Interview with new home owners, Miranda and Cameron.

HBTW's slightly older sister:  Cameron and Miranda's house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

HBTW’s slightly older sister: Cameron and Miranda’s house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

It’s no secret that I’m home-building obsessed.  But I’m not the only one. There’s a zillion people like me, and worse, hanging about on the “HomeOne Forum“.  There are first-time home builders, repeat offenders, and even professionals.  No question is too silly, tips are given and mistakes are shared.  It’s on the HomeOne Forum that I (virtually) met Miranda and Cameron, fellow customers of Webb and Brown-Neaves. Miranda and Cameron recently moved into their new home and it’s a home to drool over.  Miranda has been such a fantastic help to me during our build process so far, warning me of traps for beginners, sharing details of trades she recommends and answering my endless questions.

I’m so excited to introduce awesome couple, Miranda and Cameron, and their equally awesome new home to you!

When Miranda, a lawyer, and Cameron, a management consultant, became engaged and started searching for a family home in Perth, they were looking for established homes.  During their search they viewed a house built by Webb and Brown-Neaves a decade earlier.  The block was too small to accommodate a double garage and was crossed off the list but the house made a lasting impression on Cameron and Miranda, particularly how well it suited the neighbourhood.  This lead to some research into building costs, the purchase of an old house fit for demolition and the decision to build a new home.

HBTW:  What were your new house “must haves”?

M & C:  3+ bedrooms, study, home theatre, large WIR, scullery/ pantry, island bench in kitchen, large living areas at rear opening to alfresco, pool, storage spaces, as large a backyard as possible and a rear garage.

HBTW:  And “nice to haves”?

M & C:  Free standing bath, storage space that could become a cellar, 4th bedroom/ activity room, very high ceilings in the living areas (at least 33 courses), slightly larger minor bedrooms than the norm and the pool located beside the living area.

Freestanding bath

Freestanding bath (from The Stone Super Store), complete with view over the bedroom to the garden.  It took 6 men to move the bath inside!

HBTW:  What inspired your home layout and material choice decisions?

M & C:  Having a corner block with a rear lane way and a North-facing back yard dictated much of the design.  In terms of style, we are drawn to natural, organic but elegant spaces.  We stayed in some inspiring accommodation in the Maldives for our honeymoon just before we had to make a lot of the decisions for our house.

M:  I searched for a ceiling fan like the one we saw in the Maldives and was lucky that Beacon released the “artemis” just in time for our builders to install it.

HBTW:  What or who was your best source of building information?

M & C:  Hours of research on google, the HomeOne Forum, Miranda’s dad who is an engineer and friends who have built before.

HBTW:  How did you divide the planning and decision making between you?

C:  I looked after the electronics, cabling, sound and TVs.  Also the pool equipment and heating.

M:  Most decisions were made together.  Even though this takes time, the house belongs to both of us and we are both indecisive.  We usually wanted a second opinion, or third, or fourth!

We took a six-week interior design course at Home Base.  I think it was great that we did the course together. We learnt a lot and it gave us some structure to be able to work out what style we liked and why, which choices work together and the pros and cons of various options.  I was surprised that there were very few men at the course.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

HBTW:  What are your top tips for those starting the process of building a new house?

M & C:

  1. Sales consultants can make a big impact on your experience.  Visit different display homes until you find one that you feel comfortable with.
  2. Get everything in writing.  Make lists of what you have to do and what the builders have said they’ll do.
  3. Check all drawings, addendas, variations and costings very carefully.
  4. If something is very important to you, be prepared to do the research yourself.  The “impossible” may actually be possible.
  5. Really think about your block, not just its aspect, but also the ground levels in relation to privacy and views.

HBTW:  How about tips for people already building?  Like me!

