Friday, 30 November 2012

How Cool are You?

One of the major reasons for my move to Brisbane was the weather. I originally come from down south and I hate being cold, so for the majority of the year I find the weather here pretty damn nice.

However I do struggle with the humidity during the height of Summer. The weather is definitely heating up, but up until now I haven't really put a great deal of thought into how I intend to keep cool in new house.

I have lived in both good and poorly designed homes, and the difference to your comfort levels is truly amazing. When you're renovating an existing dwelling it is almost impossible to follow each and every sustainable design principle. However our new design has allowed for good cross-ventillation and will be insulated throughout, and there are all the other design features like window overhangs, minimal glazing on the Western side, etc. But there are still those days and nights when there's not even the slightest breeze to give any relief from the heat and humidity. 

I personally think that ducted air-conditioning is overkill - it's expensive to install and run. I was originally proposing to install ceiling fans, particularly in the bedrooms, and perhaps a split-system in one of the living rooms, but I'm now starting to wonder if this will be enough.

I certainly don't want to retrofit A/C after I've moved in, but until I've lived in the house throughout a Summer, I won't know exactly what it's going to be like. Do you think ceiling fans are sufficient during a Brisbane Summer or would you go for a fully ducted air-conditioning system?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Home Office

A few of you by now may have been wondering, "Where are they putting the office?" Have no fear; it hasn't been left off the plans.

When we scaled down the size of the renovation, the architects had to think of clever ways to incorporate the items listed on our brief; one of which was a home office. I didn't really need a dedicated room, so they came up with the idea of putting an office nook in the hallway near the kitchen.

I actually requested for a shallow but wide pantry, as I find food items get "lost" in the back of most regular pantries. As a result, it gave us space on the other side of the wall (in the hallway) for an office nook which incorporates a built-in desk, filing cabinet, cupboards and storage shelves.

Hallway Section (you can see from this diagram that the house will be split-level)
Although the office nook is relatively small, there will be heaps of storage for files, stationery and general things that can clutter up a desk, so it can stay neat and tidy as it will always be "on show." I plan on getting a nice stool which, when not in use, can be tucked in underneath the desk; compact but functional.

Having the office located in our living zone means that I can still keep a watchful eye on the kids when they use the computer - and these tech-savvy kids are onto it already.

The linen cupboard is also located in the hall, rather than the laundry. Having it centrally located means it creates easy access for everybody in the house. The doors on the linen cupboards will have an architecturally-designed batten front which also incorporate the handles, so rather than it looking like a bank of plain doors, they will actually be a design feature of the hallway which will provide a lovely textural element, similar to this:

Model of Hallway

Model of Office Nook/Linen Cupboard
So that's pretty much a wrap-up of the plans for our eagerly awaited new house. The architects are madly putting together construction documentation in preparation for the Tender process which will now probably have to wait until after XMAS. The tender period usually takes around 4-5 weeks, so it will still be a few months before that first shovel hits the ground.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

How's it Hanging?

After living in an apartment for 12 months, I have had to change the way I normally do things. And in doing so, I have become very efficient doing the household laundry. Firstly we don't have a washing line, I hate using the dryer and it's against the body corporate regulations to hang things on the balcony to dry, but I've got the perfect solution.

I have been drying our clothes on one of those inexpensive mobile wardrobes, which I keep tucked away from view (so we don't get into trouble.)

Call me anal if you must, but doing the washing has got to be the most mundane of chores, so I like to keep this task relatively quick and simple. It might sound hard to believe, but I can dry the laundry from 6 people on this relatively small rack, which probably equates to about 3 metres of washing line.

After the washing is done, I give the clothes a good shake, put them straight onto hangers and leave them to dry. Once the clothes are dry, they go directly into the wardrobe; NO pegs, NO folding, but more importantly, NO ironing. I hang everything back into the wardrobe - trousers, shorts, t-shirts, the works. The only things that go into drawers are socks and jocks.

I haven't picked up an iron since I left full-time employment (which was years ago) but Mark happened to find the iron and the ironing board the other day. The kids got really excited as he unfolded the board and plugged in the iron. They wanted to know what these things were - ha!

I used to think that I would require 2 x Hills Hoists to manage our laundry, so who would have thought the solution to my laundry woes could be this simple and compact? So tell me, how do you hang?

Monday, 26 November 2012

New Laundry Plans

You could only imagine how much washing a family of six can generate, so not only do I need my laundry to be functional and handle the demands of a large family, I want it to look stylish as well.

