Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Queenslander Houses - would you buy a renovator?

What is it about Queenslanders? They're cold in winter, hot in summer, prone to white ant attack and are in constant need of work, but thousands of people, me included, wouldn't live in any other kind of house.

Perhaps it's their simplistic structure or the natural materials they are constructed from that harks back to a time when life was simple and carefree. It seems that as you get older sometimes you just want to wind the clock back to the good old days.

When I'm out walking around the streets where I live and see an "old girl" in need of some love, it's almost like walking past the kennels at the RSPCA - these houses are looking at me screaming "please save me!" I just can't help myself - if I had more money I would buy them all and do them up, one by one.

I'm still extremely keen to continue with our renovations, but there have been quite a few good houses that have come onto the market of late (probably has something to do with Spring.) I'm just checking all  other options, before we actually start.

I arranged for an inspection of a house the other day - it has a good floor plan and sits on an elevated 650 m2 block (which is pretty good for around here.) Sadly it has suffered from neglect and lack of maintenance over the years. Most people wouldn't look twice at it. But I can see past the rusty old roof, termite damage and awful colour scheme.

Water damage

White ant damage

Rusted out roof and gutters

When I saw the enclosed front verandah:


This is what I imagined it could look like:

My vision

And this old sleep out:

With that wall knocked out could become this:

So I did a crazy thing - I put in an offer!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Have you ever missed out on THE house of your dreams?

Anxiety has set in, and I'm feeling like a bit of a traitor because for the last 48 hours I turned my back on our cottage and it's impending transformation.

The other day, I spotted a house for sale in a neighbouring suburb. Considering it's size and proximity to the city, I felt it was very reasonably priced. I drove past it 4 or 5 times, and called the agent to arrange an inspection.

You see, this house is much, much bigger than our worker's cottage. In fact it's more than twice the size. It also sits on a larger parcel of land, it has some beautiful traditional features and appears to have very good bones. Although it is in need of a spit and polish, it really doesn't have to be extended to cater for our large family. All it needs is a re-arrangement of the existing rooms in order for it to flow better.

In these troubled financial times, it's all a matter of good economics. I decided I was prepared to buy this house and let the other one go. That was it - I had talked myself into selling our cottage.

I sat up until midnight mulling over the current floor plan, sketching my little heart out until I came up with the perfect design solution. (I think I used a ream of paper in the process and sharpened my pencil until it had almost disappeared.) I made sure that I could incorporate some of our current design features, and it all fit in perfectly under the existing roofline. We could make these alterations for half the cost of the renovation at West End, have a substantial backyard for the kids and still end up with a really great house  -  although the cottage is in a far superior location as far as I'm concerned.

My dream for our cottage in West End was about to end - along with this blog which I have only just started.

However in the course of trying to arrange an inspection with the agent (who didn't return my call), the house went under offer. And I'm now finding myself feeling a little pissed off. Perhaps it's just the universe - what will be will be. So it looks like our renovation in West End is still proceeding.

Have you ever missed out on THE house?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Free Shipping?

Today I received the quote to have a bicycle shipped from Sweden to Australia - and the charges are more than the bike itself. Question is do I want the bike that bad or should I be looking for a cheaper alternative?

Sommer in Black (top) and Maya (bottom) by Papillionaire

I saw a lady riding this bike at the West End Markets last Saturday. It's from Papillionaire, an Australian based company who design affordable, Euro-style bicycles. Papillionaire have an on-line store where you can customise your bicycle and have it delivered to your door. It will cost half the price of the other one.

On another subject - we received a second cost estimate for the house. It was still a little high, but much more reasonable than the first one, so based on that we can now move forward onto design development.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bangalow, Pete Murray + Impending Tree Change

When Mark suggested buying acreage in northern NSW, he wasn't kidding! So on Sunday morning, we packed up the car and headed south - first stop Bangalow. Everytime we head down the Pacific Highway, we always pull into Bangalow - it's a beautiful little town and I'm not the only one who feels this way. This place is always packed and it's usually very hard to find a spot to park the car.

