Our Home

Buying a House

(To see the photos, scroll down to the end of this page)

Credit Union

Every time we told our friend we got our loan from a credit union, they would say "Oh, you are a member" like it's some kind of cult. This is weird. Our understanding is that you can choose from at least a few credit unions to join and that you can apply for a loan right away. Websites like FindACreditUnion.com can tell you which credit unions you will qualfy for by the city or county you live, your job or employer, the school you went, ethnic background, etc. Since many credit unions have good mortgage rates (they publicize on the Web) and even a .25% can make a few thousand dollar difference throughout the loan, wouldn't it be worth checking it out?

House Search

We are surprised to see so much info about house sales is publicized on the Web. By going to websites like Zillow, you can see the sales history and trend of the house you are looking into and also its neighborhood.

Our Projects on the New House

Room Layout

Like the last time we moved, I took the measurements of the rooms beforehand and designed the room layout in 3D modeling software (Maya) before we moved. Each piece of furniture is a box with the right measurements and the image from my camera as the texture. It works.


Like many other people who have just moved, we became big fans of Ikea. For instance, each shelf unit in this set in the photo (2 units) is only $79! Of course, by the time you add glass doors, drawers and handles, it goes up to $300 in total, but the owners (we) still think it's inexpensive. Since it's a bit of a challenge to select and collect all the parts, you get the sense of achievement when you are done. It makes you love the product even more. It's a nice mind trick ;)

Racks in Garage

Collecting the parts for the racks I installed in the garage was even tougher than the kitchen shelves. I had to go to East Palo Alto and Emeryville Ikea stores a few times because one of them was always out of stock for certain parts. Among the racks I installed, in this picture is the cable rack which I'm glad to have finally. Cables take least space when stretched. I always thought hanging would be the best way to manage cables (won't tangle; easy to find) but I never had the space until now.

Pallets on Wheels

Next to the garage, underneath the living room floor is our storage. It's as wide as our living room but only 3 foot high. So I bought a bunch of 2'x4' wood boards, attached caster wheels and made movable pallets. Each time I load or unload one of them, I'd bring it close to the entrance so that I wouldn't have to crawl across the storage many times.


Container Store's "Our Men's Shoe Box" (~ $4) is extremely helpful in organizing stuff. They fit in our wall cabinet, bedroom closet shelves, and Target's 6-Cube Organizer Shelf or similar shelves. Every time I buy a product, I throw its accessories (manual, spare parts, etc.) into a zip bag, store it in the shoebox, and throw away the box. I number all of the shoe boxes and I have a text file describing their contents. (Doesn't matter if it's a text file, spreadsheet, or database. "Easily searchable" is the key.)

51	in Cabinet
	Hauppauge > WinTV 1600 (TV tuner card)
	Harper Collins > The American Sign Language Dictionary CD-ROM
	Holux > m-241 GPS Logger
	HTC > Evo 3D (case, extra battery)

Eye Toy Kinetics

The apartment where we used to live had a gym in the common area. Our new community doesn't. So we just bought Eye Toy Kinetic for PlayStation 2. It comes with a USB camera. Your image is captured by the camera and you play the games by punching, kicking and dodging the moving objects on the screen. I was surprised to see how much exercise you get to do by playing these games. This will be much better than the slow-paced treadmill that I used to do while watching iPod video.

Update (2019): Since then, we played various Xbox 360 games with Kinect, Wii games with Balance Board, and most recently, virtual reality games on Oculus Rift such as Beat Saber.

On top of the TV is the Eye Toy camera.

Home Automation

  • Motion Sensor Switch

    Replaced the ceiling light switch in the garage with this $25 "occupancy sensor" from Home Depot. The light turns on when we enter or when we pull in our car into garage. Neat.

  • X10

    "X10" is the industry standard for controling lightswitches and outlets through powerlines. Companies like X10 (the one famous for its bad-taste ads) make a lot of inexpensive switch and controler modules. I have a few modules including the PC interface and I programmed it to turn on, dim and turn off the lights automatically every day.

  • Voice-controlled PC

    I wrote a voice-controlled program on PC that can run X10 commands to turn on and off the lights and control the stereo before. So I'd like to revive it for our new home. A little more details on the Voice-controlled Entertainment Center Projects page.

Update (2019): We have HomePod and Alexa-enabled FireHD Tablet in our dining room but I think it is still premature to upgrade to "Smart Home". Our lights are still controlled by X10 and conventional motion sensors.

Bathroom Renovation

In early 2011, we renovated one of our bathrooms. We purchased the tiles and the vanity from Porcelanosa in San Jose and bathtub, shower, toilet, glass door, etc. from Water Concept in Fremont (no longer there). We picked the tiles and major items and designed the tile patterns pretty much by ourselves and we are very happy with the result.

A diagram Komei created using Sketchup.

Bathroom renovation - Phase 1 (March 2011) -Scrolling Panorama

Bathroom renovation - Completed (March 2011) - Scrolling Panorama

See also Smugmug: Bathroom Renovation.

Here are the parts we selected for the bathroom:

  • Tile: Porcelanosa Silk Verde and Tissue Silver 17x26 $11.50 x 218 sqft
  • Bathtub: Jason Forma RE525 SL
  • Shower: Hansgrohe 2618, 2623 Chrome, 1146 Chrome, 2317 Chrome, 1150 Brushed Nickel Chrome
  • Toilet: Toto Eco Soiree, Washlet S300
  • Vanity: Porcelanosa JAM Vanicty 70cm white, JAM Basin White
  • Mirror cabinet: Robern M Series Reflexion Light 3.5"W x 30"H Polished Chrome MTFL3.5T5PCR
  • Glass door: Water Concepts
  • TP holder / Towel bar: Ginger


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August - Open house, with previous owner's furniture


360-degree Panorama

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Living room (August, open house, with previous owner's furniture) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (December) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (open house) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (December) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Stereo 3D Photos