Nearly there with the drawings

The architect came round last week and our plans are nearly finalised. In fact, we’re pretty happy with the front of the house and only a little uncertain about the rear extension, which I discovered was smaller dimensions than I had anticipated.

The extra size I’ve asked the architect to do shouldn’t add too much to the total cost, given that most of it will be exterior deck.

In the meantime, though, we’ve come up with a great solution for the home studio. Here’s a photo of the plans:

Studio penultimate drawing


The internal width of the room is 3.6 metres (huzzah!) and the length will be about 6.2 metres, although this seems longer than I expected, but the architect’s drawings indicate a total of 7.7 metres external length including 1.2 metres for the bathroom, so I guess this must be about right. There are windows at the front and side. It will be light and airy all day.

This is a fantastic size for a home studio/office/guest room. As you can see here, there is a landing at the bottom left of the drawing. You take one step down from the main house onto the landing and the powder room (with shower) is right there. It’s private yet importantly still accessible from both the main house and the studio, as it will be the main bathroom for visitors and party guests.

I’ve asked the architect to hide the toilet cistern in the wall, as there will be enough room to do this, and we can probably do the same with the vanity taps too, and possibly even a mirror cabinet. The shower recess will definitely have one of those handy recesses to hold shampoo etc.

We’ve even started to think about wall bed units for the studio. The left hand side is free wall space. I’m currently intending our sofa bed sit along that wall, but I’m tempted, dangerously so, for a wall bed unit that puts the bed out of sight until guests stay over.

Some of the ones I just investigated online are only as narrow as 30-40cm thick, which is almost as narrow as regular bookcases. Most of them come with surrounding bookcases to make it look a bit more built in, and plenty of people put paintings on the cupboard door to hide it even more.

There’s enough room to do this, but we won’t be buying them any time soon – we’ve still got to pay down the last credit card and set of school fees! Ooh, but I’m tempted…


The architect is coming! The architect is coming!

This is it. Today is the day when I get to see all the plans finally laid out on paper. I’ll let you know how I get on.

When I spoke to my mum who’s a long-time renovator and savvy house planner we agreed the costs will be about 30% over what the bank has lent us to do minor renovations. To build the studio and renovate the front of the house, I think will cost about $120,000. She agrees. We were only extended about $80,000, which has to include architect’s fees. I can probably scrape together some more money but it’s fighting for supremacy with overseas travel plans, one remaining credit card bill (DH loves me but forgets that I have to pay the bill from his gifts to me) and the last remaining school fee mega hit (huzzah, and fees are halved after July).

So near and yet, so far. I guess the alternative would be to do the West Wing first, plus update the house front (giving us our 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms), then go to the bank and ask for more to complete the remainder.

This is probably the BEST and most cost-effective solution but it still doesn’t get us the extra studio space. Yet. However, when I did some sums on what we could feasibly borrow if our house was worth $900,000, we would have nearly enough for the whole remaining shebang. It depends, of course, on the builder’s costings. Our guy is not cheap, but he is thorough, and as far as I know provides an accurate cost appraisal. And if we don’t change too many things on the run our costs should remain consistent. Problem is, as soon as you add 10% overruns, 10% GST, architect and contractor’s fees, plus council fees, it cuts everything up. So the initial $80,000 becomes about $55,000. Not a lot of money left for building stuff.

But it MIGHT be enough to fix up the West Wing, do the electrics and plumbing, add 2 new bathrooms and renovate the facade, buy a new stove and fridge, plus change a wall in the main house and add built in bookcases. Ah, compromises. At least we still have walls and a mostly working roof.

(Small Edit: I’ve not put a careful figure on our renovations but I believe it’s in the vicinity of about $3000 per square metre. I think this is too much, and when I put $2000 per square metre against the renovations it all becomes much more reasonable, also given that our house is a simple wooden cottage it’s not too expensive to change it.)

renovation compromise


The first better bathroom plan

The first of our three planned better bathrooms will be approx 2.7 metres long and 1.2 metres wide. It’s tiny, but as I said to DH and wrote to the architect, I don’t love my clients that much. I’d rather have 30cm more living space – this is the same space that will house several bookcases, a desk, a couch, side tables, music stuff and a small piano, so it needs to be large.

