Window dressings

Photo source:  Linxspiration.

Photo source: Linxspiration.

I’ve got a feeling this will be round one of several attempts to plan the window dressings.  Already I’ve been thinking about the options for months.  Slowly the picture is becoming clearer.

First, check out this “cool” tool at SunCalc that shows you from which direction the sun will shine on your house at various times of the day and year. Sun calc Cicerellos Mandurah   This example shows the direction of sun at Cicerello’s (fish and chip shop) in Mandurah today.  I used a public address so you can see the full screen and all the options available.

To protect House By The Water’s location, I’ve zoomed in for the next shot.  You can see the angle of the sun from dawn (yellow line) to sunset (redline). Sun exposure at House By The Water.Our main living area (on the canal side of the property) is going to cop the afternoon sun.  In the middle of summer, the sun will set over the water which will probably create a lot of reflection.  The roof of the alfresco area will shade most of the living area, but as the sun gets very low we’ll need window dressings (in addition to external shade). Our living/dining area has a lot of  large windows, including the void space above the living room.

The Rubix has a lot of glass.  Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The Rubix has a lot of glass. Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Over the months I’ve played with the idea of curtains versus blinds but my conclusion is that we need blinds.  The curtains can be optional extras added later depending on how the mood of the space evolves, not to mention budget.

I love the clean, minimal look of blinds such as those pictured below.  They allow the view to be the star.

Pictures:  1.  Christopher Rose Architects on Houzz.  2. The Design files.  3. Improvised Life (Original source not found.)  4. Bayden Goddard Design Architects on HomeDSGN.

On the other hand, I love the homeliness and softness of curtains, and in particular, linen.

Pictures: 1. HomeDSGN.  2.  Home Adore.  3.  Vosgesparis.

At the simpler end of the house, lies the children’s bedrooms and the bathrooms.  For these rooms we think plantation shutters will be a great option.  There is no particular view from the front of the house (we think!) and shutters are easily handled by children, control the light well and can add a layer of insulation to the windows.

Photo credit:

Photo: Pinterest  (Original source not found.)

We had shutters previously, all over the house, and loved them:


Old room of the Little Pigs.

And for the master bedroom, we must have some linen curtains, probably with blinds hiding behind them.  I have a serious weakness for linen:

Pictures:  1.  Planete Deco.  2.  Once Wed.  3.  Apartment Therapy.  4.  With thanks to © Lucas Allen.

And of course, the smart option is to shade the windows from the outside.  Trees, I can do.  Blinds and screens? – I haven’t scratched the surface of these options yet, but there are certainly some inspiring alternatives available.   I fear the logistics and the prices at this point.

Pictures:  1.  Luxaflex.  2.  Evelyn Müller.  3.  Desire to Inspire.

So you see, another can of worms is opened.  Later, I’ll try to be more specific.  I thought I’d throw it all out there now because I know my readers always have some suggestions for me.  My Mum has been scaring me with curtain prices and the whole insect screen debacle (which is still in the “too hard” basket) has been a warning to me that balancing sun control, view maintenance, privacy, aesthetics and budget is not going to be easy.

Retaining wall footings

Usually, when I have a nightmare, I wake up just before any real danger strikes or I do this funny “treading-air” manoeuvre which lifts me above the trouble.  Perhaps prompted by an absence of news from our builders, I dreamt that my husband and I decided to go and look for ourselves.  Despite the fact that we are very familiar with Mandurah, we kept getting lost along the way and couldn’t find our block.  When I woke up that morning, there was a pleasant surprise for me.  The team at “Progress Realty Photo Services” (who are rendering their services free-of-charge, but have put in a large homemade apple pie order) had been on our site and sent us a photographic update.  I could kiss them!

Photo One:  

Remember that retaining wall cost shock I had a few months ago?  Well, here’s where that money is going:

Retaining wall footings.

Retaining wall footings.

Sometime soon, it should start to look a bit like this:

Future retaining walls - plans by Tim Davies Landscaping.

Future retaining walls – plans by Tim Davies Landscaping.


Photo 2:

Earth/sand moved from the canal side of the block and, what I can only assume is a kind gift from the neighbours – a palm tree.  Should I tell them that we have an aversion to palms, except when found on tropical islands?

Early housewarming gift?

Early housewarming gift?

I’m guessing that the wire is reinforcement for the slab?  It could also make a nice garden feature….  or cheap front fence?

