Tag Archives: Apartment

I’m Kind of a Big Deal on the Internet

3 Oct

OK not really. But I had a happy, bizarre moment today where I was actually recognised from the blog! I follow a Seattle real estate blog called Urbnlivn and they advertised for a focus group about apartment living.

And I was all like … why I’m interested in apartment living! And I love surveys. I loooooove surveys.

Plus it didn’t hurt that it was a Tom Douglas (remember, he’s the Seattle Bill Granger) catered event and they gave everyone a $50 visa card for participating.

Why like eating food and buying things!

So I filled out their qualifying survey, shot them an email in case they needed an email RSVP, and the guy emailed me back saying that they definitely had a spot for me, and I remember thinking “coolio I must have gotten in early”.

Then tonight I toddled on over. The free food started at 6:00 and the survey questions at 6:30. I thought I’d arrive at 6:15, which would be the sweet spot between getting free food and not looking like I was too eager for free food. (For the record, dolmades, hand-made pita triangles, various dips – including a red pepper one I really liked – and chicken/dill skewers plus a figgy skewer). I totally wanted to take photos but I didn’t want to look like a weirdo blogger taking photos of food.

But. But!

It turns out that the guys from Red Propeller (the organisers of the evening) have read my blog! (Hello Red Propeller!) I’m not sure how they found it – possibly because of my Rollin St posts? I talked to an Asian chick who said that when she signed in they were like “pampered housewife?” and she was like “huh?” So yeah! Famous!

I actually do get a bunch of hits from people looking for information about the Amazon interview process. Including one guy who googled for “Amazon interview answers“. (For shame) I’ve also had a few Aussies contact me about living in Seattle – Amazon have been aggressively recruiting in Australia – so that’s pretty cool too.

But anyway the night was super fun! We all got to give our opinions about apartments (of which I have many). And it was interesting to hear what other people thought – for instance I don’t really care about stuff like parking cos we don’t have a car, but it’s important to other people. And I care about hardwood floors to the point that carpet anywhere is a dealbreaker, but other people strongly preferred carpet in the bedrooms. Oh, and it turned out that James and I aren’t the only ones bugged by the lack of ceiling lights!

So the first part of the evening we went through stuff that we liked and didn’t like in apartments and what we wanted in terms of amenities. Then we went into more detail about kitchens, bathrooms, living areas and bedrooms. And at the end we filled out a survey at the end that gave a ballpark figure for how much extra we’d pay for X feature. Which I thought was a really good idea because it’s easy to be all like “oh, it totally has to be Italian tile in the bathroom” but then when you think “would I actually pay more for this?” a lot of the time the answer is no. So it’s good that they have some way of calibrating my strong opinions with how much cash I’m willing to part with. Though it’s just hypothetical cash, which is a lot easier to spend than the real thing! Still, I tried to be as honest with myself as possible.

Some of the sample photos they showed us were of the Rollin St kitchens and my focus group did not like them! Which is funny because the kitchen is one of the main things that visitors to our place ooh and aah about. Though the ones they showed were the kitchens without islands, which are admittedly less impressive.

I’m interested in how the building turns out! A lot of apartments claim to be luxury apartments (and certainly charge rent like they are), but the only ones I’ve seen that actually felt high-end were Rollin St and The Olivian* so it will be nice to have some competition in case Rollin St decide to jack up our rent. =D

So anyway, that was my night. I warned James I wouldn’t be home so he stayed late at Amazon and it all worked out very well. And he was equally delighted that I’d been “recognised” from the blog. =) I have already decided to spend my $50 at Lululemon – I have my eye on the black swan cool racerback and also the black swan studio pant (and yes I realise that the total is significantly above $50, shoosh).


* In case anyone is interested, the reason is because those are the two that didn’t try to cram too much into the square footage. Maybe developers try to fit as many rooms as possible so people think it’s good value – then they add granite counters and brand name appliances and call themselves luxury apartments. But IMO what separates the really nice places (aside from a crapload of built-in storage) is not squeezing in that extra bedroom and bathroom.



