One year at House By The Water.

The Nice Wolf and I have been flat out getting at least some of the garden ready in time for the influx of Christmas and Summer visitors.  I’ve lost count of the weekends the Nice Wolf has been laying cobblestones.  He complains that I get the good jobs and it’s probably true.  Planting, painting.  Any way, no time to write, but I feel I owe my readers at least some photos of recent progress.  I hope you enjoy the gallery:

Jetty Christmas!

Santa on the canals.

Santa delivers lollies on Christmas Eve.

In the scheme of things, I thought that a jetty was low priority.  After all, we don’t actually have a boat.  But The Nice Wolf had other ideas and last week the Jetty Man motored up to House By The Water, drilled in a couple of poles and attached a brand new jetty.  Just like that!

The Three Little Pigs watched the jetty poles go in.

The Three Little Pigs watched the jetty poles go in.  Jetty by West Coast Jetties.

The Nice Wolf paid attention to the functionality of our jetty design, I oversaw the aesthetics and I am rather pleased with the result.  An unexpected bonus of the jetty is that it visually extends our “back yard”.  Suddenly our canal side area seems so much larger.  The jetty has been well used already:  breakfast while dangling feet over the water and many boating guests, including Santa, a previously anonymous blog reader and some new neighbours who welcomed us with a gift of champagne!  Plus, there has been plenty of shenanigans on our kayaks and the Three Little Pigs’ Christmas gift, a blow up paddle board/windsurfer.

Another highlight of the week was the installation of our cray pot pendants.    They are not quite finished yet, but already I love them, especially at night.

Christmas baking provided a good test for our ovens and kitchen space.  Pavlova?  Check!  3.5 kg salmon?  Check!  2 adults cooking at once?  No problem.


Kitchen in use.

Kitchen crowd.

Boxing Day kitchen crowd.

Guess The Handover Date Competition.

Congratulations to John!  John guessed December 24th would be the day we received keys to House By The Water, 6 days later than our actual handover day.  A good bottle of West Australian bubbly is  available for collection or delivery.  Thanks to all blog readers who joined in with this competition.

Keys Please, Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Three Kids at sunset.

Three Little Pigs, toasting the new house with “kids’ champagne” and pizza.

At 9 am yesterday, The Nice Wolf received keys from our site supervisor for our new home.  In a slightly non-traditional ending to the fairy tale, we had a pseudo pre-handover inspection and handover all in one.  That means that there are a few items still to be completed by the builders but we are able to move in.  Full credit to the builders and all their associated tradespeople for working their butts off for the past 2 months in order to deliver our house before their Christmas break.

This last week saw some crucial elements added to House By The Water.  Balustrading, toilets (phew!) and, just in the nick of time, gas, or more significantly, hot water.  As a bonus, our landscapers finished our deck and made a good start on the pool fencing.

So here we are, completely exhausted and thoroughly happy.  What other way is there to celebrate than with good champagne (thank you Webb and Brown-Neaves) and pizza on the deck?  We had a great evening, with many small boats cruising the canals to view the local Christmas lights.  All the boaters were in a Friday, festive mood, waving at us as they went by.

Today, the littlest pig turned 6 and was very happy to be served breakfast in bed on a mattress on the floor.  There has been a steady stream of tradies and we’ve been erecting some makeshift curtains.  We’ve been vacuuming concrete dust and laying down plastic drop sheets in a probably vain attempt to minimise the dust until our timber floors are laid.  We’ve been unpacking a few bits and pieces and received our new mattress.  Basically, our work is just beginning.

I will post lots of photos soon.  I just wanted to check in today and say, we’re in!


Ensuite at night.

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….

Christmas on the Canals

Source:  Habitually Chic.

Source: Habitually Chic.

Don’t all book your tickets just yet, but Christmas on the canals is going to be jolly!  What could be more fun than dangling our feet over the jetty, waiting for Santa to pass by on his boat delivering lollies for the kids on Christmas Eve?

Breakfast of toast and a cup of tea by the water-side will be followed by a slow, drawn-out present opening ceremony for my kids and their cousins (firmly controlled by my father).  Then I’ll get my apron on and finish sorting out the lunch, ably assisted by The Nice Wolf.  I’ll probably be ready for the first cocktail about now.  Lunch will be hot, despite our warm Christmas weather.  We’ll eat.  Too much.  Then we’ll all laze about on every available sofa and hammock reading new books, chatting or snoring.  When we’ve recovered, we’ll throw ourselves into the swimming pool in an attempt to regain an appetite in time for a dinner of leftovers.   After dinner, the kids will beg us to watch their concert – something they rehearsed during the day.  The adults will resume their favourite slouchy position on the deck, sip drinks and complain about their stomachs.  Perfect.