Our laundry will be located at the end of the "service" corridor near the childrens' bedrooms and has easy access to the yard/clothesline via a rear staircase.

To keep the laundry tidy and also save me time sorting through a HUGE pile of dirties, I requested for several built-in laundry hampers; one each for whites, darks and delicates. Our current laundry is very badly designed. All the doors seem to swing the wrong way and being such a small room makes it really awkward to work in. There is barely enough room for a laundry hamper so when I'm sorting out the dirty washing, the clothes end up in big piles on the floor as there is nowhere else to put them.

The image below was one of my early inspirations for the pull-out laundry baskets:

I'm hoping it's location near the kids' bedrooms and bathroom will mean that the children will put their dirty clothes and towels in the hampers rather than on the floor.

The laundry will have the same aesthetics as the kitchen (as I like to keep things consistent). So that means white cabinetry, marble benchtops + shelf, cut out handles and my favourite subway tiles. There are also plans for a hanging rail for delicates that need to dry away from direct sunlight, or it could also be used to hang clothes to dry on those rainy days. I was going to suggest that it could also be used to hang clothes onto as they are ironed, but that is was my little secret - I don't iron! A casement window next to the tub will allow plenty of light and ventilation into the space and if the neighbours over the back fence trimmed up their hedge, I'd probably get a glimpse of the river too!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Night = Pizza Night

Friday night is Pizza night at our place. And no, I don't dial a 13 number, I use the dial on my Thermomix to create the most amazing home-made pizza bases in just a matter of minutes.

The cupboards start getting bare by the end of the week, but there's usually something left there to chuck onto a pizza. We always mix up the toppings for variety, but tonight I thought I'd try using spelt flour (rather than plain white flour) to make up the bases, and I must say I'll be using it again. This ancient grain is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity due to it's nutritional qualities and appealing nutty flavour.

The kids topped theirs with ham and pineapple which went down a treat.

We, on the other hand, used a gourmet salami from Eumundi Smokehouse (available from their stall at the Davies Park Markets at West End), some 'shrooms and topped it off with some fresh rocket.

And they only take 12 minutes to cook in a hot oven - now that's what I call fast food. Do you have a regular Friday night meal?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Master Bedroom Design

While the architects are busy drawing up the "boring" technical component of the design, I thought I'd share what we have planned for the master bedroom and ensuite. The master bedroom will be located in one of the front rooms of the original cottage - this room is now also being used as a bedroom, however there is not a wardrobe in sight. In fact the entire house lacks any decent storage, something which has definitely been addressed in the new plans.

The ensuite and WIR will be located in the space that is currently being occupied by a kitchen. There are a number of reasons how this design outcome evolved, but one important aspect from both the architect's and our perspectives was to keep the existing structure original and untouched. This meant retaining all the existing floors, walls, windows and doors where possible. We had to shuffle things around a little, but the outcome is still a lovely and functional place to sleep/bathe.

Getting back to the topic of storage, the bedroom itself is not particularly spacious so it doesn't really lend itself to loads of free-standing furniture, so what we have opted for is lots of bespoke cabinetry and storage solutions.

They guys at O+V+P have designed a very quaint bedhead which also incorporates some hidden storage and lighting, enabling any messy cords, phone chargers, piles of books, etc to be hidden from view. The bedhead is constructed from timber and will be painted white - which should look really great with the rest of the timber features in the house.

I was originally thinking about some cool pendants to hang next to the bed, but the bedside lighting has now been taken care of as it forms part of this joinery. It's actually hidden from view behind the bedhead - when the lights are on they will cast a lovely, soft glow upwards and across the VJ wall behind it.

We were also lucky enough to be able to steal some room from the ensuite for these simple drawers and shelves (using the same cut-out handles that are planned for the kitchen). I think a built-in seat was originally planned for this spot - great for sitting down to put on shoes, etc, but we felt that additional storage was more important.

The ensuite, whilst relatively small, again utilises some nice features, one of which is a skylight over the shower increasing the sense of spaciousness and light. I did a whole post on skylights in bathrooms here.

The shaft for the skylight will be tiled all the way to the top with a direct view of the sky above.

The shaded gap above (which is the doorway to the existing kitchen) will be filled in with VJs to match, and another clever design feature is the bespoke towel rails which will be positioned between the existing door frame timbers.

You will see that the original belt rail also remains in the ensuite as a reminder of the exposed framing technique that was universally adopted in building timber houses back in the day.

