Build update: render started.

 It has been so quiet on the build front over the past month that I sent in my spies to see if any work had been done at all.  The external cladding just below the roof has been installed.  It looks very white now, but it will be painted in Dulux’s Calf Skin.  The space between our ceilings and the roof is rather huge.  The roof line was raised by three courses of brick to accommodate the ducted air conditioning.  

The renderer has started covering the highest bricks and I suspect is now waiting for the scaffolding to be lowered before he can proceed.   I’m imaging that the process goes something like this:

  • Wait for renderer. Render a bit.
  • Wait for scaffolders.  Drop a lift.
  • Wait for renderer. Render a bit.
  • Wait for scaffolders again. Drop a lift.
  • Wait for renderer.  

All quite understandable, but I wasn’t mentally prepared by the construction schedule for this, so I’m feeling twitchy!  

The render will be painted Dulux’s Grey Pebble at a later date.  (Oh no!  I suppose that means the painters are going to have to wait on scaffolding too.)  The central column on the facade will be clad in stacked stone.  I’m rather pleased about that having seen some fantastic stacked stone today, used not only on the exterior, but also in a double shower with sky light ceiling.  

A big thanks to my friends who sent me lots of photos of House By The Water this week.   

 

House progress

How did you choose your builder?

I’m back tracking a bit today, by about 2 and a half years. To that compulsive moment when we decided to buy a block of land and build a house on it. I admit that it was a fairly emotional decision, with very little comparison of alternatives, in terms of land or building versus buying a house. In our favour, we knew the area very well, having already lived nearby and we knew the location was not one we would regret. To our demise was our complete naivety about the cost of building.

I’m thinking of these things again now, because one of my sisters, let’s call her The Sensible One, is considering buying land with the plan to build her family home.

Choosing land:

Aside from the obvious fact that land should be somewhere you want or need to live, here are my thoughts based of the luxury of hindsight and from reading many a saga on the HomeOne Forum.

  • Siteworks, site works, site works!!! $$$$. Site works costs are not included in the sticker price of an “off-the-shelf” (volume builder’s) house. Site works vary greatly depending on the contour of the land and the geology. A “site survey” before you purchase can help builders to estimate some of the costs to prepare the land for building, but there is still the possibility of hitting unexpected problems (rock!) once site works start.
  • Location can limit your choice of builders.
  • Location can dictate some of your building choices, especially in a developer’s estate.  You’ll need to comply with their guidelines in addition to council regulations.
  • Orientation.  If you are aiming for a solar passive house, this factor might be critical, but let’s face it, not everyone in suburbia can choose the perfect North-facing block.  Volume builders will easily “flip” a house plan to improve a home’s thermal performance, while trees, screens and blinds (interior and exterior) are all simple solutions to reducing the impact of that pesky sun as it sets.

    Our land

    Don’t be fooled by a relatively innocent looking piece of land. The “provisional sum” for earth works on our 747 sqm block is $20 000, not including retaining walls.

Choosing a builder:

We chose our builders, Webb and Brown-Neaves, from a fairly limited pack.  The field was narrowed by our key requirements of the house, namely:

  • A footprint small enough to leave us with lots of outdoor space.
  • A house plan with rear living areas to make the most of a rear view.
  • Four bedrooms.

My shortlist of “off-the-shelf” (pre-designed) houses that fitted these requirements was very small. In the end, we were wooed by a floor plan with a void space above the living area.  It seemed to us to take a house from ordinary to amazing.  Although we didn’t know any one who had built with Webb and Brown-Neaves, they had a good reputation, having built houses on the Mandurah canals for a long time.  Of course, I looked for online reviews for WBN and found a mixed bag.   With only 22 reviews over 7 years, I didn’t really trust this source.  It seemed to me that the minority of customers that couldn’t resolve problems with their build had headed there to seek revenge.  And a few blissfully happy customers had been encouraged to submit a review to balance the ratings.  Every one had either rated Excellent or Bad/Terrible.  There was no in-between.

