Real rooms.

I quite like the minimalist look but the Nice Wolf and the Three Little Pigs just didn’t get the memo.  You know all those gorgeous pictures of perfect houses that I’ve been posting?  Well, that’s not going to happen.  Okay, it might happen once or twice, but if you knock on my door on any random day, you won’t see it.  Keeping my house tidy is an ongoing, half-hearted battle.  I know the motivation will increase tenfold once we move into House By The Water, but still, I’d rather be in the garden, on the deck or in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

Living room with Lego.

Our (rental) living room at this very moment – currently the most photogenic corner of our home. Where’s the Lego in the magazine photos?

Of course, I’ve tried to train the Pigs (now aged 10, 8 and 5).  They are rewarded for cleaning their rooms and for helping with chores.  I trialled Hong Henwood’s “black bag strategy“, where, after fair warning, any kid’s items left lying out of place in the living areas are collected in a bag.  In our case, the “black bagged” items could be earned back, donated to charity, thrown out or regifted at birthday or Christmas times.  Well, the two oldest pigs formed a union and I received a formal complaint:

Black bag complaint.

An elaborate bag-stealing heist followed, foiled only by the littlest Pig being a goody-two-shoes.  On day two of “black bag” I asked the Third Little Pig to put away his skate board.  He replied that he was leaving it out for me to put in the black bag because he’d like to receive it again for Christmas!

I’m hoping that in a double story house, the ground floor will be tidy-ish most of the time.  Two of the pigs will have their sties upstairs and perhaps as they get older their mess may be constrained within their own four walls, but for now at least, they like to be where I am.  They bring toys out to play on the lounge room floor and their homework is done at the dining table despite having their own desks.

So my challenge is to create spaces that can handle a bit of real, 3-kids, no-hired-help, living.  Part of that will be allocating drawers, hooks and cupboards in the living areas for quick clearance.  (One of my friends suggested a kitchen drawer for the mobile phones, pens, mail, etc.  Yep, all the stuff that’s currently sitting on my kitchen bench.)  Part of it will be sticking with fresh, tidy habits.  Wish me luck.  And part of it will be embracing the lived-in, homely look.  On this final point I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for inspiration.

Beautiful rooms that look inhabited:

I'd rather have a cuppa and read a magazine than get the vacuum out.  Source:  Ngoc Minh Ngo Interiors.

I’d rather have a cuppa and read a magazine than get the vacuum out. Source: Ngoc Minh Ngo Interiors.

Clutter is chic en Paris!  Source:  Inside Closet

Clutter is chic en Paris! Source: Inside Closet.

Too much cleaning may crush my creativity??  Source:  Airbnb

Too much cleaning may crush my creativity?? Source: Airbnb.

Queen of collected treasures, Sibella Court's home.  Source:  The Design Files.

Queen of collected treasures, Sibella Court’s home. Source: The Design Files.

Kid and Coe specialise in stylish holiday rental homes around the world that welcome kids.  This one is in Barcelona.

Kid and Coe specialise in stylish holiday rental homes around the world that welcome kids. This one is in Barcelona.

The House Nerd blog is full of real rooms with real people (and often animals too).  Sure the floor has been cleaned and the bench wiped, but the kids' art is still on the fridge.  Photo by Heather Robbins at Red Images,  Thanks to House Nerd.

The House Nerd blog is full of real rooms with real people (and often real animals too). Sure the floor has been cleaned and the bench wiped, but the kids’ art is still on the fridge. Photo by Heather Robbins at Red Images, Thanks to House Nerd.

I notice from this collection of photos that the signs of life, be it personal items, clutter or disorder, add to the character of the room.  Unique windows, interesting artefacts, layered soft furnishings, mismatching and multicolours provide enough interest that the kid’s toys and pile of books on the floor look perfectly suited to the space.

So matchy- matchy?  Out!  Monochrome?  Out!  Minimal?  Never a consideration!  Sleek, shiny, see-through?  Probably not.

Greenery?  In.  Favourite bits and pieces?  Definitely.  Anything with storage potential?  Yes!

Have you mastered the combination of kids/husband and tidy house without feeling like your life revolves around housework?  If so, I need tips.  

 

The modern Australian entrance.

An absence of news from our building site can only mean one of two things.