Photo 3:

The boss of “Progress Realty Photo Services” demonstrating the scale of the earth piles.Progress Realty Photo Services on site.

To call it “earth” seems overly generous.  Trying to grow plants in that stuff could be an impossibility, but I’m happy to see no giant rocks.  I don’t want a site works cost shock like the retaining wall shock.  I’m not sure if I can “tread-air” fast enough to escape one of those.

So there you have it.  The first blog post of the “piles of dirt and building materials” kind.  How did you go?  Still awake?  Now that construction has commenced, I promise to intersperse posts filled with scintillating construction site photos with other posts.  Some hot topics coming up are window dressings, building inspectors and jetties.  Right now, I’m collecting quotes for inspectors and those insect screens are still bugging me.

Who let the flies in?

Centor fly screens with stacker doors.

Centor fly screens with stacker doors.

At some point during the planning process I asked for stacker door windows instead of sliding doors at the rear of our house for a cleaner outlook towards the canals.  And voila!  They appeared on our plans with the added bonus that they were larger than the original windows.  End of story.

Wrong.  Once our builders started to order all the materials and fittings for our house, they realised that the selected stacker door windows were not wide enough to fill the “holes” in the dining room walls.  So we switched to a different brand of stacker doors.  The problem is that the new doors don’t have fly screens.

The living room stacker doors still have screens.  A fixed window in the dining room (not shown) will be screened.  Do we need screening for the dining room stackers too?  Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The living room stacker doors (on left) still have screens. A fixed window in the dining room (not shown) will also be screened. Do we need screening for the dining room stackers too? Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Years ago, when we installed bifold doors, we didn’t bother with fly screens in Mandurah.   I’m all for a bit of exposure to the great outdoors, bugs and all, but one of the Little Pigs tends to physically overreact to bites, so I think we need to keep the mozzies out of the house.

So… the options:

1.  Do nothing.  Close the unscreened doors at dusk.  We will still have 2 other screened openings in the living area for air flow.  Deter mosquitos with clever plant selection.

2.  Install fancy Centor Screens during construction at fancy prices.  These screens (shown at top) are recessed into the floor and retract into the walls when open, effectively hiding the screens when not in use.  They look great.  A preliminary quote suggests that this will cost about $2000 per set of stacker doors plus installation.

3.  Retrofit insect screens later, as necessary.  Probably a less aesthetically-pleasing option.

The builders suggested two brands of security screens, equally as expensive as the Centor screens, but I’m worried they’ll obscure the view and I also wonder how much airflow actually passes through those kind of screens.

We’ve just about decided on the Centor screens but I am not yet convinced that they can be installed under our circumstances – you need walls to retract the screens into, but we’re a little short on those.  I’m waiting for some reassurance on that one.  Also, the builder wants to know what allowances need to be made to accommodate the screens…. somehow I’ve ended up as the middle man on this one and I feel unqualified.

The tricky stacker door situation:

Dining room stacker doors.  Both sets open towards the walls, so where would the screens hide when retracted?

Dining room stacker doors. Both sets open towards the walls, so where would the screens hide when retracted?

What lengths have you gone to, to keep out mosquitos?

Does anyone have some great insect screens that work with stacker doors?

Or does anyone have a funny (or not so funny) story about the night they walked into a fly screen and broke their nose/glass/screen?  I think there has to be one of those stories for every Australian household.

P.S.  Due to the new “look” of my blog, if you are viewing this post via the home page, you may have to scroll to the top of this post to locate the “comments” area.  Sorry ’bout that.  Of course, you could just go out on a limb and comment before you read the post.  That could be fun.

Guess the handover date competition.

Last week site works commenced on our block.  By yesterday, the site survey should have been completed and the concreters should be in this week to pour footings for our retaining walls on the canal side of our home.  Once the retaining walls are completed, the concrete pool will be installed, then it will be time to lay the slab.  I had a quick chat to the “Starts Manager” last week, who let me know the immediate plans.  So, from the moment of the installation of the builder’s sign, it has been all action.  Suddenly I’ve been checking the weather on a daily basis, hoping for good conditions for whomever has work to do on our block.

And, because I’m still excited, I thought we’d have a bit of blog fun…

My sisters have been busy over the last few years creating adorable children.  My Mum likes to heighten the anticipation of a new grandchild with guessing competitions.  A few months out, we guess gender, name, date and weight of the soon-to-arrive baby.  Just a little bit of fun, with my Mum promising a bottle of champagne to the winner.  Then she wins.

