Second storey going up.

Second storey bricks

Our House By The Water has grown.  Three weeks of brickwork has seen the house go from single storey to double.  As photos have landed in my inbox each week, I’ve become increasingly excited.

Week One:

Thank you Mark from Best West Building.

Second story bricks.

Second storey bricks.

Week Two:

Harry, you are the best!Second storey bricks - week 2.

Week Three:

Thanks to new reader and future neighbour, Tracy.

Nearly done.

Nearly done.

Front facade.  The feature column will be bricked to 80 courses.

Front facade. The feature column will be bricked to 80 courses.

Most of the house is 63 courses high, double brick.  That’s a lot of bricks.  Work has come to a temporary halt.  The feature column on our front facade (that will eventually be clad in stack stone) is 80 courses high.  The brickies need an extra “lift” of scaffolding so that they may complete the taller sections of the brickwork.  The scaffolders are booked for next week.

In other news, following on from my “I love Linen” post, I won a little competition!   Ink and Spindle is a Melbourne based company that print gorgeous Australian-inspired prints on 100% linen, cotton and hemp.  You can buy their fabric or ready-made homewares using their existing prints, or you can choose one of their prints and customise it to your own colour way.  They have just introduced some new colours and celebrated with a competition.  My favourite colour combination proved popular and won me some fabric!  One 100% linen Silver Gum doona cover in Bluestone and River Salt on Oatmeal coming up!

My winning entry.

My winning entry.

Of course, then I had to play with mood boards for the master bedroom, to check that my current front runner for linen curtains (Pottery Barn) and the new fabric will work together.

I'm happy with the blues, woods and linen that are starting to form the back bone of my master bedroom grand scheme.

I’m happy with the blues, woods and linen that form the back bone of my master bedroom grand scheme.

I’ve had a heavy week on Polyvore, playing with mood boards.  It started with the question of linen versus leather  for sofas in our living room.  Leather is so practical and has my husband’s vote, but I love so many linen sofas.  This week a leather sofa that really appealed to me crossed my laptop screen, so I plugged it into Polyvore.  These decisions are always multifactorial, so I tested some of my favourite rugs and pieces of aboriginal art too.

Living room 1

Living room 1

Living room 2

Living room 2

Living room 3

Living room 3

Don’t tell, but I spent a whole Friday afternoon doing this!  It was blissful.

My conclusions are:

  • Artwork and floor rug should be considered together.  For example, patterned artwork and patterned rug is a bit too much.  Pick one star, then don’t upstage it.
  • Either leather or linen couch could work, but both together, hmmm..??

Which living room version do you like the best?  Why?  

Should linen couches and children occupy the same space?  

I’d love to find a really nice, Australian-made, linen sofa with removable/washable covers.  

Any tips?

Finally, to some money saving news, for a change!  Tracy alerted me to a potential rebate on stamp duty!  In Western Australia we pay a lot of money in tax/duty when we buy land.  Our “stamp duty” was in excess of $30K!  However, residential land is taxed at a slightly lower rate, so if you commence building within 5 years of land purchase you may be eligible for a rebate.  For us, it could be worth almost $3000.  That’s a sofa nice little bite off our mortgage.  Already I have secured a “Newly Constructed Residential  Exemption” from annual land tax, a separate bill of a couple of hundred dollars, by filling in a form and sending the department of finance proof that we’ve commenced construction.  As always, there is some fine print, but if you haven’t already investigated these potential savings, it could be worth your while.  Now, just to find our original stamp duty document….

sabrina

Stylish Ergonomics

I’m putting on my best serious voice today.  And a different hat.  In fact, for once on this blog, I’m qualified to talk on the subject.  Sometimes, when I’m not dreaming of houses from faraway lands or trying to keep The 3 Little Pigs in order, I’m a physiotherapist.

