Friday, December 23, 2011

Can of worms

Noone wants to hear their builder utter the phrase "can of worms" in relation to their renovation. Especially not at 8:30 in the morning with a three year old dolled up in her tutu (since 6am) in eager anticipation of seeing Angelina Ballerina at the Opera House and completely unable to comprehend how a trip to the new house to talk to the builder will fit into the morning schedule. By 'completely unable to comprehend' I mean 'sent into total meltdown mode at the very thought'.

So when we finally turned up at the house I was apprehensive to say the least. Our builder revealed the problem - a hole in the floor. Hmm. There was more. The hole essentially extended underneath the entire slab in the downstairs living area. Sigh.

Don't get me wrong, it's ultimately a good thing they found it under the layers of tiles they were lifting up, but a new slab won't be cheap and will delay things. Given we're being kicked out of our rental in a frighteningly short amount of time, delays are less welcome than ever.

On the upside, it's going to be cheaper to polish the new slab as the downstairs floor than it will be to have wooden floors, so I'm definitely going to get my polished concrete floors downstairs!

We do have our footings finished now so at least we're still moving forward. Let's hope that the house has no more floating slab-like surprises for us. I'm all for quirky and imperfect, but dangerous and expensive quirks aren't the type I like.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Work plods on

I said last week that after all the demolition the work our builders have been doing this week would be slightly less visually impressive and I was right. These rather unimposing trenches are the result of more blood, sweat and tears (well, probably not tears) than the rest of the demolition combined, but look a tad like the kind of trenches little boys dig in the backyard in an afternoon playing war games.

I'm reliably informed though that jackhammering through slab after slab after slab was enough to send the team ever so slightly bonkers. Especially in the rain. Still, it's done and nearly ready for the footings.

The ensuite doorway was about the last bit of demolition left to be done after my last post and here it is - the view from our bedroom into the ensuite and main bathroom beyond.

The other thing that has been done this week is the electrics. Again, it doesn't look like much but the whole house is wired up now. And I am in a lather of panic that I chose the right spots for switches.

One thing that has impressed me enormously is how neat the building team is. Even when I sneak over for a peek as opposed to a scheduled visit their equipment is always very neatly stored. I'm considering asking if anyone of them want a job tidying a mad house when they're finished the build.

This is just a gratuitous shot of the exterior. We're not touching anything outside - with the exception of replacing that dodgy metal lacework and bamboo screen upstairs. The outside is very definitely phase two.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Demolition, demolition, demolition

Hmm. There was a wall here last week. And that metal grid was a bridge to the upstairs terrace. After last week I have to confess I didn't think there was really too much more demolition to be done. I was wrong!

This existing downstairs hallway wall has gone - completely opening up the space that will be the two bathrooms. It was always a hard space to picture as it was split by the wall and an old toilet room but now it's much easier to imagine two bathrooms fitting in here. On the far right hand wall you can see where the ensuite doorway will be knocked through to the bedroom.

I *think* that once this wall and the ensuite doorway wall have been knocked through there are no more walls to come down. This will be the new hallway entrance from the downstairs living area.

This shot gives a little bit of an idea about the 'wall of glass' effect we're hoping will allow light to flood into our downstairs spaces. Upstairs will be louvres and downstairs will be bifold doors onto the courtyard.

This looks back from the terrace, through the kitchen and into the open plan dining and lounge room. Yikes we're missing a lot of walls!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walls? What walls?

Finally. We've started. That's right - started. We have development approval, a construction certificate and all manner of random permits from the Council. What we no longer have is internal walls. We're also missing the odd external one too. In fact, our kitchen only has two walls at the moment.

This is looking out from the living room to the roof terrace. To the left is a non-existent kitchen wall. When it's finished, that should be a wall of louvres. Where I am standing will be a floor to ceiling window.

This is looking back to the kitchen from the terrace. You can see the lack of walls! The wall immediately in front of me will be bi-fold doors. The entrance to the kitchen from the living area will be where the old shower recess.

Another gratuitous kitchen shot. I'm quite taken with the lack of walls at the moment. It gives the illusion of significant progress.

This is looking back through the kitchen to the terrace. Instead of the dodgy hedging around the edge we'll have some nice timber privacy screens.

Moving downstairs, we're missing the wall that was in the entrance. It's completely opened up what will be the downstairs living area and even without all the louvres in it is much lighter.

A different view of the downstairs living space. The solid wall will become the hallway through to the bathrooms and main bedroom and the french doors will become louvres onto the internal courtyard.

This is the main bedroom - or dead plant dumping ground as the case may be.

It's boring stuff like footings next, so I'm really pleased we have some missing walls to focus on for the next little while. After so long with nothing happening I'm a little eager for visible progress. Poor builder.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome to the neighbourhood

On a recent visit to the house we found this beautifully written note in the letterbox. I must admit I was a little nervous when it first tumbled out of a huge pile of catalogues - especially as it arrived just after our DA was lodged and the notification went up on the house. Turns out though it was simply a welcome to the neighbourhood and some suggestions for our renovation.

