Oh JoyOh Joy

some things I've learned after building a house...

Oh Joy! Builds a House | Things I've Learned

We finished our house right as quarantine was going into effect, so we feel so grateful we were able to be in our new home during this time. We have been spending our days safe at home unpacking, nesting, and settling in. It's been a light among all the unknown happening in the world right now.

While we're still finalizing the interiors, and I can't reveal rooms to you just yet (I know...I promise it WILL happen!), I do want to share some things I've learned from the process now that we are a few weeks into actually living in this house that took us six years to finally be in.

Now listen...I will admit, I feel slightly weird talking about a new house when the world is in unknown place and the economy is a mess. I am so grateful we finished before things got really bad or we may not have been able to finish. But I decided that I would keep sharing stuff with you guys because a lot of you have asked for the inspiration while you're home and getting more time to nest as well...and because you've been rooting for us along this journey to our first and forever home which truly means so much to me.

I know that now isn't really a time that people are starting massive projects like this. My hope is that something I've shared is helpful for any type of home project you're in the middle of or thinking about. Here are some questions you guys have asked. And, now that we're in, I can truly answer them!

1. How long did the house build take? We bought the land in summer of 2014 and started construction in fall of 2017. It took 1 year to design it, 2 years to get permits in Los Angeles, and about 2.5 years to build. That's on the longer side for most of the country, but Los Angeles is not an easy place to get permits quickly. Plus, our land was tricky to build on (which we didn't expect since we didn't really know what we were in for). While it took much longer than we expected, the plus side is that it allowed us to save more money before the build actually started. You can read why we decided to build in the first place right here.

 

2. How did you pay for the house? We paid for the land in actual money (it was our savings that we had for a down payment on a house) and then got a construction loan to pay for the actual build (which is the majority of the cost). You can read more about our construction loan process here.

 

3. Did you stick to your budget or your projected schedule? Nope! Every single person who starts a home project thinks they are going to be the one person to stay on budget and stay on schedule. It's nearly impossible because so many things are out of your control, especially the bigger the project is. Our change in budget wasn't because we wanted fancier things than we had originally planned. A lot of it was an increase in costs for materials and labor that happened to increase during the time our project spanned. Also, because our land is on a hill, there were unexpected issues that came up that caused additional unexpected costs.

 

4. What's the most stressful part of building a house? The finances of it. If anyone wanted to do it, I would recommend saving up and having extra money on hand in addition to your loan because there are often costs that arise that your loan my not cover (fees for your architect, engineers, permits, etc). I was very good at keeping track of every dollar spent though, so that I could see what we stayed on budget with and what we didn't.

 

5. If you were doing more of a home renovation and had the budget to update one area of a house, which one would be the ONE? The kitchen is one area that is totally worth prioritizing. Whether you need more storage, more space, better cabinets, better flow, more durability, etc. My cooking life and happiness with cooking has changed completely since having this new kitchen. Especially now that we are home and cooking three meals a day, it's been a life-changer.

 

6. Is there anything you wish you hadn't put in, installed, chosen? 

Yes!

Pocket doors...we don't love those. We have them mostly in rooms where there is a room inside another room (like our master closet or bathroom within our bedroom or our kids' bathroom connected to their bedroom), and we have had all kinds of problems with them in just the few weeks we have lived here. The kids slam the doors by accident, the locks are tricky since they are not standard, and they've just been annoying. While they save space, we wish we would have used regular doors in most of these areas instead.

Also, some things that people told me were nice details to add when you can...a pot filler faucet (didn't end up getting that), water filter at sink (got it), and a towel warmer (got it).They were things that I really didn't think we needed but took those suggestions when we had the chance to install them, and we really didn't need them at all. I regret spending money on those things that we never knew we needed, and we really didn't need. You know you and your family best, and go with your gut on details like that.

 

7. Do you hate your contractors like most people do after a home project? Ha! If you can believe it...this is the number one question I get asked from those who have done some sort of renovation or build. And my answer is no....I LOVE our contractors! Our team at Boswell Construction has truly been amazing...so thorough and on top of things even whenever we had hiccups along the way. We also loved our architecture and interiors team at Project M+ and their ability to be flexible throughout the process. Getting referrals when you choose an architect or contractor is definitely huge since a portfolio alone can't tell you what it's like to work with someone.

 

8. Would you decide to build vs. buy again if you could do it all over again? My answer to this has changed over the course of this project. If you asked me 6-12 months ago, the stress of the last year was so bad that I would have said that I wish we would have just bought a house instead. When we starting looking at houses back in 2014, we couldn't find anything in our budget that felt like a long-term home. But we could have waited 3-4 years more and had a better budget to get what we really wanted and would have still been in a house sooner than our now house would have been done.