  1. Everyone is so busy working on our house that they have no time to write.
  2. There is no news.

I’m trying to remain patient.  The Nice Wolf has brought up the subject of contingency plans, you know somewhere to sleep when you don’t have a house, but I’m not entering into it yet.  Instead, I’m doing what I do best, admiring pictures – developing the vision for House By The Water.  Some might call it burying my head in the sand.

So with my room inspiration formula well established by now, I set out to select my Top 5 entries/hallways.  I’ve collected pictures of many beautiful home entries, but our entry should reflect our home style and finding “modern Australian with a touch of earthiness” soon narrowed down the contenders.  As I look at more and more beautiful homes it can get confusing at times, but I’m trying hard to stick to my self-imposed “brief”.

Simple.

My idea of the perfect entrance.  Photo:  Made By Cohen.

A place to put your shoes on.

A place to sit to put your shoes on.  Photo:  Home Adore.

Coastal

Coastal.  The fish is a bit much for me, but otherwise, yes please!  Photo:  Hare and Klein.

Almost worth changing the house plans for!  Coastal with no kitsch.  Photo:  Lucy Marstan, Architect.

Almost worth changing the house plans for! Coastal with no kitsch. Photo: Lucy Marstan, Architect.

Hmmm, yes, only 4.    Nevermind.  How hard can a hallway be?

Our entry and hall has a great design with a linen cupboard tucked away to the side and even some wall space to hang hats and bags that is out of sight as you enter the house.  Functionally, aside from being a passage way, it will be the shoes on/off space.  We are a shoes off family.  It comes from having lived in Canada.  Wear those snowy, muddy boots inside and you are going to get a thwack.  Once I got a taste for this, there was no turning back.  The reduction in grub (read floor cleaning) is huge when you are a family of 5.  Plus, we like to be barefoot.  It’s one of many reasons we are installing timber floors throughout our house.  Currently The Three Little Pigs sit on the floor to remove their shoes and shoes are every where.  So a bench for sitting is in order and most of the ground floor linen cupboard will be dedicated to shoes.

A wide entrance and a hidden nook for shoes and bags on hooks.

A wide entrance and a hidden nook for shoes and bags on hooks.

We have a beautiful antique buffet cabinet that we bought in Tasmania on our honeymoon.  It won’t fit in our new dining room with no walls, so I’m going to house it in our hall.  Accommodating that and a bench to sit on are my only prerequisites for this space.  We have a void space above our entrance that is calling for a long feature pendant.  If money was no object, I’d hang several oak pendants.  In reality, I’m planning to install some kind of traditional fishing basket or net here as pendant lighting.

My one chance at the "minimal" look, and I've blown it already.

My one chance at the “minimal” look, and I’ve blown it already.   (There will be art, but I can’t decide which pieces yet.)

Definitely a few extra styles sneaking in there.  Perhaps I should just add “a hint of coastal” to my brief.  “Modern Australian with a touch of earthiness and a hint of coastal” is getting a bit long winded.  How about “Aussie surf and turf”?

Have you given yourself a decorating “brief”?  Can you name your style?  Or is it just me watching too many home renovation shows?

Does your home entrance reflect the mood and style of the rest of your home?  

Got any secrets for avoiding a large pile of shoes and school bags beside your front door?

 

 

Build update: roof cover.

We have a roof.  It’s a rather dazzling white despite the gloomy day on which the Nice Wolf took these photos.

Colorbond Surfmist skillion roof.

Colorbond Surfmist skillion roof.

Roof at the front of house.

Roof at the front of house.

The skillion roof line of our house is such that no one is actually going to see much of the roof cover.  We picked “Surfmist” Colorbond to reflect the sun, to keep our home a little cooler and minimise air conditioner days.  We plan to add solar panels later.  These will contrast completely with the white/grey roof cover but only the seagulls will notice.

You really can’t see the effect of the roofline yet for all the scaffolding:

Canal side/back yard.

It’s a scaffold jungle on the canal side/back yard.

Side of house, pool in foreground.

Side of house, pool in foreground.

Eventually it will look a bit like this:

Front Elevation.  Not a lot of visible roof.

Front Elevation. Not a lot of visible roof.