The Mandurah canals like to dress up for Christmas.  It has become “a thing”.  The residents go troppo with Christmas lights and hundreds of boatloads of tourists and locals cruise by the houses taking photos and listening to Christmas tunes.  It’s a little bit “Blackpool at night” (Canadian readers, think Niagara), with neon flashing overload.  You can imagine that kids love it and you can’t fault the community spirit.

Mandurah canals at Christmas time.  Source:  Mandurah Cruises.

Mandurah canals at Christmas time. Source: Mandurah Cruises.

So as not to be a party-pooper I’ver been thinking about how we can join our neighbours in a way that complements our lovely new home and without spending thousands on the light plastic fantastic.

Call me colourist – but no orange will be allowed.  Preferably no pink either.  I’m envisioning a flood-lit gum tree with a possum or two sneaking away with a Christmas pudding.  Santa lazing by the pool, in his board shorts with a stubbie in his hand, or maybe a fishing rod.  I reckon I could make a roster of bodies to fill the Santa suit, so long as I keep up the supply of stubbies (possibly secretly filled with red wine).

In the mean time, I’ve been scaling Pinterest for some sparkly inspiration.  What do you think?

Picture sources:  1.  Target (U.S.) 2. An Angel at My Table, Mari Eriksson.  3. Wednesday Custom Design.  4.  Bloomingville ornaments – Temple and Webster (no longer available).  5. Unknown.  6.  Recyclart.

Do you go troppo with Christmas lights?

Can you recommend festive lights that are the ultimate in good taste?

Have you seen lights that scream Aussie, Aussie, Aussie (Oi, Oi, Oi) at you?

Or do you think we should save on electricity and pretend we’re not home?


It’s almost Father’s Day, so hand the laptop over to the Dad in your household. This post is for him.

The “nice wolf” (a.k.a. husband) has been requesting that I post about jetties for months. He has a boat obsession to rival my house obsession. (Okay, slight exaggeration.) One of the reasons that we bought our block on the canal is that my husband would like to be a sailor. At the age of 7, he sailed with his parents, from Darwin (N.T.) to Paris and ever since he’s dreamt of boats. Our particular part of the canal is catamaran friendly. There are no bridges between our canal and the sea. Ultimately, (read “retirement goal”,) my husband would like a catamaran large enough to sail the family around the top half of Australia, but for the near future he’ll be very happy with a little motor vessel that can fit an esky, a few crab pots and the three little pigs.

So let’s talk jetties….

Fixed or floating?  L shaped, T shaped, finger shaped, land-backed?  Wood or steel?

Fixed jetties:

Advantages of fixed jetties:

  • Cheaper than floating (to be confirmed.)
  • Good looking.
  • No movement = less opportunities to go wrong???
  • Won’t tilt with heavy loads.

Floating jetties:Floating jetty.

Advantages of floating jetties:

  • Easy to board/load boats regardless of the tide.
  • Easy to moor boat.
  • Less strain on lines and cleats.
  • Won’t submerge during storm surges.
  • Partly transferrable, for example, if you move up the street or give up boating and decide to sell the jetty.

Note: tidal variation in Mandurah is less than 0.75m.

You can tell I’m flailing here.  My research into the pros and cons of floating and fixed jetties has mostly lead me to other parts of the world that either have much greater tidal variation or are exposed to stormy weather.  Neither have I been able to establish likely costs.  I sent a few email queries, but I think jetty builders are old-fashioned telephone types!

Jetty shapes:L and T shaped jetties. Finger jetty and land-backed jetty.

These options and jetty size limits are taken from “Jetties and Moorings” by the City of Mandurah.  Some shapes offer greater mooring flexibility than others.  For example, once you’ve moored a big boat on the land-backed jetty, you’re not going to be able to accommodate anything else.

Our mooring envelope looks like this:

The outer square shows our mooring envelope

The outer square shows our mooring envelope, with the inner square being the jetty envelope.

So Boaties!  We need help.  Which jetty type do you think is best for mooring a 40ft catamaran in the Mandurah canals?  It should also allow access for a couple of surf-skis or maybe the boat of friends, dropping by for dinner.  What do you think it might cost?  Throw a ball-park figure at me, we are starting from scratch.

(Edit:  News just in!  I did get a reply from a company specialising in floating jetties.  First rough guess, with a few variables, the most obvious being size, is $40-50K.)

And for those you who might be less concerned about the boat, how does this tickle your fancy?

Picture sources:  1. Pinterest (original source not found).  2.  10 Travel 10 Nature.

Healthy tradies.

August is Tradies National Health Month.  As luck would have it, I have some shining examples of Tradies demonstrating healthy work habits on site at House By The Water.

(Photos thanks to our Site Supervisor.)

