The importance of doing your homework. 

We learnt the hard way this week about the importance of doing your homework and the realities of assuming. 

As with every renovation, unless you are privileged enough not to consider the financial implications of your decisions, the budget has been looming over us and governing the decisions that we make. Though we had quite a healthy budget to begin with, renovations quickly add up and things can be far more expensive than you’d imagine. With the budget in mind, I’ve shopped around and not paid anywhere next to retail for anything. (Remember those tiles?!)

In upcycling my 1900’s washstand that I picked up from gumtree, I decided that I would replace the worn marble top with a beautiful ceaserstone one to compliment our oversized, on counter, vessel basin. Given its tiny size, I was able to source a small piece of stone which was an off cut from a larger job for next to nothing. The new top, coupled with a fresh coat of varnish has meant the washstand has a new lease on life and will be a beautiful feature in our newly renovated bathroom. 

  
Therefore, when we decided on the cupboards in the laundry it was only natural to assume that we’d pick a lovely matching ceaserstone top in this space to tie our bathroom and laundry together. With simple gloss white doors and handmade ceramic and chrome door handles, this cabinet was bound to be perfect. 

Without any consideration for price, given that the cabinet itself was two doors and a washing machine hole, we sent the cabinet maker on his merry way to create and install. 

Now, for anyone who has built or renovated before you might not have been as naive as we were to choose a ceaserstone top in a laundry. I mean, there’s no need really for stone in your laundry and in most laundrys someone sensible might use a laminex top or the like. 

Well, there’s a reason that those who aren’t first time rookies don’t use stone. Unknowingly, the boy and I had purchased $1700 worth of stone to put on top of a cabinet worth about a quarter of that! 

Needless to say, I’m glad we decided not purchase expensive tiles after all and that we’ve been thrifty with all other purchases otherwise this really would have way extended our budget.

There’s nothing else to say but that it was a rookie error. In future, we won’t just assume the price of something without having double checked it first! If nothing else, we have ended up with a stunning laundry cabinet which is spacious and functional. Though, perhaps in the next house we could do without the stone in the laundry!

  

  

  

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Don’t sweat the small stuff

Someone failed to explain to me when I decided to start my blog about renovating that I would suddenly not have the time to blog because I’d be too busy doing the thing I was supposed to be writing about! 

Between renovating and managing a crazy work schedule our social lives have disappeared into dust (perhaps that’s why there’s so much of it on my floor!) and the renovating itself has becoming an all encompassing being which invades my personal life, dinner conversations and relationship! However, every story has an end! And we are quickly approaching a foreseeable end – for the bathroom and laundry at least! 

In recent weeks, walls were installed and tiles laid so it’s been all systems go on the exciting times but not without a hiccup or two. 

So, I took a week off work after the walls went up to open the house for the tiler and plod around painting and doing other odd bits and bobs. On day two our tiler, a delightfully polite man of afghani descent with a love of tim tams (a pack a day!) and cans of V Energy drink, (politely) informs me after trying to tile the wall in the delicious but painfully small subway tiles I have chosen that the walls are too bowed to lay them and that the walls need to come down, be packed and reinstalled. You can imagine my dismay and absolute desperation to know how much work this could possible be, how much of a delay this could cause to our potential move in date and how seriously out of my depth I am to deal with such a dilemma! 

Thankfully, a team of problem solvers consisting of plaster, tiler and boy all came together to find a practical and reasonable solution to the wall debacle! With some additional gyprock sheets, base coat and some talented plastering magic, the problem was solvered – as they say – and things were back on track! 

Our poor tiler was very patient in the laying of the delicately small tiles and finicky patterns (because the mood board doesn’t exactly explain to you just how labour intensive the look you have your heart set on might be!). I have a feeling that when his wife asked ‘how was your day today?’ at dinner time each evening that he’d happily tell her that he was at the shittest job he’d ever done! Oops! 

Our second mistake in this same week was to underestimate the length of time it would take to tile said ridiculously small tiles. Almost two full weeks were taken to screed, waterproof, tile floors and walls to the ceiling, grout and silicone. 

But boy, was that two weeks worth it! 

 Who doesn’t love a checkered floor?   

Welcome to the open shower on the left and the proposed vanity on the right. How gorgeous are those tiles?!  What we have ended up with is beyond our wildest dreams. It looks beautiful and more stunning than I could have ever imagined! I’m ecstatic with the end result and once fittings and fixtures are installed, we really will have something special! 

So, don’t sweat the small stuff! Everything can be fixed one way or another. And if you have a vision, don’t compromise. The end result will definitely be worth it! 

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?

Let the demolition begin!

On the reality television show The Block there is always one person in the team in charge of design whilst the other is the project manager. In our very own version of The Block, I have coined myself the design visionary whilst the project managing of trades, quotes and timelines has definitely been left to the expertise of my very lucky other half. Therefore, when it came to demolishing, this was definitely a him job and not a me job!

