Monday 30 September 2013


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

Jack: Caught out - again- playing his DS in the middle of the night.
Harry: Feeling poorly after suffering from a viral infection that has lasted for almost two weeks. 
Charlie: One hat for many purposes. One minute he is Indiana Jones - next beekeeper!
Oscar: One minute newborn - next almost two. Where has the time gone?

Friday 27 September 2013

Reno - Week 16

This week both the plumbing and electrical rough-in was completed. And I finally locked-in the lighting selection - something I had been putting off but needed to do, particularly as there is a 10 week lead-time for the pendants that I chose for the entry hall and sitting room.

Morning light in the boys bedroom
In spite of having very detailed construction drawings it's surprising how many minor changes have already been made. Things become so much more apparent when you are actually standing in the rooms as opposed to visualising the finished result based on a set of plans. But despite all our efforts in trying to get things 'just right' I'm sure at the end of the day there will be the odd item that I wish was different.

BEFORE - bathroom

I'm really looking forward to next week as the bricklayers are scheduled to return. Based on their previous performance, they should have the outdoor fireplace and all the other brickwork elements knocked up in no time at all. The bricks were supposed to be delivered this week, but when the truck arrived we discovered that there wasn't enough room to unload them - there were a lot more pallets than anticipated. Oh the joys of building on a small lot. In fact delivery of materials has had to be very carefully co-ordinated due to the lack of space. So now the bricks will be delivered in two separate loads and will have to be carted by hand to the back of the house - what a job!

We are now only a matter of weeks away from reaching lock-up stage. Windows and doors are due to arrive on-site very soon, so once they are fitted the guys can complete the external cladding. And speaking of cladding, I am still undecided as to what colour to paint the weatherboards on the extension - black or white. It is likely that this decision will be made by the toss of a coin.

Thursday 26 September 2013

New Bathroom Fittings - another variation to the contract

During design development, I didn't get too involved when it came to selecting the bathroom fittings. Our architect specified the lot, which included an exposed shower set for the bathroom and ensuite. The shower was like a modern take on the old-style exposed showers of yesteryear and it happens to be a model they have used on a lot of their projects.

Last week our plumber arrived on-site to start on the rough-in. The builder had already purchased the bathroom fixtures and when we pulled the shower set out of the box something other than what we had ordered was inside - and I didn't like it one bit. We later discovered that the manufacturer had changed the design without notifying anyone about it. So at the 11th hour I was sent into a tail spin in search for a replacement.

But rather than run around the stores with kids in tow, I jumped onto the computer and did a bit of on-line window shopping. I eventually settled on this Australian made shower set by Astra Walker:

It has a large 200mm rose and an adjustable hand shower for days when you don't want to wash your hair (and is very helpful when cleaning the shower as well.) I also changed the tapware specs for the wall hung basins so they match:

I had done some research on Astra Walker several years ago, and in fact I had chosen the bathroom fittings for our previous design from this very company. I have seen their products before so I feel comfortable about purchasing these items sight unseen (they offer very good warranties too.) They have an extensive range of products to suit all tastes and a huge selection of colours and finishes to choose from. For example here is the same shower in matt black:

And in aged brass:

All images via 

So another problem sorted thanks to internet shopping. Have you renovated your bathroom lately? Any favourite brand of fittings you'd like to share?

Sunday 22 September 2013


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

All: OK guys - the school holidays have commenced so please, I beg you, be kind to me.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Reno - Week 15

Sheesh -  I'm still getting over yesterday's marathon 4 hour site meeting. There was certainly a lot to discuss which has resulted in several variations of one kind or another.

As you can see from the above image the roof sheets have been installed along with some of the gutters, but the roofers went MIA so the remainder of the work is still yet to be completed.  Mmmm........ is all I can say about that.

The focus this week was completing a few jobs in the old cottage, one of which was this new opening between the dining and sitting rooms. It has made the biggest impact and has opened up the views from the front to the rear of the site:

New opening between Dining and Sitting Room
Looking out towards the street

Look familiar?

The doorway is dressed with pine boards which will be painted later on and includes a decorative semi circle cut-out (which I just love) that also features in various other locations throughout the house.

We are currently waiting for the new timber windows and doors to be fabricated so as soon as they are installed, the builder can commence cladding - at which point we will be at lock-up stage. So while we are waiting for that to happen, the plumber and electrician will make a start on the rough-in.

This weekend I need to lock-in the pendant lighting so that they can be ordered - I've found this exercise quite difficult to be perfectly honest and that's why I'm thinking about installing bare bulb pendants because they are inexpensive but still look good. They can remain in place if and/or when I decide on something else. The rest of the lighting decisions were done by the architect - uplights, downlights, spot lights, wall lights, task lights, mood lights, concealed lights - far too much for me to consider with only limited time away from the kids. 

Yesterday we also discovered that the shower sets that were originally specified many months ago are no longer available, so I've been frantically looking for a replacement so that the plumbing rough-in can get done. It couldn't have happened at a worse time - school holidays have just commenced which means shopping with four smalls - Great!