M & C:  Sorry HBTW, some of our tips won’t work for you…

  1. Visit your site often and take lots of photos.  They might not be relevant immediately but could be useful later.
  2. If issues arise and the builder proposes a solution, make sure you know the cost implications before you agree.
  3. Be able to describe your style in a way that makes sense to the various people you’ll be working with.  (Pinterest helps!)
  4. Add conduits everywhere, especially for motorised blinds.
  5. Watch out for quotes that don’t include GST or other essentials, like delivery.

HBTW:  What was your biggest mistake?

M & C:  Believing that Webb and Brown-Neaves could accommodate a custom design or even substantial changes to their normal designs.  The majority of mistakes we noticed were related to these changes. Their processes just aren’t set up for that, and it didn’t work well.

M:  On a smaller scale, I regret letting the lighting consultant talk me into keeping oyster lights in the walk-in-robe and laundry.  Even if the light is better from oyster lights, I don’t like how they look (especially how green they look when they’re on). We’ll need to replace those.

HBTW:  Were there any companies that were so good, you’d like to give them a plug?

M & C:

1. Aussie Clotheslines.  Their sales people were really helpful.  It was easy to book in a convenient time only a couple of days after I rang them.  They turned up on time and did what they said they’d do for the original price and didn’t leave any mess or damage anything in the process. If I could say that about everyone involved in building, it would have been a thousand times easier!

2.  Just Blinds.  Andy organised our blinds and shutters and has been very helpful.  He came back a couple of times, for example, when the electrician was struggling with the connections to motorise the blinds. He doesn’t have a shop so he comes to you, with all the samples to choose from and all the info. It was a very easy process.

3.  Freedom’s Decorator Service.  Felicia, from Freedom in Osborne Park was excellent. She really listened and understood what we wanted.  She made great suggestions and not just for Freedom things.  She helped us with all sorts of decisions like skirting, blinds and paint colours.  She gave us the confidence to do a few things that we wouldn’t otherwise have done, but really like: for example, having a couple of non-matching dining chairs; using several different types of timber in our living area and having a fitball in the study instead of a second office chair.  She was going for a feeling that was more “young and fun”, rather than trying to re-create the kind of rooms our parents would want.  No disrespect to our parents intended!

HBTW:  What is your favourite part of the house now?

M:  My favourite part of the house is looking into the kitchen from the living area, where you can see the kitchen, pendant lights, stonework and bar stools.   (HBTW:  Mine too, Miranda.  The combination is amazing.)

Caesarstone , under bench stone by   ,  Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin,  stools.

Osprey Caesarstone (chosen by 90% of WBN’s clients!), under bench stone from EcoOutdoor , Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin, Replica Norman Cherner barstools from Matt Blatt.

C:  My favourite part of the house is probably the home theatre, though I really like our bedroom and living area too.

Living area.

Living area.

HBTW:  What was you biggest splurge?

M:  At the time of purchase, my pendants and freestanding bath felt like big splurges but now that we’ve been worn down by all sorts of high costs, we’ve become a bit numb and those amounts don’t seem so high any more.

C:  Have you forgotten the cost of the ovens?

M:  Yes, the Miele warming drawer, normal oven and steam oven.  They were definitely my biggest splurge.

C:  My biggest splurge was the pool.  And putting the pool up against the house  – with the extra cost of footings and engineering work that required.  The plan is to put a tv in our alfresco so I can sit in the pool and still being able to watch the cricket!  I’m thinking of a housewarming party on boxing day, watching the Boxing Day Test from the pool.

HBTW:  What was the first thing you did upon receiving the keys to your new house?

M & C:  We rushed straight back to the house to let in the flooring people.  They needed to get started that day to get their work done in time for other people who were booked in. We had re-shuffled everything following a few delays.

The weekend we moved in was much happier – champagne was involved that day.

HBTW:  Thanks Miranda and Cameron for sharing your home pictures and all the nitty, gritty details.  I hope you have many happy years in your beautiful new family home!

Dining and kitchen.

Dining and kitchen.

 

 

 

So fa, no good.