Aside from the addition of the shiny roof, all the ducting for our air conditioning has been installed and our air conditioner unit is ordered.  We have ordered an LG 17kW system – recommended for its value for money by our cooling specialist.  Other companies recommended that we install two units for our house, doubling or even quadrupling the cost!  Luckily, we are not wilt-in-the-heat types, and hope to manage the heat well with window dressings and only use the air-conditioning on the really hot days of the year.  On those same hot days, the solar panels will be producing plenty of energy.

We had to raise the roof line by 3 courses of brick to accommodate the air conditioning ducts.

We had to raise the roof line by 3 courses of brick to accommodate the air conditioning ducts.

Pre-wiring for our phone and internet lines, the plumbing and electrical tubes and guttering has all been installed for the second floor.

Bathroom plumbing will be hidden in the scullery ceiling.

Bathroom plumbing will be hidden in the scullery ceiling.

According to my schedule we are still 3 months away from “lock up”.  The next big job on the list is internal and external plastering but I think some of that incredible scaffold jungle has to come down first.

One last dodgy site photo (for my Mum)!  This picture is taken from the open, upstairs living area.  Check out the view!   It’s a little dark now, but wait until the rain clears, the scaffold is removed and the walls and ceilings are painted.  We were so focussed on getting the downstairs orientation for views right, that the upstairs view comes as a pleasant surprise.

Upper living

Walk straight ahead to our bedroom. Space here for the kids lounge, a study nook and the Pilates Reformer.

 

Building the roof

Roof preparation and an inspection.

Between rain, public holidays galore and short brickies the estimated 3 weeks to complete our second storey of bricks turned into 7.   Just kidding about the brickies, but we do have a few high sections of brickwork at the front of our house, which meant that an extra lift of scaffolding was required to access the work.  Extra scaffolding = extra time.

The roof carpenters then took their turn and worked like Trojans (on a public holiday)!  Chippies, I owe you beer.

Chippies at work on the weekend.

Chippies at work on the weekend.

Skillion roof taking shape.

Skillion roof taking shape.

Lots of wood, steel and ties.

Lots of wood, steel and ties.

When the roof carpenters finished last week, our air-conditioning installer popped by to check everything was set to accommodate the air-conditioning ducts in the roof.  He’ll be back once the roof is on to install it.  The roof sheets were measured up and ordered which left me a little confused about why they are not pre-ordered based on the house drawings.  Not to worry, it is not holding the process up and our Site Supervisor expects the roof to be on by the end of this week.

Before the roof goes on, there was an opportunity to inspect the brickwork and roof carpentry.  We hired an independent building inspector to take a look and assess the work completed against building codes and/or Australian Standards.   We are pleased that overall the inspector found a “good industry standard” on site.  There are a few non-compliant issues:

  1. Absent weep holes (to let any moisture between the double brick walls escape)
  2. Sloppy mortar bridging the space between the double brick walls (which can lead to moisture build up and mould)
  3. Inadequate mortar filling where toothing occurs in the brick work (creating weak spots)
  4. Absence of parging on the recessed slab, as per drawings.  OK, I had to look this one up.  Parging is “a thin coat of a cementitious (!!!) or polymeric mortar applied to concrete or masonry for refinement of the surface.” (Thank you Wiki).  Parging is applied for various reasons, e.g. termite deterent, air barrier, but I’m not sure of its purpose in our case.

Webb and Brown-Neaves have the report now and I feel confident that the brickies will be sent back to site to fix up these issues before it’s too late.  Speaking of too late, probably we should have had a building inspection before the suspended slab was poured.  Much of the sloppy mortar in the cavities will be inaccessible by now.

I have a new found appreciation for Australian building standards following the recent disappearance of our carpark.  Yes, that’s right.  Our car park, here in Brazil, along with a 10 x 2 meter brick wall and several other car parking spaces, recently fell about 10 metres down into the neighbour’s excavated site.  My unqualified opinion on the matter is that they cut too close to our residence and should have reinforced the wall, especially before the rainy season.  Luckily, my husband and I had taken note of the rather close excavations and had started parking a little further away from the wall.  One of our neighbours was less fortunate.

I added a new page to the blog today for the serious build followers.   You can view our build Time Line by clicking on the link in this sentence or by using the page menu on the left side bar.   This page contains links to all my blog posts about the building process.  I’ll update the Time Line as we progress.

