Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coming down the home straight

We're moving in at the weekend - I am SO excited! There has been loads of action up at the house this week: the floor finally dried enough for workmen to come in on Monday, and since then we've had people putting up the chandelier, touching up the internal painting, fitting shelves and hanging rails in the wardrobes and cleaning up. Officially the Council inspection happens tomorrow (Friday), after which we can move in as long as the Council's inspector gives us the all-clear. I've spoken to Warren about potential issues, but I hope there aren't any: Council has been checking the building process periodically anyway so one would think there won't be any surprises.

This is the floor in darling daughter's bedroom. Everyone was so suspicious of an oiled finish (especially the flooring guy!), and yet when they see the final product they're amazed and impressed. Poor Phil may find himself having to become an expert in oiled finishes because Warren likes it so much he's decided to go for it himself!

This is a view down from the bedroom end of the house all the way through to the TV room at the other end. Lovely! I really like the finish: it isn't really shiny, but it has brought out the natural grain of the wood. It is moppable, waterproof and reasonably stain resistant, and any scratches can be repaired with an oily rag.

This is the island unit, complete with oven and gas cook top. And it's fabulous. The cupboard and drawer fronts are oiled Tasmanian Oak: a neutral veneer that will set off rather than compete with the completely MAD wood that will shortly be going on the big unit. See further down for more images!

And THIS is our gorgeous chandelier. Weve talked about it for ages, and here it is, after almost 4 years swathed in bubblewrap in a crate! I hadn't realised the electricians were about to put it up or I would have made sure I cleaned and rewired the crystals beforehand... as it was, I spent a precarious hour up a very tall ladder, wiring in the crystals, washing and polishing them all individually, and changing the low-wattage CF bulbs. I want to move to LED bulbs but they're expensive at the moment and I actually had the replacement CF bulbs, so as and when they begin to give out I'll investigate the price of LED replacements again.

We owe thanks to our former friend Claire in Bristol, who gave us this chandelier when we bought our previous Victorian-era house in Redland, Bristol. She apparently found it at auction (?) or possibly an antique shop in the Cotswolds and for years hung it in her own place, but when she moved into a Georgian cottage with significantly lower ceilings she found it wasn't suitable and it spent a few years languishing in her attic before she gave it to us. Sadly our friendship hit the rocks a few years ago, despite the fact that she is darling daughter's one and only god(less) mother, and we haven't seen her for a while. But whenever we look at the chandelier we think kind thoughts of Claire, and miss her. Anyway, it was lovely to see the look on darling daughter's face this week when she saw it hung up: she was four years old when we moved back to Australia, and she's eight now. Even so, half her life away, she remembered the chandelier and is thrilled to see it again.

The decorative brass chain is too short - goodness knows where the rest of it went! - but I've managed to find an exact reproduction from Antique Lamp Supplies in the USA and after a brief and effective email exchange (thank you Michael Barnes!) a 2 foot length is being shipped over by USP as we speak, and so the final position of the chandelier will be lower and it will become more of a visual feature in the room.

TALKING OF VISUAL FEATURES!!! THIS is the black-hearted Sassafrass veneer we're using on the big kitchen cupboards. Wow!

Because I'm itching to have some idea of what the finished cupboards will be like I did a couple of mock-ups using some other photos I've taken of the kitchen as it progresses. They clearly won't give you a proper idea but I needed to imagine, so here they are, despite their numerous faults!

The perspective is wrong, the colours probably aren't correct as the wood hasn't been oiled yet so we don't really know what it will look like but... the mock-ups do give me some idea, and we all love it!

Monday, August 2, 2010


The first coat of Orange Tung floor oil is on the floor!

And doesn't it look lovely? Phil, our delightfully sceptic and grumbly floor contractor is very dour about the whole thing, including the wonderful smell of orange emanating from the floor. He complains that it smells horribly of oranges instead of the nasty chemical smell of polyurethane he's used to (and evidently prefers). I can hear my mother saying There's just no pleasing some folk. And she'd be right.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


In all the excitement about the kitchen (see post below!) I failed to show our gorgeous new fireplace which was installed before our party although minus the chimney breast...

