Sunday, 19 January 2014

Reno - Week 32

Last week's post on the size of today's housing really struck a chord with many of you - thanks for all the comments. Perhaps there will be a future trend in smaller but better designed homes. Also, I like to think that our renovation has inspired other owners of older-style homes who can't see past the  dark, pokey rooms and flaking paint. There is so much that can be done to turn them into well functioning and beautiful family homes - you just need to have a vision.

There is definitely some pressure to get our house completed now as we must vacate our rental by Monday, 3 February - that only gives us two weeks. With so much left to do and to organise, I'm starting to get very nervous.

This week the timber battens underneath the house were fitted which has really made an impact on the overall appearance of the house:

The old girl finally has a new black skirt
As time passes, I'm finding it more and more difficult to remember the old colour scheme - that is until I start sifting through the old photos:

Not pretty - this was definitely one of the worst houses in the street. But not anymore!

An integrated gate has been put into one side of the screen which will provide access to the backyard and we are just waiting now for the garage door to be installed, a sliding motorised gate to match, which then gives us secure storage underneath the house. We still need to fit the window hoods and screens and the handrails for the stairs and that should pretty much wrap-up the external elements of the renovation.

Out the back, the bricks stairs and paths are currently being finished off:

Once the bricks are grouted they will be acid washed and then sealed. There should be very little maintenance with them after this.

There's still just a bit more external painting to complete - doors and windows. The back of the house looks like this now:

And heading inside - the floor tiles in the bathrooms have now all been laid. Here they are in the ensuite:

The subway wall tiles in the ensuite and kitchen are next in line and that will be another job ticked off the list.

Tiles in the shower
There's been so many little last minute changes along the way, the latest one being the towel rails in both bathrooms. Custom timber towel rails were originally specified but in light of the fact that we are fitting brass framed mirrored cabinets in each bathroom, we decided to add another brass element using these Futagami towel rails:

Unfortunately the supplier is out of stock at the moment - so they will need to be fitted after we have moved in but we can do without them for a couple of weeks I guess.

There is only one week remaining of the school holidays - and yes, I've survived (but only just.) We are all very much looking forward to moving into our new home.

Monday, 13 January 2014

How much room do you need?

During the course of our renovation a number of people have questioned the size of our house, suggesting that it is too small for our family of six. But how much room do you need? Yes, the kids will be sharing bedrooms, and no, we don't have a formal dining room or a media room for that matter - but that's not how we live. For us, it was more important to retain adequate outdoor space rather that building a 'McMansion' on a small site. And this has become even more apparent having lived in an apartment for the past two years. 

It got me thinking back to a post I wrote over a year ago - and it's still a topic I feel quite strongly about. Why do people think bigger is better?

The average new dwelling in Australia is the biggest in the world, while at the same time the number of people living in these houses has fallen. If we were to measure how much space each person has, it averages at 100 square metres each. Does that seem like too much? Do we really want the additional cleaning, maintenance, and utility costs of running a large home? I know I don't.

So how much space do we really need to live comfortably? I was listening to a program recently where Stuart Harrison (a Melbourne-based architect and the author of Forty Six Square Metres of Land Doesn't Normally Become a House) suggested that 40 square metres per person should be sufficient, provided that there is adequate outdoor space as well.

So if I take this advice into context, we would need a house of about 240 square metres. The total internal living space of our house is well under 200 square metres, which falls somewhat short of the Staurt's suggested amount. Does this mean our house will be inadequate to meet our needs?

Certainly the one thing I have discovered over the past few years is that open-plan living is not the ideal style of home for our family. The main problem with it for me is the noise - and believe me there is an awful lot of it at my place. Sure we enjoy living and sharing our lives together, but it's also important for me to be able to retreat into a space where I can do my own thing (e.g. listen to music, watch TV, cook and a quiet place to read.) Our rooms are modest in size but they are somewhat separated - which means I will never have to listen to another children's TV program while I'm preparing dinner or attempting to have an adult conversation with my partner.