Obviously from a long-time local, they pointed out some local landmarks that were a similar style to our house and that had colour schemes that might complement the outside of our place. They even pointed out another old shop not far from ours that had clever incorporated a third level behind the parapet on the roof.

It was a lovely surprise and a lovely welcome to the neighbourhood. I really hope we bump into the author at some stage so we can thank them for their thoughtfulness.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cool discovery

One of the best bits about this old house so far has been peeling back the layers and finding out what's underneath. It helps us piece together a bit of its history - or at least some snippets from which we can imagine a history.

Like most renovations of buildings this age, we've found faded wallpaper and peeling paint, but the coolest thing we've found is this note on the plaster underneath the wall that was hiding the fireplace.

It's a note from an apprentice carpenter spruiking for future work. He writes:

"I'm an apprentice carpenter and in ten years time ring me up and I'll build your house"

It's dated April 1988 - so twenty three years ago (interestingly, almost to the date of when we signed the contract). I've done some research and - if I have the right Malcolm Monk - it seems that his enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit didn't leave him and he became quite a large property developer. Unfortunately, it seems the GFC wasn't too kind to his business and he's shut up shop.

But still - what an esoteric and charming find. I hope there are more as our journey progresses.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kitchen - use your imagination

This is the outside of our kitchen. Well, it's the outside of the bedroom that is going to become our kitchen. Picture, if you will, folding doors leading out onto the terrace and a wall of louvers that will send light flooding into the kitchen and the internal courtyard downstairs. Struggling? Never mind. I understand.

See that hole in the wall (no, not one of mine)? Behind there is the kitchen. That's not where the entry will be (it will be slightly off to Puddleduck's right) but our builder had to knock through there to get rid of an ugly feature wall. I do like being able to peek through from the living area though - it gives me a little bit of an idea of how it will flow when it's all finished.

This is where the room currently opens to the terrace and where the bifold doors will go. I'm already picturing summer barbecues on the terrace...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gutted - fireplace

Our fireplace has emerged from behind the stud wall and what a *gorgeous* feature it is too. The tiny brown tiles seem to suggest the current surround is the product of the fabulous 1970s and its obsession with 'autumnal' tones for decorating. It would complemented my parents original kitchen beautifully.


So now we have to decide what to do with it. Initial investigations suggest it is probably capable of functon - subject of course to council approval (sigh). But do we want a wood burning fireplace or should we convert it to gas? Also, do we put a mantle above it or do we keep it a little streamlined? I'm fond of a mantle for putting vases and big pictures on, but will it take up too much of the room given we're planning that entire wall to be covered in bookshelves?

Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gutted - downstairs

And we've begun! Our builder and his highly efficient team moved in this week and ripped out all the crazy shelves and leftovers from our house's time as an office. All of a sudden it's starting to look a little more like it could be a home. This is where our downstairs living space will be - they've pulled out the ugly orange shelving, the carpet and destroyed the stud wall that hid this faux fireplace.

This is the downstairs living space looking onto the internal courtyard. At the moment it's a tad hideous, but when we enclose it with some lovely glass louvers and create a hallway around it I think it will be simply stunning. As the downstairs has very few windows and no real ventilation, it will also be an incredibly practical element of the design.

This is Puddleduck's room without the desks and shelves and cupboards ... let's call it a blank canvas!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vintage Schmintage

I've seen a bit of snobbery about The Block in the blogosphere over the past week. Now I'm the first to admit that people who sign up for a show about renovating while claiming they have no renovation experience at all are either lying or stark, raving mad. I'm also one of the first to admit that the high pressure environment they're renovating in probably isn't conducive to top quality work. What I find a little hard to swallow is people criticising it simply because contestants are furnishing rooms with furniture from *gasp* IKEA.

"Where is all the vintage dahhhhling?" is the outcry.

I mean if vintage floats your boat then that's all well and good. I have a thing about rummaging around in junk shops myself, but to dismiss something simply because it involves some Swedish flatpack seems to me to be as unimaginative as critics claim shopping at IKEA is.

Why is buying some mission brown chairs in a second hand shop and sanding them back and painting them tangerine any more inspiring and imaginative as me buying some dining chairs from Ikea, painting them yellow and recovering the seats? Chances are the mission brown chairs were mass-produced in the 1970s just like the IKEA chairs - admittedly there are probably fewer of them around these days because a bazillion of them ended up in landfill, but the principle is still the same. Isn't it?

The great thing I find about IKEA is it offers furniture that is a blank canvas. It's cheap enough for me to experiement with my creative side. I've taken $10 Lack side tables and covered them in wallpaper and create fun play tables for my daughter. I've customised Expedit shelving units and most recently, I've become obsessed with custom couch covers for my IKEA sofa.
You see when we moved and downsized, we had to get a new sofa as our old one simply didn't fit. Because we have dogs it made sense to get one with a removable and washable cover. So we went on a mission to IKEA (I know, I know, we should have schlepped around junk yards looking for a vintage sofa). We bought a basic three seat sofa and have been living with it happily ever since (design fail). Anyway, because I like the change the mood in our living room almost as often as I like to change the sheets on our bed, I went hunting for some new covers.

