On becoming a shop snob and DIY as therapy.

Girls room.

With the benefit of Instagram filters.

Having just survived a sleepover party for six almost-10-years-old girls, the only thing I can do this afternoon is laze on the sofa.    The second Little Pig and I glammed up her room a bit with some matching doona covers.  I ordered them online since I’ve had no time to shop.  That was a mistake.  While the doonas themselves are quite lovely, they are not the colour that they appear online (nor in the hard copy advertising of the product sent along with my order).  So the various pinks in the room clash.

Doona cover.

New doona cover, modelled by Evita.

The Nice Wolf says I should have learned by now.  Helpful.  I’ll probably do it again.  I’m afraid I’ve developed shop snobbery, an unpleasant side effect of several years of online interiors “research”.  There’s only one local shop that satisfies my snobbery, so if I can’t find it at Frisky Deer, I look online. There is the argument that buying better quality products than the average Kmart product may pay off in the long term, but when it comes to bed linen I’m not sure that it’s true.  I pick on Kmart because I recently got all excited over Kmart’s new industrial style lockers.  Just what I was searching for to put in my son’s room.  The excitement ended as soon as I saw the product, so small and looking as though it would barely make the trip home let alone stand up to the hardship of housing a 6 year old boy’s daily clothes.

Shop snobbery is an expensive addiction that I’m trying to control.  To curb my habit, I’ve taken up some DIY.  Inspired and instructed by Maya from House Nerd, I dared to drill a hole in a brand new wall.  At first, I thought I was no good at it, but then Nice Wolf replaced my inferior drill piece included in a kit, with a decent drill piece and away I went.

 

Bathroom hooks.

Bathroom hooks.

I was on a roll with 3 wall hooks mounted, only to be halted by some electric wires.  According to my wire detector, my whole wall around my bed head is filled with electric wires!  Exactly where I want to put a bracket for my much-loved pendant light.   Back to the drawing board.

Not to be defeated, I took up rendering.  With a couple of YouTube lessons and some advice from the Nice Wolf under my belt, I set about to hide the neighbour’s brick fence.   The Nice Wolf made me a concrete mix in the mixer.  He was laying cobblestones (forever….) while I rendered the wall.  I donned some gloves, put the grouting gizmos (technical term) in my hands and hoped for the best.

 

I am not a perfectionist.  Some may shiver at my amateur efforts, but I am rather pleased with this wall so far.  I plan to paint the wall once the rainy days disappear, then plant a row of pleached pears or lilly pillies in front.

The professional landscapers installed our outdoor lights.  They look WOW!  They bloody well should, too.  (Dad, cover your eyes…)  They cost $7000, or about $500 a pop, on average.  My night time photography is blah, but trust me that my 3 coastal banksias, lit up at night, look fantastic and as for the copper step lights?   See for yourself.

We are, as always, progressing slowly.  I really, really, really hope that next time I blog, our landscapers, Tim Davis Landscaping, will be finished their scope of work.  They still have the pool to finish, a couple of fences to install, a bench seat to deck and a few bits of tidying up to go.  Honestly, they’ve been incredibly slow.  I can’t blame them in this rainy weather, but they did start last December.

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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:

laundry

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…

Bikes

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

Boxes

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

Benches

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

Tools

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.

 

 

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

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….

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.

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!