Friday, May 22, 2015

around the house...succulents and skulls

I have had this amazing print by Mia Widlake for about 5 years, safely rolled up while I tried to decide how to frame it.  Finally I was inspired by some floating prints in Sabine McDonald's home and decided to mount this print between two pieces of glass.  I am thrilled with how it turned out.  Worth the wait and will definitely use this framing method again.

Love how it goes with the succulents and cement.  Have a lovely weekend

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

jenny wolf design inspiration

I have to share this amazing Noho loft by Jenny Wolf Interiors.  Its a gorgeous muted but textured interior with lots of luxe details.  I just adore the chevron marble tiles with the brass shower hardware, and the detail in the wood and handles of the wardrobe door, sigh...  Skip down for more eye candy and pop by the Jenny Wolf site to see more of their lovely work.

So much to like in the entrance below.  I always love distressed mirrors, and am a huge fan of a bench near the entrance where you can put your shoes on.  Clearly in my home with my children a bench like this could not be used for display.  Those floors are awesome, love the colour of the door and trim, and adore the light.  I could live here tomorrow.

Love the painted brick wall with the crisp kitchen.  Just so lovely...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Around the house...

Love fresh flowers around the home.  One of the lovely things about winter is that it's tulip time.  My long legged horses agree.

Have a lovely weekend

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

cotton on and mark tuckey's divine homewares collaboration

I fell in love with this new collection the moment I saw this press release!  I already have a few must have pieces picked out.  How gorgeous is the round tassel pillow below (for Miss J) and I must must have the blue velvet with blanket stitch edges and the shaggy white and navy, especially the shaggy white and navy, a bit further down.

I am already a huge fan of everything Cotton On and Mark Tuckey, and while I have many Cotton On items in my home I have never been able to afford anything at Mark Tuckey.  Here is hoping that this collection will combine Cotton On's great quality and price point with Mark Tuckey's fab style and fresh Australian aesthetic.  We will all find out when the collection goes on sale online on 3 July.  It will be in select stores from  9 July, hopefully somewhere near me will be stocking it.
My gorgeous hubby made me a Mark Tuckey inspired day bed just like the one in the shoot below, we couldn't afford to buy it, and it will look sensational with these cushions on it.  May have to get a few.  Absolutely loving these knits in the fresh citrus colours.

My heart totally belongs to the moodier part of the collection, and really I am thinking I might be on the same wave length as the creative team, see my diy blanket stitch detail of velvet pillows here, and I am obsessed by Morrocan wedding blankets which have a very similar vibe to the white and navy shaggy pillow, (see my 2015 trends here).

Can't wait to go online and see what these are going to be sold for, I am really hoping its going to be reasonable and I can get a few things to do a winter update for our home.  Congrats to both Cotton On and Mark Tuckey on what looks like a truly fabulous collaboration.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Build lightly on the grid - using solar panels to reduce your energy footprint

Having a light energy footprint is good good thing, good for the planet, good for resale (people are thinking about these issues more and more) and good for your wallet.  Win win I tell you.

When we built two years ago, reducing our energy footprint was an important part of the plan and we incorporated these energy saving feautures into our home:

  • Double glazed glass, insulated floors, walls and roof.  Insulation to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Windows designed to encourage natural airflow throughout the home.  
  • This works far better than I thought.  If we have been out on a hot day and the house has been shut up we open our bedroom door upstairs and a door downstairs and you can feel the cool breeze flowing down the staircase.  The whole house is cooled naturally in ten minutes.
  • Ceiling fans instead of an air conditioner.  
  • Solar panels to harness the great natural sunlight we all enjoy for free
  • A shaded central courtyard opening onto all our living spaces - provides a cool summer space which cools all our living spaces.

Did we survive without air conditioning? 
Its been three years and in that time Sydney has had record heat waves.  Did we survive without air conditioning?  Yes!  There were a few super hot days, but with the ceiling fans on and the windows open we were fine, even on the hottest, most airless of nights.

Anybody who has paid an air conditioning bill will tell you just how expensive that is, so designing a house that doesn’t need any has been a fabulous investment.  Investing in solar panels has been another!

Fitting solar panels
Fitting solar panels on our home was easy to do.  With a largely flat roof (we have a small incline to handle rain water) the panels were easy to position in a north facing direction and are not shaded at all.

Solar panels need to be correctly angled to maximise the energy you can harness.  The angle is different depending on your latitude, and whether you want to save energy in summer (for air conditioning) or winter (on heating).  A rough guide is your angle should be your latitude +10 degrees for summer savings, - 10 degrees for winter savings

You also need to make sure you install enough panels to make a difference to your power bill.   Looking back we could have installed double, but at the end of an expensive build we spent what we could afford.

These are all considerations that will depend on your property and budget, solar installation professionals can help you work through the considerations.

Are the power bills down?
Yes, perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but it definitely helps. 