The bathroom, though, can be teensy tiny. I’ll decorate it in a look that will emulate the style I’d like the rest of the house to have: probably a combination of white subway tiles and dark flooring. It’s easy to find gorgeous tiny bathrooms on the web. Here are a few ideas below, with the first image being the basic plan and size:

bathroom plan

Obviously the sink won’t be ugly and the shower won’t have a ghastly base on it. It may indeed look something a little like this:



Or this: bathroom1

Or this:


Or even this:


I quite like all of these images even though I’m starting to see a preponderance of marble. I don’t need marble. Or slate. What I DO want are subway tiles on the wall surrounding the sink and toilet, a larger subway-laid white tile in the shower (because have you SEEN our mould problem on the grout???) and dark, easy care tiles on the floor.

I’ll happily go for a wood-style tile on the floor too, if it ties in with the studio. And I’ll certainly enjoy a chevron-laid floor tile if it isn’t too expensive to cut all those tiles and lay them. We also don’t need much storage in this bathroom so a floating vanity would be fine, or even an old-fashioned sink, like so:



The only problem I see with this sink is there’s nowhere to hide the cleaning products and toilet paper, 2 things I believe are pretty important in a bathroom, especially given we have no storage in the rest of the house. So we may go with a floating vanity instead, which will give the illusion of more space, but the versions I’ve seen on the web are so ugly I can’t even show them here. What I do know is that as SOON as this bathroom is created it will be the ONLY bathroom then used, such is the appalling ugliness of our other mould-infested, rotting bathroom. Once again, so excited I could SPIT.


My studio room will look something like this…

home-office and bookcase

I found this picture of my (mythical) studio space. It’s not quite perfect, but it does give you an idea of what I’m hoping to achieve. My studio room will be 5.3m long by 3.5m wide. On the far end (pictured) you will find a bookcase with built in desk and maybe some built in filing cabinets too. It will look a lot like the picture except with those added extras. On the window side (pictured) there will be under-window bookcases, probably the cheap Ikea white Kallax ones, because we already have 3 of those, and they are perfect for holding magazine folders and coloured boxes. They look like this and go vertically or horizontally, and at 147 cm long, 77 cm high and only 39 cm deep are a bit of a space saver.


bookcases expedit

We may even put a long white laminate bench over the top of them to style that section, and perhaps another bank or two of drawers.

I will definitely have a Persian rug on the floor, but the size I want will be quite expensive (even at auction), so I’ll have to make do with a cheaper Indian one for a bit. The windows will be casement, not sash, in keeping with the rest of the house, but I quite like sash windows, so we’ll see about that – we may end up with double glazed white aluminium ones, which actually look fine.  The ceiling will look exactly as you see it. It will be a skillion ceiling, and I’ll have LED downlights, which will save on power. While I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE solid timber floors (none of that click-flooring nonsense), we probably can’t afford it, so I’ll have vinyl timber-look tiles instead – they look and feel better than expected and are a cheap alternative to my preferred choice, plus they help keep noise down.

vinyl flooring

We already have an attractive sofa-bed from Freedom in a neutral brown-grey:

Freedom Sofa-BedPumice-1

It will be easy to decorate this sofa as it looks great with most colours from beige, grey tones to warm reds, bright yellows, greens and blues. I’ll just need to decide how to decorate the room, given that I’m going with neutral bright white on the walls. It will sit on the wall opposite the windows (not shown) and be a good place for students to dump their stuff. I also already have some attractive lamps from Ikea, which are the cheap versions of the expensive designer brushed metal ones cashing in on the steam punk thang:

Floor lamp Ikea


As for cushions, well, I have them all. Lots and lots just waiting to be re-purposed to my new room, in all colours and designs from Marimekko to young-designer-market made. I also have lots of wall art needing new homes. Some of my wall art is quite dramatic and features Melbourne icons:



As you can see, lots of white, black and red, which, although perfect in a work office, might be a little dramatic and cold in a home office. Last year I decorated my DH’s work office in similar colours, with a deep grey feature wall and lovely soft lamps. We shopped at Dare Gallery (side table and dining chairs), Freedom (lamps and occasional chairs), Matt Blatt (table and coffee table), Far Pavilions (shelving unit) and The Desk Place (desk) for furniture items. The room looks amazing, and we bought quite beautiful Aboriginal art for that dark space, but this home office will be lighter, so I can’t really keep art on the wall where it might fade in the sunlight. There will be some natural wood features in an occasional chair and free-standing mirror, too. I do like my brown furniture even though it’s completely out of fashion.