We are not having glass shower screens in either bathroom - which is a great thing as I hate cleaning glass. The shower in the ensuite will be separated by a tiled wall with a high level opening to allow light to spill down from the overhead skylight into the rest of the bathroom.

I am looking forward to finding some nice linen for our bed, and I have found some lovely products at Island Luxe down at Bangalow that sell a really beautiful range of linen, blankets, throws and gorgeous Turkish towels.
Bemboka Luxury Blankets, Throws and Towels

We've only got one set of linen for our bed at the mo, which has been puked on, drawn on, dribbled over and getting way past it's use by date. I'm planning on getting a set of crisp, white 100% linen bedding and teaming it up with a grey/charcoal or blue/navy (this is a male dominated household after all.) With all the white woodwork it's starting to look at little Scandi!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Waning House Prices - Definitely not in Bangalow

Remember this farmhouse I posted about recently....

It went up for auction last Thursday after being held in the same family for around 70 years. This house, which sits on just over 1/2 an acre happens to be located halfway between the township of Bangalow and Byron Bay on the Northern NSW Coast - great location with great rural and coastal views.

It had all the right features to turn her into a luxury hinterland holiday retreat.

We were very keen to purchase her, despite the rusty old fittings...

And underneath the technicolour carpet...

were these fabulous timber floorboards, which were in mint condition.

And the neighbours seemed really friendly as well...

We organised all the necessary inspections, etc and we were so keen to purchase her I even thought about how I would furnish it:

Last Thursday evening it was auctioned-off at the school hall, along with four other properties located in and around Bangalow. Mark just happened to be away on business that week (and without a babysitter) I packed up the four kids and drove down to bid. For the record, I will never take the children to another auction again.

The auction proceedings commenced with a 3-bedroom property located approximately 7 kms away from the one above. It was positioned on an elevated 5 acre block with lovely rural views. It sold for $410,000 which I thought was good value. At this point I started to get a little excited and thought we were in for a chance - we were only going to buy if we could get it for a good price.

The one I went to bid on was the last house on the list. Bidding started at $550,000 and rose quickly from there. It ending up selling for $810,000 - and no, I wasn't the winning bidder. I find it incredible that these small, country towns are still fetching city prices - particularly in this market.

I'm sure there'll be another just 'round the bend...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Banquette Seating - upholstery options

As we have opted to install banquette seating in the sitting room/library, this has negated the need to purchase an extra sofa. So all that's left to decide for this room is to select the fabric for the seat and scatter cushions.

I have always been a fan of Mokum, and their fabrics are so hard wearing which is perfect for my rough and tumble boys. I was originally planning on using something neutral, and introducing colour by means of artwork, cushions, throws, etc. But I can't seem to get that shade of "green" out of my head; that is, the same green as the tiles that we're using in the bathrooms.

I like these fabrics by Mokum - "Hakea Plain" and "Mimosa" fabrics both in Seafoam. Mimosa is similar to the pattern on the decorative glass that is being used in the room next door.

I know it would appear that I'm swapping the existing colour scheme around (ie external - green to white, and internal - white to green) but the green colour will be relatively subtle in this room as a whole. The room, which will be painted white, will be lined with VJ walls and white built-in shelving.  I was thinking of putting down a seagrass rug or similar over the polished timber floors.

So should I use the solid green "Hakea"or patterned "Mimosa" for the seat cushion? Or should I ditch the green fabric altogether and go for something else?

Artist's impression of view to sitting room from kitchen

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Kitchen Plans, and the idea of Food Flow

View from Kitchen into Scullery

Moving right along - there's been a bit of progress with finalising the plans, including the joinery design and I must say I'm pretty happy with how it's looking.

Designing the kitchen has been a little tricky, as part of it is located in the original cottage with the scullery located in the new addition. Unfortunately due to planning regulations, the scullery is slightly narrower due to the required boundary setback, hence why the side of the house kicks in at this point. There were also existing windows and doorways to consider.

Also as we scaled down the renovations, the dining room was deleted so we are now having an eat-in kitchen, which is most probably how the original cottage would have functioned, and anyhow I'm all for casual dining. With all this in mind, this was the best layout I could come up with.

I spent a fair bit of time thinking about the kitchen design, and how it will be used so it functions efficiently (keep in mind I cook for six so processing and production is high on my priority list) and I came up with this design strategy.

I thought it was best to locate the work areas in the right sequence, based on the way food is processed. To simplify this, food comes into the kitchen and

1. gets stored in a pantry or the fridge.
2. It then gets taken out again and washed up at the sink.
3. It is then chopped up at a preparation zone.
4. The food is then cooked.
5. Then served at a table.

