Earthworks and slab preparation.

My blogging fingers are poised above the letters “S, L, A and B”.  My local sources are at the ready to snap photographic evidence.  The invoice has been received!  The sun is shining on Mandurah.  And, ingredients for trial #1 of House By The Water’s signature cocktail have been purchased.  Any moment now…

Last week, Nearmap‘s plane flew over our block and captured pictures of a big yellow machine back filling and levelling our land.

Earthworks.

Pool scaffolded over, backfilling earth up to the retaining walls, levelling the block. Could that be piles of bricks already?

Yesterday the block looked like a hive of activity.  It’s quite incredible the amount of work that will soon be hidden under the slab.

Front entrance.  Downpipes will be hidden in the exterior walls.

Front entrance. Downpipes will be hidden in the exterior walls.

Looking from the laundry across to the living areas.

Looking from the laundry across to the living areas.

Concrete pour for footings.

Concrete funnel?

Slab preparation.

Concrete footings going in? Garage area yet to be prepared.

I hope I’m not leading any one up the wrong tree with my captions.  I’m only guessing what is going on.

Thanks to Progress Realty Photo Services for the photos.  Apologies for the not quite perfect photo quality – I think their camera was hidden in a shoe.  Stay tuned for the next post!

 

The cellar.

Well more of a cupboard really, but anyway….

Photo thanks to Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The display home version.  Photo thanks to Webb and Brown-Neaves.

There is a generous space under our stairs, accessible from the kitchen, that we are calling “the cellar”.   I looked up a couple of DIY instructions for converting a cupboard to a proper cellar, you know with temperature and humidity control.  Oh my goodness, it’s way easier just to drink the wine!

Over the years, the “Nice Wolf” has managed to purchase a small wine fridge or two, when I wasn’t looking.  This cupboard is for them.  We’ll also use the space to store all our glassware, drinking paraphernalia (margaritas are a serious business) and any overflow from the pantry.  We are going to need some shelving and, since the door is glass, it needs to look good.

If you have a real underground cellar, then little more than several cases of wine is needed to create a nice atmosphere.  But for a cellar cupboard, my web search revealed very little to get me in the mood for a party.  Never-the-less here are some of my favourites:

Wood cellar

I love the recycled/raw wood used here. Picture: Kevin Knight and Company.

Home bar

I like the simplicity of this bar. A bit old fashioned for HBTW, but the basic idea is great. Picture: Shelterness.

Cellar cupboard

I’m flirting with the idea of brick wallpaper, but sensibility will probably prevail.  Picture: Home Bunch.

Great shelving layout.  DIY-able.  Picture:  Segreto Secrets.

Great shelving layout. DIY-able. Picture: Segreto Secrets.

Cafe inspiration.

Stylish shelving and modern style. Source: Bungalow classic.

HBTW’s cellar mood board:

Cellar mood board.

Featuring:

  • Wooden book cases that we already have. (Minus their ornate edges, plus some extra internal structure for easy access to any wine bottle.)
  • Wine crates as drawers to hide the less beautiful items.
  • Vintec wine fridge.
  • Open shelves for glassware.
  • The Nice Wolf’s homemade cork board.  (Yes, we can be very daggy sometimes.)
  • Black pendant light.  (This is a maybe.  I’m starting to wish I included more pendant lights instead of down lights on our lighting plan.)
  • An off-cut of caesarstone for a small bench top.

What would you do with a spare cupboard under the stairs?

Do you have a space dedicated to wine, beer or cocktails?

Has anyone tried those cooler drawers?

And most importantly, what should House By The Water’s signature drink be?  I’m thinking blue.

4 decades of houses

I’m indulging in a moment of sentimentality because, well, it’s a conspicuous month.  A certain birthday.  I’ve been reminiscing about the 21 houses I’ve lived in, being amused at the decorating fashions that have been recycled over the years and hypothesising about the influences of my history on my current choices for House By The Water.

1974-1980

My first House By The Water.

1980

The A-frame rental.

Memories of itchy chicken-pox as I lay under the pitched roof.

Memories of itchy chicken-pox as I lay under the pitched roof.

1980 – 1984

The humble Australian weatherboard house.

Weatherboard house interior.

Wood lined walls may be perennially popular, but what about lace curtains?  Who cares?  The inhabitants were happy.

On the eve of my 7th (?) birthday, once I’d gone to sleep, my parents moved me into my very own bedroom.  I pretended to remain asleep, but really I was peeking at the newly pine-lined room (thank you Dad), complete with custom made soft furnishings (thank you Mum).  Their renovations had been top-secret until that moment.

