Saturday 17 May 2014

Reno - Week 40

OK, so I've finally managed to find some time to complete this on-line journal of our renovation. My baby that used to sleep a lot of the time has now grown into a very demanding two year old, so it's fair to say that as a mum of four small boys, spare time is definitely not something I have much of these days.

At Week 40, the house was finally completed - well almost. The builder is working through the defect list but that's pretty much about it as far as construction goes. Initially 40 weeks seemed like an eternity to wait for the house to be built, but looking back on it now, it all seemed to happen rather quickly.

A short stay in hospital at around this time put a halt on the unpacking and my ability to carry on with some much needed faffing around the house, but we are slowly, slowly making the house a home. From past experience I would say that it takes a good six months until you fully settle into a new house.

The old Kitchen

Now a WIR in the Master Bedroom
Don't judge me - but until just the other week, our WIR was still full of boxes. I can now comfortably get to my clothes.

Some of our existing furniture didn't suit or fit into the new house so we sold it before moving in. Most of our new furniture/homewares were selected and/or purchased during construction, but there were a few big ticket items (e.g. the sofa) that had to wait. In fact we still don't have a sofa in our living room or furniture for the front verandah, but all in good time.

Dining Table from Original Finish

After a recent cold snap we lashed out and bought a new rug for the Sitting Room
It's actually been about three months since we moved into the West End Cottage and we've definitely settled into our new home now. All in all it's turned out wonderfully - beyond our expectations in fact. I was planning on doing a post on the things I really love about the renovation and things I would consider doing differently next time (if there is a next time that is.) If you have any questions about our renovation or renovating in general I am happy to answer these for you - so feel free to ask away.

Our fireplace on the terrace has been getting a bit of a workout of late
As far as the construction went, we did go a little over time (and budget). So here's a few tips about money and renovations. If you're planning a renovation, definitely factor extra costs into the equation - there are ALWAYS going to be unexpected costs so put away approximately 5-10% of the total renovation budget as you will need it. For example, halfway through construction I changed the bathroom tapware selection which cost us an extra $4,000 alone. In total, we outlaid an additional $30K on variations to the contract.

Additional funds were also required for landscaping - after the final site clear the only vegetation remaining was one heavily damaged frangipani tree (unfortunately it lost a number of major limbs) and two old camellias along the side boundary. I sketched-up a general landscape plan so it was just a case of sourcing the plants/materials and dedicating some time to put it all together. We spent approximately $20K on landscaping (some of which we did ourselves) that included site preparation/machinery hire, fencing and garden edges, turf, plants and mulch.

To date we have planted 13 trees and 130 shrubs and ground covers. I'm hoping that by next Summer, the gardens will be looking a little more mature than they do at present. The tropical birch trees that we planted along the fence line (for shade and privacy reasons) have already grown at least a foot since planting them.

I have also made several attempts at growing a kitchen garden in our old concrete laundry tub located in the backyard but the possums around here are a force to be reckoned with! I've found a spot out the front of the house where they don't seem to go, and I've planted a small range of herbs and vegetables (e.g. carrots, chillis, tomatoes and lettuce and of course, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to name but a few) into some self-watering garden boxes that we constructed after finding some instructions via Google. So far the plants seem to be doing well. We should have our first crop of tomatoes on the table soon.

Friday 11 April 2014

Reno - Week 39

I know these last few posts have been written way after the fact, but I am determined to finish documenting the construction which took around 40 weeks to complete - the same time as a pregnancy in fact!

By Week 39 the house was all but complete - just lots of little jobs left to tick off the list. One of them was installing privacy screens on the all the windows that faced windows on neighbouring properties (this happens to be a requirement of the small lot code.) Towards the end of construction we found out about a local company (Thurlow Blinds) that both refurbish and manufacture external chain blinds. The same type of blinds were attached to some of the windows on the old cottage, but were thrown out during demolition, so it was good to discover that we could get identical ones made.

The service from Thulow Blinds was excellent - they do a free measure and quote and the cost includes painting and installation. We chose to have them painted the same colour as the weatherboards. They fit neatly into the window hoods and are fully adjustable.

I wanted to wait until the blinds were fitted before I chose window coverings (which to date I have done nothing about.) I don't think they are particularly necessary except for perhaps the main bedroom.

Here's what they look like from inside the house
Another job included installing a hanging rail in the laundry - I use it ALL the time and don't know how I lived without one before. I'd like to say I use it for hanging up the ironing, but in fact I've been using it to hang up clothes to dry on those days when rain seemed imminent (and on other days when I couldn't be bothered to go outside and hang them on the line.)

Other jobs consisted of fitting toilet roll holders and towel rails, etc. We chose a brass Futagami handtowel rail for the main bathroom to match the brass edging on the mirrored cabinet.