In keeping with this spirit, (I know houses and babies are not quite the same,) let me introduce House By The Water’s first (and probably only) competition.

WIN a bottle of West Australian bubbly!  

Made in Margaret River.  Red or white sparkling wine.

Made in Margaret River. Red or white sparkling wine.

Guess the handover date.

Here’s the conditions of the competition:

  1. Handover date is defined as the day that the builders give us the keys to our house in return for our final payment.  (The final payment is due within 10 days of practical completion.  Practical Completion means works is completed, apart from any omissions or defects that may be found at the Practical Completion Inspection.)
  2. The winner is the person(s) who selects the handover date correctly, or is the closest to the correct date.
  3. To enter, leave your guess in the comments section of this blog post or on the House By The Water Facebook page.
  4. If the winner is local, they may choose to drink their prize on House By The Water’s deck.  If the winner is not local, I will try my best to get the prize to you, but if you are residing in Saudi Arabia, I’m going to have to come up with a substitute prize.  If you are one of my favourite overseas home-building bloggers, be warned, I may deliver the prize in person.
  5. The competition closes in one week from today, on Tuesday July 15th at 9 pm (West Australian time).
  6. The winner will be announced on this blog and on the HBTW Facebook page within one month of the handover date.
  7. Webb and Brown-Neaves employees and their families are not eligible to enter.

Here are some clues:

  • We specified on our Preliminary Plans Agreement that the house should not be completed before July, 2015.
  • Our building contract states that “Time to complete works” is 315 working days (from which exact day, I’m not too sure).  This does not include Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays.  Good luck calculating that one!
  • Don’t forget it’s a double story house.

May the luckiest reader win!


The Sign has arrived.

Hello builders!

Hello builders!

Wooohoooo!   Yeah Baby.  Woot! Woot!  Do a little happy dance….

My Mandurah spies sent me this photo today.  Yup.  We have a sign.  The builders have arrived on the block!

There’s been a bit of a block tidy up too.  Our neighbours are extending and for the past year have had the luxury of our vacant block for parking, crane access, brick storage and garbage skips.  Thumbs up for leaving our place clear.

Block cleared.

Block cleared.

I’m excited.  That’s all.

West Elm

Window Shopping

I’m not exactly sure what the builders are up to right now, but the odd little bit of “behind the scenes” information is sneaking into my inbox.  What are the soak well requirements for the pool?  Can I confirm that I want the front door stained not painted?  And, most excitingly, the names of our Construction Liaison, the “Starts Manager” (in charge of site works and slab), and Site Supervisor. Any moment now there will be a start date!

Meanwhile, I’m having a little holiday in Australia.  And as I take my job as Chief in Charge of beautifying House By The Water seriously, I plan to do a bit of retail research.  This week I’m in Sydney, hitting the shops for a couple of days with Aunty Kate.  Then, my husband and I are having a rare child-free 24 hours in Beechworth, North East Victoria.  And finally, a mini-break in Melbourne with the kids to soak up all that we love about that great city.  Food, shops, interesting architecture and a European vibe, all seen through the rose-coloured glasses of sentimentality.  (My husband and I met in Melbourne 20 years ago and lived there for several years.)

I thought I’d share my itinerary wish list with you, in case you have some recommendations for me.


  1. West Elm.  (Pictured top.) I’ve seen a lot of pinning action on some lovely West Elm furniture and their prices are not too shocking.  I want to see how it looks in reality.
  2. Williams and Sonoma.  When I lived in Canada I visited this paradise for home cooks regularly and was always in awe of the quality cookware.  Can the Australian store lives up to my expectations?
  3. The Society Inc..  Sibella Court’s little office in Paddington.  This lady has mastered the art of making clutter look good.  I need lessons.
  4. Zaffero Pop Up Shop.  I’ve never been to a pop up shop before, but in a world of online shopping, it’s a great idea.  If I’m going to spend a few hundred dollars on a light fixture or rug, I really want to see it first.  This way, I can look now, buy later.
  5. Matt Blatt.  The king of replicas.  Will they fool me?  I hope so.
  6. David Jones.  Australian-made towels by Country Road are currently 50% off.
  7. Adriano Zumbo.  With all that home decorating research, I’m going to need some sustenance.  Zumbo is everywhere these days (Tim Tams anyone?) but I like the tiny, original store in Balmain.