Installing the Ikea Maskros

10 Sep

James and I spent part of yesterday afternoon installing the Ikea Maskros. It’s $89.99 from Ikea (plus 9.5% sales tax) and we would have had to spend $50 on a Zipcar plus a couple of hours out of our day getting it. So instead I picked it up new for $99.99 with free shipping on eBay. James was most pleased. Incidentally that same lamp is $249 from Ikea Australia – a HUGE price difference.

I had a hard time deciding between the smaller (22″) and larger (32″) sizes but eventually went with the larger one because I thought it would look better with our monster ceilings.

Anyway, James did the light installing stuff which he said was really straightforward, but even so, Mouse and I were impressed.

And here it is attached to the ceiling. James turned on the electricity and flipped the switch to make sure it was all connected properly, then turned everything back off so he could keep working on it.

After that he attached the spokes to it.

(Oh also, yesterday we had some friends over and they said if it snows we’ll have a great view of cars sliding down that hilly road. Awesome!)

After that we spent about half an hour attaching the paper flowers to the spokes.

For obvious reasons James started at the top and I started at the bottom.

Even though James did most of the work earlier (though my ladder-holding-still skills were unparalleled) he let me hog all the glory and attach the final flower.

Afterwards James adjusted the height of the cord until we were both satisfied with the height. Surprisingly James was a lot pickier than me about how it looked.

I’ve seen some photos where people bought the 22″ size and because they have regular-height ceilings the lamp ends up looking about as dominant as the 32″ does in our space. I reckon I made the right call because I think the smaller size would have been swallowed up by our high ceilings.

Anyway, here is the finished product:

At night:

In the above photo I have the track lighting in the kitchen turned off, and when all the lights are on it does a pretty good job of lighting the living area. I bought a 40W bulb for it but it can actually take 75W – I think next time I’ll try a 60W bulb to see if it can light the room on its own. For anyone who is curious, you can change the bulb just by sticking your hand up through the flowers but it’s a little fiddly.

I’m so pleased with how it turned out! The living room was looking quite stark before and the lamp gives it some texture. Plus it draws my eye upwards and makes the room feel less bottom-heavy and a bit more balanced. All in all it took maybe 1.5-2 hours to install and was well worth it!

Oh Happy Day!

19 Jul

Our sea shipment has arrived.

There are boxes lined up all along the left and right walls that you can’t really see so it’s slightly more significant than it appears.

The Graebel guys were really great – they did all the unpacking in the corridor so none of the foamy stuff was brought inside. They would have unpacked all the cardboard boxes for us too (apparently it was included in the package) but it seemed unnecessary, especially since we didn’t really remember what we had packed and had no idea where it would go.

Stuff that we had in the sea shipment that we were really looking forward to getting:

  • James’ toolbox (also his spirit level and measuring tape)
  • Couch
  • Extra toiletries (before we knew we were moving to the US I massively stocked up when Woolies had a sale, and yes I was tight enough to ship them internationally if Amazon was paying for it)
  • My computer chair

I was a little worried that the couch would be too matchy-matchy with the wooden floor but it’s significantly lighter which is good. I had actually remembered the couch as being smaller and now I’m worried it will be a tight squeeze with the table that I want (not the CB2 Dylan anymore). I’m waiting for James to get home tonight so we can move the couch around in different configurations to see what works. It looks like the couch will have to be quite close to the TV which may mean that James will have to settle for the 46″ instead of the 50″.

In the meantime I’m washing the clothes that came in the sea shipment (we’ll be able to wear different stuff now!) and putting random things away. It has been a few hours since I took the photo above and the room looks largely the same but with more open boxes.

There is some damage to the chest of drawers (not the handle pulls, they were already stuffed, but there was this decorative wooden bit on top that was removed. Otherwise everything seems to have made it through safely – although *knock on wood* I haven’t opened all the boxes yet.

I ordered the bed today, which will arrive on the same day as the mattress. Then once the credit card has been paid off I’ll order the chairs, pay off the credit card, then the dining table, and pay that off (we have a ridiculously low limit on the credit card and the bank won’t let us pay off the card in advance). Then the TV will be the only big thing left to get, plus some odds and ends like extra storage bins.