We went into our usual haunt, Choux Choux Patisserie, for a coffee and then went for a walk down the main street. Couldn't leave without stopping into Barebones Art Gallery for a quick look. That was were I saw the flyer - Pete Murray was doing a charity gig at the local bowling club which was about to commence in 30 minutes time. OMG!

I first saw Pete perform in the Valley long before he became a household name. It must have been more than 10 years ago, and that was when I first got hooked. Last year he did a tour to promote his latest album, and this tour included a gig at West End. I happened to be pregnant at the time, but thought it would be my last opportunity for a night out before the baby came along so I went ahead and bought some tickets.

The night of the concert came and I had one week to go. Call me crazy, but I went along anyway. I had a really good night out with my girlfriend Nomes - yes I was the heavily pregnant one at the back of the room and boy did I cop some strange looks. I went into early labour two days later - and it now appears that Oscar is a fan too.

I had a fleeting thought about going to see the performance at Bangalow that day, so I asked Mark to go and look at land and pick me up when he was done. The look on his face assured me that was not going to be an option. So we grabbed some real estate brochures, and off we went.

These are just some photos from our day trip...

We were driving down a country lane and I spotted this bull. The kids were asleep in the car, so I took a photo of him to show them. When I was a child, my sister used to sing a song to me called "Little White Bull" which I now sing to my kids - it's one of their favourites.

Charolais Bull at a local stud

The park along the river at Mullum is a usual stop for us as well.

Oscar is so fascinated by leaves.

These shots of the kids are at the same Park, both two years ago and now. My gosh they've grown.
Harry - then and now

Charlie - then and now
This part of the world is truly God's country - it's absolutely amazing and beautiful.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Laundry Sinks - size does matter

Following on from my previous post about laundry design, I thought I'd do some more homework on laundry sinks - something not usually on most people's list of priorities when building or renovating. When choosing a sink, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind:
  1. Type of sink (eg, overmount/undermount, freestanding)
  2. Shape (eg, square/rectangular/round/oval)
  3. Style and finish (eg, stainless steel/vitreous china, traditional or modern)
  4. Size of bowl
  5. How you intend to use it (eg, soaking, hand washing, filling/emptying buckets, washing the dog/baby)
  6. Budget
The most common sink we see nowadays is a stainless steel drop-in (or overmount) model, such as this:

The ABEY LODDEN PR45 – Single Bowl

They come with optional bypass, overflow and tap holes, and are available in various sizes. They are generally a minimum of 250mm deep, which make them ideal for filling buckets, etc.

As I am specifying marble benches, I wanted to source an undermount sink similar to this:

The CLARK Orion Main Bowl Undermount

But I also want a minimum depth of 250mm - But do you think I can find one?

It would appear that when they started to manufacture undermount kitchen sinks, they completely forgot about laundry sinks. You can use a standard kitchen undermount sink (like the one above) in a laundry but if you're after something a bit deeper than 200mm, it would appear that they are virtually impossible to find. I even rang Winning Appliances in the Valley, who stock the most extensive range of kitchen and bathroom appliances and fixtures, and the chap I spoke with said that in 10 years he has never been asked the question. He is currently looking into it for me, so I'll get back to you as soon as I hear. I personally feel you are better off with the deepest sink you can find.

If you're not concerned with the depth, but would like a contemporary style, they are also available in a square edged format:


Loving the built-in laundry hamper

I actually find this shape a bit of a bugger to keep clean, particularly in the corners, so I prefer the rounded edges as they are a little more practical for this reason alone. Remember, laundry sinks often double as an indoor utility sink for gardeners, home mechanics and renovators! So keep this in mind if you tend to dislike cleaning.

If you're over stainless steel, another option is the laundry sink made from vitreous china, similar to this:


We actually had this one in our last home, it reminds me of a bathtub in miniature:

Caroma Metro utility basin

It's not one I would have personally chosen, but boy did it come in handy after the birth of my second son. I could even fit two of them in it:

For a traditional laundry, the fireclay sink would be a beautiful option:

 Fireclay Sinks - double bowl

Acquello Italian Fireclay Sinks

Ooh look - those subway tiles are so sweet

Depending on how much our build is, I might have to "reduce, reuse, recyle" and make use of the existing laundry tub that's sitting underneath our house:

I actually think it looks kinda neat in this laundry!

