Saturday, 22 December 2012

Shared Bedrooms

Well haven't we gone full circle? I was just reading back through the blog when we were in the middle of the design phase and we were unsure about whether the kids should share a bedroom or not. Then we decided that they would have a room each. And as it turns out now, they will be sharing - two to a room.

As mentioned previously, the kids' bedrooms will be located in the new extension at the back of the house. Hopefully the separation between their rooms and ours will put a stop to all those late night visits we still seem to be getting.

Each bedroom is average in size, but as there will be two boys to a room, we have tried to incorporate as much storage as possible.

Both rooms will include built-in beds, which consist of a plinth with drawers underneath - a good place to stash toys, shoes, etc. We also plan to install some open shelves above each bed for books, toys or to display their favourite objects.

A wardrobe will be located at the foot of each bed, and will include hanging space and open shelves. I got the architects to specify two rails in the wardrobes, one at the standard height and one placed halfway down. I want the kids to become independent and be able to dress themselves, so having clothes at a level where they can reach them will certainly benefit this cause. As they get older the top rail can cater for shirts, jackets, etc and the bottom rail will become a trouser rail.

The bedrooms will have vaulted ceilings, which will increase the feeling of spaciousness, however  a bulkhead over the bed itself will create a cozy, cocooning feeling - perfect place to snuggle up at bedtime.

Blackbutt flooring has been specified for the entire house (including the bedrooms) except for the original cottage where the existing golden honey-coloured hoop pine boards will be sanded back and polished.

Only question now is whether to keep the kids' rooms neutral or add a splash of colour?

Chalkboard walls

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Something out of nothing

During one of my walks around West End recently, I stumbled upon the Jane Street Community Garden which was overflowing with a wonderful variety of herbs and vegetables, and it got me thinking how much I miss not having a garden of my own.

Before moving back to Brisbane we were living in a rental house in Millthorpe which is about 25kms from the town of Orange in NSW. The house had established garden beds which had been planted out with rhubarb, potatoes, broad beans, carrots, beetroot and a number of different herbs which we made full use of.

On the odd occasion when the pantry was getting empty I was still able to knock up a meal from a few staples and some things I found in the garden. And if we ran out of bread, I found it easier (and less stressful) to mix together a dough from flour, water, salt and yeast and make a loaf of bread rather than pack up the kids and drive into town to buy one.

One day some spinach, which self-seeded, started to sprout from the ground and it grew into a massive bunch - I simply picked off the outer leaves when I required them and the plant just kept on growing.

Harry standing in front of the spinach which self-seeded

One afternoon when I was stuck for something to make for dinner, I remembered a recipe my mother used to make called Pita, which is a traditional Bosnian dish very similar to the Greek Spanakopita, or Spinach Pie.

I knocked up some filo pastry (which is not that difficult once you get the hang of it), filled it with a mixture of cheese and spinach, rolled it up and then baked it in the oven for 45 minutes until it was golden brown.

So a wedge of this Spinach Pie along with a side of salad was our dinner that night. Beats driving 50kms with a car full of kids to buy a bunch of spinach and packet of filo.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Yellow Chair Love

Why is it that when you want something, it suddenly appears everywhere?

West End Cottage - Interior Design by me

Now that the plans are complete, I've been spending a lot of time daydreaming about furnishing the interior. A lot of people find this task pretty easy, but my problem is I like so many different styles - I can sway from one style and/or colour palette to another within hours.

If money were no object, I would hire an interior designer. But for now I'm just going to have to wing this on my own, but of course any ideas or feedback on this subject is MOST welcome.

You all know that the weatherboards will be painted white (with just a little black here and there) but I don't want the interior to take on a monochromatic look, so I have been considering adding some pops of colour  - and my colour of the moment is YELLOW.  I've been putting together several mood boards which I find really helpful.

Now normally I would not be so brave as to select a colour for a piece of furniture - I always go for something safe, but I am loving this bright yellow chair from Thonet for the dining area:

My initial choice was this DSW chair in black:

which I thought was a good option as it is a) easy to wipe down, b) won't show dirt and grime and c) masculine (remember this is a male dominated household after all.)

But I thought that the yellow chairs will add a certain cheeriness at the breakfast table each morning which I hope will set the mood for the rest of the day.

I thought of taking the same colour scheme into the living room as well:

Dark scheme

Light scheme

Would you buy brightly coloured dining chairs or would you save this colour for accessories only?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Kids that put you in a sticky situation

It was predicted to be a scorcher today, so I made plans to catch up with some long-time friends + their kiddos over at Wynnum where they could enjoy frolicking around in the water. After their swim we found a nice, shady spot to sit and enjoyed a picnic in the park.

After lunch, while I was organising one of the other kids, my eldest boy went over to the covered picnic area nearby and started swinging from the timber handrail which surrounded the timber structure. Little did he realise, but someone had left their mobile phone perched on top of one of the posts - he accidentally bumped it and it fell to the ground - this was the result:

When I returned to the group after I was washing down one of the little ones, I encountered a woman giving my friend a serve about her not supervising HER child and how he had broken her mobile phone. At first I felt absolutely awful, and I was about to offer her some money to have it repaired. I was also about to explain that my boy has ASD, and is known to be clumsy, and it wasn't his fault, etc, etc. But then I thought how foolish it was to leave a mobile phone in a spot were there was every likelihood of it being damaged or even stolen. Is it my boy's fault that he didn't see the phone sitting on top of a rail that he thought was a perfect place to hang from? Should I have been more vigilant in regards to his supervision?  Should I have offered her money to fix it? What is the correct phone mobile phone etiquette in this situation?