A sofa for appreciating the view.  Source:  Houzz.

A sofa for appreciating the view and conversation.  Source: Houzz.

While the builders are preparing to cavity fill our brick retaining walls with concrete, I’m doing important things like browsing sofas.

The current state of sofa affairs is not up to standard.

Exhibit A:

I've repositioned the seat cushions at least 3 times already today.

I’ve repositioned the seat cushions at least 3 times already today.

  • Ikea’s Ekeskog sofa bed.
  • 8 years old.
  • Very comfortable for television viewing as long as no one moves.
  • Can seat the whole family at once.
  • Performs well as a sofa bed, being sag free and able to accommodate bodies that are longer than 6 feet.
  • Removable, washable covers.
  • Ripped on the corners.
  • Categorically cannot keep the seat cushions in place.
  • Daggy/slouchy.

The greenie in me will not throw out sofas without a good reason, so here’s the plan:

Move Exhibit A to the second floor, out of sight.  It can see out its days in the upstairs living room that will be a multipurpose space: study, secondary television viewing area, kids’ hangout, spare bed when we have a full house.  If it lasts, it will be palmed off to the first lucky “Little Pig” to leave home and require share-house furnishings.  I will consider recovering it with off-the-shelf slip covers such as these made by Comfort Works:

Not bad for $460, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of the slipping seat cushions.  I’d staple those in place except for the need to remove them to use the bed.

 

Exhibit B:

Actually, having a looking-good day.

Actually, having a looking-good day.

  • Freedom 3 seaters (x2)
  • 10-15 years old.
  • Dignified survivor of 3 projectile vomiting babies.  (Okay, you probably didn’t need to know that.)
  • Good bones.
  • In some light you can see heat damage from spending years in storage/transit.
  • A bit of light wear on the arms.
  • Old fashioned shape.
  • Has a green tinge in some light.

Plan:

Use Exhibit B in the library.  These couches are too old-fashioned and small for the large space that will be our main living area but they’ll fit nicely in the smaller library.  I’ve been researching the cost of re-upholstering these sofas.  Without actually asking for quotes I estimate that each couch would cost approximately $700 in labour, plus material.  Roughly, a minimum of $1000 per sofa, more likely $1500 considering my love of 100% linen.  Too much.  I’m not into sewing, although I did buy a sewing machine years ago for the specific purpose of recovering a foam couch.  My skills are basic, but some of these simple sofa cover options are within the realms of possibility (if not for me, then certainly for my handy Mum):

(Pictures:  1.  The Design Files  2. Graham and Green  3. House of Turquoise  4. Alvhem Mäkleri  5.  RTL Woon Magazine.)

Finally, this leaves a vacancy in the main living room, open to the kitchen and dining room, for

Exhibit C:

Any of these will do.  (Picture sources: 1.  Houzz.  2 & 3.  Jardan.  4.  Domayne.

  • Modular, fabric sofa.
  • Australian-made (except for the first sofa).
  • Expected to last 20 years plus, with a warranty to prove it.
  • Not too slouchy so that you can converse with guests.
  • Not so modern that it goes out of fashion in the next 5 years.
  • Price unknown – $5000-10000.  (The Domayne sofa is just under $5000, but Jardan do not list their prices which is never a good sign.)

I really like the sofas with a “chaise longue” (the bit without the back rest) for their flexibility.  You could perch on the end to face the kitchen or turn around to admire the view or fireplace.  Or rest your feet on it at the end of the day.

Have I missed any Australian-made options that might fit my criteria?  Have you successfully breathed new life into an old sofa?  Got a sofa that you can’t bear, but it stays because you don’t want to add to landfill?

 

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:

image10

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.

Gallery

Farmhouse tour.

 

Photo by Matt Rex.

Photo by Matt Rex.


Come and have a sticky beak at my Mum and Dad’s farm house in frosty North-East Victoria.  They started with a 2 bedroom shack beside a small walnut grove and a few paddocks for cows.