The front of the room will have its own entryway with a “cricket bat” front door, with casement windows on each side of the door, looking out onto a small porch landing and the front yard. I have no pictures of this – it only works in my head. But I can dream!

Home libraries

I have, it might be admitted, a small fetish for books. When I say small, I need to confess that we currently have 9 bookcases in the house and most of those are double-stacked. All the bookcases are the usual 1.8m x 1m size, and we also have 1 large Ikea bookcase. There are also books on the floor. I mention this because recently I’ve been hanging out at Pinterest again and I’ve been looking at other people’s home libraries. When I say looking at I mean slavering over. Here are a couple of libraries I particularly like. It might be that I like the views. Or perhaps the Eames chair that keeps popping up. Or the desks. Or the window seats.

home library with windows

Home library with Eames chair

home library with dining tablehome library with window

But here’s a thing. I’m not very interested in curated bookshelves, you know, the ones that hold shells and corals and art glass alongside an artfully placed architectural book and 3 Frankie magazines. Meh. Put the art glass on a proper shelf and get thee some actual books, heathens.

Home library with knock knacks

And don’t get me started on organising books by COLOUR. How old are you anyway? 4? Are you in Kindergarten?! There’s a lovely old system for book organising. It’s called the Dewey decimal system. Use it.

colour coding books

The other thing I am liking less and less are those shots of ye olde quaint book store, crammed darkly with musty books I will never read, with overflowing cases and tomes piled high next to not-very-comfortable-looking vintage armchairs, moodily lit interiors with no natural light. I’m telling you, people, I’m too fricking blind to read those books in that appalling cave-lit interior. I need to see the sun when I read. Plus, finding a particular book in this hoarder-disorder’s haven must be a bitch.

overstuffed-home library

And those 2-storey libraries with no ladder? That’s called WALL ART. No one’s gonna risk life and limb to climb that wall just to reread Pride and Prejudice, folks. Let’s not conflate gorgeous architectural feature with accessible reading matter.

Home library to roof

Finally, I realise I couldn’t care less about most people’s libraries, because I don’t want to read THEIR books. I want to read mine. So, for those who give a shit, here is my preferred reading matter. Be warned, it’s a listicle.

Books by women, all nationalities

Books by award winners (but not the really worthy or obtuse ones because life’s too short)

Sci-fi books by people like Ursula Le Guin and Iain M Banks although I confess to also owning a reasonable amount of space opera

Australian crime fiction; other crime fiction, usually by women writers

Australian literature, all authors, eras and styles

Academic books about my academic interests

Funny books about grammar and weasel words, dictionaries and thesauruses

Singing text books, scores and song albums (by far the biggest selection in my library)

Biographies and autobiographical books

Feminist tracts (well ok, maybe just a few because they’re hard going at times)

Recipe books but only the really pretty ones or the really well worn Australian Women’s Weekly ones

Beautiful coffee table books

Poetry and plays

And last and least, airport novels, doorstoppers and bodice rippers that I can discard or give away or leave in airports – although I find it hard to discard!

I have a few other book collections, including my very favourite childhood books from A.A. Milne etc., some favourites from my children’s childhood, some old craft books and handyman books, lonely planet guide books, plus funny quote and joke books that DH likes to collect. Plus some sadly useless garden books (because I have black thumbs – it’s a miracle my children and my pets survived to adulthood).

I do not believe for one minute anyone is remotely interested in my book collections, nor am I interested in military books, anything about cars or fashion. I quite like architecture but not enough to buy books on the stuff and I actively dislike stupid writers. So there goes Jackie Collins and fifty shades of stupid fan fic nonsense.

So Carrie Bradshaw-like, I ask the question: is coveting beautiful libraries on Pinterest mere admiration of their architectural features, or is it for the knowledge those libraries represent?

Or is there a third option? Perhaps this: that a well curated library space enables meaningful learning to take place in a hospitable environment, purpose-built to enhance the value of these collections of words, thoughts, and ideas. And, as every philosopher ever said: “the soul of a home is contained in its library”. Maybe its intellect, too.

Whatever the reason, I know I want and need a library. If nothing more than to get the fricking books off the floor.