Worldly walls.

Exterior render and paint

Thanks for the pic, Harry.

It’s a light news week.  The internal render has started on our house, but I have no photos to show.  The exterior render started too.  It took us a while before the penny dropped and we thought it was a bit odd that the feature column at the front of our house was being rendered when this column is to be clad in stacked-stone.  Oops.  I bet render is not fun to remove.  Aaah!  I feel another week slip away.

Anyway, it’s holiday time here, so here’s a post I prepared earlier.

I have wallpapyrophobia.  The fear of wall paper.  It’s a bit of a shame, because there are currently some lovely wall papers available.  Still, I’ve enjoyed collecting these well-walled interiors with one thing in common. Can you guess what it is?

New York, apparently.  Source:

Paris. Source:  Pixers.

New York Subway

New York Subway.  Source:  Olive Juice Designs via Houzz.


Bamboo Forrest, Kyoto.  Source:  Pixers (unverified).

The Great Wall of China.  Source:

The Great Wall of China.  Source:  Pixers via Freshome.

DIY cabinets

I’m sticking to the subject of storage, but this week I’m trying to balance utility with aesthetics.  In Australia, we are lagging when it comes to planning built-in cabinetry in the design stage of our new homes.  We manage to get it right in the kitchen and bathroom, and recently in the bedroom too, but our living areas and dining rooms typically get fitted out with non-custom, ad-hoc items of furniture.

Is this because we are such cool, unique collectors of eclectic pieces that ooze character and style?  Nope.  It’s because built-in cabinetry costs so bloody much.

Example one:  House By the Water. Cost to add a built-in-robe (1.37 m wide) to our study to convert the room to a bedroom. $2200.  (Rejected.)

Example two:  Friend’s home.  Cost to install book shelves to all walls of one medium room to create a library.  $50 000.  (Rejected.)

Luckily the Nice Wolf is handy, and when equipped with time, he will make us some lovely shelves for our future library, dining room and scullery.  I might have to wait until he retires for furniture and cabinetry.  In our laundry, we’ll need overhead cabinets.  The garage overflow can go here, plus we’ll need to hide what I imagine will be an ugly, exposed (but oh, so convenient) laundry chute.

The plan is to turn this:


The laundry from the Rubix display home by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

into something more like these:

Photos:  1.  The Block  2.  Int2Architecture.

It might be in our laundry, that Ikea has its “House By The Water moment”. When we gutted an old kitchen years ago, we used some Ikea components for the new pantry and cabinets.  The quality was good.  So I sketched up some laundry plans for HBTW and dived into the Ikea website.  Woah!  It’s a minefield of choices and digital tools in there.   I found it quite overwhelming and it’s probably best to head into Ikea and leave the maths and design up to their kitchen planners.  Never-the-less, I managed to come up with a basic list of what we’ll need for laundry wall cabinets and a price estimate.  $750.

Trying to shop around, I checked out Masters’ website too. Although their selection is limited, the pieces all work together, so creating a shopping list was much easier.  Price estimate $750.  I wondered whether Ikea’s doors could be put on Masters’ cabinets, but the sizes are mismatched.

I also had a quick squizz at Gumtree for second-hand wall cabinets.   Most look dated and heavy, but there is potential there, at least to use the bases, if you are prepared to be flexible with layout.

Did you add cabinets to your home?

Have you got your own scary custom-cabinets quote to share?

Have you dabbled with cabinet installation?  

Do you know a great place to have it all done for you at Ikea/Masters’ prices?

A garage for anything but cars.

Garage of the Rubix display home by Webb and Brown-Neaves.  Our garage should look like this, minus the logo.

Garage of the Rubix display home by Webb and Brown-Neaves. Our garage should look like this, minus the logo.

Our double garage is going to have to work its butt off.  Every inch will need to be used.  Our last place had a 4-berth shed, plus a single garage.  We filled the lot.   Work benches, tools, wood offcuts, sports gear, lawn mower, 5 bicycles.  The Nice Wolf hoards, and he has many, many hobbies, for which he needs the right gear.  On top of that we own a camper trailer that could stay outside – but it doesn’t suit my front yard mood board!

We priced the option of adding a third car space.  $25K.  We’ll park a car on the driveway.

Our garage - present state.

Our garage – present state.

The garage is the one space where aesthetics will come last.  Clever storage must come first.  So I’ve been on the look out for ideas to hang, stack, and store our gear.

The Nice and Clever Wolf will be able to knock together plenty of these ideas.  I think I just have to provide the inspiration…


Photo sources:  1. Home Base  2. Unknown  3.  Imgur   4.  Etsy   5.  Fixa via Design Milk.


Photo sources:  1. Family Handyman  2. A bowl full of Lemons  3.  Tote Trac.


Photo sources:  1.  Tool Crib  2.  Bench Solution  3.  Ikea Hackers.


Photos sources:  1. Container Store   2.  Woodsmith Tips.

Have you had to think strategically in your garage?  Any genius tricks to share?

For more garage storage ideas, head over to my Garage folder on Pinterest.



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”.


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.  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?