At the moment we feed the power we generate back into the grid and are paid for the contribution.  This is not a winning deal for us as the amount we are paid is far less than the amount we are charged per unit.  Even though (personal gripe) the power companies can sell green energy for top dollar prices. 
I would prefer to store the energy we generate in a battery that we use instead of drawing on the grid, but the battery technology is still expensive and not necessarily efficient.  An investment for the future.

It’s very satisfying to check the meter on a hot day and see just how much energy we converted to power for the day!

Types of panel
We installed the tilted solar panels on top of our roof that you are probably familiar with.  They are on the top of our largely flat roof and we can’t see them at all which is great because they don’t interfere with the look of the house.
But if you have, or are planning, a tile roof, Monier produces a solar roof tile that can be laid as part of their tiled roof systems, incorporated seamlessly into the roofline.  What a great idea!  The efficiency will depend on the angle of your roofline and how much of it faces in the right direction but it’s definitely an idea worth investigating.

Having lived in our house for 2 years I can tell you that our west facing walls get blisteringly hot in summer.  We faced the house away from the west heat and only have a drying yard on that side.  On some summer days its almost to hot to go out and hang up the washing, it certainly feels hot enough to fry and egg, and the wall finish takes a pounding from the sun.  Imagine if we had clad the entire wall in solar panels – no maintenance and it would generate energy.  Perhaps a solution for the future

At the end of the day all these features have been very worthwhile, we have a house that lives lightly on the grid, and is comfortable for us and our pockets.  We should all be future proofing our homes for energy efficiency.

For  more in the Build 101 series: where I share my experiences to make your build decisions easier, click here.

Image inspiration via Houzz: top, bottom

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fresh colour by Arent & Pyke

Can't get this pretty colourful image from interior design house Arent & Pyke out my mind.  Could be all the gloomy weather we have been having in Sydney has me longing for the sun again.  

I am in love with the palm tree pillow.  See more of this eclectic apartment here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Build 101...favourite floor finishes

As part of the Build 101 series I am sharing my favourite products with you.  Products that I would totally specify again, products that were worth what we spent on them, products I would recommend again and again. 
I thought I would kick off with floors.  Floors are a large investment and the base of your scheme, they need to be right.  This is the place to invest in good quality finishes that won't date and will wear well.

Smoked and Black Oak by Royal Oak Floors.
If I had to choose one luxe item to spend money on it would be these wooden floors. They set the tone of our home, they feel lovely underfoot, and they are the single most commented on item when people come around for the first time.  

The smoked and black colour is fabulous, very good at hiding sand and muddy little footprints.  Not that my floor is dirty, but I don't want to notice every leaf that blows in.  In a previous house we had polished walnut stained floors which showed every spec of dust, never again.  
The soft tone adds instant texture to our room, especially the large open spaces, and it works as well with cooler grey tones as it does with warmer colours.

In the image above you can see how beautifully the wood tones in with bedroom carpets and the bathroom tiles.

Cavalier Bremworth pure wool carpet - in overtones buckskin
These carpets were a great value buy.  Wool comes in a wide price range, I adored the top end of the Cavalier Bremworth range but they were just to far out of my budget.  What I specifically like about the Overtones range is they are not a flat colour.  Flat colour carpets can be quite dominating, or very bland.  Overtones as a small variation in its weave, just enough to be easy on the eye.  The variation also means that any little marks and spills are hard to see.  
The best reason to choose wool is how easy it is to clean, much easier than sisal or synthetics.  We had a large accident in one of the bedrooms and it cleaned right away.  It took a lot of Mr Nifty and elbow grease but it is totally gone.  Fab for homes with children and pets!

Originally I wanted sisal in the bedrooms, but sisal has issues with water marks and staining, something to consider when you are designing a family home.  I had a sisal sample and Miss E said "please don't get that one mummy, I need something soft to sit on when I play".  Good point and I am glad I went with wool.

In the image above the Overtones carpet is in the centre and you can see how well it works with the Pietra Grey tiles in the en suite bathroom, and the linen curtains in the master bedroom.

Tips and tricks:
  • If you lay carpet pay up to get the best quality thickest underlay you can afford.  You will have this carpet a long time and it makes a huge difference to the feel under foot.
  • Get samples of your floor finishes and carry them around with you when you are choosing all your other finishes.  Everything needs to work with your floors from paint colours, to furniture fabrics, to your bathroom fittings.
  • Limit the floor finishes you choose to create a harmonious visual flow between your rooms. In our Sydney home we have wood in the living areas, and the same carpet in all the bedrooms.  
  • Check that finishes read well together so areas where they are adjoining look good eg where the wooden floor stops and carpet begins, and where the carpet meets the bathroom tiles.

For more advice on building see the rest of the Build 101 series here, where I share my experience to make your build experience that little bit easier.

Friday, April 24, 2015

resort style bean the pool

I have shared these gorgeous comfortable bean bags with you already, see them set up for an evening with friends in my courtyard here, but had to share how lovely they look by the pool too.  
Like lots of parents I spend a lot of summer supervising at the pool side, now I can do it in real comfort.  No more hard deck for me!  No more numb bum.  Bring on the gorgeous Us Time double seater, easy to move out of splash range, super comfy, and big enough for cuddles when the kids are cold.  