Please note:

  • Team work.
  • Beautiful weather conditions.
  • Upright backs.
  • Area cleared and bricks delivered close to work.
  • Sun smart hats.
  • High visibility shirts.
  • Eskies, presumably filled with water for good hydration.
  • Use of carts.
  • BYO microwave to reheat leftovers.  (No hamburgers for lunch for these Brickies.)
  • Some kind of metal teepee that is surely an ergonomic device???

I’m giving these fellas 10 out of 10.  I hope they enjoy dangling their feet over the canal wall as they take their lunch breaks this week.

When I’m not galavanting around the world and obsessing over house building, I’m a physiotherapist.  I’ve seen a few painter’s shoulders and brickie’s backs over the years.  It ain’t comfortable!  Without harping on the message, here are my tips for keeping a Tradie’s body in good working order.

5 Top Tips for Healthy Tradies:

  1. Be fit.  Physical work doesn’t always count.  Regular exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep, increases energy and is great for your heart.
  2. Take time to think about the task before you do it.  Work smart.
  3. Little things can add up to big problems over time.  Watch out for repetitive work and poor postures.
  4. Look after each other.  Share the load.  Ask for or offer help.
  5. Speak up.  If something doesn’t look safe, say so.

For the special Tradie in you life, please refer them to the National Tradies Health website for more information and a quiz with adventure holiday prizes.

Thanks to our tradies this week for some very impressive looking retaining walls:Retaining wall text

And for a good laugh for everyone, take a look at this short video clip:  S#!t Tradies NEVER say.

S#!t Tradies NEVER Say.  (Click on link or photo to watch video.)

S#!t Tradies NEVER Say.   (Click on link or photo to watch video.)


Window dressings

Photo source:  Linxspiration.

Photo source: Linxspiration.

I’ve got a feeling this will be round one of several attempts to plan the window dressings.  Already I’ve been thinking about the options for months.  Slowly the picture is becoming clearer.

First, check out this “cool” tool at SunCalc that shows you from which direction the sun will shine on your house at various times of the day and year. Sun calc Cicerellos Mandurah   This example shows the direction of sun at Cicerello’s (fish and chip shop) in Mandurah today.  I used a public address so you can see the full screen and all the options available.

To protect House By The Water’s location, I’ve zoomed in for the next shot.  You can see the angle of the sun from dawn (yellow line) to sunset (redline). Sun exposure at House By The Water.Our main living area (on the canal side of the property) is going to cop the afternoon sun.  In the middle of summer, the sun will set over the water which will probably create a lot of reflection.  The roof of the alfresco area will shade most of the living area, but as the sun gets very low we’ll need window dressings (in addition to external shade). Our living/dining area has a lot of  large windows, including the void space above the living room.

The Rubix has a lot of glass.  Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The Rubix has a lot of glass. Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Over the months I’ve played with the idea of curtains versus blinds but my conclusion is that we need blinds.  The curtains can be optional extras added later depending on how the mood of the space evolves, not to mention budget.

I love the clean, minimal look of blinds such as those pictured below.  They allow the view to be the star.

Pictures:  1.  Christopher Rose Architects on Houzz.  2. The Design files.  3. Improvised Life (Original source not found.)  4. Bayden Goddard Design Architects on HomeDSGN.

On the other hand, I love the homeliness and softness of curtains, and in particular, linen.

Pictures: 1. HomeDSGN.  2.  Home Adore.  3.  Vosgesparis.

At the simpler end of the house, lies the children’s bedrooms and the bathrooms.  For these rooms we think plantation shutters will be a great option.  There is no particular view from the front of the house (we think!) and shutters are easily handled by children, control the light well and can add a layer of insulation to the windows.

Photo credit:

Photo: Pinterest  (Original source not found.)

We had shutters previously, all over the house, and loved them:


Old room of the Little Pigs.

And for the master bedroom, we must have some linen curtains, probably with blinds hiding behind them.  I have a serious weakness for linen:

Pictures:  1.  Planete Deco.  2.  Once Wed.  3.  Apartment Therapy.  4.  With thanks to © Lucas Allen.

And of course, the smart option is to shade the windows from the outside.  Trees, I can do.  Blinds and screens? – I haven’t scratched the surface of these options yet, but there are certainly some inspiring alternatives available.   I fear the logistics and the prices at this point.

Pictures:  1.  Luxaflex.  2.  Evelyn Müller.  3.  Desire to Inspire.

So you see, another can of worms is opened.  Later, I’ll try to be more specific.  I thought I’d throw it all out there now because I know my readers always have some suggestions for me.  My Mum has been scaring me with curtain prices and the whole insect screen debacle (which is still in the “too hard” basket) has been a warning to me that balancing sun control, view maintenance, privacy, aesthetics and budget is not going to be easy.

