The big (and expensive) decisions – tiles and doors

Last weekend we set off on a mission to purchase the doors and tiles for the newly renovated bathroom and laundry. Now, if you cast your mind back many blog posts ago to my research on tiles specifically, you might remember my shock at the cost of replacing the mosaic pattern tile which was featured in the existing bathroom. Over the weeks since that blog post we have um-ed and ah-ed about the prospect of forking out over $100 a square metre for these tiles. I have surveyed family, friends and work colleagues and with no firm decision about what to do, I jumped in the car with dad armed with my bank card and measurements to make these purchases.

 Remember these tiles?

My first stop was a local, family owned tile shop in the southern suburbs of Perth. Though polite, I wouldn’t have rated our store assistant in the highest category on the customer service scale. I began by explaining the vintage of our cottage and the look were trying to achieve and basically was told to visit what seems to be the only period tile shop in Perth. Before insisting we head somewhere else, she did (unenthusiastically) show us the same style of mosaic tile as mentioned above at double the price I had seen it at that period tile shop. Very helpful.

The second shop on our list was a recommendation from a friend on Facebook who had told me to visit a particular store saying that they had a great range of tiles and that the store was beautiful. Now, how beautiful can a tile store really get? Let me tell you! Dad and I pulled up at a store featuring a mesh steel facade in to a car park which only featured cars made by high end european car companies. I turned to dad and said, ‘Something tells me that this isn’t our tile shop!’.

See the lesson here is two fold. 1) Always listen to a personal recommendation because word of mouth is truly the best source and 2) never judge a book by its cover.

Hesitantly, we went inside and were overwhelmed by the beauty and range of tiles on show. This store really does take the term ’tile showroom’ to a whole new level. Sales assistants who are as knowledgeable as they are beautiful, walk around immaculately dressed and in high heels putting dad and I in our steel cap boots and painting overalls to shame! We were blown away. In recent weeks I have visited countless tile stores and never have I seen decorative tiles, stylish mosaics, colourful timber look tiles and extra large porcelain marble look tiles like these.

Still unsure about whether I was going to find the tiles I needed, I made my way to the back of the store to a ‘sale’ section like you might find in any clothing boutique. I scanned that sale wall to suddenly realise that all my Christmases were coming at once. Beaming with excitement, I took a closer look at the perfect 200x200mm black and white matte floor tiles, which would suit my space perfectly, and found them discontinued and on sale for $20 a square meter. What’s that you say? $308 to tile my entire bathroom and laundry floor – that sounds like winning to me.

The wins didn’t end there either. Whilst on the way to another tile store, we stopped on a whim past a store with signs out to say ‘end of year financial sale’. I was delighted to find the perfect 150x75mm white gloss subway tiles down from $137 a square meter to $40 a square meter. After a quick call to the boy and a hesitant ‘just buy them!’, I bought both the floor and wall tiles that almost every store said we wouldn’t be able to find because they’d been discontinued, for $1400. Tiles under budget – tick!

 The style we have decided on. 

The doors are a little less noteworthy but still worth a small mention. I’m not sure what I was expecting but my god, are doors expensive! We’re using the the existing antique jarrah door as the entry to the laundry. This means there are three doors left to purchase; the bathroom door, the sleepout door and the external backdoor. I’ve decided on two barn-esk doors for the internal doors and a traditional panelled backdoor with a frosted glass panel, for the addition of some extra light, in the laundry. Two stores later and $800 out of pocket, we have three doors. Pictured below, they’ll fit perfectly with the style we’re setting out to achieve once painted in gloss white and featuring heavy chrome antique handles.

Internal barn-esk doors   
External laundry door 


Want to visit those tile stores?

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It’s crunch time!

Whilst we’ve got off to a slow start, things have kicked off with titles for the land (finally) being issued on Tuesday. With titles in hand, this means we can finally set a settlement date and its crunch time with the decision making. Now, you would think that, seeings as we’ve had so much time, decisions would be made… right?! Wrong. I always wondered why parents-to-be had such a hard time deciding on a name of their beloved newborn despite the fact they’ve got nine full months to make a choice. However, as it turns out, the more thinking time that you have, the harder it becomes to make a decision it seems.

So, where are we at? Well, as you know, washstand, basin and tapware have all been purchased. Though, decisions had yet to be made on tiles, toilet, shaving cabinet/mirror, shelving and lighting. As you can see, there is still a fair amount of work which needs to be done! (Not to mention all of the smaller things like waste, ventilation, power points and switches!)