As a mother of four, I am always very careful about where I leave my things both at home and while we are out and about. It's bloody hard work going to the park with four kiddos, especially one that's surrounded by water. I have enough on my plate looking after the safety of my children and my own belongings, let alone those of others.

Yes, my kids goof around sometimes and do silly things without thinking. But hey, they're only kids...

Friday, 7 December 2012

2013 - Year of The Reno

It has been approximately 10 months since my first meeting with O+V+P and after a number of changes from the original concept design, the plans are now finally complete. We expect to go out to tender in January so hopefully the actual work will commence sometime during the first quarter of 2013.

As I sit here looking at the photos of the house, I realise this will be one of the last times I see it in it's  original state.

We are now finally ready to start this renovation, but there have been plenty of hurdles along the way - renovating on a small lot in a DCP is not easy, but in saying that it is certainly achievable. Yes, the associated constraints have made this project more difficult than most, however it has also presented opportunities for innovation and design.

The house is much smaller in size than I had anticipated for a household of six, but I don't necessarily see this as a negative thing. Working within a tight budget and strict planning regulations is much like a good sauce, it's the reduction that enriches the final outcome.

After so much time and money has been spent on the design, will it meet all my expectations? Does using an architect make that much difference to the final outcome? I guess I'll just have to wait to find out. One thing I can say, however, is that working with the team at Owen+Vokes+Peters has been an absolute joy and pleasure. Their innovative ideas, attention to detail and work ethic never ceases to amaze me. Would I recommend them? Definitely.

Thanks to everyone that has joined us on this journey so far. I've received lots of really positive feedback and it's been fun sharing my experiences throughout the design process. If you want to stick around, come and follow the next phase of the project - Construction. I'm sure there'll be lots of stories and information to share with you along the way.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

What makes a man go?

Mangoes of course, and Summer = mangoes at our place.

With all this hot weather we've been having I thought I'd treat the kids with some homemade mango sorbet. They absolutely love it! And this sorbet only takes a couple of minutes to whip up. It's the perfect thing to cool you down on a hot day.

Mango sorbet - made in just 2 minutes in the Thermomix

And now that the season is in full swing, they are plentiful and cheap. The kids love eating them straight up and we often have them in a smoothie for breakfast. What's your favourite mango recipe?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

School Holiday Craft Ideas

The school holidays are almost upon us and whilst some of us see this as a time to relax and take it easy - no more lunches to prepare, rushing to get to school on time, uniforms to clean and homework to do help out with, others see the impending six weeks as sheer hell!

If your kids get bored and are driving you bonkers, how about nurturing their creative side with some fun and easy-to-make projects at Made by Joel. I stumbled across this site the other day - there are some really cool ideas here which I'm sure you and your kiddos will love. Check it out (if you haven't already.) Happy Holidays!

Free Downloadable Colouring Sheets

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kitchen Sinks - draining options

When it came to selecting fixtures for my new kitchen, I knew right from the outset that I wanted a stainless steel undermount sink - and now that the design includes a scullery I will actually have two. The main sink will be used for washing dishes, and the other smaller one will be used in the prep area.

Traditionally, most kitchens feature a double-bowl sink with drainer. But as most of us use a dishwasher now, is a double bowl really necessary? In fact if I'm washing the odd thing by hand, I usually wash and rinse as I go, so I really don't need a double bowl. So I have decided to go with one extra big bowl instead. We are getting a 90cm freestanding oven, so having a sink large enough to hold the extra wide trays, racks, etc makes a lot of sense.

The big question for me is the drainer. I have been looking at lots of different kitchen designs and noticed that most undermount sinks that are installed into stone benchtops don't include a drainer. So where do you leave the dishes to dry?

I didn't want a stainless steel drainer attached to the sink because it would take up too much room and I wanted the marble to be the hero in the kitchen, not the sink/drainer, so my first thought was to have a recessed drainer, where the stone is cut away so the draining area is slightly lower than the surrounding bench top. You can also have grooves cut into the stone to act as a drainer as well:

Drainer carved into stone

But I thought of another idea: I could get a sink that comes with an optional draining tray that sits onto one half of the sink. It can be removed or left in place as needed.

Imagine this sink as a single bowl

There are a number of contenders that I have been looking at, including this one from Blanco:
I would then use it's smaller cousin as a prep sink in the scullery so it all goes together. Would I miss having that second bowl? I don't think so.

Now all I need to do is decide on the tap. I like both of these beauties from English Tapware -  they include an optional pull-out spray rinse which is great for rinsing off large trays, filling pots or tall vases, or in fact cleaning out the sink itself. Whichever one I choose I'm selecting the pewter finish and it looks really good with either marble or stainless steel benchtops.

I think I've covered just about everything now. Oh, and back to the A/C, a rep from Daikin has cast his eyes over the latest house plans. He is going to propose the best system for our needs - let's hope it's not too expensive!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Keeping Cool

Sheesh, it was a hot weekend! Lucky for us Southbank is nearby, and there's no better way to stay cool than spend some time down by the water...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Regatta Hotel

The Regatta Hotel has only recently re-opened after the $10 million repair and restoration that was carried out after it was swamped during the January 2011 floods.

By day and night...

And Toowong just happens to be closer to West End than you might think. Yes people, we can hear you from the other side of the river....

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?