I’ve noticed that many of the mega building companies, particularly in the East of Australia, have many more reviews.  Take Metricon, for example.  They have 400+ reviews.  Perhaps you can give it some credence but I wouldn’t use these reviews alone.  In fact, one of Metricon’s competitors was accused of offering rewards for customers positive reviews.

My big-sisterly suggestions for selecting a “volume builder” are:

  • Stalk the area you plan to build in for new homes recently built by the companies that interest you.  (Or you could try asking the companies for references.)  Talk to the home owners and ask how they found the process and how satisfied they are with their home.
  • Stalk the area you plan to build in to see home building in progress.  If you go on weekends, you might get to chat with some customers.
  • Get acquainted with the HomeOne Forum.   Lots of Australians thinking about building, going through the process, recently built and even repeat-building customers hang out there.  There are some building professionals there too, adding their two-bobs worth from time to time.  Follow some threads from your area.  You’ll soon discover that very few builds are stress free and problems arise.  Most customers quickly forget the problems when they move into a new house that they are happy with, others stay unhappy.  For the larger building companies, in the low to medium price spectrum, there are enough people on the Forum to form a balanced idea about how the companies generally perform.   You can get an idea of pre-construction issues, build times, the range of costs that are added on to sticker prices, customer service and how companies deal with problems.
  • Last, but definitely not least, read some independent blogs written by builder’s customers.   (Duh!!!)  There are plenty out there.  Some are tricky to find, but once you find one addressing a particular company, it will often lead you to many more.  Ask the blogger questions.  Bloggers are friendly people!

So, readers, since I’m no expert here;

What advice would you give my sister for selecting land and a builder?

The Sensible One, all the answers are just for you.  Feel free to pipe in with questions. xxx

The Return of the Milk Crate

Once upon at time, in the funky streets of Fitzroy, lived 4 poor university students.  A bag of clothes and a mattress each, a large pot for cooking and a coffee making contraption was the sum total of their worldly possessions.  With their small income earmarked for the food kitty and beer, not a cent was to be found for furniture.

Staggering past the local supermarket in the wee hours of one morning, what should they see, but a large pile of empty milk crates.  The perfect structure for a bed base.  Several weeks later, not only did each of the students have a “bed”, but also a wardrobe, a desk and a couple of stools.

The milk crates were ideal tools for moving home and migrated from share-house to share-house for several years.  Until, one day, the students woke up to find that they were no longer students.  A wave of responsibility and respectability washed over them, and sadly the milk crates were returned to where they were found.

End of story.

Side Table.

Side table. Source: Poppy Talk.

Milk crate seats.

Seats. Source: Apartment Therapy.

Pendant lights.  Source:  Arch Daily.

Pendant lights. Source: Arch Daily.

Garden Tower.  Source:  Made by Tait.

Garden Tower. Source: Made by Tait.

Side table

Marble on milk crate. Source: Design Sponge.

Vintage milk crate.

Vintage milk crate. Source: Etsy.

Feel free to share your uni-days story about “resourcefulness” in the comments.  

 Real names not required.

 

 

The modern Australian entrance.

An absence of news from our building site can only mean one of two things.

  1. Everyone is so busy working on our house that they have no time to write.
  2. There is no news.

I’m trying to remain patient.  The Nice Wolf has brought up the subject of contingency plans, you know somewhere to sleep when you don’t have a house, but I’m not entering into it yet.  Instead, I’m doing what I do best, admiring pictures – developing the vision for House By The Water.  Some might call it burying my head in the sand.

So with my room inspiration formula well established by now, I set out to select my Top 5 entries/hallways.  I’ve collected pictures of many beautiful home entries, but our entry should reflect our home style and finding “modern Australian with a touch of earthiness” soon narrowed down the contenders.  As I look at more and more beautiful homes it can get confusing at times, but I’m trying hard to stick to my self-imposed “brief”.

Simple.

My idea of the perfect entrance.  Photo:  Made By Cohen.

A place to put your shoes on.

A place to sit to put your shoes on.  Photo:  Home Adore.

Coastal

Coastal.  The fish is a bit much for me, but otherwise, yes please!  Photo:  Hare and Klein.

