In search of the perfect (Part 2)

So now I have a fabulous marble top kopitiam table – yay! But nothing to sit on – boo! As I said, I had my heart set on a quad of old school kopitiam chairs, not the square uncomfortable ones, but the round seat bent wood ones like so:

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As it turns out this kind of chair is rarer nowadays than I thought, or maybe not so rare if you’re willing to fork out some serious cash. The sales lady at W-Furnishing said she hadn’t seen these in her shop in a few years but if I was interested in buying in bulk (say, if I were opening a restaurant) she knew a couple of Johorean companies that could supply them. Uhm… no thanks, I just needed four.

My mum had gotten pieces made from Syarikat Chin Li in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, a carpenter who can make really gorgeous wood furniture for a commission. I did pay the owner a visit but he wasn’t very warm to my enquiries – maybe it was the Honda I drove or the less than luxury bag I carried that prompted him to tell me repeatedly how expensive he was. He wasn’t lying at least, he said a chair like that would set me back RM500 a piece!

I then moved on to Recro Furniture also in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, where I had previously bought a gorgeous refurbished sideboard/cabinet number that has become one of the best investment pieces I own. I knew they were expensive but I thought I should satisfy my curiosity and check anyway. They had the exact chair in their stock loft in a gorgeous nut brown hue. But at RM550 a piece I just couldn’t picture myself parting ways with that much money.

At the back of my mind I thought of my sweet teak furniture lady whom I had been buying from for years. She usually has pretty old school designs selling for reasonable prices and a quick whatsapp to her proved me right. She had the exact model in a dark wenge colour that could match my table perfectly but at RM320 a pop I still wasn’t moved. I thought I could give it a few more days of searching before settling.

As it happened my family took a weekend trip down to Melaka for a break and I took that opportunity to scout the vintage shops near Jonker St area. There are two pretty well known ones: Ancient Curio Store and Abdul Antiques. I’m not quite sure what I was hoping – the owner at Ancient Curio Store was nice enough in helping me out but upon seeing his chairs I realised that while I was keen on the vintage look, I wasn’t prepared to actually buy antiques. Especially when the price didn’t really justify a permanent sojourn into the 1940s Peranakan parlour of a random Malaccan family.

So back to KL and straight to my teak lady I went!

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Such gorgeousness!

And while I waited for her to wrap up the chairs and fix rubber feet on them so they don’t scratch floors, I took a look around…

The beautiful haphazardness of her store has always been something I appreciated. It is like weaving through a maze of teak and finding little treasures, like this miniature kopitiam table with actual marble top that you could use as a side table.

In case anyone’s interested, her company is called Leading Teak Furniture (Lot L2-11A & 11B, Level 2, The Weld, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, 50200 Kuala Lumpur).

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Happily installed in my kitchen 🙂

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In search of the perfect (part 1)

I’ve always loved the nostalgic look of the humble kopitiam dining set. My mum still has the 4ft round version in her kitchen and although the family has definitely grown by one son-in-law and one granddaughter, she still insists on eating our family dinners on it.

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Nostalgic about kopitiam dining (Image from Google)

I’ve grown to appreciate it much more recently whenever I disdainfully consider the clumsy Ikea extendable I have in my own kitchen. The veneer surface means I need to cover it with laminate so I don’t damage it when cooking or dining, and I’m telling you nothing screams cheap louder than a piece of clear plastic table cloth!

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This one just wouldn’t do.

So I decided that it was time for an upgrade. I turned to Google to see where I might find one and I gotta say, researching about the Malaysian furniture scene online isn’t great. Unless you’re happy to stick to Ikea or one of a handful of up and coming online retailers who are either selling modern (as with the current trend, either scandi inspired or mid-century leaning) and (lets face it) pretty homogenous stuff, or uber expensive but seriously beautiful pieces of art, then you’re out of luck.

So I had to do it the old school way, a.k.a. drive around to see some of the furniture shops I knew around the area. I guess it’s fitting in with the old school look I was trying to achieve.

After striking out at Fella Design (they still don’t have an online catalogue!), and a few large retailers in Bandar Utama and Kota Damansara, I finally struck gold at W-Furnishing which is near the Damansara exit of the NKVE. I’d always passed by the place but never went in, constantly finding humour in the huge sign outside that says “We are cheaper than nearby!!”.

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The shop is in the far right of the pic. (Pic from Google)

They had the round kopitiam tables on display but none of the oval variety I had wanted.  So the sales lady whips out a catalogue and assures me that she can get any of the ones in there within the next day or two as all the factories were close and stocks were abundant with CNY being around the corner.