Let’s talk about being comfortable in the home office and peruse some good looking and clever office furniture.  But first, a little reality/honesty check.  Right now, I’m reclined on the couch, feet up, laptop on my lap.  Cushions are supporting my back.  My only “office” item is a $10 padded board from Office Works that sits between the laptop and my lap to prevent us both from overheating.  Is this OK?  Yes, because I am comfortable and I’m regularly getting up to do other tasks.  Dish washing interspersed with screen time works quite well.

If you tend to sit down for 10 minutes at a time for a quick scan of emails, then chances are that you will be perfectly fine with any chair that tickles your fancy.  But if you work from home, blog for hours, write essays, or spend any greater length of time at a desk, then Eames chairs with those cute legs but concave back rests are not going to cut it.

Office chairs

Unless you happen to be Mr or Ms Average, with your every dimension matching that of the average adult, then the key to selecting a comfortable office chair is adjustability.    Ideally, look for these features:

  • adjustable height
  • adjustable lumbar support
  • tilt for seat pan and back rest
  • dense foam padding on seat

Optional extras:

  • wheels (preferably at least 5)
  • adjustable arm rests (good for those who like to hold up their tablets or phones for prolonged periods)
  • head rest  (for those who like to get lost in deep thought, while still being upright!)

Here are some chairs that have potential for both ergonomics and style:

Under $200

Err.  Wrong answer.  Sorry, stylish + ergonomic don’t exist in this price category.  Cheaper options tend to have low density seat padding and typically don’t last long.  They may be suitable in the short term for lightweight children and adolescents.

Under $500

Ergomedic chair

Ergomedic

1.  Ergomedic.  Only just scrapes into the “stylish” category since you can specify your own fabric or leather.  Bonus points for being Australian made.

Under $1000

 

  1. Think.  Available in 15 fun colours and 3 different frame finishes. (1-3 are all from Steelcase).
  2. Leap.  You can customise the fabric and pair it with a “lounge” (footrest).  Head and foot rests are extra.
  3. Gesture.  Designed for multiple device use.  Available in 11 colours.
  4. Muga 2.  Available in various finishing options from Stylecraft.

Oh, whatever!

(Over $1000)

  1. Liberty by Humanscale.  (Known as “Freedom” in the U.S..) Add a headrest if you wish.  Go all out with leather, or choose a mesh back option and you’ll sneak back into the “under $1000″ range.
  2. Mirra.  Made by Herman Miller, this chair is much cheaper in the U.S.  Fresh finishes.
  3. Embody.  I like the spiny structure on the back rest.  In orange, it makes me think of giraffes.
  4. Norma.  Less imposing than the average office chair.
  5. Acuity by Allsteel, looks sleek and feminine in white leather.
  6. Sabrina.  (Australian price unverified.)  Looks very cool en masse in the feature photo at the top.

NB:  Sensible readers, might say that when it comes to looking after your body, style should be set aside.  My standard recommendation for a chair that fits the adjustability criteria, is long-lasting and suits most adults is the Gregory Inca chair, which retails at $385.  It’s not pretty.

Desk

Most people can be comfortable sitting at a standard desk.  Probably you can take your pick from many of the lovely options on offer.  Shorties might need to increase the height of their chair and use a foot rest to achieve a good sitting position.  Some tall people may need a higher desk. There are plenty of height-adjustable desks on the market these days, or extra-height desks can be ordered from office furniture suppliers.

Look for:

  • Leg clearance.  (Drawers in the centre of the desk can be a problem.)
  • Enough depth to support both a laptop or PC AND a separate keyboard.

Standing tables or sit-to-stand tables have had a recent surge in popularity and work well for people on the move between desk tasks.  They can be used in conjunction with sitting, to add variety and movement to the work day.  How about this for a very cool looking height-adjustable table?

Source:  Dwell.

Laptop/PC stands

My standard trick for raising laptops and PCs, so that the top of the screen is at eye level, is to use the “Yellow Pages”.  Hmmm…  Stylish?  No.   Do they even make Yellow pages these days?  I love this wooden alternative:

PC stand.  Source: Dwell

PC stand. Source: Dwell

And for those that like to use their devices in the kitchen, living room or on the go:

1.  Ikea (U.S.)  2.  GamFratesi 3.  Plunkdesk.

Physiotherapists are great at assessing individual shapes, sizes, postures, work habits and needs.  If you are not comfortable at your work station, ask a physio to give you a personal assessment and advice.  (New business ideas forming as I type…. virtual assessments….)