Almost worth changing the house plans for!  Coastal with no kitsch.  Photo:  Lucy Marstan, Architect.

Almost worth changing the house plans for! Coastal with no kitsch. Photo: Lucy Marstan, Architect.

Hmmm, yes, only 4.    Nevermind.  How hard can a hallway be?

Our entry and hall has a great design with a linen cupboard tucked away to the side and even some wall space to hang hats and bags that is out of sight as you enter the house.  Functionally, aside from being a passage way, it will be the shoes on/off space.  We are a shoes off family.  It comes from having lived in Canada.  Wear those snowy, muddy boots inside and you are going to get a thwack.  Once I got a taste for this, there was no turning back.  The reduction in grub (read floor cleaning) is huge when you are a family of 5.  Plus, we like to be barefoot.  It’s one of many reasons we are installing timber floors throughout our house.  Currently The Three Little Pigs sit on the floor to remove their shoes and shoes are every where.  So a bench for sitting is in order and most of the ground floor linen cupboard will be dedicated to shoes.

A wide entrance and a hidden nook for shoes and bags on hooks.

A wide entrance and a hidden nook for shoes and bags on hooks.

We have a beautiful antique buffet cabinet that we bought in Tasmania on our honeymoon.  It won’t fit in our new dining room with no walls, so I’m going to house it in our hall.  Accommodating that and a bench to sit on are my only prerequisites for this space.  We have a void space above our entrance that is calling for a long feature pendant.  If money was no object, I’d hang several oak pendants.  In reality, I’m planning to install some kind of traditional fishing basket or net here as pendant lighting.

My one chance at the "minimal" look, and I've blown it already.

My one chance at the “minimal” look, and I’ve blown it already.   (There will be art, but I can’t decide which pieces yet.)

Definitely a few extra styles sneaking in there.  Perhaps I should just add “a hint of coastal” to my brief.  “Modern Australian with a touch of earthiness and a hint of coastal” is getting a bit long winded.  How about “Aussie surf and turf”?

Have you given yourself a decorating “brief”?  Can you name your style?  Or is it just me watching too many home renovation shows?

Does your home entrance reflect the mood and style of the rest of your home?  

Got any secrets for avoiding a large pile of shoes and school bags beside your front door?

 

 

Paint, pendants and panoramas.

The Nice Wolf arrived back from his visit to Australia with everything he needed to stay in the good books for quite some time.

  • Australian home magazines.
  • Earl grey tea.
  • Tim tams.
  • A light weight measuring tape, more suited to handbags than my current heavy tape.
  • Loads of photos of the house.

But best of all, he brought small panels of sample Solver Paints from my short list.  I’ve spent hours gazing at these boards.  On the weekend they were perched on a bench in direct view from my bed, then I moved them to the living area to watch them throughout the days as the light changed. Any normal person would stop there.

Not I. 

Feather Dawn, the first to be eliminated from my shortlist.  Too white.

Feather Dawn, the first to be eliminated from my shortlist. Too white.

Kitty Grey is very pretty and looks the best with our Alpine Mist Caesarstone.

Kitty Grey is very pretty and looks the best with our Alpine Mist Caesarstone.

Kitty Grey and Crystal Ball undergoing a warm light, bedroom mood test.  You can see that Kitty Grey could be "greige" (grey/brown) at times.

Kitty Grey and Crystal Ball undergoing a warm light, bedroom mood test. You can see that Kitty Grey could be “greige” (grey/brown) at times.

Crystal Ball (I think!) flanked by purples and blues.  My biggest fear with using a "cool grey" paint, is it looking like lavender.  All clear here.

Crystal Ball (I think!) flanked by purples and blues. My biggest fear with using a “cool grey” paint, is it looking like lavender. All clear here.  Soft Apparition was next to be removed from my shortlist due to hints of purple in some lights.

Full sun test.  Top left: Crystal Ball, Top right: Soft Apparition,  Bottom left: Southward, Bottom right:  Kitty Grey

Full sun test. Top left: Crystal Ball, Top right: Soft Apparition,
Bottom left: Southward, Bottom right: Kitty Grey.