Now, this is my first time ordering furniture from a printed catalogue so I had some reservations that the real thing might not look as great (do people airbrush furniture photos?). I had seen my own mother do it when I was very young for sure but I guess when I really think about it, how different is it really ordering something online? It’s still photos and trust and leap taking…

IMG_7034As with a great number of furniture produced in Malaysia, these are made of rubber wood and therefore quite affordable. Not particularly high grade or beautifully grained as some other wood types but as I hear it, withstands wear pretty well as it is a kind of hardwood. I fell immediately for this 3’x5′ oval with white Langkawi marble top. Inclusive of the extra RM200 to upgrade to a Grade A marble, the total price came to RM1,280.

The chairs were another matter entirely. I had my heart set on having a set of 4 kopitiam chairs but she had none of those to offer. She did have rather modern looking ones which were by the way extremely heavy even without marble inlays! So I opted to just get the table and worry about the chairs later.

I would most definitely come back to W-Furnishing in future – I’ve got my eyes set on some nice bookcases I spied when I was there which might do for the upcoming study room redecorating. For now I’m a happy camper, especially when I solve the chairs situation! See what happens in my next post!

A new kind of makeover

I tend to undersell my new year resolutions. It’s a kind of self defense mechanism because I know that by February I would have totally lost steam and my resolutions would be completely up in smoke.

This year though it kind of feels different. I didn’t seek out a set of formal resolutions but rather, the resolutions sort of found me. In fact, the process was so organic that even as I am typing this, I still have not formed a complete sentence as to what my resolution really is!

Over the course of a few days at the beginning of the year, I found myself in a fusty mood. The house felt tired. My wardrobe felt tired. Everywhere I looked I saw clutter, to-dos, and work in progresses. I felt positively… uncomfortable. In my OWN HOUSE.

Then something happened. I got hold of a plastic supermarket bag and started decluttering. Nothing major, just my vanity desk and probably because I couldn’t actually find what I was looking for. The result was amazing! I was so happy and  felt liberated by just being able to see the surface of the desk!

That’s when I decided that I shouldn’t stop there. I should make this a thing… although still yet undefined but a legit thing! As addictive as it was though, I don’t think I could go on throughout the whole day (being 6 months pregnant saps your energy like nothing else) so I decided I should pace myself; declutter/organize/clean one area a week to give myself a happy boost and hopefully be able to sustain myself throughout the year or until the entire house is sorted.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR I’ve managed to work through a few areas already; my wardrobe (lots of things went to either charity or recycling if they were unsalvageable), my accessories and handbag collection (the good stuff went to my aunt’s vintage clothing business), my makeup and skincare collection, my cat’s corner, and parts of the kitchen. By the way, I make it a point not to do too much damage to the environment whenever I can by recycling or transferring items to new owners. Check out the before and after photos below (unfortunately not everything was photographed, sorry!):

BOOKS As it happened, during a trip to one of my favourite bookshops, Bookxcess, I stumbled on the Joy of Less by Francine Jay and I’ve been using it as a companion as I continue to declutter and organize. It’s a delightfully light read and provides me with manageable doses of affirmation for what I’m doing. I also own Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but I still haven’t gotten around to this yet.

INSPIRATION I did some looking around and before long found many bloggers and instagrammers who are also on this bandwagon and who are propagating #Lessismore #ufyh and #declutter2018. People like Bridget from Unclutterit, Emily Ley who created SimplifiedPlanner, and of course Toni Hammersley from A Bowl Full of Lemons, have provided me with endless inspiration. Imagine my joy when some even commented on my instagram photos of before and after decluttering sessions! Such encouragement! It makes such a big difference when I know that I am not alone haha!

So watch this space. My journey is so very far from being complete and hopefully I will share with you in future posts that this is as much a material as it is an emotional, mental and even spiritual journey for me. It’s a completely new kind of makeover 🙂

Where have I been?

As I was saying, work took up the majority of my time in the past year and a half. But it was also pretty boring so I will spare you the gory details of what I do for a living. My non-work life however has been pretty interesting…

About this time last year, the husband and I went through one of the most difficult times in our life together. Very shortly after finding out that we were expecting a baby, I came home very late from work one night to find that I had been bleeding profusely without even realising it. This happened one day before we were due to have our very first check up with an OBGYN so we kept the appointment. After a very nervous overnight wait, the doctor told us that we had lost the baby 8 weeks after conceiving.

The immediate heartbreak I felt rushed over me like a tidal wave. The pain and sadness from the loss was so breathtaking that until now, it still surprises us whenever we think about it. I was in a state of confusion in the days and weeks that followed. I was grieving over a child I never knew, whether it was a girl or a boy, how its voice sounded or how its face looked like. It was all very strange but it gave us the confirmation so many previous casual conversations between us never could: how much we wanted a child.