It's a double-sided slow-combustion firebox which sits within a wall, heating each room on either side fairly efficiently and with minimal smoke. We bought it from Cheminees in Melbourne and it came all the way up here in a van with two very helpful engineers who explained everything to our builder, made sure it all worked and left. Warren then designed the chimney breast himself, et voila!

Dearest husband's parents installed themselves around the fire during our party: it was by far the warmest and snuggest place to be!

The base was built up on concrete bricks, beautifully mortared with a grey mud, and then topped with a specially-poured and polished cement block for a 'hearth'.

The base was left in situ for several days after the party and then the brickwork was built up to the ceiling using the same concrete bricks, but leaving spaces for us to stack firewood. I think that the rounded ends of the logs will be decorative in their own right!

The firebox can be completely opened up, either by pulling the fireglass doors on either side outwards or by raising them into the chimney breast. That is the function of the pulley system visible on the 'naked' firebox in the first photo, but we've been advised not to open the firebox on both sides while a fire is alight in case the through-draught pulls sparks out of the fire and into the room, which seems like sensible advice.

We have various options in terms of finishing the chimney breast but we've decided to leave it unclad and unrendered. It will be sealed in due course, once I've found an appropriate not-too-toxic sealant, but in the meantime it looks very handsome as it is. Obviously the little bits of wood propping things up while the mortar dries will be removed, and the white vents will be sprayed grey shortly so they will almost disappear.

This is the view from the TV room through to the main room (which at this stage didn't have any kitchen units!), and you can see the opening for logs under the fireplace on this side. The opening will eventually be closed by a large slab of black-hearted sassafrass (to match the feature wood in the kitchen) on an industrial rolling door mechanism i.e. the mechanism will be visible on the lintel above the door. It will be a huge door: 3m+ tall to cover the space between the ceiling and the lowered floor in this room!

Looking down the spine of the building towards the bedrooms you get a sense of length and space. The long wall on the right is punctured by the opening into the pantry and the wine fridge doors which open into the cool room. Along the ceiling on that wall is a concealed hanging system for pictures.

So near, so far - kitchen update

Not much work has happened on our house since the superb effort of the week before our party in June, which does rather leave you thinking how much could be achieved if that level of activity was maintained! I think we're working on the Pareto principle now: we've got to the (less than) 20% of the job that is left, which is going to take 80% of the effort to get it finished. I think I've mentioned before that I decided early on NOT to get wound up by the building process, but it has been hard in recent weeks not to feel increasingly frustrated. Of the four houses being built by our builder I believe ours was the first to commence and will be the last to be finished (unless my information is inaccurate). There has been illness, public holidays and bad weather to contend with along the way, and we've managed to maintain reasonable good humour throughout, but I have my suspicions that part of the reason for the extended build is simply this: we weren't shouting as loudly as the other developers... Luckily I don't 'do' resentment and I am absolutely sure that the quality of the finished building will more than compensate us for the delays!

So where are we now? I had understood we were waiting for Phil, the floor man, to sand and oil our floors before the kitchen units in the main room would be installed. I don't know whether it is because he has been, how shall I say it, unhelpful with his schedule that we have waited this long and that the decision has been taken to put the cupboard carcases in place before his task starts but anyway, we now have the bare bones of the kitchen in situ and it looks great.

Looking from the doorway at the bedroom end of the building into the main room you can see how the larger storage unit acts as a room divider. This side of it, currently blank, will have a bookshelf/cupboard unit in black-hearted sassafrass veneer that will make a feature of its size. We're using a fairly minimal palate of wood, grey-white paintwork and our black leather furniture in the main rooms, which will be enlivened by our things: books, ceramics, cushions etc in brighter colours so the finished bookcase, once populated with 'stuff' will be a big part of the overall interior decoration of this room. The space on this side of the unit will be the quiet lounge i.e. a CD player but no television! Guess where you'll find me, crashed out on the sofa with a good book...