Ten years ago, with the help of local builder, Rob Boland, they extended the living areas and bathroom and added a bedroom, to create an interesting, light and open, modern home.  The house features 3 separate roofs and exterior wall cladding in Colorbond “ironstone” corrugated iron.

3 Roofs

Front Entrance.

Front Entrance.

Deck for cuppas.

Deck for cuppas.

Should you drop by, you can be sure of a cup of tea and some home baked goodies on the deck, followed by a garden tour.

Kitchen:

Tasmanian Oak Kitchen Island and Alpine Ash floors salvaged from bush fires.

“Tasmanian Oak” kitchen bench tops and Alpine Ash floors salvaged from bush fires.

When I’m visiting, I often take over Mum’s kitchen while she takes over supervision of the 3 little pigs.  This kitchen has been the hub for years of entertaining a large extended family and has served as my benchmark for sizing up the kitchen in House By The Water.  You might remember that this is my “gold standard” for kitchen bench size.

Living area:

An atrium above the kitchen keeps the living area light at any time of day.

An atrium above the kitchen keeps the living area light at any time of day.

Dining room:

My Dad made the dining table when Mum was pregnant with me.  That’s an estimated 14600 family dinners!  When the clouds lift, Mount Feathertop is at the centre of the dining room view.

Master bedroom:

The pitched ceiling is lined with corrugated iron which gives a nice sense of space and a farm house touch.  The bed is centred in the room so you can check on the cows in the morning without getting out of bed.

Bathroom:

Bath with a view, if the neighbours aren't home.

Bath with a view, if the neighbours aren’t home.

Laundry:

The laundry was originally a small shed, a couple of metres away from the back door of the house.  It doubles as the farm control centre, also housing the electric fence unit, chook pellets and an impressive gumboot collection.

Mum's ergonomically designed laundry trolly.  She pushes the wet laundry up the nearby hill to the old Hill's Hoist.

Mum’s ergonomically designed laundry trolly. She pushes the wet laundry up the nearby hill to the old Hill’s Hoist.

Right now the wood fire is roaring in the living room and the house is busy with grandchildren.  Toys and games are everywhere.  The kids will be outside soon to help with some farm jobs.  Dad is “up the back” renovating his tractor shed.  Mum is in the shower, but I think I’ll have another cuppa and wait for the bathroom to warm up another degree or two.

Header photo and photos in the last gallery are thanks to Matt Rex Photo.

Gallery

Colour therapy and paint

Interior painting is included in our house contract.  We won’t need to select paints for a while, but it’s a relaxing way to spend time while I am waiting for construction to start.  In particular I want to get the double-height living room right because repainting it will involve scaffolding, an exercise I hope to avoid for many years.
Although I find rich, moody colours so tempting, the overall look we are going for with HBTW is light and natural.  My plan is to use just one colour for most walls in the house.  Here’s my shortlist:

Snow White, Feather dawn, Soft Apparition, Crystal Ball, Scribbly gum, Paper White.
I know it is absolutely necessary to test these on site because the colours online, in photos, in someone else’s room, in different light, etc, all look different.  Take Scribbly Gum as an example.  Based on the swatch above, it looks beige to me, rather than a light grey that I’m aiming for.  But check out how it looks in this bedroom:

Scribbly gum paint.  Source:   MS Mega Home Lottery.

Scribbly gum paint. Source: MS Mega Home Lottery.