So now that all the frames are up and roof is on, the rooms have taken on a whole new feel - quite different compared to seeing them drawn on paper. This photo was taken from the new section looking back towards the front door:

As you can see the stairs are yet to go in, but it shows you the extent of the change in levels (only four treads) between the existing cottage and the new addition. To make it easier to follow, I've done a quick sketch-up:

Over in the boys' bedrooms, the ceilings are pitched and it sort of feels like being in giant teepee. The bedrooms are of average size however the soaring ceilings increase the volume so they seem much, much larger:

There have been a couple of changes in here with regards to the bulkheads and shelving and overall I think the amenity of the shared bedrooms will work out really well. 

I'm off to choose the lighting and plumbing fixtures now - see you soon with another renovation update. Have a great weekend.

Sunday 15 September 2013


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

Harry aged 5 -  "Let's cut Charlie in half and turn him into a sculpture." I can only guess that he was wanting to create a bust.

Friday 13 September 2013

Reno - Week 14

This week was dedicated to installing the new roof and I feel so much more at ease knowing the house is finally undercover. Surely it's going to rain sooner or later - we certainly do need it.

The last of the facia boards were fixed onto the new part of the house and the old gutters were removed from the cottage however we soon discovered that the facia boards underneath had seen better days, so we decided it was best to replace them (another variation - ouch!)

Battens were fixed into position, new eaves gutters were installed, roof insulation was rolled out and the new zincalume roof sheeting was screwed down, which heralds Phase 2 of 'de-greening' the cottage. (Phase 1 was the removal of the 'heritage green' battens from underneath the house.) Phase 3 will entail painting over the existing, you guessed it, 'green' weatherboards which now looks like it will happen sooner than we initially expected. Since the scaffolding is already in position, it makes sense to strip the old flaky paint from the external timber weatherboard and VJ cladding and give it a new coat of paint.

Internally there has been a few minor changes too. Below is an image of the old living room (please ignore the mess on the floor - it's the remains of the old kitchen):

The old back door has since been removed along with the sash window, which is being relocated to another part of the house. So this is it now:

What was the location of the window will become an opening into the kitchen/scullery and the removal of the back door will allow the hallway to continue through to the new section and out onto the terrace. While the model below is not 100% accurate, it gives you a pretty good idea of what this space will eventually look like:

I'm still in the process of locking-in the lighting fixtures which includes the pendant that will hang above the dining table. I do love the entire range of George Nelson Bubble pendants, but I'm thinking about hanging something very simple here now. I don't want a large 'look at me' pendant to compete with the lovely details that are planned for this room. Plus I really do need to keep a lid on costs.

And I've made a last minute decision to keep the original bakelite light switches in three of the original rooms as any new electrical work will be messy due to the single-skin walls. I just love how they 'click' but more importantly I would prefer to keep these rather than having a strip of conduit running down the wall to meet a new switch plate which is generally how new cabling is housed in these old girls.

The current bakelite switches are mounted on blocks which are located hard up against the door jamb and are very unobtrusive:

The switches look a little shabby and are covered in layers of paint, but they should clean up nicely. I am also proposing to keep the bakelite pendant fittings (again covered in paint) and just replace the cords with ones that are longer so that they can be draped over a hook.

Similar to this:

Images via

New cord + decorative bulb = big saving. Any tips/recommendations on the best way to go about restoring bakelite?

Next week the plumber and electrician arrive to commence the electrical/plumbing rough-in. Also next week the bricklayers return to make a start on the brick walls, floors and stairs. I'm really excited about the brick selection and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the terrace and outdoor fireplace come to life. This element of the scheme won me over from the very beginning.

Saturday 7 September 2013


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

Sun, Surf, Sand
All: You are most content when you can run free on a long stretch of beach.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Reno - Week 13

I can hardly believe we are already into Week 13 of the renovation, which also just happens to signify the halfway mark. Yes, only another 13 weeks to go - well that's the plan anyway.

This week the remaining rafters/trusses were installed and some of the boring (but necessary) jobs like bracing and tie-downs were completed. Scaffolding has been put into position and once the structural engineer gives the all-clear at the framing inspection, it will be all systems go installing the facia and gutters in readiness for the installation of the roof sheeting (and replacement of the existing roof.)

Our house is on a Small Lot and one of the requirements of the Small Lot Code is that walls must be set back at least 1.5m from the side boundaries. You can, however, build on the boundary provided that the wall is:
  • a maximum length of 9m.
  • limited to one side boundary.
  • a maximum average height of 3.5m.
  • has no windows to the side boundary, and
  • limited to non-habitable rooms.
We chose to take advantage of what would normally be considered 'dead space' along the side boundary and locate our laundry and main bathroom in this area instead. The main bathroom is actually a combination of three separate rooms : WC, shower and basin which means each can be used simultaneously - perfect for a large family.

This type of bathroom set-up is a little unconventional, but I think it will work really well. And another advantage of this design is that we have been able to retain more of our valuable outdoor space which would have otherwise been lost if a 'normal' bathroom scheme was designed.

The lowest point is at 1.9m but very quickly shoots up to 2.5m in height

So if you can't locate windows on a built-to-boundary wall, how do you obtain natural light into the rooms? Simple really, you locate them facing towards either side. We will be installing solid casement windows into the bathroom(s) which will provide ample natural light and ventilation while at the same time ensuring privacy.

Example: Solid Casement Window in a Shower Recess
Next week the roof sheeting is due to be installed. All the new timber window and door joinery has also been measured up and ordered, so it won't be long now before we reach lock-up stage.