P.S.  Any furniture makers reading this: Want to collaborate on an Australian-made, stylish and body-friendly office chair for under $500?

P.P.S.  For more Stylish Ergonomics take a look in my Pinterest file.

 

 

I love linen.

Warning:  $$$$ alert.  Read ahead at the risk of your budget.

I have a weakness for linen.  The 100%, made-from-flax kind.  In fact, I’m at risk of dressing like my decor.  Or is it, decorating like I dress?  It’s in my wardrobe, it’s on my bed… table, cushions, oven rail.  I’ve always loved linen, but it was at odds with my dislike for ironing.  But now that the world is embracing the rough look, un-ironed, there is no holding me back.

I have big linen plans:

Sofa

Curtains for the master bedroom

Photos:  1.  Home Beautiful Magazine.  2.  Mark Tuckey.  3.  Eye Swoon.

Possibly for the living area too.

We are talking double height curtains here!

Photos:  1.  Collected Interiors (Perth).  2.  Vosgesparis.   3. Home DIT.  4.  British Properties.

And, for the beds.

Photos:  1.  Nancy Bird.  2.  i gigi.  3.  vtwonen.

Before I get too carried away by gorgeous pictures, let’s talk cost.  Here are some Australian suppliers of 100% linen products and a quick look at what two standard products cost:Cost chart - 100% linen

 

I shall be looking in the green section, but I’m also keeping tabs on the orange section for sale prices.  Andrea and Joen recently had 40-50% off linen bedding.  Of course, if you are not as adverse to sewing as I am, you might make your own.  Linen by the metre starts at about $25 and goes up quickly, especially if you’d like a nice print on it.  If you prefer linen bedding with a pattern, try Moochie Lou or Nancy Bird.  And if your budget doesn’t extend to 100% linen, Aura Home has bedding in linen-cotton blends.  Nearly as good!

Since the Nice Wolf is probably already gagging by the time he’s read this far into this post, I might as well keep going.  In for a penny, in for a pound!  (Or dollars, as the case may be.)

Curtain costs

I love the soft, romantic (see Nice Wolf, linen is in your favour) look of linen curtains in a master bedroom. We have 8 metres of full length windows in our bedroom.  Yep, 8 metres!  Two sets of windows, each about 4 metres wide.  They join at the corner.

Master bedroom plan.

Half the walls are windows!

Given the limited area to draw the curtains to, I’m planning to use light linen curtains (to minimise bulk) for mood and we’ll add blinds for light and temperature control and privacy.  Ready-made 100% curtains seem to be few and far between and really are only made for small windows.  On my last trip to Sydney, Pottery Barn’s linen curtains caught my eye:

Pottery barn curtain.

I’m not sure which colour this is, but I like it!

 According to curtain rules, you need 2 – 2.5 times your window width in material.  That equates to at least 12 of these curtain panels for our bedroom!  $888 not including the curtain hardware.  There is the issue of having to join the panels together but I reckon I could just about cope with that amount of sewing.  I looked at some fabric options for DIY, but I’d be hard pressed to find some that I like for under $1000.

Have I missed your favourite source of linen?  Do tell.

Or are you more of a flannelette kind of person?  Silk?  Cow hide? 

Have you made your own curtains or found some goodies ready to hang?  

Keep an eye out for plain linen curtains for me.  Blue, grey, black, natural and any where in between, are all possibilities.

Reader vote: next week’s post.

The indecisiveness is spreading.  First it was the splash back, then the pendant lights, and now I can’t even decide what to write about next.  Here’s a few ideas that are circling in my head.  Take your pick, or suggest something new.  You have a few days to place your vote.