BUT, now that we are here and in it, I am glad we did it. It was one of the top two most stressful experiences I have ever been through, but I'm so happy with how it turned out. I truly cannot wait to build a life of memories with my family here and (eventually) have our friends and family over for lots of dinners and get-togethers.

You can catch up on the past two years of progress on our home build right here, see more peeks over on Instagram under #OhJoyBuildsAHouse and in my stories under (House 1, House 2, House 3, House 4). If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

(Photo by Lily Glass)

tips and tricks for working from home...

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

If you're working from home right now, you're like the rest of the world and searching #WFH to find any inspiration you can to make a cluttered desk that was used to be a catch-all for everyone's junk now function as your home office. Or perhaps you're working in a 200 square-foot space and finding it difficult to transition from bedroom to office. Here are some tips and tricks to surviving the WFH life with your sanity in tact ;)

...before we go too much further, can we stop for a minute and thank those who cannot work from home during this time? The heroes of our age who put personal safety at risk to make sure the rest of us have everything we need in lockdown and the medical care we need. We are also so indebted to those who are still working and thankful for them! Let them know how grateful you are.

TIP ONE: Separate areas in your room. Working from a small apartment where one room is every room?  Or the kids are running around the house and you only get your bedroom? Here are ways to create a separate office space (even if it's your bedroom): 

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

A) Use a small desk, even that fold-up table you had stores in the garage for card games. Just having a spot is so helpful for productivity.

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

B) Have a clearly delineated area for you office - use rugs or a chair to mark the boundaries or prints on the wall to show the corner area you are claiming.  Then be intentional about keeping that space "office" and the rest "room".

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

C) Set some rituals or habits to start your work time.  Light a candle and turn on your "office jams" (could be classical or top 40!).  Close the door, line up your pencils, and turn on your desk lamp.  Brew your cup of coffee, put on your headphones and open your laptop.  Whatever your steps are to cue your brain "this is work" and be in a different headspace than when you're in the same room just relaxing.

 

TIP 2: Change your desk position. If you have the space (or can make the space), try to change up your desk position. This will help keeps things interesting at the home office as well as help you keep your clutter down to a minimum! Having to move everything makes you touch everything and decide if you really need it or not. And, if you're anything like me, there's a lot of things on and around my desk I don't need! Try different positions to see what works best for you. Here are a few ideas...

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

A) The Loner. This isn't meant to say you are lonely, but the idea is that this position faces the wall and is great for those who get distracted easily by the view outside or other things going around in your space.

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

B) The Executive. This is the position you'd sit in if you like seeing everything going on around you. I like this view personally because I get inspired by what's around me. It's a little trickier for placement as you'd need to have more space to make this work but it's a great way to freshen up your space if you have the room for it.

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

C) The Social Butterfly. This is a mix of the two above where you're facing out but also partly tucked near the wall to help save on space. This one works well if you need to share your desk with a partner or roomate as well so that people can sit on both sides.

 

TIP 3: Organize, organize, organize! Likely, you had a very limited time in your work office to grab everything you would need at home, stuffed it all in bags and boxes, and dumped it near your desk at home.  Now's the time to go through those bags, and everything else around your space, to make your WFH environment work best for you. Some people need neat, tidy, and sterile. Others need uplifting, colorful and designed chaos. Whatever works for you, get the space organized so that you want to be there.  (Or at the very least, don't hate being there!) Here are some ways to organize...

Box Storage in Home Offices

A) Use boxes to store away things you only need occasionally. They help to hide the clutter and give you spots to keep categories of things contained.

Vase as Pencil Holder for Home Office

B) Repurpose pieces from around your house. Grab that dusty shelf in the garage that works great to hold books and only needs a quick wipe down. Find your favorite mug or a fun vase to use as a pen cup.

TIP 4: Bring Positivity.  More than anything else right now, we all need a little positivity in our day. Sitting at home working while a scary virus is in the world is not anyone's ideal situation. But remind yourself everyday to make the best of it, to keep striving and working hard, and to keep doing the right thing for your friends, neighbors, health care workers, and even strangers on the street. We're all working for a better world. Here are a few simples ways to bring positive vibes into everyday...

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

A) Use your positive coffee mug that you bought because you love the phrase as a pen cup.  Then you'll be using it everyday and seeing it everyday.

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

B) Find a fun print or photograph that brings a smile to your face or one that empowers you or lifts you up.  There's no wrong answer to what that looks like for you. Put it in your sight line and take a second everyday to read it, to feel it, to see it, and be uplifted.

tips and tricks for working from home / Oh Joy!

