Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Lighting - what's your favourite pendant?

When some people engage the services of an architect, they provide them with a brief of their requirements and the architect does the rest, which includes selecting all of the finishes, fixtures and fittings. Most people don't have the time nor the inclination to fuss around with all the details.

I, on the other hand, have been heavily involved in the entire process (so I hope that I haven't been too much of a pain in the butt!) I think I'm on to my fourth kitchen tap already - but I promise there'll be no more changes :)

However there is one item I have left largely in their capable hands and that is the lighting and electrical fixtures. Luckily there is one thing we did agree on: no downlights. Not just because they are a visual eyesore (I hate ceilings that are peppered with downlights, smokes detectors, heat sensors, vents, speakers, etc) and with 3m high ceilings, I certainly don't want to be climbing up a ladder to change them when they blow.

One thing O+V+P are particularly good at is designing interesting lighting solutions, not just illuminating spaces but also stimulating the senses with both light and shadows. We have a wide range of lighting solutions throughout the house ranging from concealed batten lights, wall and pendant lights.

The dining area will be located in the original cottage, complete with high ceilings, timber floors, VJ lined walls and ceilings. As the room is also highly detailed, a simple pendant light hung over the dining table is all that is required to finish off the space.

Our architects have provided a number of options for this room, the first of which is bare bulbs. As we are dealing with a worker's cottage, making a feature of the bulbs symbolises the paring down to basics which harks back to days of old-fashioned simplicity.

Now this type of lighting is highly contentious - a bit like abortion or vaccination. You either fully support it or you are completely against it. I must say I wasn't a huge fan at first, but the idea is slowly growing on me. The idea is to hang them in a pair (or perhaps three) to fill the space and make a dynamic form. And another major benefit is they produce a lot of light and are very cost effective (eg $30 each - now that is a bargain.)

The next option is the Artek Golden Bell, designed by legendary Finnish architect Alvar Aalto:

Now I like this one for it's simple form and it does look rather elegant in this dining room:

But being made of brass, will it tarnish which may result in some regular polishing perhaps? - remember I'm all for low maintenance. However my allegiance is to all things silver, and all the other fittings in the house are either pewter, stainless steel or chrome. Fortunately it also comes in white, which could be quite nice too:

Then there's the George Nelson Bubble Pendants - I believe the Pear Criss Cross has been selected, but  then any one from the range would look great:

I'm afraid I'm still a little undecided. What have you got above your dining table and what are your faves?

Monday, 25 February 2013

It's all in the detail

One negative aspect of Queenslander-style houses (ie built on stilts) is that they are too far off the ground, creating a barrier between the indoors and out. My initial brief to the architects included that there be a stronger connection between the house and the garden.

The existing house is going to be raised, but only marginally, just high enough so we can park our cars underneath. This alleviates the need to build a carport or garage at the front of what is already a small front yard. However due to the fact that the site can be subject to flooding, building any additions on ground level was not an option.

The house had to work harder on the site to engage with it's surrounds. So how did we go about resolving this challenge?

Side elevation of the (to be built) children's bedrooms and terrace

A key strategy for achieving this was modulating the floor levels. So rather than looking down at the backyard from the house above, we will now walk down five steps to a private outdoor entertaining area that, in turn, leads to the garden at ground level. The kitchen itself is also open to the outdoors; the sliding doors peel back to provide access to the terrace which acts as a transition space, halfway between the house and the garden. This clever design negates the need for a long flight of stairs from the house to the yard, and having four small children this was something I wanted to avoid. The terrace and stairs will be open to the elements, but due to their masonry construction, will require little maintenance.

Section of the elevation above (the floor level shown is the minimum required.)  Notice the soaring ceilings in the bedrooms?

I mentioned previously that every room in the house has been carefully considered, and the boys  haven't missed out on some slick design features in their rooms either. The kids will be sharing bedrooms, and although the rooms themselves are not huge, they do include high ceilings and large window and door openings, creating the feeling of spaciousness. Another little feature in one of the rooms is a high level window, which draws the eye up to a peep-hole view of the sky beyond (a modern-day oculus perhaps) that will also provide a shaft of northern sunlight during the winter months when the sun sits lower in the sky.

Elevation of the bedroom featuring the high level window

Confused? This is the other side of the bedroom wall (see the little window?) The terrace features a Jetmaster fireplace which allows this outdoor room to be used during the colder months too. So much detail has gone into this space including some uber-cool decorative brick elements and a spot for a feature tree which will provide shade and privacy. I can just picture myself lounging around out here on a balmy Summer's night, the scent of frangipani in the air, drinking my favourite cocktail.

And at last we will also have somewhere to hang our XMAS stockings. Toasted marshmallows anyone?