Buying Art For Our New Apartment

13 Jul

I know I’m trying to keep our purchases lean and mean, but I can’t live without stuff on the walls. Unfortunately, an apartment with 11 foot ceilings means the walls are enormous. Even large prints look ridiculously tiny – I know this because I’ve been holding up (OK I’ve been getting James to hold up) appropriately sized pieces of cardboard to gauge size requirements.

AllPosters has a huge variety of prints in various sizes, all very reasonably priced and – best of all – you can get your selection framed and delivered. I definitely didn’t want to be lugging a giant poster around Seattle getting various framing quotes.

Anyway James and I decided on this giclée print in a black frame with polar white matting:

image from AllPosters

Apparently it’s a reproduction of a vintage Seattle travel poster. There were a bunch of Seattle posters, including one that advertised Lake Union, which is where we live, but ultimately we chose this one because it was Seattley (which will be nice and sentimental for when we return to Melbourne) but also monstery (which we can enjoy right now). Originally I was like “huh, Bigfoot?” but it turns out he lives in the Pacific Northwest, so there you go.

It was the second largest size (36 x 48 inches). I would have gone with the largest but AllPosters wouldn’t frame that one. I used a 25% off coupon code and 6% cashback from Fatwallet and including delivery it came to under $300, which I’m happy with for a print and frame that size.

That one was easy to buy because it was reasonably priced James and I (and incidentally, Cat) all liked it. Unfortunately the other piece I want is a bit more contentious. I want a commissioned clay portrait (of either me/James or the cats) in a way that I can’t properly explain. It’s like she gets the major details right but everything else bears little to no resemblance to the original, and that just makes me love it in a completely unironic way. The only thing stopping me is that I worry the portrait won’t be as glorious as I imagine.

James: (patting Kyoto) You’re the good one
Me: *indignant squawk*
James: (still patting Kyoto) You don’t demand any art


Whatever. It will be mine.

Gradually Decorating the Apartment

11 Jul

For someone who loves shopping as much as I do it’s pretty exciting getting the opportunity to start from (near) scratch. We’re trying to not buy too much so our life doesn’t get cluttered and we don’t have too much to ship back when we return to Australia. But I do want to buy quality pieces that are worth shipping back.

Already bought:

Desks. Yeah I know that Ikea furniture is the opposite of quality pieces worth shipping internationally, but anything I liked and was big enough for James was just monstrously expensive. Plus we’ve both always quite liked Ikea desks. We got the Vika Amon desktop with one Vika Annefors leg and one Vika Alex storage leg each (Vika Alex not pictured).

We also bought some cable organisers that James screwed in underneath. All up it was $250ish plus around $80 for delivery. The ample storage in the desk legs makes the Billy shelf we’re having shipped over pretty useless. We had rental desks but they’ve been demoted to the living area.

image from Ikea

Wireless printer/scanner. We got the Epson Workforce 645. The 545 was available for a much better price but James liked that this one could do double-sided scanning or something like that. It’s living on my desk (good thing we got the oversize Ikea desks!)

James’ computer chair. James has always preferred the Embody to the Aeron. Soon after we arrived a bunch of stores had 15% off Herman Miller so we picked it up for $1045. This is definitely coming back to Australia with us!

image from Herman Miller

Weber Baby Q. We had one in Australia and knew that we wanted to re-buy it when we came here. It’s an awesome little thing and means we eat amazing steak once a week.

Floor Lamp. The study has no natural or overhead light and with the printer taking up much of my deskspace and James unwilling to give up any of his, the only option was a floor lamp. I bought the Blu Dot stilt lamp ($399 with 5% off but $19 shipping). It’s amazing how much better the room looks with the shaded light instead of the (rental) desk lamp.

image from Blu Dot

I’m trying to decide if the study needs a rug. Technically we don’t need it because we have hardwood floor casters on both our chairs, but I do think a rug would tie the room together better. Either way it’s not an urgent purchase so I can take awhile to think on it.

Sometimes I stand near the door and peer intently at the study, trying to visualise how a rug would work, and mentally going through colours. It makes James nervous though. He tells me that I look angry.

I’m looking forward to buying the other big items we need.