Hardly revolutionary, I know.  But don’t forget I’ve been in the depths of wild Brazil (slight exaggeration) for the past 8 months, deprived of shops tailored to Australian taste.


Provenance accommodation, Beechworth.

Our accommodation at “The Provenance“, Beechworth.

On my last visit to Beechworth, 20 years ago, my highlights were sticky beesting from the Beechworth bakery and viewing the jail where the infamous bushranger, Ned Kelly, was held.  Beechworth is a gold rush town that has maintained many of its beautiful old buildings.  It’s now also a gourmet destination and I’m hoping that it will have a few cute antique and home wares stores for browsing.


  1. H and M.  Trendy and cheap clothes and home wares.  I’m interested in their linen bedding and curtains.
  2. Corporate Culture.  One of the stockists for the gorgeous Coco pendant that is in top spot for contention as our dining room pendant light.  At $1500, I have to see it first.
  3. Fonda Mexican Restaurant.  The interior design of this restaurant has been a bit of a talking point, but I suspect my family will be more interested in the guacamole and margaritas.

I’d love a little more “Australian-made” on the list.  I suspect we’ll make a few discoveries as we wander the streets of Melbourne.

Do you have any favourites to share?  I won’t bore you with another shopping post, but if I find any treasures, I’ll share them on House By The Water’s Facebook page.

Matt Rex Photo

Farmhouse tour.


Photo by Matt Rex.

Photo by Matt Rex.

Come and have a sticky beak at my Mum and Dad’s farm house in frosty North-East Victoria.  They started with a 2 bedroom shack beside a small walnut grove and a few paddocks for cows.

Ten years ago, with the help of local builder, Rob Boland, they extended the living areas and bathroom and added a bedroom, to create an interesting, light and open, modern home.  The house features 3 separate roofs and exterior wall cladding in Colorbond “ironstone” corrugated iron.

3 Roofs

Front Entrance.

Front Entrance.

Deck for cuppas.

Deck for cuppas.

Should you drop by, you can be sure of a cup of tea and some home baked goodies on the deck, followed by a garden tour.


Tasmanian Oak Kitchen Island and Alpine Ash floors salvaged from bush fires.

“Tasmanian Oak” kitchen bench tops and Alpine Ash floors salvaged from bush fires.

When I’m visiting, I often take over Mum’s kitchen while she takes over supervision of the 3 little pigs.  This kitchen has been the hub for years of entertaining a large extended family and has served as my benchmark for sizing up the kitchen in House By The Water.  You might remember that this is my “gold standard” for kitchen bench size.  Having said that, Mum will tell you that it’s not perfect, so I am learning from it’s weaknesses.  For example, a single kitchen sink is rather inconvenient.

Living area:

An atrium above the kitchen keeps the living area light at any time of day.

An atrium above the kitchen keeps the living area light at any time of day.

Dining room:

My Dad made the dining table when Mum was pregnant with me.  That’s an estimated 14600 family dinners!  When the clouds lift, Mount Feathertop is at the centre of the dining room view.

Master bedroom:

The pitched ceiling is lined with corrugated iron which gives a nice sense of space and a farm house touch.  The bed is centred in the room so you can check on the cows in the morning without getting out of bed.


Bath with a view, if the neighbours aren't home.

Bath with a view, if the neighbours aren’t home.

Yes, a feature fan heater!  Mounted on towel hooks.  It gets REALLY cold here in the mornings.


The laundry was originally a small shed, a couple of metres away from the back door of the house.  It doubles as the farm control centre, also housing the electric fence unit, chook pellets and an impressive gumboot collection.

Mum's ergonomically designed laundry trolly.  She pushes the wet laundry up the nearby hill to the old Hill's Hoist.

Mum’s ergonomically designed laundry trolly. She pushes the wet laundry up the nearby hill to the old Hill’s Hoist.

Right now it’s 3 degrees celcius in the bathroom, but the wood fire is roaring in the living room.  The house is busy with grandchildren.  Toys and games are everywhere.  The kids will be outside soon to help with some farm jobs.  Dad is “up the back” renovating his tractor shed.  Mum is braving the shower, but I think I’ll have another cuppa and wait for the bathroom to warm up another degree or two.

Header photo and photos in the last gallery are thanks to Matt Rex Photo.