Sunday, 24 February 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via  Che and Fidel

Jack:  "What's for dinner?" He always comes home with a huge appetite after a swim in the pool.
Harry:  Listening to his favourite book being read to him. We've been doing lots of reading lately.
Charlie:  The (almost) Naked Chef cooking up a storm.
Oscar: "..... we all fall down." Lying still on the floor - dizzy after spinning around and around.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Project Update

After a few more minor amendments, the construction drawings are now complete. We have gone out to tender and hope to get the building quotes back in around five week's time.

Proposed rear addition. The house is raised slightly off the ground to achieve flood immunity (just in case!) We are only 1 street back from the river.
Considering the small size of the house, this process has taken a while. However it's the modest size of the project that has made the importance of the overall design even more critical - each room has been carefully and thoughtfully planned. In fact each space, both inside and out, has some form of bespoke element included in the design - some purely decorative but mostly from a functional perspective.

I recently discovered that the house was actually built in 1928. No wonder it's looking a bit tired! 
Proposed Front Elevation. All the original character elements are to remain in-tact, however we are giving her a brand new colour scheme. Yes, the green is going, going, gone.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Cyclists - Go Slow on Riverside Drive

Riverside Drive in West End was inundated during the recent floods and once the waters subsided, the road was left with a cover of thick, brown sludge. It was left like that for almost three weeks, despite the fact that it is a very popular road for cyclists and joggers alike. I'm guessing the alleged water shortage prevented the road from being cleaned up sooner.

Riverside Drive during the January Floods

The other day Council workers arrived to conduct a "clean up" of the road, leaving much of the silt and dirt behind - and then it rained, turning the road into an extremely hazardous and slippery thoroughfare, just in time for the peak-hour cycling traffic.

This is the road after the clean-up!

And one by one, they dropped like flies slid and skidded across the road. Horror screams, grazed elbows and knees, twisted bicycles - it was awful to witness. Perhaps someone complained because at 10.30pm that night, just in time for bed, a street sweeper arrived. It was driven up and down that road for approximately five hours, and despite the noise and carry-on for most of the night, I expected the road to be squeaky clean the following morning.

But this is what we woke up to:

A cyclist with suspected spinal injuries
More carnage - and it continued throughout the weekend. Is this another flood-related Council stuff up?

Saturday, 16 February 2013



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via  Che and Fidel

Jack: He looks so small against the city backdrop.
Harry:  Looking for creatures at low tide.
Charlie:  My little water baby.
Oscar: Freedom.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Self portrait

Harry's first piece of artwork at Prep - a self portrait.

I think he has captured himself beautifully - I love every detail he's included from his button nose to that big mop of blonde hair.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via  Che and Fidel
Jack: Waiting patiently for his turn on the iPad.
Harry:  Trying to work out the mechanism on his umbrella.
Charlie:  Studying the water flowing into the sandpit at the new Ken Fletcher Park at Tennyson.
Oscar:  On the move, with his eyes set on the slippery slide.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

House Renovations in West End

There hasn't been much discussion regarding the renovation of late, but things have definitely been happening behind the scenes. The schedule of fixtures and fittings has been finalised, the architects have been busy wrapping-up the construction drawings, and we are now in a position to go out to tender. It will be interesting to see the difference between the initial cost estimate compared with the building quote, particularly since the project has been scaled down in size.

We hope to select a builder within the next 4-5 weeks and then construction can commence...... finally.

Wow, it's been almost a year since I started this blog and while we've been busy finalising the plans for our house, I've been checking out all the other renovations and new house builds that have been happening around the neighbourhood. A few of you may remember this place:

This house has always been a favourite of mine - great bones, large block, river views, great location, etc, etc. Well it's been going through a bit of a transformation as well.

This is the proposed concept plan:
In May 2012, the house was pushed into the stratosphere raised with plans of having a garage and pool on the ground level, living areas above that and the original cottage (the bit at the top) is planned to house the bedrooms.

This house has now been under construction for approximately 10 months, and there is potentially another 2 months to go - a total of 12 months construction - YIKES. I hope our's doesn't take that long to build.

Here's what it currently looks like:

Not a particularly good photo - still lots of fencing, formwork and building material in the way.
I'll post another photo when it's 100% complete. What's your initial reaction?

Saturday, 2 February 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via  Che and Fidel

Jack: It was the first week of school and by Friday afternoon, he was completely spent.
Harry: Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald slowly moves in which causes days of howling winds and torrential rain. We stepped outside to watch the Brisbane River slowly rise - it eventually burst it's banks and flooded the road.
Charlie: Alone, watching his favourite movie while his big brothers are at school. The nearby parks are still too soggy and covered in mud to go outside and play.
Oscar: Dancing to his favourite music - clothing optional in this humidity.