into the mayhem that is Tehran again. 

Must know
As I said, rent a car! Other handy tips: make sure you have enough cash, you can't get money in Iran only with a local card. Learn some Farsi, English is not very well spread outside the cities. Bring something from your home country that you can give when you are welcomed in someone's home. Candy, cookies, anything. Iranians have a killer sweet tooth. Coffee lover? There wasn't always coffee at the guesthouses, so bring some yourself. There's always free tea and hot water! 

The Fezzzzjunnn
For women: buy some clothing you feel comfortable in that follow the regulations. I had three outfits that were a hit. First of all my cotton black headscarf, it's breathable and heavy enough so it doesn't fall from your head all day. A long over the knee loose grey dress with black leggings. A sort of vest slash coat that locally would be called a manteau. You can button it or not, depending on the rest of your outfit. And what I also wore a lot was a long black blazer with pearl buttons. It stopped my butt from showing off and also still had some flair, so I didn't look like a complete potato sack.  

I'll soon write a blog about the ecolodges and homestaying in Iran!