Bed and Mattress. I’ve planned for a mattress shopping expedition this weekend. This time I’m going to be the one to choose because last time I was indifferent and James picked this awful, super soft mattress that I hated. I’ve already decided on the bed though – it’s $699 from CB2 (plus 3% cashback from Fatwallet). The beds that I like slightly more are at the $2000 mark and I didn’t like them that much more.

image from CB2

I’ve bought these amazing linen sheets from Matteo to go with them. They cost almost as much as the bed! I’m also trying to decide on blankets – you can’t go wrong with white, but I’m trying to decide if a pop of lime green would work.

Nightstands. I’m not terribly fussed about having nightstands but James wants one; we never had enough room for them in North Melbourne and he wants somewhere to put his iPad and his nightly glass of scotch. This Blu Dot one ($449) is the current leader. I like the look and James likes that it has a little hole for his cables at the back.

image from Blu Dot

I’ve tentatively decided to go with the Dylan table from CB2 and the Hans Wegner wishbone chairs. I’m still not sure if they’ll go well together – I have considered buying the table and getting one of those cheapo replica Wegner chairs from eBay as a relatively inexpensive test.

Once our couch arrives and we know how far we’ll be from the TV James wants to get a Sony Bravia (either 46″ or 50″). I get final say on decorative items but he gets to decide when it comes to tech. =) He decided to get a Bravia because everyone we know who owns one has been really happy with their purchase. He’s also getting a soundbar. We randomly wandered into a Bose store where the sales guy demo’d a TV with a built in soundbar and while there’s no way I would pay 4k+ for a TV (especially since the Bose TV was kind of shit – even I noticed that the images were softer than other TVs that I’ve seen, and James said there was a dead pixel on screen that he couldn’t stop staring at) it did get me quite excited about a soundbar.

So yeah, those are the big things we’ve bought (or are going to buy) for the apartment. Last night James was very sweet and said it’s nice to have this stuff done for him. If it had been up to him he would have gotten everything at Ikea, but he said that this is much nicer. =)

Getting Settled (Also How To Get a Great Discount on Roomba 770)

1 Jul

This is the wall between the kitchen and the bedroom. Mouse is quite partial to it.

He walked along the top of the sliding doors, panicked because he couldn’t find his way down, then howled and howled until I dragged the scratching post within jumping distance.

Also here is Kyoto with 2 days’ worth of packages. From memory they are fancy linen sheets, cleaning supplies, a steam mop, kitchen knife, dustpan and brush, modem and router, and a box from Comcast (which has a modem and router they weren’t supposed to send us and that we’ll now have to return on our own time grr).

We have an insane number of things coming in the next few days. Probably in the next few weeks. Buying everything is a fairly involved process, primarily because I feel the need to get the best possible deal on the best-reviewed item. Shopping is kind of my thing. So every purchase involves:

  1. A search on Amazon to find the most highly-reviewed items
  2. Sifting through the reviews to decide which item I’m getting
  3. A web search for the best price for that particular item (James assumed Amazon always had the cheapest price but he is WRONG)
  4. Checking the Bed, Bath and Beyond price because I have 20% off coupons (I started with one, but every time you buy something if you fill out an online survey about your shopping experience you get another 20% off coupon and I’ve been buying one thing at a time)
  5. If another store is cheaper, doing a search for online coupons
  6. Checking that they don’t charge sales tax to WA (a 9.5% difference in the price)
  7. Checking if I can get a cashback via Fatwallet

Sometimes it’s a bit silly – do I really need to find the BEST EVER dustpan and brush? (Yes I do) But other times it really pays off – like when I got $112+ off the price of a Roomba 770 (retail $499.95 plus sales tax – the cheapest I can find it is in the low $480s)A shopping noob like James would just buy it off Amazon and get his 10% staff discount (which has a ceiling and is also negated by the 9.5% tax). Here is what I did:

  • 15% off coupon code for new customers at HSN = $75
  • No sales tax from HSN = $40
  • Unfortunately had to pay shipping = +$15
  • Went through Fatwallet and got 3% cashback = $12ish

And that is how I got a new model Roomba for heaps less than everyone else is selling it for. I have high hopes that the cats will ride around on it like the cats on YouTube. I can imagine Kyoto sailing majestically around the apartment but in reality he’ll probably smack it lots then run away.

