Top to bottom, left to right:
- A wonderfully woodsy spot for all your r&r needs
- Black and nude, a timeless pairing you can count on
- Salivating over the colors in this snapshot
- This peaceful indoor/outdoor seating area mix
- Soft pink makes for a serene sleeping space
i adore these kinds of love stories. or, perhaps you’d just call it a success story, but either way it’s a good one. holly mcdell and her partner mat pond moved to san francisco seven years ago, rather spontaneously. they were sitting in a bar one Sunday night in Sydney, and Mat said he felt like a change. holly replied “Here’s a cocktail napkin. Write down your three top cities if you could live anywhere. I’ll do the same. If we have any in common we’ll move there.” holly wrote down New York, Brasilia and San Francisco. Mat wrote Paris, Buenos Aires & San Francisco. Two days later they both quit their jobs, and three weeks later moved to san francisco, not knowing a single person! Seven years later they are still here with two young daughters, and a brand new business — the the epicurean trader that just opened in bernal heights. i drove by the other day and their shop looked so sweet i had to stop and pop in. what i discovered was my kind of shop — small batch artisan food and drink — everything from lovely cheeses and charcuterie, handcrafted chocolates, to spices, tea and honey.
holly’s a native of Auckland, New Zealand with a background is as an interior architect and graphic designer. and Mat is from the Hunter Valley just out of Sydney, Australia who worked as Global Director of Retail Franchise for Levi Strauss. Both are avid foodies and saw there was a real gap in the market for smaller artisan brands that have wonderful products, but lack the capital and brand recognition to ever make it into a larger markets and grocery stores. the two spent a year researching the best small batch products and makers in the country and now the epicurean trader is a curated selection of what they believe are the best few products in each category. mat and holly chose products for their incredible flavors and fusions, beautiful packaging and interesting stories. their goal is to be a brand ambassador for these smaller brands, sharing their stories and bringing many of them to San Francisco for the first time. great story, right? if you’re in the bay area hope you’ll stop into the epicurean trader, say hello and welcome mat and holly to the neighborhood.
the home that i bid on last week (and lost — boo hoo) had the most beautiful kitchen. sleek Carrara marble countertops and backsplash — and deep, almost-navy gray cabinetry. it was stunning. i could have cooked in there a whole lot! chop onions ’til i’m sobbing? no problem! alas, it is not to be, but it’s definitely got me considering that kind of makeover should the home i finally find need a renovation, and it’s entirely likely it will. a lot of the places i’m looking at are fixers, with ahem — atrocious looking kitchens. but thankfully, there’s plenty of inspiration out there on the interwebs these days — so i’m keeping track of my dream kitchens on pinterest, and in my imagination — here’s a few dreamy ones.
i don’t know how many of you have purchased your own dream homes, but those of you who have, probably know that it can be a truly challenging process. there are soaring highs — when you find a home you really love and decide to make an offer; and some pretty low lows — when you get outbid or lose a house for any number of reasons. it’s a process i’m learning to be patient with. and regardless of the ups and downs, i am learning a ton, and it makes me feel a new sense of confidence about being an adult. i’ll be honest, i’ve never been really great with money. i’m a hard worker, but i’m not sure i’ve ever made my money work hard for me — so learning about the home buying process is empowering to me and makes me feel like i have more control over my future. and that feels great.
i’m learning a lot from trulia where i keep track of the current market on daily, even hourly basis if i really go on a mad house hunting binge. the power of internet sites like trulia have been invaluable to me, especially house hunting from a distance — i’m here in san francisco, but moving to L.A. means i need to be as competitive as i can be, and watching the housing market and keeping track of what houses are going for in the neighborhoods i like has been really helpful when it comes to making an offer and knowing the value of homes in the surrounding neighborhoods. if you’re looking to buy a home, and especially your first home, here’s a few things i’ve discovered along my way:
1. keep track of the houses you’re interested in online, and even ones you’re not — knowing what ‘comps’ (comparable houses in real estate lingo) in the area are going for is really helpful when it comes to making an offer on your dream home. you can keep track anyway you like on trulia’s boards and i keep track of homes i’m following by neighborhood, and even when they’ve got offers pending i can watch and see what they ultimately sell for.