The boy and I decided to start with the tiles first. Given that this is such a large part of the feel and aesthetic of the room, it makes sense that the tile choice will largely set the scene for the entire room. The look we are setting out to achieve is heritage but with a modern twist. One might assume that given the sudden trend of all things vintage and retro, that achieving this sort of look shouldn’t be too difficult. The reality is that anything with the label heritage, victorian, period or edwardian suddenly inherits a silly price tag.

We initially set out on a mission to find flat, white, gloss subway wall tiles and black and white floor tiles as depicted in the picture below. Surely, they’d be easy to find right? I mean step in to any nanna’s bathroom predating the 1960’s and you are sure to find them! The subway tiles are of course on-trend and readily available at any of the major tile retailers for a little over $20/sqm. The floor tiles however, are another kettle of fish. As it turns out, there is only one tiny and delightful showroom specialising in this era of tile in Perth and sure, we can order them in but… wait for it. Are you sitting? *Cue the minor heart attack!* They cost almost $100/sqm. Furthermore, if you think that you fancy one of those border tiles featured three quarters of the way up the wall in the photo below, then you better have a deep pocket because those little guys will send you back $16/tile.

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Black and White Dot Tile

Now, now. I can appreciate the workmanship that these tiles represent and the authenticity of having them handmade. I also understand that tiles bought off the shelf aren’t necessarily the right size or colour when compared to the actual tiles of that vintage. However, the aim isn’t to recreate the past or for it to be historically accurate. It’s to update the space, for the space to be functional but beautiful and for the space to have kept some of it’s heritage feel and charm. Most importantly, I don’t have an infinite budget and (unfortunately) I cant be blowing my entire budget because I fell in love with a tile and tile shop!

Fortunately for us, the other type of floor tile which keeps regularly coming up on our mood board is a simple black and white checker. Again, though it would be nice to have 150x150mm tiles, as history would tell us this is the correct size, we have decided on 200x200mm matte black and white tiles which are again, readily available at any major tile warehouse. To complete the look, we have also decided to run a black border around the base of the wall in a black subway tile and just like that, tiles are done!

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Bathroom inspiration – featuring checkered floor tiles and subway wall tiles

Sometimes, less choice is better. This was certainly the case with our choice in toilet. The lovely lady at Reece Plumbing let us know that unfortunately, high level toilet cisterns no longer adhere to plumbing standards and therefore, are no longer on sale. Well, that crosses that off the list! In addition, one of the few manufacturers of federation style toilets left in Australia is Caroma and essentially they do one type. Decision made then! And just like that, $1,100 later (I told you – anything with ‘federation’ in the label automatically warrants a 100% price hike!) we have a toilet specially ordered from Bunnings.

Strangely, lighting has been the source of the more heated discussion between myself and the boy. Choice is overwhelming and it is such a large factor deciding the functionality of the space. No one likes being in a dimly lit space particularly in your everyday bathroom where you need to shave, pluck your eyebrows and put on your make up. (I wear glasses for gods sake!). However, at the opposite end of the scale, no one wants to spend time in that bathroom where the lighting shows every fine line, crease, crevice and dimple! With this in mind, we have chosen down lights in the ceiling in white, so that they blend in and aren’t a feature in themselves. We have also decided on black pendant lighting for above the vanity. (Position and number of lights are still TBC).

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Mechanics 1 Cage Pendant Light from Beacon Lighting

Speaking of which, the decision about what we are going to hang above the vanity is the last of the big decisions to make. Though I love the idea of having a big silver statement mirror, I am quite conscious of the lack of storage. Considering too, that storage is an issue that we will have across the whole house, coupled with the fact that the washstand isn’t an adequate storage space, I am inclined to suck it up and purchase a mirrored cabinet or shaving cabinet. Though we have agreed to place shelves in the space above the toilet (picture woven wooden boxes with towels in them) I do think that a shaving cabinet is the only logical solution for the storage of every day items like toothbrushes, perfume, etc.

When looking for a shaving cabinet, don’t be disheartened by what you see on the shelf. On offer, by way of shaving cabinets at the major home improvement stores, appears to be nothing more than white boxes with mirrored doors which lack imagination or creativity. However, stores like Reece do provide a special orders service. So it’s definitely worthwhile seeing which manufacturers these stores stock and getting on their websites or contacting them directly to have a look at the range of products offered by particular manufacturers. As it turns out, these manufacturers make products which are much more exciting than their basic sister models stocked in-store and lets be honest, if you really cant find what you are after, then it may be time to call in a professional to custom make what you are after. For instance, I’ve managed to find this lovely little thing which will work beautifully in our space and tie together the vanity, basin and tiles. Best thing is, it can be made in a range of sizes ranging from 450mm to 1800mm! Finally things seem to be coming together.