 Other topics that I have up my sleeve in the “coming soon” file are vegetable gardens, the post-handover plan and interior paints, but I’ve got some more research to do before they go live.

By the way, if you are looking for some good pinning opportunities this weekend, checkout Webb and Brown-Neaves’ latest display home, The Islander.  The interior design is definitely my favourite of all their displays so far.  I love a bit of “beach” without the kitsch.  Pay close attention to the tiles, some may look familiar.

Building to schedule.

Construction schedule

Screen shot of our construction schedule.

I’m taking our construction schedule with a grain of salt.  Obviously it’s a standard schedule.  10 days have been allocated to paving, and we are not having any paving by the builder.  We are 2-3 weeks off schedule already, but that’s nothing that can’t be explained away by “the non-availability of trades, inclement weather, shortage of materials or the like.” In any case, I’m using it to plan the timing of purchase of “owner supplied items”.  Since we aren’t living locally during the build we really tried to minimise owner-supplied items, but some items such as our fireplace, air conditioning and the integrated dishwasher weren’t offered by Webb and Brown Neaves.  In the case of our feature pendant lights, I didn’t like any we saw at our builder’s supplier. Between a variable construction schedule, variable lead times on items we need to supply and nowhere to store purchased items, the whole situation is a bit tricky.  I already made the mistake of purchasing the fireplace early to avoid 2015 price rises, and then was tripped up by a $250 delivery fee to a friend’s garage because the supplier wouldn’t hold it.  I’ve been creating lists and charts over the past week, trying to get better organised for costs, supplying items and the post-handover activities.

Owner-supplied items.

Owner-supplied items.

You can see I’m having some commitment problems with a couple of items.  For the kitchen pendants, my taste is expensive, but I can’t be sure that what I want is the right thing.  So I’m leaning towards buying cheaper alternatives, until I’m in the house and able to weigh all the other factors up.

 

Sources:  1.  Beacon.  2.  Weylandts.  3.  Dunlin.  4.  Cocoflip.

For the alfresco area, I have grand plans for an oversized cray pot pendant, DIY.  So all I need is a bare bulb hanging on a cord at least 2 metres long, but I am struggling to find something that won’t quickly rust in our outdoor environment.  Outdoor lighting options are rather lacking!  The only item I’ve seen that fits the bill so far is $600.  No!  Not when it’s going to be covered up anyway.

Build update

The brickies have made a start on the second storey of House By The Water.  Imagine my excitement to receive this picture on Sunday, the first news of any brick laying activities:

Extra brownie points for our building inspector who took this unsolicited photo on his long weekend!

Extra brownie points for our independent building inspector who took this photo on his long weekend!

And special thanks to house-building blogger, Trixee, who popped by our house on the weekend and took the photos shown below.  Trixee is building a glamorous solar-passive house in Perth.  Trixee’s slab has just been poured so the excitement is mounting over on her blog:  The SP Chronicles.

All set up for second storey bricks.

All set up for second storey bricks.

Scaffolding jungle for the alfresco void area.

Scaffolding jungle for the alfresco void area.

Garage

Garage with concrete beams and pipes that will be invisible before long.

Stairs.  And the terrible realisation that I should have had that changed to include a storage area.

Stairs. And the terrible realisation that I should have had that changed to include a storage area.

As they say,  it’s coming along!

Vertically challenged.

Vertical garden

Gorgeous but tricky?
Source:  Architectural Digest.

I’m not the worst gardener in the world, but I reckon some of those beautiful vertical gardens wooing me on television screens and magazine pages, could be money down the drain.  Some are gorgeous works of art when they are first installed, but I wonder how they look one year later.

Our House By The Water has a few spots that will need the green treatment.  My main focus for now is the view from the scullery:

Scullery view

Creamy coloured old brick wall.

Side alley.

Site for future vertical garden.

Dining view

The dining room shares a partial view of the same brick wall. I’m not sure how the neighbours intend to replace the fence they took down, but at least, the existing section needs beautifying.