I had some cushion covers made up for the daybed in the sitting room and they also arrived at about this time. I already had the feather inserts which I bought from Ikea months ago:

Here is a photo of the same room prior to the renovation - just a modest-sized room with no storage in sight (it was used as a bedroom):

An opening in one wall was created to allow views from the front of the site right through to the rear enhancing the sense of light and space:

OVP signature utility rack in the kitchen
The good thing about the cushions on the daybed is that they are actually made from an outdoor fabric which means that I can take them outside too:

Unpacking still continues (even to this day) as a short stint in hospital has hindered my ability to lift anything too heavy. However we did manage to find some artwork in amongst our things to add a bit of colour to our very white walls. Here's another before/after - this time it's the main bedroom which again consisted of a basic room with zero storage:

We knocked two openings into the neighbouring room (that was once a kitchen) to create an ensuite and WIR, added some built-in joinery and hey presto:

I am just loving this Autumn weather we are having - the sun is already sitting much lower in the sky creating a sunroom on the front verandah which until recently has been cool and shady. Still need to find some furniture/chairs - any suggestions:

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Reno - Week 38

"Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?" That old Shakin' Stevens number used to play in my head every.single.time I entered through that front door. And it just so happens that it was one of the very last elements of the renovation to get a full makeover, mainly because I could not find a replacement entry set that I liked (the existing one was a bit too shabby to keep). So after months of putting it off I finally selected one (from the USA) and a few weeks after placing the order it arrived and the front door makeover began.

We replaced the original green front door as it had a rather large gap in the bottom - no good for keeping out cold draughts or vermin for that matter. We used one of the old bedroom doors that had the exact same profile, and after the old flaking paint was stripped away it looked something like this:

From green to pink

The initial idea was to paint the front door in a gloss white paint to match the two windows on either side, but I knew it wouldn't stay white for long - think of four grubby boys pawing at it day after day. A splash of colour would have been a fun option but I couldn't make up my mind so I decided to keep it simple and sophisticated and chose to paint it black:

So after the handle was fitted the only thing left to complete at the front of the house was to put up some privacy screens on both ends of the verandah. The cottage originally had lattice screens on either end, but they were in poor condition and didn't really provide much privacy so we made a last minute call to purchase solid casement windows.

The windows can be opened/closed to control light and breeze and have transformed this space into a lovely outdoor room. They cost approximately $5,000 to be manufactured, painted and installed but I think it was money well spent. The floorboards on the verandah were given a couple of coats of stain so all that's left to do now is find some furniture, plants, etc to turn this space into a perfect spot to utilise during the Winter months as it gets heaps of northerly sun.

And speaking of sun, I can't get over how much glorious light our ensuite is bathed in. I know I've mentioned it before but we don't have a window in this room, so a skylight was the next best option. If you have a damp/dark bathroom, suffer from privacy issues or have no 'special' view to acquire from a window (which is generally a problem small lot housing), do yourself a favour and install a Skydome ventilated skylight. Line the shaft - we have tiled ours all the way up to the roof - and get a clear dome so you can enjoy a view of the sky each time your shower.

Everytime I move house it takes me a while to get my cooking mojo back - I don't know why that is. Probably because things are in different spots and it takes me a while to get familiar with new appliances, etc. But despite this I am enjoying the layout of our somewhat unconventional kitchen design. It just seems to work and flow right for me - and best of all there's no television in sight which means I don't have to listen to any more children's TV while I'm preparing meals.

I also have the best of both worlds by incorporating two benchtop finishes in the kitchen design - calacatta marble and stainless steel. I love both finishes equally and both have their place here - the marble is such an elegant material which provides the perfect backdrop in the eat-in part of our kitchen. And there's no need to be too precious in 'back of house' where all the preparation, cooking and clean up takes place. Here we selected stainless steel for its hard working properties which is also hygienic and easy to clean.

And to finish off another before/after - this week the street elevation. I'd love to be able to fast forward a year or two when all the plants have matured:

Sunday 23 March 2014

Reno - Week 37

So we've been in for a week now. As mentioned previously, the bathrooms and kitchen were not fully operational, largely due to the fact that there was still some tiling work to complete (we were about 2 or 3 metres short.) And just our luck the supplier was out so we had to wait for a shipment to arrive - from Italy!

This week the stainless steel benchtop in the scullery was fitted which coincided with the arrival of the tiles so our Tiler was able to return to finish off the ensuite and tile the splashback in the kitchen.

Tiling progress in the Scullery
Now we're cooking with gas
Our Smeg freestanding oven has a small splashguard at the rear - there were also plans for our stainless steel benchtops to have an upturn against the wall. I thought it would look better to try to integrate them resulting in a seamless finish, so the oven was brought in early on so that the S/Steel Fabricator could measure up accurately. I won't go into too much detail, but it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. However the end result is fabulous:

Fits like a glove

Oliveri Sink welded into the benchtop
There was a small niche planned in the ensuite shower for shampoo/conditioner, etc and I was hoping that the tiles in the niche would line up with the surrounding walls. Unfortunately at the time this did not look like it was going to happen. However I was adamant about this and despite trying to be talked out of it including comments like 'you'll never notice', I jumped up and down and I eventually got my way - the niche was rearranged, re-waterproofed and I finally got the result I was after:

See - perfect!