2. find a realtor you trust. one that you have been referred to by friends in the area, and one you have a comfortable and honest rapport with. it’s important because, trust me — you’re going to be driving them nuts with questions and you need someone who keeps you sane, and is patient and kind — never pushy. i love my realtor and i joke that he’s almost like my therapist, always there for me when i get panicky about making offer, or seeing a house that’s just come on the market. they will be your trusted advisor, so be sure you feel good about them. good communication and mutual understanding and respect is key.
3. your realtor should also have a good relationship with other realtors in the area – after all, they all work together to make the sale happen. your realtor’s relationships with listing agents can be so helpful when it comes to making an offer on a home, and getting that offer seriously considered. it can also be very helpful in getting the inside track on how high your offer should be, so you can stay competitive in the real estate game.
4. get pre-approved for your home loan before you even start the hunt. this is a big one, because in certain markets things happen fast. if you have to wait to get approved for a loan you could miss out making an offer. my realtor referred me to a home loan officer who worked with me to get me pre-approved for my loan very quickly. so get your ducks in a row — have your financial papers, like your current bank statements, pay stubs, last two year’s tax filings ready to present (PDF’s are usually fine these days), and anything else your loan officer needs to get you approved to start getting serious about buying a home.
5. write the sellers a letter. a very personal one — tell them why you love their home, why you should live there, and a little bit about yourselves. whether it be sharing your family, pets and life goals with them — get honest. i’ve created a pretty PDF with photos of myself, my pup Lucy and my interiors — I want to demonstrate to them just how much it means to me to buy their home. selling your home is emotional, and buying certainly is, so i think it’s important to make yourself ‘real’ — not just a dollar figure on an offer. it might not always help, but it can’t hurt, either.
6. try to remember that you’re buying a home to suit your future needs, not just your current ones. look for homes that you’ll be able to grow into or shrink into as the size of your family expands or contracts. consider other factors such as maintenance, HOA fees, your commute to work, school districts, yard size, neighborhood safety, walkability, and yard maintenance. maybe you don’t need a yard today, but in a few years, maybe you’d like to adopt a dog or plant a big garden. for me a yard for lucy (and myself!) is crucial, especially in L.A. so that factors big into my considerations. think about what you really want out of a house. it’s a big investment, so you should get what you want without too many compromises. every house has its positives, and its drawbacks. find a good balance.
7. lastly, and this one is so very tough for me, but try not to get too emotionally involved with a house before it’s yours. i’m so guilty of this, but i’m trying really hard to learn from the heartache that can cause. finding a home that’s right for you takes time and it’s best to try to keep slightly detached. me — i like to decorate and remodel the place before i even move in, and that’s a lot of head spinning in the middle of the night that’s really not necessary. yes, it can be fun for a bit, but i recommend trying to keep a practical and healthy distance if at all possible. and if you can’t — well just comment below and we’ll commiserate together. xo, victoria
yesterday i had the most delightful pleasure of visiting Wilma’s World — which in reality is actually ceramicist rae dunn’s beautiful, light-filled studio in west berkeley. wilma is rae’s sweet pup — a jack russell terrier, and she’s inspired rae’s first book, Wilma’s World: Good Advice from a Good Dog. When Rae and Wilma met in 2005, their worlds were forever changed. rae’s book is a small glimpse into her special world with wilma — where life is simple and full of joy, and adventure is around every corner.
i’ve long been a fan, so it was such a pleasure to visit rae, a California native artist, who discovered clay by accident in 1993, and it slowly took over her life. her studio is just so stunning, and i couldn’t help be inspired. Her own inspiration comes from the earth, and she finds beauty in simple shapes, natural forms, and found objects. In the same way that it was in clay where rae found her creative voice, it was in Wilma where she found her heart. her charming book of photographs shares the wise insights of wilma, who reminds us to slow down and see the beauty in simple things. Wilma’s World features photographs rae’s taken of wilma for years, catalogued into this lovely book and hand-lettered with wilma’s clever and insightful witticisms. if you’re in the bay area, you can meet wilma and rae at their book signing, this saturday, march 28th at george in san francisco, 4 – 6pm. thanks so much for the tea, and the wonderful visit, rae + wilma!