Final 3,  L to R:  Southward, Kitty Grey, Crystal Ball.  With some colours and textures that you are likely to find in our main living area.  The colour on my screen is fairly true to reality.  Which do you prefer?

Final 3: (L to R) Southward, Kitty Grey, Crystal Ball. With some colours and textures that you are likely to find in our main living area. (NB: Timber shown is not blackbutt such as we’ll have at House By The Water )

The colours on my screen are fairly true to reality. Which do you prefer?  Southwards is quite dull at night, so I’ve narrowed it down to two.  Kitty Grey and Crystal Ball.

And just in case you were thinking of giving me an “A minus” for my home creating obsessiveness, here’s a current view of my rental kitchen.

Dunlin pendants (almost) - 45 cm diameter on left, 36 cm on right.

Dunlin Titan pendants (almost) – 45 cm diameter on left, 36 cm on right.

At $600 a pop for my proposed kitchen bench pendant lights, I wondered if I could get away with a slightly smaller pendant.  The answer is no.  Now, I just have to be certain that I’ve picked the right style.  It would be much simpler to install these lights when everything else is in, taking a couple home from a local shop to test, returning them if necessary before installing.  Online ordering and building by a “package system” don’t favour this.

My husband took a lot of photos on site recently.  I’m going to be restrained and limit my “show and tell” to just 2 panoramas.  One photo to show off the view, the other to give you a sense of our main living area, with the L shaped dining, kitchen and lounge area.  Click on the images to be taken to the interactive 360 degree panoramas.

Canal side at House By The Water.  Click on image for 360 degree tour.

Canal side at House By The Water. Click on image for 360 degree tour.

Standing in the kitchen looking towards the main living area.  Click on picture for 360 degree tour.  You'll see the dining room to your left and the scullery to the far right.   The door opening seen here is for the "cellar".

Standing in the kitchen looking towards the main living area. Click on the picture for 360 degree tour. You’ll see the dining room to your left and the scullery to the far right. The door opening seen here is for the “cellar”.

Home Trends Survey Results

Last week I surveyed readers about Home Trends in 2015.  As I suspected, you are a reasonably well-balanced bunch who only let the overwhelming barrage of home deco media and retail get the better of you occasionally.  Thanks to 40 readers for participating in the fun, mostly from Australia, but also 9 readers from elsewhere in the world.

What was our biggest temptation?  Copper!  Almost half of you can’t get enough copper, and the other half like it at least for the kitchen pots.  Let’s hope this is one trend that’s here to stay.

What were we most adverse to?  Human skull decor, closely followed by pineapples.

Of course there were a few rebels among you.  Thank goodness for that.  Life would be dull if we were all the same.  I’ll let you know when I sign up for a Shibori course, maybe you’d like to join me.

The Design Files Open House 2014

Home trends 2015

I’m going for longevity with my material and decorating choices in House By The Water.  However, despite my best efforts to stay true to this, I am not immune to trends.  My preoccupation with beautiful homes on Pinterest and tempting homewares on Instagram and my penchant for watching the likes of “The Block” and “Reno Rumble”, means that I can be a sucker for trends.  Sometimes I get sensible and reign myself in, but sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between fad and enduring style.    Take for example, the style of these sofas that I’m coveting.

They are definitely on trend.  I guess they could be described as Scandinavian style, but I think they look good in Australian “earthy” homes.  I’m seeing them everywhere.  I like them for their height off the floor, allowing the floor space to look larger, and for their simplicity.  But have I been brainwashed?  Am I better off with a more solid design, that is more conducive to slouchy, feet-up moments?

Anyway, I digress.  So far on this blog, I’ve tried not to offend too many readers.  It is with some trepidation that I introduce this topic, but after a recent conversation with one of my readers about an “unnamed material” being used for pendant lighting and the possibility that such “unnamed material” may be a passing fad, I couldn’t resist.  You have all been so lovely, commenting when you see something you like on this blog, but I think you are a little shy when it comes to saying “yuck”.  (Aunty Kate, you may be the exception!)  But readers, I feel I know you well enough now, that you can hit me with the truth.  Tell me what decorating trends you love, those you hate, and especially those beautiful things that you think stand the test of time.