If the work areas are more or less in that order, kitchen work will be easier, with fewer wasted steps. The diagram above illustrates this efficient food-flow idea as food is moved sequentially into and out of storage, through the appropriate work stations and then to the table. In saying that, if I have missed something or if you have any other recommendations, please by all means drop me a line.

But not only do I want the kitchen to function well, it also has to look right and work into the existing cottage framework. We've spent hours deciding upon fixtures and finishes, and I have changed my mind dozens of times already, but we have finally sorted it out (I think!) Here are the preliminary elevations:


The dining table will be located in the room on the LHS, so this is the "pretty" side of the kitchen. This room will include a bespoke drying rack fitted with decorative glass, marble bench tops over white cabinetry and a gorgeous tap from Perrin & Rowe. I've also specified a bigger than average sink -  as we will have a 900mm stove, the baking trays will be extra wide too. The existing VJs will feature throughout along with polished floorboards. All I need to select now is a beautiful pendant light which will hang over the dining table.

The room on the right is the scullery. This is where all the food is stored, prepped and cooked. We've decided to install high level windows here, so there is no requirement to install privacy screens. The splashback will be lined with white subway tiles (which will be laid horizontally), however I have selected stainless steel bench tops which will differentiate this area as "back of house" and also tie in nicely with the freestanding cooker. There is direct access via a set of sliding doors from the scullery through to the terrace and out into the yard, where I intend on having a herb garden - perfect.


This is the other side of the scullery, which houses the fridge, pantry, MW and heaps of other storage drawers and shelves for books, crockery, decorative items or whatever. That little cut-out (that's shaded above the fridge) is just a nice little something that the architects came up with. At night while the light is on in the scullery it will cast a nice glow through this cut-out and into the hallway on the other side.

  1. White Subway Tiles
  2. Marble Benchtop
  3. SMEG Pyrolytic Freestanding Cooker
  4. Oliveri Commercial Sink
  5. Stainless Steel Benchtop
  6. White Cabinetry
  7. Io Kitchen Tap with Levers and Spray Rinse
  8. La Scala Butterfly Coffee Machine
  9. Decorative Glass in Arabesque
  10. Blackbutt Flooring

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Could food additives really cause this?

Hang in there Harry...

Harry had an exceptionally bad week. To start off with, he was mucking around with his older brother and copped a foot to the face, which resulted in a chipped front tooth and subsequently a trip to the dentist. Then he had a head-on collision with his younger brother and ended up with a black eye.

But to top it off, he experienced a severe asthma attack in the middle of the night which meant a rushed trip to the hospital via ambulance (and of course Mark just happened to be on the other side of the country) which made it all the more stressful.

Now Harry does not normally suffer from asthma, but I think I may have found out the cause. Earlier that same day, he was at Kindy and the kids were all given icy poles after completing a short walk-a-thon. Now most people wouldn't have given this a second thought, but I cringed as I know these "treats" include questionable food additives amongst their list of ingredients.

Cola flavoured icy poles include the additive 150d (or Caramel IV) which gives them their dark brown appearance. This particular additive may be GM, prepared from carbohydrates, sulphites and ammonium compounds. It's potential effects, amongst others, is Asthma and is actually prohibited in foods for infants. I am making an educated guess that Harry may be sensitive to sulphites.

If you have a child who is prone to getting Asthma-like symptoms, you might also want to try avoiding foods that contain sulphites and sulphite derivatives by avoiding foods that contain listed ingredients in the range 220-228 as well as all artificial colours and flavours. You can find out more info about food additives and Asthma here.

Now on a more positive note, all those delicious stone fruits are slowly coming into season, so the other day a grabbed some nectarines and made this delicious Nectarine and Raspberry Tart. Just what I needed to sweeten up my week!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Black or White? External cladding colour choices

Our house is currently painted light green which must have been the colour of choice way back then, but the plan is to give her a few coats of Dulux "Whisper White".

Being quite the simple kind of lass that I am, I intended to use the same colour on the addition as well:

But I think my architects would prefer me to select black:

It certainly does give a dramatic effect - some people may even call it sexy. It kind of reminds me of those Scandinavian Summer Houses.

A number of other architects are also using this colour scheme:

It's something you either love or hate - but I'm happy to keep an open mind on this one. No matter what colour I choose, it actually won't be evident from the street. And once the gardens are established, the house will recede visually into the landscape. Would you be brave enough to paint your house black?