A search on Etsy turned up the delightful Knesting and I bought my first customised cover - all of a sudden I had a bespoke couch. In case you're wondering, it's the gorgeous Amy Butler cover in the first picture.

I then stumbled across Bemz and have since spent many happy hours exploring. I've bought three covers from there - a simple cotton one, a plum coloured chennille one and my favourite, the red and pink Marimekko one in the second picture. I haven't yet unveiled it as I'm saving it for when we move in. I think it's going to look amazing with the dark floors and high ceilings. I bought it before we bought our place, but I just had an inkling a special place was not far away so I splurged.

I've also noticed they have covers for Lillberg armchairs and I think I've picked out the perfect fabric for ours - do you like it? It will go in our downstairs living space or possibly the spare room. Truth be told it will probably move on a weekly basis.

The point of this rant? I've forgotten. Suffice to say I think 'vintage' as a term is so overused it's almost become a teensy bit ridiculous. I mean calling a 1950s beaded Chanel shift vintage is one thing, calling the empty Keen's mustard jar from last week's shopping vintage is, frankly, pretenious beyond words.

Anyway, in my humble opinion, IKEA doesn't have to be the anathema of everything that is good and creative about design.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meeting the neighbours

One of the daunting things about moving is meeting the new neighbours and hoping they aren't a nightmare. Fortunately, so far all of ours seem lovely.

Including Isabel the cat who has made herself very much at home. She's there on the back wall every time we open up the doors and makes a beeline for the chairs. She's made it clear she prefers it when the chairs are in the sun.

On second thoughts, perhaps at least one of our neighbours is a little too demanding?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ps - you be the judge

I can't imagine why Mr Puddleduck thinks he is better at this demolition caper than me, can you? I mean tell me which hole looks like it was more fun to make? Mine or his? Shame he got to uncover the fireplace and I only got to uncover a chimney. Still, I GOT TO SMASH A HOLE IN A WALL!

Just call me Sarah Beeny.

Exciting discovery

While we were pulling up the carpet on the weekend we uncovered this piece of stone next to the wall towards the front of the house and got a little excited. The main wall in the open plan living area is just over 8 metres long and has been 'built in' for about half of that length. Our plan was to knock that out and put bookshelves along the entire length of the wall. While we had been secretly hoping that a fireplace was hiding behind the wall, we didn't hold out much hope (picture us walking the length of the wall 'tapping' in a highly professional and authorative manner to determine lack of hidden fireplace).

So when we found this piece of stone that looked as though it might very well be part of a very old and very rustic fireplace we got out the hammers faster than you can say "fancy a trip to Bunnings?".

I've never been allowed to put holes in walls before so I was a teensy bit excited at this opportunity. Had there been no evidence of a fireplace I am pretty sure Mr Puddleduck would have insisted we leave the wall in tact until the professionals arrived, so I wasted no time in getting stuck in. I even let Mr Puddleduck go first (he maintains he is more methodical than me so would create less mess) and promised him new tools if he found me a fireplace.

It may have taken longer than it would have if I had been wielding the hammer (seriously why do we have to be neat when bashing down a wall ?), but we struck gold. Well actually, we struck really tacky brown tiles but nevertheless it's our very own fireplace.

Friday, June 17, 2011

First job

I tripped and fell and ripped up some carpet today. I've been simply itching to rip up this green carpet. Somewhat bizarrely, every house we've owned has had this green carpet. Seriously. Given we've fallen head over heels with all these houses, I have this nagging thought that there's something bewitching about this particular carpet. Does it cast a spell on us? Why are we inexplicably attracted to houses with fundamentally ugly carpet?

Mr Puddleduck has been a little more circumspect about starting anything resembling DIY, so I seized the opportunity of being at the house alone this morning to start ripping up the carpet. Ostensibly so I could see the condition of the floorboards underneath it, but really just because I hate it. I have to confess I started peeling it back on our very first inspection. Shh.

Turns out the boards are in pretty decent condition for a house coming up to 150 years old. Well, I mean they look fine to my entirely untrained eye. Regardless, I'm very excited at the prospect of bare boards and no carpet upstairs. At the moment it smells a little like a stable up there and I lay the blame for that fairly and squarely on the ugly green carpet.

The beginning

We've bought a house. An old house. An old, run down, slighly odd and upside down house. It may be that we took leave of our senses when we made the offer, but if that was the case, we still haven't come to our senses, In fact, we're all still a little giddy with excitement. Actually, that's not entirely true - Puddleduck is underwhelmed by it all. I suspect because the house doesn't have a TV. It does, however, have a cat that visits and she thinks that is fairly cool. I don't think the cat will be such a frequent visitor when our dogs arrive.

Join me on my journey as we transform this old office into the home of our dream!