1985-1993

Farmhouse.

Was it 2 hours before or 2 hours after settlement of this house that Dad started wielding the sledge hammer?  This old farmhouse needed some work.  My room was pink and black (ergh!) with a barre and gigantic mirror for ballet practice, but my favourite spot was on a wooden platform up a tree where I would write my journal.  Slowly Mum and Dad beautified this country house and large garden.

The garden, with its mountain view, was the perfect place to return to for our good ol’ fashioned country wedding several years later.

Our wedding - with my husband's parents.

Our wedding (in the year 2000) – with my husband’s parents.

1992

Double story English brick houses.

On student exchange to England, I had the privilege of calling 4 different English houses my home.  All were double story and each had a great sense of cosiness.  For the first (and only) time, I experienced the luxury of a bedroom basin.  I thought it was decadence to have my own basin for teeth cleaning.  The grand home above was extra special with a beautiful outlook over a massive garden and a hidden veggie patch keeping my hosts in stock with fruit for evening crumbles.  Yum.

1994-1997

Melbourne – student digs of various descriptions.

So long as a tram rolled passed the door, there were no holes in the floor and the price was right, then we were happy tenants.  Even so, I managed to secure a cute old semi-detached house (not pictured) to share with friends – you know, the kind of house that is one room wide.  It was in Melbourne that the Nice Wolf and I had our first home together.  We rented an apartment in Carlton with a great city view.  Yes, it was best appreciated with the lights off!  But, ooh, what I could do, if only I could get my hands on that apartment now!

1998

Bendigo character house.

Some lovely heritage details in the historic city of Bendigo.

Some lovely heritage details in the historic city of Bendigo.  My room had wooden floors, a fireplace and stained glass windows.

1999-2002

The Indian Ocean.  Mandurah brick and tile.

Two full-time incomes for the first time and freed from Melbourne rental prices, we decided there was only one place to be.  By the beach.   These houses are typical of Mandurah, but with amazing views.  We swam in the ocean most afternoons after work, and watched a pod of dolphins take their daily trip North.  When we moved from the first house to a second house in the same block, we loaded our white goods onto a trolley and wheeled them down the street.  The second house was built by a builder to be his holiday/retirement home.  We rented just one level.  The workmanship was fantastic.  Without a doubt the best feature was the upstairs, outdoor spa, just right for serving cocktails as the sun set.

2003-2006

Renovators’ delight.

This house was our first purchase.  A 1970’s brick and tile do-er-upper.  We spent 3 years renovating on weekends – rendering the outside, restoring the roof, installing recycled wood floors, completely gutting the kitchen and 2 bathrooms.  The Nice Wolf is pretty handy and put in a new kitchen. We did most of the work ourselves and a lot of it the hard way.  It was a good project to “cut our teeth on”.  My favourite place was the back yard.

2006-2009

Canadian townhouse.

This was a beautiful townhouse in a beautiful area, walking distance from Lake Ontario.  Wood floors, high ceilings and a wood-look, gas fire place for wintery nights.

2010-2011

The Queenslander.

The source of much inspiration.  Plantation shutters, wood floors, white kitchen.  Our first pool.

2011-present

City high-rise monstrosities with views.  China, South-Korea, Brazil.

2015….

House By The Water…..never move again.

 

The library

Move over home theatre.  The library is back!

Our library:

  • a quiet place to escape to read a book
  • family television viewing area, incognito  (TV hidden behind art.  Shh!)
  • after-hours teleconference hub, away from the sleeping family

Library deliberations started months ago with the intent of picking a colour scheme because our builders will paint the house interior before handover.  I was going round in circles with too many options.  Moody colours, versus bright and natural.  Formal shelving including cabinets, versus informal, open shelving.    Since this room is mostly for The Nice Wolf, I held him hostage with my “Library” Pinterest folder until he picked his 5 favourite pictures, focussing on the mood.

Picture sources:  1-3  Tumblr – Original sources not found.  4.  Pottery Barn.

I ditched one slightly daggy picture, but as you can see he’s been trained well.  He selected pictures that are not only consistent with each other, but fit with the plans for the rest of the house too.

The room will be reasonably generous in size, with a 32 course ceiling.  The long shape and large opening to the hallway lends itself to bookshelves like these:

Bookshelves frame doorway

Photograph by Shannon McGrath.  Designed by studiofour as shown on Arch Daily.

This book shelf design is almost perfect for us.  But since it is a library and my husband has hundreds of books that he rereads, we want at least 2 walls of shelving.  I’m visualising one wood-backed wall, as above, (to hide sliding doors) and the other wall, without a back to avoid wood over-load.
Library floor plan

I spent one whole afternoon playing with the layout and the mood board.  I tried to squeeze in a second sofa, to no avail.