We were blessed enough to be pregnant again a few months later. Alhamdulillah! My doctor told us that the last experience was just my body’s way of making sure that a happy and healthy baby is made the next time around. I don’t know how true that is but it certainly calmed my nerves — especially during the early few weeks. I had a pretty normal pregnancy and after 40 weeks and 2 days our daughter Sofia was born.

Baby Sofia, 2 days old

Being a first time mother has been wonderful. I look at my little miracle everyday and wonder at the gift that God has bestowed us. She makes us want to be better, do better, so that the world would be a better place for her 🙂

In the middle of my pregnancy, we moved house (again) to be closer to our parents and work places. You’d think that by now I would be a total pro at this (after 3 moves in Malaysia alone!) but now, 6 months after staying at our new home I’m still seeing boxes in practically every room of the house. Every weekend I try to chip away at the mountain of stuff, but seriously, when did I acquire so much crap?? I’ve made significant progress in the common areas of the house (the places guests get to see) but I’m stuck when it comes to our TV room, study room, and store room (yeesh!). On the bright side, I’ve given myself creative license to turn these rooms into my decorating/organizing/diy-ing projects. Look out for updates on those!

And that’s it. A selection of the major things that happened over the past year or so. All of which completely life altering and each a very good reason for setting aside talking or writing about it. So now I will try again to open up and feel not so alone anymore 🙂

To happier times ahead.

Writing again

It’s scary how time flies. I’ve been putting off writing for so long that before I knew it, a whole year and a half has flown by without my realising it!

As cliche as it may sound, I actually have been busy. Work drained all the time i had and even when I managed to squeeze a minute or two to myself, I’d often be far too tired to think about blogging. It’s a little different nowadays but i’ll get to that a little later.

The husband has been gently nudging me to write again… every few days or so he would make a speech about what I could do to feel better, happier even, and he would mention blogging again very casually. I guess I’ve waved off his suggestion one two many times because even I was beginning to think that the excuse of “where would I find the time?!” was getting a bit stale each time i heard myself say it.

So here I am, writing again. For sure, an update is absolutely necessary and I will do that in the coming few posts. For now, this is me wiping the dust off my blog and looking out into the world again.

The Gallery Wall

Though the dark wood and leather materials of our Lorenzo dining set looks great against the stark white walls and floor, I made a silent note to myself that I still need to do something about those blank walls – either wallpaper/paint them (long run solution) or hang some photos and artwork (quicker to do).

Now, I am not an art connoisseur by any stretch but I do have a habit of picking up pieces whenever I discover something delightful in a quirky shop someplace. Over the years I’ve amassed a small collection which I have never been able to display until now. This all kicked off when I stumbled across a small framing shop tucked away in a basement corner in One Utama Shopping Centre called The Framing Concept. The shop is owned and run by a sweet aunty whose frank and patient ways made communicating my goals to her a breeze. Her service is quick too, I could usually expect her to tell me that my frames are ready to be picked up within a week. 

So now I have some 10 newly framed pieces which I need to put up somewhere in the house. I grew up in a home where every inch of wall is adorned with some kind of painting or collection of dutch porcelain plates so I was keen not to repeat this. I feel I should still leave certain walls bare to keep a sense of uncrowded space (or is this all in my head?). So I went in search of some inspiration…

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From Two Twenty One
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From Anyone Can Decorate
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From Centsational Girl

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Picture ledges seem to appear in a lot in “how to hang your artwork” ideas and suggestions that I have discovered online. I found the fact that I could change out the arrangement or swap pieces whenever I want without the need to keep drilling holes into the wall highly appealing. As in most great ideas, the best part of this is that there’s a cheap IKEA solution!

Ribba Ikea Picture Ledge

We dropped by IKEA last weekend and bought two. The total length of our new table is 210cm, so if we arranged the ledges side by side in a continous line, it would almost match up the length of our dining set with just a bit of spillover — not a biggie since our chairs on either end would more than make up for it.

I think I will add another level half the length of the current one because all told, I have only been able to put up only three quarters of my entire collection! Still, I’m so happy that I can now look forward to adding and subtracting to the collection as time goes by 🙂  A bit like a moving exhibition, no?

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My prized artwork collection from L to R: An antique photo of an old style Malaccan shophouse, my favourite photo of us from our Paris engagement photo shoot, a reproduction of a 17th century map of Southeast Asia, water colour painting of Charles Bridge we purchased on the actual Charles Bridge (Prague) from a local artist, stylised map of Venice bought from a family owned Venetian bookshop that’s apparently two centuries old, a photograph of the Trevi Fountain purchased a few metres away after Imran proposed, and a water colour painting of Florence bought from a disabled street artist outside the Uffizi.

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