More grey, don’t you think?
One of my blog readers, who just moved into her Webb & Brown-Neaves home, painted boards with her sample pots of paint, so she could move them from room to room, and see how the paints looked in different spaces.  Clever.
I am contemplating a different colour for two areas of the house.  The first is the fireplace/chimney wall:

I played around on Polyvore with some different colour options:

I do like the striking black, but I’m pretty sure my husband will say no.  And, when I envision one dark coloured column in the whole open living area (kitchen, dining and living room), it seems isolated and wrong.  My current preference is the grey, darker than the other walls, but not shouting for attention.  On the other hand, here are a couple of spaces that I love, that manage to have a “feature wall” without it over-featuring:

Photo sources:  1.  Lisa Petrole via Houzz, 2.  Archnew.
Oh, the indecision!
The second area in contention for a variation in colour is the library.  Originally, I assumed we’d stick to white/slightly grey, but my husband has other ideas and I could be persuaded.  I’m going to save that discussion for another time.  In the mean time, if you are craving colour, take a look at a few of my favourite places on the web for brave and wonderful use of colour:

(You can buy paint from them too if you are feeling adventurous.)

Nooks.

Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.

Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.

There’s a bit of a lull going on.  After a thorough check, we signed our 12 pages of variations to the contract.  In the end, our variation totalled $30K.  Most of that is for the retaining walls.  We tried to deal with the majority of our house plan tweaks before signing the contract, while the builder was still in sales mode.  (The changes we made pre-contract signing are listed on the House Plans page.)  Now Webb and Brown-Neaves will take a couple of weeks to update all our drawings to include the variations we’ve agreed to.  I suspect there will be more page signing to look forward to.

In the mean time, my trusty measuring tape and I have been busy.  I’ve been mulling over the house plans yet again and measuring up all our furniture to see what is going to fit where.  I’ve been taking notice of all the areas with nook potential.  It’s a completely lovely past-time.

Nook 1:  The dining room.

There is a one metre wide niche in our dining room. It is too small for our antique buffet table.  I think it could be the spot for a laptop nook, with a drawer or two to hide the bills.  One probably does not usually associate computers with dining rooms, but the reality is that laptops and iPads end up in the main living area.  I might aswell plan them a place.  In my head, there is a floating desk top and an occasional chair.   There is room for a laptop and a vase of flowers, nothing else.  I couldn’t find a picture to demonstrate this exact idea.  I’m going to start the trend.

Nook 2:  The hallway.

Surrounded by stairs and visible from the library, there is a nook in the hallway that is large enough to fit my favourite piece of furniture – a Tasmanian oak buffet table.  It will be the perfect place to drop the keys.  The landline telephone will be located here.

Nook 3:  The hallway (again).

This is more of a niche than a nook, just a 90mm indent in the wall.  I’m not sure if it is intended to be for a large painting, or whether it is a remnant of the original house design where a door to the study was located.  Anyway, it could house a painting, or it could fit a narrow bench upon which to sit and put on your shoes.

Nook 4:  Upstairs living area.

This large nook was designed to be a small library, but we’ve dedicated the entire home theatre to that.  In our house it will be more useful as a study/office storage area.

Not enough nooks for you?  You can find more on my Pinterest boards:

Mood boards for the kids’ rooms.

I’ve found a new toy.  Another fun way to waste spend hours on the internet.  It’s Polyvore. Polyvore is a digital mood board creating tool, suitable for use by those with no real talent for online graphics or design.  I’ve tried a few other free mood board programs before but either found them difficult (yes, no real talent), or severely limited by the products you can plonk onto your boards.  While Polyvore is American, it is loaded up with products from Ikea, Freedom, West Elm, etc….. all found in Australia.  You can even find some Australian-made items loaded up by “yours truly”.  Using the “cutting tool” you can clip images from other websites, or if you feel lazy, you can simply choose a similar item to the one you have in mind, for the purposes of the mood board.  They also have plenty of background images to mimic your choice of wall paint colour, floor boards, or even empty rooms.  You can add text, but I’m still working up to that.

Here are my first couple of mood boards:

HBTW open living

My first board – trying to get a feel for how the kitchen, dining and living rooms are going to work together. It’s open plan. These are not exact selections just a rough end goal, to help me avoid any incongruent decisions or purchases.

