In which I confess my Pinterest obsession. Again.

I’ve been having some seriously green moments of late. I’ve been scrolling through Pinterest with the fervour of a demented person, and I’ll have to take a break just to claim my sanity back.

I’ve been loving window seats and banquettes. This may have something to do with the brain wave I had about our planned kitchen/family room addition (sadly on the never-never plan, but a gal can dream). On the bottom right of the plan is the kitchen, which sits along the east boundary. The whole addition is 5 metres x 7.3 metres, which when added to the current room more than doubles the space. The butler’s pantry will be about 1.5 metres wide. The free-standing island bench will be about 3 metres long and about 1.2 metres deep. The kitchen wall will stretch the length of the space, giving us about 5 metres. Once the fridges and appliances are accounted for, there will be about 2 metres of inexplicable room at the end. What to do, what to do?

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My cunning plan is to put in a corner window seat. How ’bout that?! The architect and I had planned for doors to open onto a narrow deck on the south-east corner, but I have a better idea. We will move the doors (yet another repurposed set of French doors to the south west corner. Once again repurposing the kitchen windows (which are beautiful and original to the house), we will place them on the south-east corner and put a window seat underneath, to which I will add a recently purchased 1870 mahogany breakfast tilt-table. I think it will end up being the most popular spot in the house, and certainly the sunniest in the mornings. Huzzah!

This is what I think it might look like:

window seat

Yass.

window seat 4window seat 3window seat 2

This is a version of the table I recently purchased:

Mahogany breakfast table

Tilt tables became popular with the rise of the middle class throughout England and America in the 1700s, and were used for conversation spaces where breakfast and afternoon tea were served. I envisage this table will evoke exactly the same feels. At least, it will make a lovely study space and Sunday-morning-paper-reading space.

It’s no surprise that the images I’ve shown also indicate the type of kitchen I want. As our house is nearly 100 years old, it has a country farm style, and I want to carry that through the kitchen, with Shaker cupboard faces, slightly retro fittings and finishes, and a wee touch of marble (NOT on the counters, because marble stains horribly. Perhaps marble subway tiles in a herringbone pattern on the backsplash).

In the meantime, though, I’m planning the studio addition to the house, which DH and I are hoping may be possible to add sometime next year. This will add valuable capital to the house, allow us to paint the exterior and move the entryway to the front. We will also add another family bathroom at this time. I had a great deal of success with our ensuite, and I know exactly the types of fittings and fixtures I want, as well as the tiles and general design. I’ll stick to the same basic palette of concrete-style floor tiles and extra large white tiles laid in a subway pattern I used in the ensuite, but I’m thinking about a pale blue Spanish tile as the feature:

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I’ll order the same light fittings, but I’ll choose a slightly different mirror. As for the vanity: well, it might be an off-the-rack job, depending on the size. I’ve also decided to add a bath under the shower. It might reduce the size of the room but my children will appreciate it!

 

Fall from grace 

Well, just as you think you’re really hitting your straps, along comes a minor disaster to keep the hubris at bay. As I was standing atop my 6′ ladder with a full 4 litre can of acrylic Dulux Antique White, busily painting the largest of my bedroom walls, I was thinking about how my dad, who is a still sprightly 75, would be up here painting, but that if he fell it would be a serious accident. I thought about how fortunate it was that I hadn’t had a single fall in 5 years atop this old ladder. I was happily engaged in this thought when I fell. With a full can of paint. Onto the floor which was only partly covered with a light canvas drop sheet. The paint went everywhere. Onto the floor. The drop sheet. The furniture. Splashing onto the walls. The oil-painted bedroom door which was about to have a new coat of oil paint. Me. 

As I was doing the large rear wall I hadn’t covered the furniture with anything, which wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t fallen. But even the new quilt cover got a little splash of paint. Well. I picked myself up. Adrenalin was pumping so hard I couldn’t tell if I was injured, but I knew I had to get the paint off the floor before it dried. The furniture wasn’t too badly spattered; a few little drips that would peel off when dry. But the wooden floor. OMG. I frantically started to paint the walls with the paint that had glopped on the floor. I was wet, sticky and cold with paint in my hair, hands, clothes and feet. I couldn’t tell where I didn’t have any paint! The door, splashed with half a can of paint it seemed is now half painted Antique White. Not sure how to fix that except paint it all and sand it back slightly. I was working so fast that I was very slapdash, but actually the speed worked for me and the paintwork looks fine. I got most of the paint onto the walls and then I called for my daughter to get a bunch of towels and stuff to help me clean the rest of the floor. Actually I think I probably screamed at her, but she was very good about it! She got me a heap of warm soapy water, some Brillo pads and a mop, and between her on the outside of the room and me stuck inside we managed to clean up the paint. You can hardly tell where it has been, except for a couple of cracks in the floor between the floorboards where the paint got in. 

