Its all about the little things

Over the last six weeks of renovating there has been a lot to learn, a lot to do and a lot to be thankful for.

Part and parcel of the renovating journey is the unexpected ‘pop by’. We have been arriving to the house bright and early on Saturday mornings, staying Saturday night and working the entire way through the weekend to meet our July move in deadline to find ourselves constantly surprised by friends and family popping in to say hello. Many are in the area and wanting to check up on the progress, some are there to lend a much needed helping hand, some it seems like a cuppa and a chat and some… well.. I’m not quite sure.

It is easy to think of these pop by’s as an inconvenience. You just get on a roll hand-painting the decorative cornices (and by roll, I mean your brain finally switches off and you’re on autopilot because its such a mind numbing task!) and someone stops in and wants to chat.

However, its not an inconvenience at all. We have remarked time and time again over the last few weeks how grateful we are to have our friends and family want to stop by and check in on us.

Whether its to stop past and offer advice and ideas on how things should be done (some advice is definitely more helpful than others), or just to drop by to offer your congratulations, we could not be more thankful.

A couple of things have really warmed our hearts over the last couple of weeks and for those of you who know someone renovating, this is your chance to take notes!

Do:

  • Ring with the offer of dinner at 7pm at night because you know that said renovating couple have been beavering away since 7am that morning. This has actually happened to us a couple of times, by different friends and words cannot even explain the joy your tired body feels not having to go to the dodgy IGA up the road to conjure up something for dinner.
  • Stop past on your way out with bottle of wine in congratulations and send a follow up text offering great ideas about the layout of a new kitchen because ‘I’ve been thinking about you and your renovation’.
  • Pop by on a Saturday night for a alcoholic beverage or two (usually a red wine or a port to fight the freezing temperature of this house!) to distract us for a little while, catch up and make us feel like we have taken a break for a short while in our weekend before Monday morning rears its head!
  • Jump the fence to drop off power tools whilst trying not to get caught by the neighbours because you know that the things you are dropping off are going to make particular jobs just a little bit easier.

Dont, however:

  • Walk inside a place currently being renovated to say ‘Wow, there’s so much work to do!’, ‘You’ll be busy for a while!’ or any other comment which is directly related to how many days, months or years we are going to be using up our weekends to complete this project.
  • Make note (out loud) about the amount of dust or plaster on the jarrah floorboards inside the house or how dirty the floor is. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how many times you sweep or mop, those bastard dust particles will appear.

So, if you know someone who is renovating but you think you’re inconveniencing them by stopping by, know that they’d probably appreciate the visit. We like showing off our progress to you as much as you love seeing it.

Not to mention, there is always time for another coffee.

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Indian Inspiration

Whilst recently away losing ourselves in the thick of the ‘country of colour’, India, that beautiful little cottage waiting for us with all of the fun and games of renovating wasn’t far from our minds.

Even before we went on leave, the boy had decided that he was going to take an extra week off from work after our amazing Indian adventure to get stuck in straight away on the demolition stage of our reno. Given that we had been given our keys on the Thursday and flew out in the wee hours of the Saturday morning, there was basically no time to do much more than make the place secure while nobody was there.

India has given us inspiration a plenty. It’s use of colour, silks, marble and all things decadent are truly unique. Anyone who has travelled to this wonderful country would know that the Indians definitely do not do things in halves! What I learnt in India was that you can never judge a book by its cover because the run down facade of a building may not indicate the true beauty of the amazing interior which is waiting for you behind the front doors.

We managed to fill our backpacks while in India with too many souvenirs, as you do on holidays, of which most were for the house. We bought Ganesha statues (in both camel bone and bronze!) for luck and prosperity, masala chai tea (because there is nothing quite like welcoming someone with a beautiful cup of sweet chai) and pop-art inspired street art of India culture (picture very bright turbans in an Andy Warhol-esk theme).

For me though, our best buys were in Varanasi. Varanasi silk, or so I am told, is some of the best in the world. While on tour in this chaotic and mesmerising city, we toured through the small and winding back alleys to find entire sections of the city devoted to silks. We watched as men and women worked one thread at a time to create what can only be described as pieces of art work in the form of scarves, sarees, shalls, bedspreads and throw rugs. We were invited in to a wholesaling business of silks from this area and were shown through some of the most brightly coloured and softest creations I have ever had the chance to see and touch.

We just couldn’t help ourselves. We weren’t leaving without a few of these beautiful and timeless pieces. I purchased a earthy, natural coloured raw silk throw which has hints of orange and green (two of my absolute favourite colours, particularly together). The seller assured me that I was making a justified purchase because this type of silk is affectionately termed the ‘Mahatma Gandhi silk’ after his original profession as a raw silk weaver. Now, I’m not sure if this is in fact a little fib or not, but it was too late, I had already fallen in love. The boy also decided to splash out and purchase a ‘handmade with love over 90 days’ bedspread in a pastel shade of green – just gorgeous.

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An example of a raw silk throw for reference

So once the renovations are finished and we get around to unpacking what we have collected, we will look around and be reminded of the Indian adventure that was. We will remember a beautiful country of endless sunsets, searing hot days and a life changing experience that we wish we could do all over again. I hope that our home reflects all of our adventures together and celebrates where we have been and where we are yet to go!

Some photos of our Indian adventure

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The colours of Jaipur

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The wonders of the holy city of Varanasi

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My favourite – the city of Delhi

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!

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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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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