Another feature in the ensuite is the ventilated skylight - so much natural light and a gorgeous view of the sky:

This particular morning we had a glimpse of the moon
We also had some dramas with the bathroom tapware that was originally specified and during construction we had to find an alternative. After some extensive shopping (online of course) I chose to replace all the taps with a range from Astrawalker. Bad news is it ended up costing three times as much (whoops, yet another variation to the contract) but they do look amazing:

Shower detail - two heads are better than one

The steel balustrades on the front stairs and around the terrace were fitted, ensuring that any concerns regarding safety were now put to bed:

Still waiting for our frangipani tree to be planted here
I've been having so much fun on Instagram lately, and as it turns out, it's also a great source of inspiration. I was still unsure about what type of front fence (e.g. height, profile, colour) to use (at the time it was sitting in the too hard basket.) Then I found this picket fence detail on a house that was designed by highly regarded Melbourne Architects - Kennedy Nolan. It was perfect for our cottage as it closely mimics the rear elevation of the house:

And then I thought about painting it black (believe it or not, there were many supporters of this on my Insta feed) but I kept with tradition and stuck with white:

And by the end of the week, things were finally starting to come together. Thought I'd finish this post with another before/after. The 'before' really doesn't show the condition of the house as it was pre-reno (is was pretty bad.)

We chose to remove the palm (and the weeds) so it does look somewhat bare at the moment, but we have replaced both with plants more appropriate to the setting - we just have to wait for them to grow.

Friday 21 March 2014

Reno - Week 36

Our Living Room - just a rug and a stool
At Week 36, my stress levels hit an all time high and I officially had what is otherwise known as 'renovation fatigue'. We'd  just spent a week in a hotel and I just couldn't do another night, however the house was not what I considered to be adequate or safe for the family to move in into. Firstly the kitchen/scullery was not quite complete - no splashback, rangehood and only half the stainless steel benchtop had been installed. Secondly, neither bathroom was fully completed. Painting (amongst other things) was required in each and every room and there was no balustrades, fencing or even a yard for the kids to to play in and keep out of trouble. AND, Telstra had still not installed our comms, grrrrr.......

We decided that I would move in with the older two children, who would be at school during the day when most of the work was going on, and Mark would take the younger two away for a week or so to give the builder a bit more time to complete the house.

As most of the house (including the master bedroom) was not able to be occupied properly, I bunkered down in the kids bedrooms with the two boys. They were the only rooms that we could furnish and use:

Just the very basics were unpacked
Then during the week, bit by bit, deliveries of our furniture and appliances arrived starting with the fridge, WM and dryer. Then came these - our new dining chairs:

Finally we had somewhere to sit, but there was just a small problem: we still didn't have a dining table:

And while Alberto's up the road was temporarily taking care of my caffeine addiction, it was playing with my need of being largely self-sufficient (we rarely do take-away anything over here) so I rummaged through the boxes until I found our old faithful - but then I couldn't find our coffee cups anywhere. Luckily I had a stash of takeaway cups at the ready:

Our house was still largely unfurnished, so bare and not at all homely it was making me depressed, so I headed over to the Cottage Garden Nursery to find myself an indoor plant to introduce just a bit of colour in what was an otherwise blank-white-canvass. Of course I jumped straight on the bandwagon - probably a little late I know - and bought myself a fiddle leaf fig which fit perfectly into an old basket I had:

Attention then turned outside and it was time to start clearing out the mess to create a brand new backyard for the kids, so first came the excavators (not easy when you're on a small lot let me tell you.)

As much as the kids wanted to stay home from school that day to get amongst the action - they provided me with every excuse in the book - I still made them attend, but they did get their chance of taking control of the bucket:

During the excavation a number of items that had been dumped in the ground years ago were retrieved - mainly metal objects and a whole heap of glass bottles. These are two (maybe from the 30s or 40s) that I have kept as a memento:

OK - so the backyard started out like this - building rubble, leftover material and a whole heap of weeds:

The yard was then levelled up a bit and some new fences and garden beds were installed. We later planted them out with a row of tropical birch trees and underplanted these with a mixture of blue and white agapanthus.

That was the easy part - it then came time to laying some turf. But before we could do that we needed quite a substantial amount of topsoil to go down first and so the shovelling commenced which also happened to coincide with the most hottest and humid of weeks we've had all Summer long:

And then roll-out the turf: 

The corner in the top left is earmarked for the boys' fort

Doesn't look like much at the moment and there is still heaps more planting to do, but give it a year or so to establish and we should end up with a lovely, low maintenance garden to enjoy.