I am unutterably grateful for the excellent polish our floor sanders applied so well 5 years ago. The acrylic paint literally just lifted right off. The blue Brillo pads helped lift the dried bits but without even scratching the floor polish.

I am also unutterably grateful to my daughter, who brought me cups of water, coffee and a Tim Tam as well as replenishing the mop bucket with fresh hot, soapy water. Even when I screamed at her. Because panic. (Of course I apologised later!)

And after I had finished cleaning up the floor, I cleaned myself up, had a good long sit down and started to feel very very tired. A body response to adrenaline. Well. That threw a spanner into my time frame! 2 hours to clean it all up and only 1 bedroom wall is painted. So today I’ll finish painting the other 3 walls (they’ll be a bit quicker because less wall). To make up for lost time last night I patched some of the ensuite woodwork which speeds things up a bit. Whew! What a day.

So last night I watched a lot of renovation shows (what gives, USA, about those house flippers?!) cooked my usual roast dinner and made Rocky Road for the first time. With cranberries, pistachios and some broken up Tim Tams alongside the usual marshmallows. And had a big drink of Shiraz! 


Today is a new day. With a bruised elbow the only human suffering apart from my bruised pride. Onward and upward. On that ladder. With a dented can of paint and newly acquired extra caution. 

A blessed break

Christmas has come and gone and I’ve taken the opportunity to have a blessed break from painting. There is nothing fun about house painting except the end. And even then you start cursing the little bits of dust and grime that so quickly build up on the horizontal surfaces. Get away, you spiders! 

We’ve had to wait for a shower screen, but all should be finished by the middle of January. It’s a good time to rest, reflect and plan the next painting foray. I want to finish off the master bedroom now. Yesterday we saw some paint on special at Bunnings and we bought 20 litres of Dulux low sheen acrylic Antique White USA at 60% off! I was kind of dreading the cost of repainting the interiors because 15 litres of quality paint in Australia costs $209. We saved ourselves $130! I still need to buy the ceiling paint but we’re going with a Vivid White semi gloss because of the VJs so I can’t buy the special sale ceiling paint which was practically free. The amount bought should see the entire interior painted with at least one coat each room. I’m using brushes, not a roller, so the coverage is better. 

As a reward for savvy shopping we bought some house plants and ceramic pots for the bathroom. The picture window is giving me ever so slight conniptions but there’s an excuse for house plants if ever I saw one:

  
They will provide an extra touch of privacy, and they will get plenty of water as they’re in the shower bay. I’m pretty chuffed. Now to keep them alive. 

And here’s a reminder of why I love this house:

  
It was Boxing Day (maybe Xmas arvo) and our dining room was suffused with the most beautiful light. Recently I removed the ghastly privacy curtains to clean up the space and it has really made a difference to the lines of the room. The photos don’t do it justice but our little room looked like a golden jewellery box. I made my husband get up off the bed and take a look too, and it was a wonderful reminder of why I fell in love with the house. It’s the light in the afternoon. 

  
I hope your Christmas was as light filled as ours.

Happy New Year and I’ll see you after I tackle the Oh Jesus Room.

The trials and tribulations of tiling

This week sees the joy of tiling the ensuite and WIR. We’re going for a 600×600 concrete-look floor tile with enough warmth in it to match the feature grey Spanish wall tiles (rustic subway design, as shown below). The feature tiles will go on the vanity wall, with the 300×600 glossy white tiles fitted in a brick pattern over the remaining. We’re tiling all the way up to 2400mm, and VJs on the top. Our tiler, Roj, is a man clearly fond of a good meal. He works to a gentle pace, although I must say he’s picked up since the contractor has appeared on site! He has been laying the floor tiles this week, and he’s nearly finished in the ensuite and will move onto the WIR in no time. I bet. BTW, we’re not having marble on the vanity: we’re going with a blackbutt wood. It’s a beautiful wood predominant in pinks and browns, and we’re having a top-sitting basin. Should look good with the slightly old-style chrome tap fittings we’ve chosen.

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The lads are about in force again today as they are now doing the East Wing (which I think they had completely forgotten about). On Sunday afternoon DH and I cleared out the room and now it’s ready for them to rip the guts out and start work. It’s a simple job in there: they’re putting in some French doors (which will eventually open onto the verandah but for now open onto a small enclosed vestibule), replacing some louvre windows at the front with casement windows, and replacing one bank of louvre windows on the east side with wall. I said to DH, it’s never going to be used as a verandah so why should it be lit like one? It’s too hot and bright in there most of the year. The room will be insulated, relined, and have new powerpoints and a light. A simple job and one they should have done in a couple of days depending on the availability of the windows.

Speedy Gonzales!

In academia everything seems to move super slowly. This becomes the normal. By contrast, the building works here seem to be going at a lightning rate. Yesterday the plumber was in roughing in all the pipes, and today the electricians are roughing in all the lines. Some things we’ve waited years to fix are being done today, including the light fitting in the dining room and replacing a switch that wouldn’t allow our kitchen light to be switched off. It’s only 9.00am. We’ve already been invoiced for a progress payment, but when I saw what has been done this week I’m not surprised!