 

Housey blogs

Every woman and her dog writes a blog these days.  There are literally thousands of blogs documenting home building, renovation and decoration but with a bit of sifting, you can find a good community of like-minded people sharing tips, referrals, encouragement and inspiration.  A couple of friendly home-building bloggers sent their readers my way and posed me some questions.

Let me introduce:

  • Trixee, half of a motivated duo building a modest but glamorous solar passive home in Perth, from Eco Home Style.
  • Sheilzy, a go-get-em chick who’s building a Metricon home in Sydney, from Our Hudson.
  • Kerrie-Lee, the world’s most patient builder’s wife, who is building a very stylish home in coastal NSW, from eternalicons.

Thanks for the plug, girls!

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started my first blog 4 years ago when we moved to China for the interest of our extended family.  I enjoyed keeping a record of expat life and playing with words.  I caught the blog bug.

The 3 Little Pigs in China.

Photo from my first blog:  The 3 Little Pigs in China.

2. What are your favourite 3 blogs and why?

  • Spacecrush – I only recently discovered interior stylist, Jane Ledger’s blog, and the timing is perfect for me.  Jane, who is Perth based, shares her passion, knack and skills for interiors with unusual generosity.  I’m lapping up her “how to” series of articles such as “How to hang art” and “Choose the right sofa”.
  • House Nerd – You already know I love House Nerd for her rambling stories about interesting homes, DIY projects and local creatives in Western Australia.  Maya always keeps it real and affordable and I’m guaranteed a laugh, often at Maya or Mr. Nerd’s expense.  Maya reminds me that I’m glad that we are over the reno phase of life, but that it was good for us!
  • Third place was tough- so I’m going for a tie between The Design Files, for wholesome Aussie homes with lots of heart and character, and Planet Deco for an endless supply of beautiful homes, mostly from Europe .

3. What’s your favorite post that you’ve written and why?

40 decades of houses because it was such a nice trip down memory lane.

Exposed brick and psychedelic green!

Exposed brick and psychedelic green!  That’s Aunty Kate in the box, and I’m towing.  Check out my art.  I haven’t improved.

4. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

The connections made with readers.  We are helping each other blunder our way through home building.  The banter is fun and the tips are helpful.

5. How do you find things to blog about?

Somehow I always have at least one month’s worth of blog topics up my sleeve.  Ideas come to me naturally as part of the building process, often while I’m doing the dishes!  So far I’ve resisted writing the:  “I can’t wait to have a dishwasher” post.

6. What do you hope to achieve from your blog?

  • Make sense of the building process.
  • Make good decisions by “thinking out loud”.
  • Maximise the enjoyment of the building process, however remote I may be.
  • Keep the builders honest!

7. Describe your favourite meal.

One large salad with beetroot or mushrooms and goat’s cheese, and a cold glass of Margaret River white wine, please.  Served here:

Landscape design for House By The Water by Tim Davies Landscaping.

Landscape design for House By The Water by Tim Davies Landscaping.

8. If you had a day to do anything you want, what would you do?

I would go homewares and furniture shopping in Melbourne with Aunty Kate (my sister).  We would, of course, have an unlimited budget.  We’d meet my Mum and my other sister for lunch at Cumulus Inc to drool over the lamb and the interior design.

We’d visit Mark Tuckey, Jardan, Southwood Home, and Weylandts.

Jardan's Melbourne store.

Jardan’s Melbourne store.

9. What are your current obsessions?

Blue, preferably dark and moody.  Linen.  Australian made furniture.  Oh yeah, and that small thing called building a house.

10. In 5 words describe your interior style.

Relaxed, modern, Australian, earthy, light.

Normal blogging services will resume next week.  

 
Edit:  News just in from Webb and Brown Neaves.  
Second floor brickwork is still not quite complete.  
The roof carpenter is expected to start next week.
Bedroom of the second little pig.   An impressive amount of scaffolding.  I'm quite amazed to see it all.

Bedroom of the second little pig. An impressive amount of scaffolding. I’m quite amazed to see it all.

The scaffold floor will be removed to reveal a void space above the ground floor living area.

The scaffold floor will be removed to reveal a void space above the ground floor living area.  It’s starting to look large.

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….

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!