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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We’re off and running

This weekend was the Western Australian Day long weekend but instead of having a relaxing weekend celebrating the beautiful state that we live in, the house was a flurry of activity. 

Remember those naughty rotting timbers? Well, thanks to the help of a super handy brother/brother in law we have removed them and put a concrete footing it its place. 

After much um-ing and ah-ing we also made a decision to remove the timber cladding in the sleepout which would have once formed the external wall to the house. In cementing in the new footing in the bathroom, timber cladding on the outside of the house has had to have been removed because, as in many instances with houses of the age that ours is, homeowners over the years have patched the outside timbers where holes have been made. The timber cladding from inside the sleepout can now be recycled and used on the outside of the bathroom to give that wall a fresh new look whilst the walls in the sleepout can be nice and flat to match walls in the adjacent laundry and bathroom. A win, win! 

Another handy brother/brother in law was also able to reroute our television aerial and phone line cables to accommodate our plans to make the front room with the fireplace our bedroom and the other front room the loung room. Thank goodness for handy family members, even if they choose to proudly pass you a bag containing a rat found in the roof which looked like it had been dead for longer than house had existed (and affectionately calling it Rodney!). Ugh. 

We also decided to move our furniture in this weekend which has made a hell of a lot of difference in the comfort of staying there overnight. Finally, eskys are made redundant by a beautiful new stainless steel fridge and the barbecue may be less used now we have pots and pans. 

I also began the tedious task of sanding and priming our soon to be bedroom. However, this and other stories must be left for another day. Some action and progress pictures below until then.

Ornate cornices – beautiful until you try to prime them!  
The fun of unpacking. 

 

First time sleepovers

Like any time you purchase something new, you wait with baited breath until you can unwrap the packaging and use with enthusiasm whatever is inside. Buying this house is no different, except for the fact that between getting keys and moving in, there’s a shit load of work to be done!

Last week marked our two year anniversary of being together. This time, two years ago, I would have never imagined that we would be where we are now or undertaking a project together of this size. However, it’s been a wirl wind couple of years and we are proud as punch to be where we are. 

To mark this special occasion, I was surprised to find the main bedroom of our beautiful cottage transformed in to a candle lit retreat, complete with blow up matters dressed up in new linen I had bought for the house and the bench seat from our verandah lined with blankets as a spot to drink champagne. (Look ladies, he’s not bad!). 

Since then we have stayed a couple of more times at the house in our makeshift bedroom. Though, to say it’s been a piece of cake, is a lie. People have asked us why we aren’t staying in the house while renovating it and the fact is that living in a house with no shower, storing food in eskys and living on a diet consisting of meals which can only be cooked on a bbq (not to mention camping out on the floor to eat your meal in your furniture-less home!) is no ones idea of fun! 

But hey, it’s all part of the bigger picture as our friend Colin Barnett would say. So if sleepovers mean leaving the house in the wee hours of the morning in your track pants and brown leather business shoes (because you forgot any other type of footwear) to get in to work early for a shower before anyone sees you, then that’s what has to be done. …and yes, that did happen!   

Our makeshift bedroom on night one 

Camping out on your bedroom floor, now this is living! 

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 

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!

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!