A2's bedroom

This room is for our little artist. She’ll be 9 when we move in. We already have the bed, chair, art and bunting. I’ll paint an existing bedside table.The rug is from Anthropologie, my favourite shop.

I decided to try and get more specific for my son’s room – using only what we already own or I know that we can buy in Australia.  I needed some inspiration first, to focus my plans, so I turned to my Pinterest files and picked my top 3 boyish bedrooms.  The 3rd little pig will be 5 when we move into House By The Water – so I’m trying to find a happy medium between babyish and dull.  Tricky.

Nautical without being too heavy on primary colours.

Nautical without being too heavy on primary colours.  I love this.  Source:  Country Living.

The tiniest bit of bright colour sneaking in - easily modified as tastes change.

The tiniest bit of bright colour sneaking in – easily modified as tastes change.  Source: unknown, but I’m guessing Australian!

Brown, greys and blues would be in keeping with the rest of the house.

Brown, greys and blues would be in keeping with the rest of the house.  Great desk.  Source: The House That A-M Built.

Here’s what I came up with using an existing bed, chair, boat and chest:

Room for J

I might need to learn to use Ebay for the lockers and do a bit of a makeover for the old chest we collected from a sidewalk.  This room might satisfy my love of “industrial style” home decoration, which so far I’ve restrained from in planning for other rooms.

If you get keen and try some of your own mood boards, share them with me on Polyvore.  If you like something I’ve used here, you can find it on my Polyvore boards and “like it” to use it on your own.  After just a short play on Polyvore, I already find this tool better suited to mood board creation than PowerPoint which I was using previously.  Have fun!

Fireplaces

There’s a spot for a fireplace in our living room.  The living room has a double height void so the fireplace could be quite a feature.  The builders want to know how big a space to leave for the fireplace so I’ve been investigating our options.  As always, narrowing my favourite pictures down to a top 5, seems to help me define what I like:

A very simple fireplace allows the exposed brick wall to feature.

A very simple fireplace is all that is required beside those beautiful stone walls.  Source:  Maisons Cote Sud via Linen and Lavender.

Modern linear, no mantle.

Modern, linear.  A sill replaces the traditional mantel.  Source: Architectural Digest.

A stainless steel fire surround and a beautiful old beam mantle dress up this fireplace.

A stainless steel fire surround and a beautiful old beam mantle dress up this fireplace.  Source: Casa Sugar.

I love the whole room.  Mind you, I probably won't get magazine quotes written on the wall.

I love this whole room. Mind you, I probably won’t have self quotes written on the wall.  Source:  Canadian House & Home, via La Dolce Vita.

A feature colour for the surround and matching cat.  (They can keep the antlers.)    More lovely beams...

A feature colour for the surround and matching cat.  Source:  The Style Files.

Here’s the living room design for our house plan:

Webb and Brown-Neaves' "Rubix" living room.

Webb and Brown-Neaves‘ “Rubix” living room.

Open wood fires are beautiful, but the reality is that we are going to be living in suburbia.  No fallen old trees.  Neighbours in sniffing distance.  Lazy homeowner who will happily flick on a switch for heat but will rarely set a wood fire and clean up after it.

So here are the options:

1.)  Stick with an open wood fire.  Place a couple of logs in there for looks and light it only a couple of times per year.  (I’m not sure of the costs associated with this option yet.  Any guesses?)

2.) Install a wood-look, gas fuelled fireplace with glass front.  ($5-10K.)

We’d seen some nice fireplaces of this kind (not too fake looking) by French company, Chazelles, so I went to visit the sole Western Australian supplier of this brand.  The friendly, bearded fellow from the hills was not that keen on Chazelles, nor Heatmaster, but directed me to an American brand, Lopi.  Like most of the gas fireplaces, you can mix and match your choice of fire surround, fire “material” and fireplace insert, to achieve a look you like.   The Lopi gas fireplaces range from $6.5 to $8.5K.   There are a couple of options that you can retrofit to an existing fireplace, but the install-as-you-build fireplaces look best.