So that's my wrap-up on the largely forgotten laundry tub. What do you use your laundry sink for and which do you prefer?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Farmer's Wife?

I collected Mark from the hospital today. I don't know if it was the drugs or what, but he advised me that he wanted to buy some land in Northern NSW and become a cattle farmer - moving interstate had not previously been something he was entertaining!

I was watching TV tonight (well actually I was washing the dishes at the time) and saw the preview of the new series of Farmer Wants a Wife. I couldn't help but notice the location of where this series has been shot. I recognised this house immediately - it has, until recently, been up for sale for a cool $7.9M but is now up for Auction.

It's located at Possum Creek in the beautiful Byron Bay hinterland. This house was built and owned by Aussie Paul Hogan, who sold in back in 2006.

This house is 800m2 under roofline - that's double the size of our entire block in West End and sits on 115 lush green acres.

Check out the pool:

Oh, and here's the master bedroom:

Foyer and Grand Staircase:

Personally I'd be happy with just the manager's residence:

Perhaps Mark should've auditioned for the show...

Bicycle update

After many emails back and forth between Sweden and Australia, we've almost sorted it out. I can't get exactly what I want, but I'm pretty happy with this option. This model, which has a frame size of 47cm, should fit me like a glove, but it doesn't come in Vanilla - shucks. It only comes in the following colour options:

What do you think? I personally like the black - and I think it would look really cool with a Brooks brown leather seat and brown handle grips.

The manufacturer advised that freight will probably cost more than the bike itself - YIKES. So I'm now waiting on a quote from a freight forwarding company with my fingers (and toes) crossed that it will be much cheaper than this.

The baby is almost old enough to go into a child seat or in our bike trailer, so when I eventually get a bicycle we will finally be able to go cycling together.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Stop bugging me - Peking Duck

My eight year old has a pretty unusual palate for a boy his age, and he has been wanting to eat Peking Duck ever since his teacher read them a story about a young girl celebrating Chinese New Year. He kept asking and asking until I finally caved in, so off we went into Chinatown - just me and the four boys.

We made a bit of an adventure of it and caught the bus in - everyone stared at me with pity. "Are they all yours?" people asked.

While the other young families were eating at Macca's, Subway, etc, there I was sitting at a table with a 8yr, 4yr, 2yr and 9 month old eating duck (well actually Oscar was just observing.)

The anticipation/The delivery

The consumption/The End

Jack was so damn excited - he has kind of missed out on doing lots of fun things because there's always been a baby to consider (e.g. spending the day at the beach - not so great with a newborn.) But times are slowly changing.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Trouble comes in 3's and decadent breakfast on show day

They say trouble comes in three's.

1. A few weeks ago, I spent 8 hours in Children's Emergency with Harry.

2. Then the other day, my regular babysitter fell off a ladder while she was painting and ended up in hospital - so no more help for me until further notice (btw I hope you're feeling better D.)

3. Last Monday morning Mark flew out to PNG, and on arrival started getting severe abdominal pain. He didn't want to risk needing treatment over there, particularly that he was going to be out in a remote jungle somewhere, so he caught the next plane home. I took him into hospital, where he will remain happily sedated on morphine until the end of the week.

I hope that is the end of our bad luck.

Late last night I realised we were out of bread, and rather than pile four kids into a car first thing in the morning to go to the shops, I decided to make my own which would be nice and fresh for the morning.

I've made this Walnut and Fig loaf lots of times, and it's absolutely delicious. So this morning's breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with parsley and walnut pesto, toasted slices of walnut and fig bread and OJ - oh and a freshly brewed cappuccino.

We haven't got any plans for today, however the eldest wants to go to China Town to have Peking Duck for lunch - I don't know where he gets it from!

Hope you're all enjoying yourselves on this Public Holiday.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


One room I haven't spent that much time thinking about is the laundry. Quite surprising really, as I seem to spend a considerable amount of time in there. It's amazing how much washing six people can generate - although perhaps I should consider myself lucky that I have boys instead of girls!