Retaining wall footings

Usually, when I have a nightmare, I wake up just before any real danger strikes or I do this funny “treading-air” manoeuvre which lifts me above the trouble.  Perhaps prompted by an absence of news from our builders, I dreamt that my husband and I decided to go and look for ourselves.  Despite the fact that we are very familiar with Mandurah, we kept getting lost along the way and couldn’t find our block.  When I woke up that morning, there was a pleasant surprise for me.  The team at “Progress Realty Photo Services” (who are rendering their services free-of-charge, but have put in a large homemade apple pie order) had been on our site and sent us a photographic update.  I could kiss them!

Photo One:  

Remember that retaining wall cost shock I had a few months ago?  Well, here’s where that money is going:

Retaining wall footings.

Retaining wall footings.

Sometime soon, it should start to look a bit like this:

Future retaining walls - plans by Tim Davies Landscaping.

Future retaining walls – plans by Tim Davies Landscaping.


Photo 2:

Earth/sand moved from the canal side of the block and, what I can only assume is a kind gift from the neighbours – a palm tree.  Should I tell them that we have an aversion to palms, except when found on tropical islands?

Early housewarming gift?

Early housewarming gift?

I’m guessing that the wire is reinforcement for the slab?  It could also make a nice garden feature….  or cheap front fence?

Photo 3:

The boss of “Progress Realty Photo Services” demonstrating the scale of the earth piles.Progress Realty Photo Services on site.

To call it “earth” seems overly generous.  Trying to grow plants in that stuff could be an impossibility, but I’m happy to see no giant rocks.  I don’t want a site works cost shock like the retaining wall shock.  I’m not sure if I can “tread-air” fast enough to escape one of those.

So there you have it.  The first blog post of the “piles of dirt and building materials” kind.  How did you go?  Still awake?  Now that construction has commenced, I promise to intersperse posts filled with scintillating construction site photos with other posts.  Some hot topics coming up are window dressings, building inspectors and jetties.  Right now, I’m collecting quotes for inspectors and those insect screens are still bugging me.

Who let the flies in?

Centor fly screens with stacker doors.

Centor fly screens with stacker doors.

At some point during the planning process I asked for stacker door windows instead of sliding doors at the rear of our house for a cleaner outlook towards the canals.  And voila!  They appeared on our plans with the added bonus that they were larger than the original windows.  End of story.

Wrong.  Once our builders started to order all the materials and fittings for our house, they realised that the selected stacker door windows were not wide enough to fill the “holes” in the dining room walls.  So we switched to a different brand of stacker doors.  The problem is that the new doors don’t have fly screens.

The living room stacker doors still have screens.  A fixed window in the dining room (not shown) will be screened.  Do we need screening for the dining room stackers too?  Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The living room stacker doors (on left) still have screens. A fixed window in the dining room (not shown) will also be screened. Do we need screening for the dining room stackers too? Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Years ago, when we installed bifold doors, we didn’t bother with fly screens in Mandurah.   I’m all for a bit of exposure to the great outdoors, bugs and all, but one of the Little Pigs tends to physically overreact to bites, so I think we need to keep the mozzies out of the house.

So… the options:

1.  Do nothing.  Close the unscreened doors at dusk.  We will still have 2 other screened openings in the living area for air flow.  Deter mosquitos with clever plant selection.

2.  Install fancy Centor Screens during construction at fancy prices.  These screens (shown at top) are recessed into the floor and retract into the walls when open, effectively hiding the screens when not in use.  They look great.  A preliminary quote suggests that this will cost about $2000 per set of stacker doors plus installation.

3.  Retrofit insect screens later, as necessary.  Probably a less aesthetically-pleasing option.

The builders suggested two brands of security screens, equally as expensive as the Centor screens, but I’m worried they’ll obscure the view and I also wonder how much airflow actually passes through those kind of screens.

We’ve just about decided on the Centor screens but I am not yet convinced that they can be installed under our circumstances – you need walls to retract the screens into, but we’re a little short on those.  I’m waiting for some reassurance on that one.  Also, the builder wants to know what allowances need to be made to accommodate the screens…. somehow I’ve ended up as the middle man on this one and I feel unqualified.

The tricky stacker door situation:

Dining room stacker doors.  Both sets open towards the walls, so where would the screens hide when retracted?

Dining room stacker doors. Both sets open towards the walls, so where would the screens hide when retracted?

What lengths have you gone to, to keep out mosquitos?

Does anyone have some great insect screens that work with stacker doors?

Or does anyone have a funny (or not so funny) story about the night they walked into a fly screen and broke their nose/glass/screen?  I think there has to be one of those stories for every Australian household.

P.S.  Due to the new “look” of my blog, if you are viewing this post via the home page, you may have to scroll to the top of this post to locate the “comments” area.  Sorry ’bout that.  Of course, you could just go out on a limb and comment before you read the post.  That could be fun.