HBTW Library

Featuring:

  • Custom made shelves to match blackbutt floors.  (I may let the “Nice Wolf” DIY, but his DIY list is getting a bit long.)
  • Persian rug, looking modern when layered onto a neutral rug.  (How would that look in reality?)
  • Australian made desk (Domayne) and drawers (Mark Tuckey).
  • My old sofa looking fresh with some new linen.
  • Eames Lounge Chair or similar.

This space is tempting me already.

Odhni Almond rug

Rugs

The house slab isn’t down but already I’m thinking about rugs.  I want to be ready for the moment when I find THE rug.  I like to see and feel a rug before I buy it and the right rug may pop up while I’m traveling.  There may be no going back to get it later…

With the exception of the bathrooms and laundry, our floors will be blackbutt timber.  We’ll need plenty of rugs eventually but, for now, the main rug of concern is for the living area.  There are various opinions about how large a rug should be in relation to a room and “rules” about sofa feet being on or off the rug, but I’ve noticed that some of the most stylish of rooms don’t follow the rules.

Picture Sources:  1. Desire To Inspire 2. April and May 3. West Elm 4. Domaine Home.

Size.

For our living room, I’m subscribing to the “large makes the room look large” theory.  At a minimum I want the rug to sit under the front feet of the sofa.  At a maximum, I want to leave  20-30cm from the walls, so you can still appreciate the timber floors and to keep the rug clear of ash that might fall out of the fireplace.  I used Jardan’s room planner to map out the likely location and size of our dream sofa in our living room.  From this I took the measurements for the rug.

Each small square is 20cm square.

Each small square is 20cm square.

Maximum size 3.5x 3.4m.  Minimum size 3 x 2.2 m.  Big.

However, if I was to fall in love with a rug outside these dimensions, then I think it could be done.  Many off-the-shelf rugs do not come large enough to fit my requirements.

Style.

I’m wavering between a rug with a pattern and a small pallet of colours or something neutral and unicoloured but with lots of texture.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Patterned:

Softly patterned rugs

Sources:  1- 3: Jenny Jones Rugs. 4: Sanderson Home Rug at Yarn and Loom.  5:  West Elm.  6: Designers Guild.

Geometric rugs

Sources:  7 & 8:  Armadillo&Co.  9.  West Elm.

Unicoloured.

Natural rugs

Sources: 10-12:  West Elm.  13: WorldWeave.  14 & 15: Freedom Furniture.

Right now, pattern is winning.   The sofa will be plain, so some pattern won’t go astray.

Material.

  • Cotton/thread  ✔    I’m a sucker for a good kilim.
  • Jute ✔
  • Silk or a silk blend.✔  So nice under foot.
  • Wool ✔  Sometimes.  I have a great wool rug from Freedom that is at least 10 years old and has been very resilient to herds of wild children and questionable house keeping.  But some wool rugs look like they need a good shear.  They are a bit fluffy and shed!  A few rugs that I recently saw at Pottery Barn fell into this category.

If THE rug doesn’t find me, here are my

go to places for big rugs:

Under $1000

  • Freedom  (Max size: 2.5 x 3.5 m)
  • West Elm  (Max size: 2.74 x 3.66 m)
  • WorldWeave (Max off-the-shelf size 2 x 3 m, custom available.)

 Under $3000

Armadillo & Co - Twine rugs

Which rug do you like best?  Are you eyeing off an alternative?  Have I missed any secret rug shops?  You know, I usually like to consider Australian made options, but I couldn’t find one I like under $1000, not even under $3000.

If you are still not overloaded by rugs, you’ll find more in my Pinterest file.

 

Site progress is going swimmingly!

The landscapers took charge of our block for a week.  The only evidence of their presence from my far away vantage point was a hefty invoice.  So I sent out an S.O.S. to my Mandurah friends:  “Do we really have a pool?”

The resounding reply was “Yes!”

And what a beautiful chunk of concrete it is.HBTW pool

Let me draw attention to the features:

  • Steps
  • Things sticking out of the wall (for lights, we hope)
  • Built-in ice bucket!

I don’t think it’s too early to “bags my spot”.  I’ve never been good at art, but just so it is on record, my spot is marked by the green arrow:

Wooden bench seat going here.  Throw on a couple of outdoor cushions and I'll be set for the afternoon.  ...Should have had that ice bucket installed up this end.