From the other side you can see the adjustable interior of the large unit, waiting for its oiled sassafrass-veneered doors. There will be no visible handles as we're using the push-touch closing mechanism on the big doors so that your eye isn't distracted from the distinctive grain of the wood.

The 'U' shape of the cupboards in the foreground is deceptive: the space will eventually house the gas cooker, and the whole thing will be fronted with a wood veneer panel and covered over with a neutral, slightly cream-coloured engineered stone benchtop that will extend forwards to form a breakfast bar at the front of the island unit. A gas cooktop and a small vegetable preparation sink will be inset into the stone benchtop which will otherwise be kept clear for food preparation. I know that is a laughable statement - what island unit is kept clear of clutter, you may well ask - but there is a deliberate strategy here in that the dishwasher and the large sink are all in the pantry, so plates etc have to be walked through into another room after meals. My personal bet is that the island unit will end up full of IT equipment (dearest husband) or (very unlikely!) my paperwork!

Looking out from the pantry towards the windows and the view gives you an idea of the whole structure...

... but I like the view from the deck outside, looking in. Can't you just imagine it in summer with the windows pulled back, friends wandering round of an evening with a drink in their hands, perhaps sitting at the breakfast bar while dinner's cooking? THIS is what we're looking forward to, and what will make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rounding the last bend

It does feel as if we're getting really close to the finish line now! The heat is on because this weekend we've got a lot of people coming to see us AND my parents-in-law are due to stay with us (in the big house) for a week. Anyway, Warren's pulled out all the stops and in the last week we've had the Satler Brothers painting the interior like mad, the electricians putting in the ceiling lights and fans and power points, the bathroom people plumbing in the toilets and showers and basins, the kitchen people starting to put in the pantry units, and the fireplace has been started. I have hopes that by close of play tomorrow we'll have lighting, water, functional bathrooms and half a kitchen and - possibly - a useable firebox albeit without an actual wall around it. You'll see what I mean eventually when I can show you some photos but today it was a bit featureless and covered in tarp, so to keep you amused I can instead show you the following photos:

This is the main living area, painted and with the ceiling lights and fans in place. Some of the windows are still covered in thin plastic sheeting ready for the paint sprayer

A first look at the pantry! The photo is looking towards the cool room (where you can see the sections of the triple-skin flue waiting for the firebox to be assembled). The black stone benchtops aren't in yet, obviously, but the large sink and the dishwasher will be under the window to the left, while all the appliances will be out on the benchtop above the banks of drawers to the right

The floor-to-ceiling cupboards on the left are larder cupboards - for food storage

They have pull-out drawers so no more reaching to the back of the shelves!

This is a view into the family bathroom, still shrouded in plastic but today the corner shower went in, and it looks really nice

Two views of our en-suite bathroom from the master bedroom. At last we get to see what the vanity unit looks like: rather than purchasing a complete unit we bought a solid wooden sideboard, designed for a dining room, and put two basins on the top - and I think it works well. Even the plumbers thought it looks good!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Painting for parties

We're having a party at the weekend, which has acted as a spur to Warren to push on with some things. The gentle conversation I had with him just before dearest husband got home having been away for a month may also have been useful! "We're already three weeks behind the most recent construction schedule"... You see what I mean.

Anyhoo, the aim is to have at least the ceiling fully coated by the middle of this week to enable to sparkies to hook up the electricity. The bathrooms are almost ready (although shrouded in plastic sheet so sorry, no photos of our LOVELY wooden vanity unit in our en-suite bathroom, with gorgeous square bowls on top and beautiful taps (*sigh!*) and apparently the pantry units may be in by the end of the week and possibly also plumbed in. All of which is very useful when one's parents-in-law are coming to stay on Thursday and are expecting to be the first sleepers in our new house.

It looks weird all taped up like this, but I must say that the paint spraying machine that can do one entire undercoat in 2 hours is very impressive

The draped cloth and plastic sheeting around the bath and cabinet in our en-suite reminded me of the draped platforms and models so beloved of life-drawing classes!

The front door's quite atmospheric, too