What is even more amazing is what our laundries used to be like. They were not housed in dedicated rooms inside - they were more of an afterthought, shoved underneath the house. Hardly a pleasant space to conduct daily mundane duties.

The existing laundry.  I'm planning on using the tub as a herb garden.

Our (who am I kidding) my new laundry will be located at the end of a "service corridor" which will also house the little chambers that are the toilet, shower and washbasin (kids' bathroom.) Due to it's proximity to the childrens' bathroom/bedrooms, I'm hoping that their clothes will end up in the laundry basket instead of the floor.

Ideally I would like a decent amount of bench space, for sorting/folding all the clothes and a couple of washing baskets built into the cabinetry.

I was planning on using the same marble benchtop that will be used in the kitchen, purely for consistency. Initially I was concerned that using marble was a little too pretentious for a laundry however we are using simple "honest" materials in the joinery and tiling, so a bit of luxe is OK.

Undermount sinks look better, particularly when they're set into stone, but it's really hard to find an undermount laundry tub, which are generally much deeper than a kitchen sink. They all seem to be top mounted for some reason. Why is that?


1  TR Ghiaccio Gloss White Glazed Ceramic Wall Tile
2  Blackbutt Timber Flooring
3  Doors & Drawers
4  Marble - Statuario Venato Extra
5  Enware LEVA Tap

Also on my wish list is the biggest (8kg) front loader washing machine from Bosch which will slip underneath the benchtop (giving me more space). I'm not a huge fan of driers as I think they eventually wreck your clothes if used too often. We will have heaps of space in the undercroft, so I may even put a clothes line down there for rainy days.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Latest work by Owen & Vokes

The alterations and additions to this Queenslander cottage (by Owen and Vokes) is nearing completion. There are a lot of similarities between this one and what has been planned for ours, so it was fortunate that I was able to get a peek inside.

This is the master bedroom which is located in the new addition. The bedhead, including the shelving and cupboards on either side weren't part of the original plans, but were designed for the clients after the room was built. I love the bespoke joinery in this house (and there is a lot of it) - it really ties in nicely with the original dwelling.

There is plenty of built-in storage here. These drawers and hanging space make up the WIR in the master bedroom.

Solid casement windows in the WIR provides natural light while providing privacy
The bathrooms have been divided into rooms for separate functions, ie the basin, shower, WC and bathtub are each housed in individual spaces - which is a great idea for a large family. Each room can be used separately - no more waiting for someone to get out of the shower when you need to use the loo.

The shower spaces are flooded with natural light, and include both windows and skylights. As you can see they are tiled to the ceiling with white subway tiles.

The floors are tiled with unglazed porcelain tiles in this lovely pistachio green.

Basin in the ensuite

Owen and Vokes' are renowned for their simple B&W colour scheme, but the clients here made sure there was plenty of opportunity for some fun pops of colour. The main bathroom is finished with black bevelled-edge subway tiles on the walls and pink floor tiles.

This set of stairs leads down into a utility room at the rear of the house. The placement of windows and light wells have been really well thought out in this house. You can see the timber wall on the RHS has small gaps between each board which allows shafts of light to appear into the staircase (which would look amazing at night.) A similar wall features between the main central hallway and the living room in the original part of the house. 

Here's a look down the hallway from the front door. On the left are a couple of bedrooms, and the living room is on the right hand side - behind the new wall. Haven't the old floors polished up well? (All the floors in the new addition are made from blackbutt, which is what we have selected too.) In the distance you can see the floorboards, in what was once part of the sleep out, painted green.

Here are a couple of shots of the living room wall (which is the other side of the wall in the hallway above.) The original vj wall had been knocked out by the previous owners, but rather than build it back in with vjs again, the architects used wide horizontal boards leaving gaps in between, allowing light to filter into the rooms. The picture rails were also designed by the architects.

They created small openings just above the picture rails which give you framed glimpses of the intricate patterns of the breezeways above the bedroom doors in the hallway.

Hopefully I'll get some photos of the kitchen and other rooms once they are done. This house has got such a nice and relaxed feel about it - something that a good architect knows how to achieve.