A wooden bench seat is going here. Throw on a couple of outdoor cushions and I’ll be set for the afternoon. …I should have had that ice bucket installed up this end.

Thanks to my lovely friends and Brian, site-supervisor extraordinaire, for the photos:

The pool was whipped up in a matter of days and the site was handed back to the builders.

Next steps:

  1. Set up scaffold over the pool (for safety) and along the retaining wall.
  2. Fill the retaining wall cavities.
  3. While the concrete is curing, waterproof the back of the walls.
  4. Backfill the site.
  5. Prepare the house pad for the slab.

I am eagerly waiting for the site supervisor’s next report, any day now, confirming that these tasks have been done.

In other minor news, I have subscribed to Nearmap for one year.  Nearmap is a provider of aerial photographs.  Initially I was put off by the high price of $200 per year, when the Mandurah area was only scheduled for 4 updates in the next 12 months.  So I let it go.  My hesitation paid off and a half-price offer appeared in my inbox.  $100 for one year.   Still expensive photos at $25 a pop, but you know how I like my photos…..

The most recent photo was taken on July 18th when work on our retaining wall footings had just begun:

Nearmap shot of our block.

It has been fun to check out the block over time (Nearmap pictures for our area date back to 2009) and to see some of our previous homes.

Are pictures of piles of sand and curing concrete not your thing?  Don’t worry, I’ll be philosophising about home cellars, libraries, rugs and spaceship lighting again soon.  Maybe one of those topics is up your alley?

 

 

Interview with new home owners, Miranda and Cameron.

HBTW's slightly older sister:  Cameron and Miranda's house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

HBTW’s slightly older sister: Cameron and Miranda’s house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

It’s no secret that I’m home-building obsessed.  But I’m not the only one. There’s a zillion people like me, and worse, hanging about on the “HomeOne Forum“.  There are first-time home builders, repeat offenders, and even professionals.  No question is too silly, tips are given and mistakes are shared.  It’s on the HomeOne Forum that I (virtually) met Miranda and Cameron, fellow customers of Webb and Brown-Neaves. Miranda and Cameron recently moved into their new home and it’s a home to drool over.  Miranda has been such a fantastic help to me during our build process so far, warning me of traps for beginners, sharing details of trades she recommends and answering my endless questions.

I’m so excited to introduce awesome couple, Miranda and Cameron, and their equally awesome new home to you!

When Miranda, a lawyer, and Cameron, a management consultant, became engaged and started searching for a family home in Perth, they were looking for established homes.  During their search they viewed a house built by Webb and Brown-Neaves a decade earlier.  The block was too small to accommodate a double garage and was crossed off the list but the house made a lasting impression on Cameron and Miranda, particularly how well it suited the neighbourhood.  This lead to some research into building costs, the purchase of an old house fit for demolition and the decision to build a new home.

HBTW:  What were your new house “must haves”?

M & C:  3+ bedrooms, study, home theatre, large WIR, scullery/ pantry, island bench in kitchen, large living areas at rear opening to alfresco, pool, storage spaces, as large a backyard as possible and a rear garage.

HBTW:  And “nice to haves”?

M & C:  Free standing bath, storage space that could become a cellar, 4th bedroom/ activity room, very high ceilings in the living areas (at least 33 courses), slightly larger minor bedrooms than the norm and the pool located beside the living area.

Freestanding bath

Freestanding bath (from The Stone Super Store), complete with view over the bedroom to the garden.  It took 6 men to move the bath inside!

HBTW:  What inspired your home layout and material choice decisions?

M & C:  Having a corner block with a rear lane way and a North-facing back yard dictated much of the design.  In terms of style, we are drawn to natural, organic but elegant spaces.  We stayed in some inspiring accommodation in the Maldives for our honeymoon just before we had to make a lot of the decisions for our house.

M:  I searched for a ceiling fan like the one we saw in the Maldives and was lucky that Beacon released the “artemis” just in time for our builders to install it.

HBTW:  What or who was your best source of building information?

M & C:  Hours of research on google, the HomeOne Forum, Miranda’s dad who is an engineer and friends who have built before.

HBTW:  How did you divide the planning and decision making between you?

C:  I looked after the electronics, cabling, sound and TVs.  Also the pool equipment and heating.

M:  Most decisions were made together.  Even though this takes time, the house belongs to both of us and we are both indecisive.  We usually wanted a second opinion, or third, or fourth!

We took a six-week interior design course at Home Base.  I think it was great that we did the course together. We learnt a lot and it gave us some structure to be able to work out what style we liked and why, which choices work together and the pros and cons of various options.  I was surprised that there were very few men at the course.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

HBTW:  What are your top tips for those starting the process of building a new house?