C) Bring a plant into your home office.  It's amazing what a little bit of greenery will do for your spirit. And it'll be a good reminder to make sure your plant friends are getting watered!

P.S. If you have children at home that you are now trying to homeschool (raising hand over here!), then some of these tips don't matter at all because you're doing your best just to get by everyday! One thing that has helped me is setting certain times of the day that's dedicated work time and dedicated homeschool time. We try and get school done first thing in the morning by lunch (or soon after lunch) and then the kids can have free time after. A couple weeks in, we have gotten into a rhythm but that first week was NOT easy. We all cried a lot!

I know these times are hard, but we will emerge on the other side stronger and better connected for these small sacrifices we're making now. I believe in this amazing Oh Joy! community and urge you to commit to staying home if you can to make us all safer. We're still here, and we want to hear from you.  How are you handling the lockdown and social distancing?  How are you working from home?  Comment here, or message me on social!

(Photos by Lily Glass and Casey Brodley, styling by Julia Wester, Production Assistance by Jess Hong.)

why I love semi-custom cabinets...

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

When I decided to tackle building a house six years ago, I honestly didn't think about all the millions of components that would go into it all at the same time. All of the decisions, all of the colors, all of the choices. I mean, I quickly got caught up on just how many decisions I would have to make, but it honestly felt VERY overwhelming. So, when it came time to designing kitchens and any other areas with storage with my architects and designers at Project M+, we looked at a few different options.

You would think that when you have a house designed from the ground up, it would make sense to build custom cabinets throughout to perfectly fit into the space. But that option (which we did get estimates for) would have cost much more than we had the budget for. I looked high and low for existing cabinets to fit these custom spaces, but that proved almost impossible. They were budget-friendly but nothing would fit correctly or look cohesive. So, low and behold...the magical solution that we turned to for a good amount of our cabinets...semi-custom! I am so excited to have partnered with Reform—a Danish company that specializes in semi-custom kitchens using Ikea box bases and their amazing, designer doors. Take a peek at what we've created together...

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

We were able to choose and create custom colors for various rooms that needed a pop of color. These were in areas like closets, laundry room, and other spaces where we could really play with color to fit with the rest of the space! I'm in LOVE with the color-blocked Basis style that I chose for my girl's closet. They're simple, yet so fun!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

And then in other spaces (like our kitchen shown above), we went with a neutral color but focused on a design (like this one called Degree) that had architectural elements that fit and functioned with the rest of the space.

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

We were able to add in our countertop of choice (and used Caesarstone quartz throughout) to mix with the variety of cabinets doors.

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

Here are some older photos that show them being installed so the detailing around the cabinets and hardware/knobs had not been installed yet. But you can see how they all fit so well in these spaces.

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

why I love semi-custom cabinets / Oh Joy!

Here's a peek at one last set that I simply LOVE—the Chelsea—which is really the perfect mix of fun and glamour all mixed up into one!

Reform products are now available across the United States and the world...which is so exciting. I have always been a huge fan of Danish design, and love the modern and warm details these cabinets are adding to our home. They have two showrooms in the US (Brooklyn and coming soon to LA), which will be available for visits once we're all back open and operating fully. But in the meantime, they have a virtual showroom tour that you can take and see all their beautiful offerings and online design meetings to be able to still help you plan your dream cabinets from home and maintaining your social distancing! I love how they are doing everything they can to fight this virus while still being totally accessible to their customers.

It's exciting to look back at these progress photos because all these spaces (and the house) are done! We're just waiting for some logistics to be able to move in :)

{Photos by Lily Glass. Home construction by Boswell Construction, Architecture by Project M+, Interiors in collaboration with Project M+. All cabinets linked above. Written by Joy Cho.} 

oh joy builds a house: our kitchen layout and functional things we considered...

This post brought to you in partnership with KitchenAid.

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

After living in an apartment for almost 10 years, I'm excited to have a normal-sized kitchen (with an island!) to be able to cook with more space and have friends over for dinners-a-plenty! Today, I wanted to give you a peek into the process of designing the kitchen when we were in the early stages with Project M+. When you get to design a kitchen layout from scratch, it makes you really think about your needs and how you function on a daily basis.

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

Here's a look at an older rendering to get a sense of the space. Some details have changed since this was first drawn (like the exact appliances or the floor tile) but it's a good representation of where we started when we were planning out the layout of this kitchen.