It’s good to be on site here making sure dumb things don’t happen. Like where the outlets by the bed go. We’ve had the bed jammed into the corner to allow easier access for the guys to get their stuff through, so the electrician assumed that’s where we’d have the outlets. Der. No. Ask. Luckily I caught them in time to fix THAT potential problem, and the switches were moved over slightly. This sort of stuff is not terribly important because we won’t see the outlets anyway, but I don’t want to be fighting with the stuff under the bed to plug my phone in.

Another thing is people assume where lights go etc. For a short arsed person like me who wants lights on either side of the vanity mirror, the globes need to be basically in the middle of my head, not above. So I had to be quite strict on the placement – not ABOVE the mirror, BESIDE the mirror. Women know this. Men don’t. As I said, I don’t care about hubby: he doesn’t wear makeup. Besides, he’s not that tall that the lights are going to give him a sallow up-glow.

Also, because we can’t afford to put lights in the WIR sections (have a look at any decent renovation show and they are all lit from within, I kid you not, this is a thing), we’re having 3 LED down lights in the little room, to correspond to each section. This will ensure we can actually see everything. The guy seems to think this will make the room very bright. Says I, YES. Mostly they won’t be needed, but at night when we are changing to go out to yet another bloody function I need to be able to see my clothes. So I’d rather more than less lights please. Besides, I’m blind.

You know you’re living in an old unrenovated Queenslander when…

1/ It’s the Queensland equivalent of winter and it’s colder inside the house than out.

2/ All the windows are closed and there is still an arctic blast coming from all the gaps in the floorboards and window frames.

3/ In winter you can dry your clothes and they still get mildewy from the cold humidity.

4/ There is no ceiling, wall or floor insulation. This is supposed to be a GOOD thing?

5/ At least the water coming out of the cold water tap is cold in winter, not warm.

6/ The lawn doesn’t need mowing because winter equals no rain.

7/ The old louvre windows rattle in the wind.

8/ You don’t own a heater and you forget the air-conditioner also has a heating element.

9/ The warmest room in the house in winter is also the hottest room in summer.

10/ Your DH (who grew up in QLD) mutters something like “I didn’t sign up for this” while he’s dressing in an unusual 3 layers of clothing.

 

It’s been a while since my last blog post because nothing has been happening here in Harry’s place/renovation land. The architect has finished all his plans, I’ve signed off on them, as has the engineer, the compliance guy and the soil guy. Essentially we’ve paid $15,000 just to get the finished plans into Brisbane council. And we still haven’t got costings on the renovation yet. But I spoke to my builder and he’ll have some in by the end of next week. I’m assuming the total cost of the first set of renovations to be about $90,000. At least, that’s what I’m thinking by the time we replace doors and windows in the main house and add the extra room. I’m not quite sure where this money will come from given we have just finished a massively expensive trip to Europe and the next set of hideous bills have just come pouring in, including school fees. Gah.

 

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

 

Hating the waiting!

DH hates the way our house doesn’t work. He wants to come home and put his feet up and suck down a beer on the back deck, proudly surveying our patch of paradise and admiring our pretty little cottage, all decked out in a fresh coat of paint, and garnished with a pretty, easy-care garden.

We don’t have a back deck. But my architect who is coming over this afternoon has some ideas about that.

The long times between decisions feels like this process is taking forever. Not a bad plan when we don’t have enough funds for all the jobs we want to do round the house.

But we’re both quietly screaming with frustration. We’ve been here more than three years now, and neither of us are coping with the Hades summer conditions or the insects or the traffic noise. DH wants the house to look good on the outside while I want the inside to be more functional.

While we get a good amount of breeze through cross drafts we can’t really manage the heat or noise pollution. We have no sound privacy and noise comes up through the floor. Our West Wing is mostly unliveable. It needs gutting, rewiring, insulation and reorganising. DH and I have no ensuite or wardrobes and crap window furnishings in our bedroom. Our single family bathroom is unfit for use due to black mould. Our plumbing needs a complete refit due to leaking pipes and we need a new electrical board and new fittings.

Our daughter’s room is too small in the long term and our kitchen is tragic. Pretty but tragic.

We can’t do anything about the garden until the building plans are finalised. So every few weeks DH gets out there with whipper snippers and the lawn mower and attempts to beat the weeds into submission, while the diggingest dog puts ankle-breaking holes in strategic spots.

Our entryway is too small, the back stairs are on their last legs and there is no ceiling insulation in the verandahs.

Argh!

But as I explained to DH, my income has been bound by PhD studies, with little chance to improve my position until it was finished. Now that it is done, we have a much better chance of improving the house because the dissertation is out of the way. I can work more hours. Also, it’s the last year of 2 lots of school fees. Phew!

But the waiting….. Ugh.