I’ve got some pictures to show you of some current top trends.  Some I like, some I don’t.  Then there is a survey I prepared.  It’s just for fun.  It’s anonymous.  I’ll collate the results later and let you know how much we are like sheep!

  1. Copper

    Sources:  Kitchen, Pots.

  2. Plywood

    Sources:  Book shelves, kitchen.

  3. Human skulls

    Sources:  Bedding, wall art, planters.

  4. Shibori prints

    Sources:  Tea towels, cushions, bed cover.

  5. Animal heads

    Sources: 1.  Country Living, 2.  Domino,  3.  Fran Parente.

  6. Geometric patterns

    Sources:  Black vases, Armadillo Rug, Kitchen.

  7. Chunky knits

    Sources:  Bed cover, Throws, Jacqui Fink art.

  8. Marsala

    Sources:  Sofa (unverified), wall paint.

  9. Fiddle leaf figs

    Vogue Living

    Photo:  Eve Wilson for Vogue Living

  10. Pineapple decor

    Sources:  Clock, Print, Wall Sconce, Chair.

Click “HERE” to access the survey.

Got a home decor trend that you love to hate?  Feel free to get it off your chest by leaving a comment!  I promise not to be offended.  Homes would be boring if we all liked the same things!

What about a trend that you just can’t resist even though you know it’ll soon be “so last year”?

(Feature photo by Eve Wilson for The Design Files.)

 

 

 

Build update: roof cover.

We have a roof.  It’s a rather dazzling white despite the gloomy day on which the Nice Wolf took these photos.

Colorbond Surfmist skillion roof.

Colorbond Surfmist skillion roof.

Roof at the front of house.

Roof at the front of house.

The skillion roof line of our house is such that no one is actually going to see much of the roof cover.  We picked “Surfmist” Colorbond to reflect the sun, to keep our home a little cooler and minimise air conditioner days.  We plan to add solar panels later.  These will contrast completely with the white/grey roof cover but only the seagulls will notice.

You really can’t see the effect of the roofline yet for all the scaffolding:

Canal side/back yard.

It’s a scaffold jungle on the canal side/back yard.

Side of house, pool in foreground.

Side of house, pool in foreground.

Eventually it will look a bit like this:

Front Elevation.  Not a lot of visible roof.

Front Elevation. Not a lot of visible roof.

Aside from the addition of the shiny roof, all the ducting for our air conditioning has been installed and our air conditioner unit is ordered.  We have ordered an LG 17kW system – recommended for its value for money by our cooling specialist.  Other companies recommended that we install two units for our house, doubling or even quadrupling the cost!  Luckily, we are not wilt-in-the-heat types, and hope to manage the heat well with window dressings and only use the air-conditioning on the really hot days of the year.  On those same hot days, the solar panels will be producing plenty of energy.

We had to raise the roof line by 3 courses of brick to accommodate the air conditioning ducts.

We had to raise the roof line by 3 courses of brick to accommodate the air conditioning ducts.

Pre-wiring for our phone and internet lines, the plumbing and electrical tubes and guttering has all been installed for the second floor.

Bathroom plumbing will be hidden in the scullery ceiling.

Bathroom plumbing will be hidden in the scullery ceiling.

According to my schedule we are still 3 months away from “lock up”.  The next big job on the list is internal and external plastering but I think some of that incredible scaffold jungle has to come down first.

One last dodgy site photo (for my Mum)!  This picture is taken from the open, upstairs living area.  Check out the view!   It’s a little dark now, but wait until the rain clears, the scaffold is removed and the walls and ceilings are painted.  We were so focussed on getting the downstairs orientation for views right, that the upstairs view comes as a pleasant surprise.

Upper living

Walk straight ahead to our bedroom. Space here for the kids lounge, a study nook and the Pilates Reformer.