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

Now, here's a current overhead look at the kitchen and where all the appliances are going. As you can see, it's a U-shaped kitchen with the island right in the center. Based on this, we wanted to keep all the cooking appliances near each other with easy access to the dishwasher and sink when clean-up is needed. We incorporated KitchenAid appliances into our Oh Joy! Office Kitchen a couple years ago when we renovated it - and were so pleased, so we're excited to work with them again for our house!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

Instead of a traditional oven/stovetop, we opted for the KitchenAid’s® Commercial-Style 6 Burner Gas Rangetop, which comes with dual-flame burners and a simmer/melt burner for both power and versatility. Getting this rangetop allows us to maximize the space underneath, and KitchenAid offers amazing  oven/microwave combos, so we were still covered from that perspective. We're also planning to add brass paneling around the 3-Speed Canopy Hood.

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

On the left side of the kitchen, we have the KitchenAid®  Combination Wall Oven with Even-Heat™ True Convection, which was designed to be both beautiful and functional. I love the idea of the oven being more at eye-level, and, we use our microwave a lot, so I wanted it to be in a spot that was easy to get to and not too low. For our fridge, we opted for a Built-In Side by Side Refrigerator, where the larger fridge is next to the smaller freezer. I also love that we're able to panel this piece to blend in nicely with the rest of the cabinets!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

On the right side, we have the beautiful 44bBA Dishwasher right by the sink for easy access when loading. We also added a smaller Undercounter Refrigerator, so it's super convenient and easy to grab drinks from outside and helps to free up space in the fridge for more food! Both the dishwasher and beverage fridge came in paneled options, which I love!

oh joy builds a house: kitchen!

I can't wait to show you the final reveal! Are there things about your kitchen layout you would change if you could? Or what parts of your layout have you loved?

{Photos by Lily Glass. Construction by Boswell Construction, Architecture by Project M+, Interiors in collaboration with Cleo Murnane at Project M+. Renderings by Project M+. All other layouts by Joy Cho. My boots are Red Wing Heritage*. Cabinets by Reform, floor by Concrete Collaborative. This post is in partnership with KitchenAid.} 

adding warmth to a modern home...

Oh Joy! Builds a House / Redwood Exterior

For the last two years, I have been tackling the project of a lifetime! We've been building our family's first and forever dream house here in Los Angeles. While it's been a long time in the making, we're just about finished, and I'm excited to give you a peek right now. I'm so thrilled to be partnering with Humboldt Redwood to share how we brought this amazing, natural material into our modern home. Take a look at this video below for a peek and all the details...

Oh Joy! Builds a House / Redwood Exterior

Thanks for joining me to take a peek at this beautiful, natural material and how we've used it in our home build project! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

*This post is in partnership with Humboldt Redwood. All words are my own.

(Creative Direction: Joy Cho, Production: Julia Wester and Jess Hong, Video: Jenner Brown, Still Photos: Lily Glass, Music: "Milkshake" by Pleasant Pictures Music Club, Graphics: Angie Stalker, Special Thanks: Project M+ and Boswell Construction.)

to all the homes i've loved before...

Oh Joy! Living Room - Photo by Monica Wang

As we get ready to move into our new home in a few weeks (yay!), I'm getting nostalgic about the home we've spent the last 10 years in. We started our life in Los Angeles here, started a family here, and really grew to love Los Angeles here. So, while I'm looking back..here's a look back at all the place I've lived in my adult life starting with my very first solo apartment in Brooklyn Heights after college...

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

From 2001-2005, I live in this 400 sq. ft. studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights, New York. This was my first solo apartment as an adult after living with roommates for four years prior. I was in my early 20's and working at my first couple design jobs out of college while living here. Brooklyn wasn't yet the cool spot that it is now but it was totally on it's way, and I loved it SO much. This apartment was on the 3rd floor of some giant house that looked like a haunted mansion from the outside, but it had such character and the best creeky, carpeted steps in the hallway that I will never forget.

I found someone on Craig's List to make me these stacking, modular boxes that I used as a bookshelf and divider area for my bed. (By the way, I was an early user of Craig's List and my friends thought I was crazy to find a stranger through a website!). This tiny studio apartment was $1270-1390 per month back in 2001-2005 (which still sounds SO expensive to me for such a tiny space), and I remember being SO broke because it took more than half my pay check each month. But I was young, had no responsibilities, and it was just the place I needed to be at that time in my life.

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

From 2005-2009, we lived in this one bedroom apartment in Philly. I had moved back to Philly (where I'm from) and left New York to live closer to my then-boyfriend, Bob, who had just started a long-term residency in Philly. We had been dating long-distance for 9 years and were ready to live in the same city. This is the apartment we lived in when we got engaged, got married, and had some of our biggest early married couple fights. This is the apartment where I started Oh Joy! back in September 2005. It was about 900 sq. ft. and the perfect size for a newlywed couple and our three cats. This was the apartment where my personal style started to bloom, and I really began to express it more through my slightly expanded use of color! In true Joy form, I found someone on Craig's List to sew these custom curtains for all these windows we had. Ha!