Stuart's book is a very interesting read - it showcases 45 examples of space-challenged housing and demonstrates that bigger is not necessarily better. So what are your pre-requisites for the perfect dwelling?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Reno - Week 31

Whilst most of the new fixtures and fittings were itemised on the building schedule prior to construction, a couple were overlooked - one of which was the front door hardware. We are replacing the existing front door with an old internal door (they are both identical) as it's in really poor condition as well as having a rather large gap in the bottom of it (not good for keeping out unwanted guests such as insects or mice for that matter.) I've also been in two minds about keeping the existing front door hardware. Gotta have a good first impression - right? After visiting a number of local hardware stores, I couldn't find anything that I liked so I did what I do best and shopped online. The only ones that appealed to me were all from the USA (we really have a very limited choice here by the way), but when I finally found an entrance door set that I liked, it just so happened to be discontinued. Back to square one....

But then I stumbled upon this one from Baldwin Hardware which was almost identical:

It's a solid forged brass handleset with an emergency egress egg knob - a little pricey but I guess that's the way it goes with a quality product.  I've since ordered it (with Antique Nickel finish as shown above) which will be fitted onto the new door which will be painted in, you guessed it, gloss black. So with that out of the way, the only remaining thing to select now is the letterbox.

Not too much else happened this week other than lots of painting and some more tiling, however the plumber did make an appearance to fit some of the taps, including this one in the kitchen:

Perrin and Rowe Oberon Tap with Round Spout and Spray Rinse
Most of the wet areas in the extension have now been tiled, including the subway tiles in the laundry:

Marble benchtop with integrated shelf - how lucky am I?
The tiles are yet to be grouted, but the finished product will look similar to the image above as we are using a grey grout. The tiler has done such a marvellous job.

All the rooms are now slowly starting to come together. Here's a sneak peek at my new office nook and storage/linen cupboards which are located in the hallway. I've ordered an Artek E60 stool for the office so that it can be tucked underneath the desk and out of the way when not in use.

Next week the carpenters will be fitting the traditional Queenslander battens around the base of the cottage - yes, the old girl is finally getting a new skirt. There's still handrails for the front stairs, stainless steel benchtops in the scullery, window hoods and a whole raft of other jobs programmed to be completed as well.

So to finish off, here are a few more Before and Currents starting with the front verandah:

And the rear elevation has changed from this:

To this:

And the front:

Green weatherboards
Crisp White weatherboards - much better
Still plenty more to do........

Friday, 3 January 2014

Reno - Weeks 29 & 30

Just when Christmas kicked in and most people took some well-deserved time off, the painters kept the renovation momentum going at the West End Cottage during the holidays. But everyone is back on deck come Monday so we should see a few more of the outstanding jobs being finished very shortly - and there are quite a few to get through before we can move in.

I'm going to show some before/currents again this week to show just how far we've come in six months. This room (previously a living room) is now the space for the kitchen/dining room:

Most of the kitchen joinery has now been fitted. The marble benchtops have been sealed, but we are still keeping them covered up. A bespoke utility rack that was built some time ago has now been painted, but it's not totally complete yet. A panel of decorative glass will stretch across the middle third of the frame and will be backlit (you can see the wires protruding from the wall at both ends). You can't have too much kitchen storage I say.

The original window on the right-hand wall was removed and replaced with an opening that leads into the scullery.

As you can see we've also created an opening in the wall on the left that provides access into the Sitting Room.

The joinery in the Sitting Room, a former bedroom, was also painted during the week:

We still have to install the blackbutt kicks and banquette seat cushions. And to finish the room off I've ordered an armchair and a George Nelson Bubble lamp to hang in the corner of the room, creating a cozy spot to sit and read (if that's at all possible with four small boys.)

Love the detail in the joinery here, including the criss-cross decorative shelf framing:

The painters also undercoated the FC sheets that line the walls on the terrace:

This grey-coloured undercoat is what is usually used when your finished topcoat is a dark colour (i.e. black.) And speaking of black paint, that will be a job for next week - finally getting another coat of black onto the weatherboards at the back of the house:

I've made a few minor alterations to the landscape design I put together a few weeks ago and eleven advanced trees have now been put on hold, waiting for our landscape contractor to commence and plant them into position.

I've even played around with some more fort designs - this one is Option No 2, and is based on a Scandinavian-style Summer House that also mimics the rear elevation of the house. It is perfectly scaled for little people and has a large awning window that can be used for role play (i.e. shop/cafe) and also includes a loft.

I'm thinking about using the above fence detail for the front fence (to replace our old falling-down picket fence which has since been removed.) The question is - should I paint it white or black?