Last week we marked the official beginning of our renovation with the demolition. It can be the scariest part of a renovation because it doesn’t matter to what extent you have done your homework on a particular property before purchase, there really is no telling what is actually there (or hidden!) until you begin to tear the place apart. 

For the cottage there were a couple of large concerns. The sections of the place that we are renovating are additions which possibly contain both asbestos and lead paint so, safety is a major concern. Additionally, we were unsure what actually lay underneath the floors in the bathroom, laundry and sleepout. Was it concrete? Or concrete sheet on top of timber joists? And we’re the terribly dodgy floating floors on the sleepout hiding something worse underneath? 

The demolition itself has revealed a number of surprises which are not all good ones. Underneath those terrible floating floors is a timber floor which appears the be a part of the original verandah.. Good surprise! However, a rotting timber base joist holding up the walls in the bathroom.. Not such a great surprise! We did of course expect that there were going to be things that we couldn’t see and we are thankful that things aren’t worse. 

With the muchly appreciated help of a friend our bathroom and laundry have almost completed gutted in three days. We’ve had to remove a poorly assembled concrete floor in the bathroom but have been able to leave the laundrys concrete floor in tact. We’ve also torn down the wall between the laundry and the sleepout to reposition it and accommodate a small linen closet. 

With the plumbing rerouted and electrical points terminated the next step is to replace those naughty rotting timbers with new ones and cement the floor in the bathroom. A job for next week!

 Current view of the bathroom   
Inside our newly demolished bathroom  

View in to the laundry from the sleepout  

View in to the sleepout from the laundry 

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!

Slow and steady wins the race!

So, I have been M.I.A. for the last few weeks as paperwork jumps from one desk to another to be processed by Western Power, the Water Corp, Landgate and what feels like the half of the Government agencies in the Southen Hemisphere. As the issuing of formal titles for the new subdivision of our block slowed, our plans came to a sudden holt.

However, there is a God and late last week we have received an email titled ‘Titles are Imminent’.. I am back to being a happy little lady. In the absence of titles I have been scouring pintrest and home renovator magazines working out exactly what sort of vanity would suit our space and style. Themes reasonating with the boy and I were both rustic and traditional. Think wooden vanities which are free standing and oversized on-the-counter basins which are coupled with our beautiful Victorian chrome tapware. 

The fact is that in this bathroom, the vanity will be one of the first things you see as you walk in the door. It needs to be functional but petite enough to work in the space. And, much like the cottage itself, it needs to have oodles of character! 

Armed with my trusty iPhone, I have been on the hunt for the last three to four weeks for a piece of furniture we could turn in to our vanity. In the early stages we decided that if we couldn’t find what we wanted we would have a cabinet maker make something to order but I was determined. 

Early Settlers had some beautiful bathroom furniture sets which gave us a good idea about what was possible and practical. The antique stores gave us ideas about what was “age appropriate” for the vintage of the cottage. However, it was Gumtree which came through with the goods. 

I had enquired about a number of wash stands that I found on Gumtree, though many were too small, needed a lot of love or were ridiculously over priced. The wash stand itself isn’t an uncommon item. Just finding the right one was going to take time. 

Out of bed I leap on Saturday at 6:45am (with far more energy than a normal person should at that ridiculous hour) to wake my sleeping beauty of a boy to show him the latest find. By 8:30am I had rung the seller, found out the entire life story of said wash stand and organised to be there at 10:30am. Dragging an unwilling participant of a boyfriend 30 minutes north of home, we had purchased a beautiful, antique, oak and marble wash stand before 11am. 



The vanity is a perfect fit for our vessel basin and traditional tapware. The question now is whether to replace the marble top for a ceaserstone equivalent or to leave the weathered original marble top. A question for another day!

In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for a shaving cabinet to be coupled with this beautiful find. A treasure which I’m sure will be equally as satisfying to find!

Tapware Fit for a DIY King and Queen…

Whilst the waiting game for settlement is still being played, now is the time for us to turn our painting tape designs on the floor in to a reality. The boy took the draftsman to the house to measure the bathroom, laundry and sleep out spaces accurately to have our winning design from two posts ago turned in to something legible to a tradesperson.

In the meantime, we have been on the hunt to find the perfect tapware. There is a lesson to be learnt in this blog post which as a rookie, was bound to happen. As you know, we’ve been flicking through a ridiculous number of home and bathroom magazines, creating mood boards and piecing together our ideas. In the search for ideas I noted that all of the tapware I was cutting out and pinning to my mood board was from the same company. So with this in mind I set out to find local stockists of said tapware here in Perth.

Unfortunately, we aren’t as spoilt for choice here in WA as they are in some of the eastern states when it comes to shopping around for this sort of thing! However, there are two local stockists for this particular brand (or so the website says!).

So, off we set one Saturday out to Midland to find the perfect tapware, Given that we have a character home, we are on the hunt for chrome Federation or Victorian styled pieces. We had decided that we preferred lever tap handles and that the shower set needed to have a hand-held shower as well as a drop down given there’s theres no room for a bath in the tiny space and our future may or may not include little humans. I was filled with anticipation, particularly because apart from thinking about it, this was the first actual purchasing we were going to be doing! We drive the 40 minutes out there, chatting with excitement, product codes and product pictures in hand to realise… the stockist had closed twelve months ago.