For that price, we want to make the right decision, so I’m asking for advice.  The fire will not be our only source of heat, so we don’t need to be too worried about the ability of the fireplace to heat a certain volume.  However, when we’ve got the fire on, it should be able to heat our large open living room area.  We want it to look nice and be trouble free.

I asked around on the HomeOne Forum and a couple of people recommended Jetmaster.      These heaters would be in the same price range as the Lopi heaters.

HeatnGlo fireplace.

Jetmaster Universal 850 fireplace.  (Open gas?)

Jetmaster's HeatnGlo

Jetmaster‘s Heat & Glo 6000 (“Balanced flue,” whatever that might mean.)

Do you have a fireplace you love?  Have you had a dud?  All comments welcome.

Edit:  Two weeks later.

We’ve made a decision with our hearts! We are going for a wood fuelled fire. We’ve selected a British brand, Stovax, It has a door and we are going to install it with a fan.

Stovax wood fire.  Source:  Castworks.

Stovax wood fire. Source: Castworks.

  • Fire: $5069
  • Fan kit: $ 742
  • Flu kit (4 metres, air cooled): $435

The quote came from a man called Mr Stokes. Now that is dedication!

Interior Lighting Plan

I’ve been thinking about interior lighting.  Our builders have included one light and one power outlet per room. We also have a $10,000 allowance for extra lighting and power outlets.  Sounds hefty, doesn’t it?  However, I suspect by the time we allow for enough extra power outlets to keep an iFamily happy, a good amount of that will be accounted for.

Our builders, Webb and Brown-Neaves, recommended we draw up our likely furniture arrangement to help guide lighting and powerpoint locations.  And, my friends at HomeOne Forum have an ever growing list of “Things you forget” (when building) that includes sections on lighting and electrical.  Between all these hot tips and suggestions from Lighting City I hope not to forget anything and still be within budget. When I emailed Lighting City to initiate the lighting plan, I asked them to include provision for a few pendant lights and for the majority of the lighting to be LED.  Of course, I have my usual problem to deal with – that is, my eyes are bigger than my wallet.

Here is what I have in mind:

1.  Two or three (?) pendant lights above the kitchen island like one of these:

Picture sources (L to R): 1. & 3. Dunlin, 2. Anthropologie, 4. Archiproducts.

2.  One beautiful pendant centred over the dining table such as this one:

Coco flip pendant from:  .  Black or white are both beautiful.

Handcrafted Victorian Ash Coco pendant by Coco Flip. Black or white are both beautiful.  $1500, 60cm diameter.  Also available in 40cm.

3.  One oversized pendant to fill the void above the living area.  (This pendant is top-secret, but I have something different in mind.)

4.  The same oversized pendant to fill the void over the alfresco area.

5.  A long, dangly pendant, or several, for the void above the front entry.

Picture sources: (Top) Ross Gardam, (L to R)  Viesso, Dunlin, Onefortythree.

Aside from these feature lights, any other fancy lighting can be in the form of floor or table lamps.

Now to the practical side of things.  Here is the lighting plan (first draft) by Lighting City:

Downstairs

Downstairs

Upstairs.

Upstairs.

I think they are pretty clever with the plan, but there are a few things I’ve already thought to ask about:

  • Extra lighting for the scullery over the sink.  There is nothing worse than dirty dishes after a wash.
  • Ceiling fan/light combo for the master bedroom, if not all bedrooms.
  • Ditching the 3 “oyster lights” that I think are located in the laundry, cellar and walk-in-robe.  I know they are low traffic areas, but I’ve never liked oyster lights.  Replace with down lights?
  • Adding an interior switch for the lights that will be installed to our pool and deck areas by our landscaping company.
  • The best way to accommodate a plug-in pendant light that is a souvenir from Seoul.

Can you think of anything I should add to my list?