Oh Joy! San Diego

From 2009-2010, we lived temporarily for a year in Coronado (a tiny island off San Diego) while Bob was doing his last year of training in San Diego for the year. I had Oh Joy! but it was just me, so I worked out of a bedroom in a 3-bedroom duplex we rented for the year. I have no photos of it cause it was completely temporary and we used the owners furniture (so it never really felt like home). So here's a photo of me outside of it with the Mini Cooper I had at that time!

Oh Joy! Living Room, Photo by Monica Wang

Oh Joy! Kids' Bedroom / Photo by Sasha Guilish for Land of Nod

Oh Joy! Photo by Katherine Rose

From 2010-present (almost 10 years!), we have lived in this duplex (top floor of a house) in Los Angeles. When we rented this apartment back in 2010, we didn't look at schools or intend to raise our family here. We thought it would be temporary to get our feet wet as new residents of LA. 10 years later, we've started our family here and raised two amazing kids, met and grew some of our forever friendships here, had many Friendsgivings here, and really made Los Angeles our home here. Emily Henderson was a huge part of helping us to design our living room, dining room, and Coco's nursery (before she shared a room with Ruby). This is the home where my personal style really came to life, and it's fun to see how much my adult homes have evolved over the last 20 years!

I can't wait to show you what's next in our very first home that we'll actually own. If you want to catch up on everything I've shared over the past couple years on our progress, you can see it all right here!

(Professional photos above by: Monica Wang, Sasha Gulish, Katherine Rose)

new oh joy! pillows...

new oh joy! pillows

I've loved seeing our pillows in your homes since we launched our first collection last year. So, I'm excited to share that our new Oh Joy! pillow collection is available now! There's a mix of shapes, sizes, and colors for both adult and kids' spaces...

new oh joy! pillows

They all mix and match really well together like this trio above that mixes a few different shapes and sizes together.

new oh joy! pillows

These pieces make me so happy, and the price point is so great (from $38-48)! You can buy them all right here at Makers Collective.

{Photos by Lily Glass. Concept/Production/Styling by Julia Wester, Production Assistance by Jess Hong, Pillow designs by Angie Stalker.}

a soft and pretty living room...

a soft and pretty living room... / oh joy!

Happy Valentine's Day! Today, we're sharing a soft and pretty blush living room that's a dream come true! You can make a room colorful and fun without a lot of bright colors, and we're showing you how...

READ MORE

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update!

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

We got electricity this week! Which means the lights that have been installed will finally to come to life as we near the end of our project. Building a house from scratch meant thinking about a ton of different types of lights (pendants, sconces, recessed cans) all at once. I love lighting so much and have never been able to make use of it at our rental apartment over the last decade. So here's a little peek at some of the lighting we're using...

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

To keep things consistent, I stuck with two lighting brands for the whole house—Lamps Plus (for their wide range of options and price points) and Cedar & Moss for their beautiful, high-quality pieces (and I love supporting a female-owned small business!). In the kitchen, we've installed two of these fun pendants from Lamps Plus over our kitchen island. I love that they feel both chic and playful!

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

These Cedar and Moss pendants line the hallway leading into the living room. I love the subtle texture that it adds while lighting the way.

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

Mitzi pendant lights in the guest bathroom make for a fun detail which surround the sink on both sides.

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

We have three of these Lamps Plus sconces in Master Bathroom that go between and around the two mirrors.

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

To light the way up the stairs, I love these Lamps Plus brass sconces which allow you to angle the direction of the light either up or down.

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

In the girls' bedroom, we've installed these Cedar & Moss lights by their bunk beds (hence one high and one low) as reading lights for them in the evening.

oh joy builds a house: a lighting update! / via oh joy!

And, finally, here's a peek at this Lamps Plus chandelier in the dining room which has yet to be fully assembled but is already looking very fun!

{Photos by Lily Glass. Construction by Boswell Construction, Architecture by Project M+, Interiors in collaboration with Project M+. All lights linked above. Written by Joy Cho.} 

color adventures: a sophisticated pink heart bedroom...

color adventures: a pink heart bedroom...

For this month's Color Adventures, can you guess what color and pattern we're styling with? Pink AND hearts! It's a classic combo, especially for the month of February. While February usually involves lots of hot pink, red, and hearts galore, today, we're showing you how to take the duo and make it sophisticated and more subdued. Check it out...

READ MORE