M & C:

  1. Sales consultants can make a big impact on your experience.  Visit different display homes until you find one that you feel comfortable with.
  2. Get everything in writing.  Make lists of what you have to do and what the builders have said they’ll do.
  3. Check all drawings, addendas, variations and costings very carefully.
  4. If something is very important to you, be prepared to do the research yourself.  The “impossible” may actually be possible.
  5. Really think about your block, not just its aspect, but also the ground levels in relation to privacy and views.

HBTW:  How about tips for people already building?  Like me!

M & C:  Sorry HBTW, some of our tips won’t work for you…

  1. Visit your site often and take lots of photos.  They might not be relevant immediately but could be useful later.
  2. If issues arise and the builder proposes a solution, make sure you know the cost implications before you agree.
  3. Be able to describe your style in a way that makes sense to the various people you’ll be working with.  (Pinterest helps!)
  4. Add conduits everywhere, especially for motorised blinds.
  5. Watch out for quotes that don’t include GST or other essentials, like delivery.

HBTW:  What was your biggest mistake?

M & C:  Believing that Webb and Brown-Neaves could accommodate a custom design or even substantial changes to their normal designs.  The majority of mistakes we noticed were related to these changes. Their processes just aren’t set up for that, and it didn’t work well.

M:  On a smaller scale, I regret letting the lighting consultant talk me into keeping oyster lights in the walk-in-robe and laundry.  Even if the light is better from oyster lights, I don’t like how they look (especially how green they look when they’re on). We’ll need to replace those.

HBTW:  Were there any companies that were so good, you’d like to give them a plug?

M & C:

1. Aussie Clotheslines.  Their sales people were really helpful.  It was easy to book in a convenient time only a couple of days after I rang them.  They turned up on time and did what they said they’d do for the original price and didn’t leave any mess or damage anything in the process. If I could say that about everyone involved in building, it would have been a thousand times easier!

2.  Just Blinds.  Andy organised our blinds and shutters and has been very helpful.  He came back a couple of times, for example, when the electrician was struggling with the connections to motorise the blinds. He doesn’t have a shop so he comes to you, with all the samples to choose from and all the info. It was a very easy process.

3.  Freedom’s Decorator Service.  Felicia, from Freedom in Osborne Park was excellent. She really listened and understood what we wanted.  She made great suggestions and not just for Freedom things.  She helped us with all sorts of decisions like skirting, blinds and paint colours.  She gave us the confidence to do a few things that we wouldn’t otherwise have done, but really like: for example, having a couple of non-matching dining chairs; using several different types of timber in our living area and having a fitball in the study instead of a second office chair.  She was going for a feeling that was more “young and fun”, rather than trying to re-create the kind of rooms our parents would want.  No disrespect to our parents intended!

HBTW:  What is your favourite part of the house now?

M:  My favourite part of the house is looking into the kitchen from the living area, where you can see the kitchen, pendant lights, stonework and bar stools.   (HBTW:  Mine too, Miranda.  The combination is amazing.)

Caesarstone , under bench stone by   ,  Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin,  stools.

Osprey Caesarstone (chosen by 90% of WBN’s clients!), under bench stone from EcoOutdoor , Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin, Replica Norman Cherner barstools from Matt Blatt.

C:  My favourite part of the house is probably the home theatre, though I really like our bedroom and living area too.

Living area.

Living area.

HBTW:  What was you biggest splurge?

M:  At the time of purchase, my pendants and freestanding bath felt like big splurges but now that we’ve been worn down by all sorts of high costs, we’ve become a bit numb and those amounts don’t seem so high any more.

C:  Have you forgotten the cost of the ovens?

M:  Yes, the Miele warming drawer, normal oven and steam oven.  They were definitely my biggest splurge.

C:  My biggest splurge was the pool.  And putting the pool up against the house  – with the extra cost of footings and engineering work that required.  The plan is to put a tv in our alfresco so I can sit in the pool and still being able to watch the cricket!  I’m thinking of a housewarming party on boxing day, watching the Boxing Day Test from the pool.

HBTW:  What was the first thing you did upon receiving the keys to your new house?

M & C:  We rushed straight back to the house to let in the flooring people.  They needed to get started that day to get their work done in time for other people who were booked in. We had re-shuffled everything following a few delays.

The weekend we moved in was much happier – champagne was involved that day.

HBTW:  Thanks Miranda and Cameron for sharing your home pictures and all the nitty, gritty details.  I hope you have many happy years in your beautiful new family home!

Dining and kitchen.

Dining and kitchen.

 

 

 

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