Here’s the situation:

  • The width between the house and the brick fence is 1.6 metres at the narrowest point.
  • Shared utility space for garage access, washing line and bin storage.
  • Strong chance of being a wind tunnel.
  • Exposure to sun: only a few hours per day.

Tough conditions.  Forgetting the plant selection for a moment, here are my options:

  1. Plant climbers into the ground.  Help them with some simple wires.
  2. Espalier trees.  Reticulate.

    Photo sources: 1. Flickr.  2. Lucy Williams Interior Design.  3.  Herbidacious.

  3. Pot plants and use shelves or some kind of structure to layer them up the wall.

    Photo sources:  1. Revista Natureza.  2.  One Kings Lane.  3.  Flickr.  4. Wanilla Rose (unverified).

  4. Use a simple pocket system for vertical gardens, with or without an irrigation kit.

    Photo sources:  1.  Wemmy.  2.  HGTV.  3.  Plants On Walls via Buzzfeed.

  5. Use a complex vertical garden structure with built in watering system including a pump.

    Photo sources:  1.  Better Homes and Gardens.  2. Garden design.  3.  Watergarden Warehouse.

Verdict

I’m going to save options one and two for the front yard, to hide the rear walls of the neighbours’ garages.  The front yard faces North and there will be room to condition the soil, so espaliered fruit and climbing plants should do well there.

Options four and five scare me.  In our challenging conditions, I’m worried we’d end up with an expensive, dead mess.

For my scullery view, I’m favouring the plants in pots option.  We’ll render and paint the brick fence almost black.  We’ll add some structure to give the plants height so we can see them.  I’ll recruit a large, hardy pot of rosemary or something equally tough to act as a wind break, or if necessary construct a screen.  Worst case scenario, move struggling plants to a happier location.

Pots on shelves.

Yep, I could gaze at this while I scrub some dishes. Source: Revisita Natureza via Blog da Ayda.

Could you pull off a vertical garden?  Do you have some suggestions for covering a shady wall?  Have you seen any great green walls that stood the test of time?  (Ivy doesn’t count!)

For more vertical garden ideas of all descriptions, take a look in my Pinterest file.

Out of the office. Researching beach shacks.

If the matter is urgent, you can find me here:

It’s Carnaval in Brazil and local productivity levels are at an all time low.  Feeling a little sorry for my Aussie, U.S., Canadian, South African, English… OK, all of you who are not currently on holidays…I am preparing this post in advance.  I am packing Havianas, bikinis, hats and sun shirts.  The laptop is staying behind.

New readers, Brazil is where I’m passing time while our house is being built.  It may sound like a dream gig to you, but it isn’t always.  This week will be one of the good weeks.

For me, there are three main sources of home design and decoration inspiration in Brazil.  There is a unique kind of minimalist house, architect-designed, modern, large and square.  Lots of concrete, usually some wood.   This kind of Brazilian house is best only imitated if you have full-time cleaning staff.  Warmth and homeliness are often missing, but there are interesting shapes, colours and often, a beautiful garden.

Tempo House

I love this outdoor area. Softened by the use of wood and garden shadows. Source: Afflante.

The house connected to this amazing outdoor area is a bit like a gigantic concrete bunker.  There's something clever and intriguing about this combination of wood, water, plants and cobblestones over multiple levels.  Source:  Arquitetura e Construção.

The house connected to this amazing outdoor area is a bit like a gigantic concrete bunker. There’s something clever and intriguing about this combination of wood, water, plants and cobblestones over multiple levels. Source: Arquitetura e Construção.

Secondly, there are 18th century colonial houses of Portuguese style.  True aged beauty that is hard to replicate.  Some of these houses have been tastefully modernised inside and many more have been renovated in the spirit of their original style.

Finally, there are beach shacks.  These are constructed simply, usually from locally found materials.  Hammocks are essential and may be the only form of bed.  Creature comforts are sometimes minimal, but so are the cares of the inhabitants.  This week we’re holidaying in a Brazilian beach shack.