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The Rifco ‘Reflect T2’ – available for special order at Reece Plumbing

So, with the big decisions made it’s almost time for the fun to begin! Bring on the next couple of weeks!

Op Shopping and Bargain Hunting

Whilst waiting on the settlement of our new purchase, we have taken the chance to hunt for the perfect pieces of furniture for our new pad. Apart from a bedroom suite and a lounge (which we are inheriting), we are starting from scratch. Additionally, as many couples with a new property who are coming to terms with paying a dreaded mortgage are, we’re on a tight budget! So armed with a clenched fist of cash and not wanting to give any away unnecessarily, we have been out and about searching for deals and bargains for some of the necessary big ticket items we need to kickstart out time at the cottage.

One of the most pressing items on the bargain hunting list was a free standing wardrobe. Given the vintage of the property, storage is, and will continue to be, a key focus in adequately renovating and redesigning our house. But tell me, have you tried buying a wardrobe recently?! I’m guessing that you haven’t. It is the sort of furniture that you might come across at nanna’s house and might never have thought about twice. However, let me assure you that if you are sitting on a well looked after freestanding wardrobe, you are actually sitting on a small mint! Aside from the flat-packed versions you might find at Ikea, timber freestanding wardrobes are difficult to find brand new and they’re expensive! Understandably I guess, given that there is little use for them in houses built in the last few decades.

The search has taken us quite literally across the City from op shop to op shop on the hunt for the perfect wardrobe. From Guilford to Morley to Bibra Lake to Fremantle, you name it – we’ve probably been there! Op shopping for furniture is tough as many op shops aren’t large enough to stock copious amounts of big furniture pieces. However, if you are in the market for furniture and are keen to check out some secondhand stores, here are my recommendations in Perth.

  • Rags to Riches – talk about furniture overload, these stores are definitely my first recommendation for anyone in the hunt for the perfect piece, unless you are in any way claustrophobic. There is wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-ceiling (I wish I was kidding but I’m not!) treasures if you are prepared to wade through the chaos. Though there are a number of them around, I can personally vouch for 7-9 Rockingham Road, Hamilton Hill and 16 Port Kembla Drive, Bibra Lake. The store at Bibra Lake even has a additional warehouse storage area out the back filled with bargains – just try not to get disappointed when you notice ‘sold’ stickers on the something perfect and remember to get in quick if you see something you like.
  • Russell Street, Morley – though the collections were smaller, in both the Anglicare and the Salvos stores (located across the road from one another) we found some of the best kept treasures in op shopping history. In the Salvos store for instance, there was a pristine, vintage brown leather couch on carved wooden legs with gold studded details – which we would have totally taken home had we not already had a couch! And in the Anglicare store was a delightful white dressing table with a glass top and three piece mirror. Another piece I would have gladly taken home, had I have been persuasive enough to convince the boy I needed it (I really need to work on my game!).
  • Port Care Op Shop – located at 372 South Street, O’Connor this is where we eventually, after a number of weekends of me dragging the boy from op shop to op shop, found the perfect wardrobe. This delightful store had a surprisingly large supply of wardrobes and we have managed to pick up an East West Design wardrobe in reasonable condition for the bargain price of $290. With large double doors and four deep draws, this little beauty matches our bedroom suite almost perfectly and will be a welcomed addition to our new bedroom.

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In other bargain hunting news, we have also managed to score some brand new furniture from a liquidation sale advertised in the West Australian newspaper (thanks mum!). For the very low price of $850 inclusive of delivery, mum and I trawled through the Prime Liquidations warehouse to buy a buffet, treasure chest coffee table, television cabinet and side table. Despite being a little bit ‘different’, these pieces will suit our house to an absolute tee, will add burst of colours and look exceptional against the jarrah floorboards which are such a feature in the house.

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Whether new or secondhand, there are furniture bargains to be found all over the place. Keep your eyes peeled for listings in the paper, on the web and on Gumtree and frequent op shops and garage sales. Like they say, one mans trash is another mans treasure! And sifting through all the ‘trash’ is half the fun!

So, happy shopping!