Our New Apartment

29 Jun

On Wednesday James and I moved into our new place! It’s closer to Amazon and it’s beautiful. It was the only place we found with hardware floors throughout (most places were either carpeted or if they were higher end, had wooden floors in the living areas and carpet in the bedrooms).

We face East, which doesn’t get much sun, but James and I are OK with that. Although once we live through a dreary Seattle winter we may think differently. Here is our floorplan:

image from Rollin St Flats

The apartments on this floor all have higher ceilings. I think the leasing agent said that they’re 11 feet high (or maybe 9 feet). Anyway, it’s all very lofty and spacious feeling.

Our apartment is kind of unique. The building was originally designed as condos and ours is one that had sold and had been slightly customized – so we have sliding doors for the bedroom entry (the other 1 bedroom apartments don’t have doors), a kitchen island (which not even all the 2 bedroom apartments have) and a built-in wine fridge (which only the penthouses have). We will fill it with Seattle’s cheapest wines!

So, walking through the entryway, the den is immediately on your right. The photo is crap because it was dark when I took the photo – the room is windowless and has no ceiling lights (seriously Seattle, what is up with that?) But yeah, as you can see it’s basically a box. There’s plenty of room for our desks and computers. I think we can even fit an emergency bed in there in case of guests, although there is no door.

A little bit further down the hall is the bathroom. I love this bathroom so much. Almost everywhere else we looked at (except The Olivian) had these poky, cramped little bathrooms and this one is huge and luxurious. The only pet peeve I have is the location of the towel rack. It’s slightly to the right of the photo, and I don’t know if you can tell but the vanity is massive. So the towel is well out of reaching distance if you want to dry your hands. I’m thinking of putting the face towel on that rack and the hand towel on a decorative plate next to the sink.

This is still the same bathroom. Opposite the vanity are some sliding doors and behind those are the front loading washer and dryer. To the right of that is a huge storage space that was probably intended for cleaning supplies but where we are storing the litter boxes. There are also some wire shelves overhead so we’ve got stuff there too.

Oh and the toilet is a normal toilet; not one of the scary high-water ones that freak James out.

A bit further down the hall is our bedroom. It’s windowless like the den, but you do get some natural light coming in from the living area because the wall doesn’t go all the way up. There’s lots of clothes storage and two levels of wire racks for vertical storage. The bedroom can very comfortably house a queen bed (maybe even a king!) and 2 nightstands. You can see the edge of the frosted door on the right. I’m not sure what’s on the left – maybe it’s a wall.

After that is the combined kitchen and living area. The lighting is all stuffed up because as you can see the sun was shining right into our place. We get the morning sun and this was maybe 9:30am. We think we’ll have the dining table on the left and the couch and TV on the right. We’re going to buy another Weber Baby Q and put that on the balcony. There is a narrow ledge under the windows that the cats like to sit on.

Standing at the window and facing backwards is our kitchen. It came with a little fire extinguisher which now lives under the sink. This kitchen was hands down the best kitchen we saw of any apartment. It has a gas stove and a convection oven. The fridge makes ice! There’s also an enormous amount of storage – there’s even some that I cropped out of the photo a little bit to the left – and James loved that the cupboards open upwards (apparently he hits his head on open cupboards).

And here is our wine fridge. To the right of it is a cupboard I’m thinking of keeping appliances in and to the right of that is where I’m storing my cookbooks.

So yeah, that is our apartment! It’s so lovely and was so much nicer than any of the other places we looked at. It was the first place we saw and set a high bar for the other apartments.

Actually the one we looked at was one of the standard layouts so it wasn’t as nice as this one. When we came back to have a second look this one was available for a late June move-in and as soon as we saw it we knew we wanted it. There was another 1 bedroom/den for about $100 cheaper a month but it was on a lower floor, didn’t have any of the upgrades and the den was a bit too small to be comfortable.

You can easily pay less for more space, but the buildings are located further from Amazon and they aren’t as nice. This place is quite expensive for Seattle but after seeing a bunch of apartments we realised that this was just the price we had to pay for the quality we wanted.

I’m looking forward to furnishing it! It doesn’t quite feel like home yet because we have rental furniture until our sea shipment arrives. I’ve been slowly buying household items but it will be another month or two until everything is properly sorted, and then I’ll post some more photos. =)