Never mind! Remember that there is two stockists in Perth, perhaps we’ll have more luck with the second store. On his lunch break I send the boy to the store in the hunt for this tapware specifically. He walks in the front door that afternoon and hands me a product brochure with handwritten dollar amounts besides the products we had marked. Put simply, I had sent the boy in a store not knowing that the prices of the tapware I had been lusting over for weeks would cost almost the same price as my car! I asked him ‘how did you respond!?’ and his response was this:

I had to pretend like I was fine with it but I literally had to try not to sweat bullets when reading what the guy was writing down. I kept thinking to myself, I wonder if he’s going to charge me just for asking!’

They had quoted us almost $3,000 for the toilet, $2,835 for the shower set and over $1,000 for the basin tap set with additional charges for the handles that we preferred. Like any woman, I know that style (and good style at that!) is worth its price tag. However, this just simply isn’t in our budget. The lesson learnt is, they don’t quote the prices in magazines for a reason! They want to suck you in, make you fall in love and make an emotional purchase that your heart loves and your wallet does not! The save in grace in this situation was that the laziness of the shop assistant meant that there was no followup the next day as promised and the boy never had to provide an explanation (perhaps his acting wasn’t as good as he thought!).

In compromise, we have hunted around and found a company which creates similarly themed products without the hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t being cheap with out tapware at all but the Bastow range which can be purchased at Reece Plumbing, and in part at Bunnings, ticks the boxes for us. It is beautiful, elegant and suits our theme perfectly. It also comes with a 7 year warranty which says it all really.

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Bastow-Georgian-Large-Sink-mixer-2259965-hero-1

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Tapware from the Bastow range thanks to Reece Plumbing

So, its done! For about $2,800 we’ve purchased the shower set, basin set, the basin its self and the laundry mixer tap. The next steps are to send the dimensions of these products off to the draftsman for him to pencil in to our plans, choose a toilet and meet with the cabinetmaker to have him draw up our vanity, matching shaving cabinet and laundry cupboards. Slowly, the dreams are coming to life!

Mood Boards and Style Inspiration

Despite falling in love on first inspection, it was very clear that the breezy, light-filled cottage that we had purchased would require a lot of love and therefore, a lot of cash too. It was evident that walls would need to be patched and painted (and in some instances replaced), areas outside would need to be repaved, soak wells installed, the kitchen replaced and that most importantly, a new bathroom would need to be fitted.

We very quickly decided that the bathroom would be the first space we would try and tackle for one main reason. The thought of living without a bathroom scares me. I have this image of me showering outside whilst trying to cover my private parts from the construction workers building the two storey town house on the rear block next door – no thank you! So provisions were made and a budget was devised to renovate a bathroom in the first few weeks of possession and to have it done before we would consider moving in.

Settlement, because of the issuing of new titles for the cottage and its newly subdivided rear-block, has of course been delayed which has allowed us to thoroughly research every aspect of the renovation and decide on floor plans, budgets, style inspiration and make some decisions. Ultimately, we have a 2m x 2.4m square box to work with in which we have to somehow fit a vanity, toilet and shower. Say whhhattt!

What we have to work with:

GrandProm11I decided (much to the boys disgust!) to create a mood board to visually represent the look and feel of the bathroom we are aspiring to create. I have trawled and cut my way through what seems like every bathroom and home renovating magazine on sale in Western Australia. In creating my mood board as well, I have analysed various options in layouts for this tiny space.

Tools like the ‘Reece 3D Bathroom Planner’ (see http://www.reece.com.au/bathrooms/3d-bathroom-planner) have made this exceptionally easy to see how average sized baths, showers, toilets and vanities might fit snuggly in to this space. We have toyed with various options, such a keeping the plumbing as it is and completely moving it around. Though nothing was more telling than actually mapping out the design on the floor.

I’d recommend this as a part of anyone’s design journey. Do yourself a favour by going to Bunnings, buying some of that blue paper tape (usually used for painting) and map out any design you are considering on the floor. There was no better indication of the functionality of this space than ‘sitting’ in the design and there is nothing more important than functionality.

Failed layout design number 1 (out of at least 20!)

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So, after about twenty failed attempts at designing our bathroom we finally have a layout which we are happy with and which is functional. We’ve chosen this particular layout to accommodate a simple open frameless shower screen, a decent (1m wide) vanity and as to avoid seeing the crapper as you enter the door (a rookie error for newbie renovators – or so I’m told!).

The winning design!

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The plan is to create a functional but beautiful space with touches of old world charm in a modern setting and the mood board has been a great tool in coming to a joint decision on some of the key elements of our planned renovation.

So get printing, cutting and imagining and use all of the style inspiration that you find on various websites, in magazines and in your creative juices to create a mood board which represents you and your space.

Ta da! My very own mood board.

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