Kitchen Colours

While my thoughts are still firmly planted in the kitchen, it is time to take the plunge and decide on some kitchen colours.  I’ve been doing some heavy Pinterest trawling lately and I’ve saved a lot of pictures, but surprisingly, selecting my Top 5 pictures for kitchen inspiration was easy.  The Nice Wolf kiboshed one of them, so we are down to four:

My absolute favourite, though probably not quite in the style of "Modern Australian with some earthiness."  Silver, white and wood, with the tiniest bit of black.

My absolute favourite, though probably not quite in the style of “Modern Australian with some earthiness.” Silver, white and wood, with the tiniest bit of black.  By Sophie Burke Design.

A daring addition of black on the wall oven stack.  I wonder if I could pull it off.

A daring addition of black on the wall oven stack. I wonder if I could pull it off.  Picture from Fancy! Design Blog.

This looks like the kitchen of a cook.  Homely.

This looks like the kitchen of a cook. Homely.  Picture from Home Adore.

Silvery grey, white and wood again.

Ignore the style,  I love the colours.  Designed by ML Interiors.

So it’s blatantly clear the colours scheme I like.  White and grey, with wood and stainless steel.  A touch of black and a splash of live greenery.  Should be easy, right?

Here is the display home kitchen looking a little too, well, display-homey for me:

The "Rubix" kitchen, as seen in the display home.  Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

The “Rubix” kitchen, as seen in the display home. Photo from Webb and Brown-Neaves.

We added a freestanding 900mm oven instead of one of the wall ovens and modified the kitchen island design so now our kitchen layout is like this:

Our kitchen layout.

Our kitchen layout, the scullery to the left keeps the fridge and microwave out of sight.

Playing on my laptop for a few hours, I came up with this:

Almost looks like a kitchen....

Almost looks like a kitchen….  It needs a splash of colour, my favourite blue salad bowl or some olive leaves in a vase.

This kitchen plan is based on:

  • NSW blackbutt timber floors
  • Calacatta Classic Caesarstone bench tops (I may have to reselect later due to $$)
  • Polar White Laminex cabinets
  • Grey glass tiles
  • Walnut tractor stools.

As usual there are a few dilemmas you could help me with:

1.  The wall oven stack.  The original stack design incorporates a border (see display kitchen photo), so there is an opportunity to make it two-toned.  I don’t think a wood-look border would work since it sits on a timber floor and matching the two could get ugly.  I tried a grey border, but again matching a grey laminate with 2 other greys (splashback tiles and bench top) didn’t look right.  Should I try a brushed silver look?  Husband has said “no” to black.  Maybe I should ditch the two-tones and keep the whole stack white.  Help!

A grey border on the oven stack could look like this.  Picture from Minimalisms.

A grey border on the oven stack could look like this. Picture from Designed for life.

2.  After my previous post, I narrowed down my splash back options to stone-look tiles or a decorative tile.  However, when I put the stone-look tiles on the mood board they seemed to clash with my favourite Caesarstone benchtop colour and the decorative tile that I fell in love with was too dark.  While I am drawn to glass tiles I was worried that they would not suit the style of the rest of the house, but I am surprised that they looked the best on my mood board.  And so the indecision goes on…  probably only to be resolved when I can get my hands on all the samples.

3.  To pendant, or not to pendant.  I like the touch of black from the pendants.  I think it balances the black of the wall oven.  The Nice Wolf is not keen.  I tried some other options,  glass, shiny nickel, dark grey and vintage silver but they may as well not have been there at all.  Aside from the colour issue, there is the question of height.  There is a bulkhead in our kitchen at 28 courses.  This means that the kitchen ceiling height is relatively low, at about 2.41 metres.  (The kitchen shares open space with the dining room, 31 courses, and the living room, 63 courses.)  Should I ditch the pendants, stick with downlights for the kitchen and add a little bit of black elsewhere, such as dining room pendant?