They are waterproof, so splashes won't matter, and easy to wipe down, just in case the sun screen ends up on them instead of the children.  
Now all I need is a lovely cool drink and the summer days can go on for ever. 

For more shapes and colours, they go from single seaters right up to a deluxe twin recliner, visit Resort Style Bean Bags.  Affordable and stylish, they definately get my seal of approval.

I purchased these bean bags from Resort Style Bean Bags and all opinions are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Build 101... top ten building tips

Today I am kicking off a new series called Design the Perfect Finish.  I am aiming to share the useful things we learned when we built our own home.  Things you need to know when you do your own build or renovation, my favourite products that I would specify again today, floor plans that really work, measurements for things like the height of the tap above the basin (bet you didn't know you had to choose that), and how to deal with your trades.  There are a lot of decisions to make in any build, I want to give you confidence in your choices by sharing what I know works for us.

Today's post is one I wrote two years ago, but when I reread it I thought it was worth sharing again, these tips are the starting place for good planning.  So enjoy, and pop back soon as I tackle topics like my fave floor choices, living with solar energy, and tips you need to know when you design a bathroom.  

1.  Make an inspiration board & study the details
With Pinterest inspiration boards have never been so easy, but go old school with a paper file if that works better for you.  Make a different board for each area of the house: kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry, playroom, whatever you are building.

Once you have pinned all your favourites take a step back and study them all together.  You will start to see a theme running through your selections.  Spot the similarities and study the details and make sure you include these key elements in your final design.  This is a sample of my kitchen board - no surprises that I have a black kitchen island, marble top, wood floors and white walls.

2.  Work with an interior designer or architect in the concept stage
Consult an expert to get your spaces and flow working well before the build starts.  This is an investment well worth making if you want to get it right first time and you want a polished look!  Make your inspiration boards first, they will make it much easier to explain the look and feel you are aiming for.
This is the time to talk about storage and where it should be, light sources, types of lighting, even the position of the light switches.  Be specific about how you plan to use spaces, the flow from indoors to outdoors, and where your north light comes from.
3.  Create a sample pack and take it everywhere
Try decide on all major finishes in the concept stage: floors, bathroom tiles, kitchen joinery colours and counter tops.  Collect samples of all items and put them in a box in the back of your car.  As you select other finishes make sure they tie in with the elements you have already decided on.  A limited palette of complimentary materials will give your design good continuity and stronger visual impact.

4.  Make a non-negotiable list
Unless you have a bottomless wallet you are going to have to make budget choices somewhere.  Decide on your non-negotiable list upfront, for me it was my bathroom tiles and wooden floors.  When you need to cut costs make them elsewhere first, this way you end up with the items you really want.

5.  Use the same fittings throughout 
Choose the same taps for all your bathrooms, use the same floor finishes throughout the house,  apply a consistent colour palette in all your finishes.  Continuity will make your house feel well designed, and buying in bulk is a good opportunity to negotiate a good price.

6.  Make your cash work harder
- Shop around for the best prices, locally and online.
- Never get less than three quotes for any job or item.
- Ask for discounts when you buy, tell the retailer you are building and could be coming back for more supplies.  
- Shop at auctions for really good deals, we bought solar panels with installation for a great price on Grays Online

7.  Ask for recommendations
All our best trades, our builder, and many of our suppliers were recommended by people who had also built or renovated.  There is no substitute for a personal reference.
This also applies to the many professionals you will need certificates from like engineers, certifiers, garden designers & traffic authorities.

8.  Plan, plan and plan some more
Graph paper just became your best friend.  Draw out your rooms, measure the furniture and draw them onto your floor plan.  Do elevations of the kitchen and built in joinery.  Its not hard, you just need a ruler, graph paper and your measurements.  Your builder will think you are crazy but you will get a preview of what the space will look like, and it will help you to be very specific about what you want. 

With a detailed plan there is no room for error, you know what you are getting and the builder knows exactly what to do.  You want to get it right the first time, undoing building work costs time and money and is the fastest way to go over budget and over schedule.
When I designed the bathrooms I specified everything from the exact position of the taps to the starting point in the tile pattern, the end result was just as I planned it.

9.  Stick to your guns
If I had a dollar for every time a trade or supplier told me "it can't be done that way" I would be a millionaire.  Trades like to do what is easiest and what they know best.  This often does not tie up with the image you saw in a glossy magazine.
A friend gave me sage advice, "if you make the choice you can live with it being your mistake, if you were talked into something you didn't want the end result will frustrate you for ever".

10.  Read your contract in detail before you sign it
Make sure your building contract is very detailed, it needs to include specifics of every fitting and finish choice, the electrics and plumbing plans down to the position of every light switch and plug point, and labour for every aspect of the job.  You want to be sure the quote includes everything you want.  This is your final opportunity to check that your budget is on target.  If you have planned well there shouldn't be to many surprises.

Take your time and make sure each line item is right before you sign.  Once you have signed every change is called a variation, and you are charged an administration cost for every variation made.  This is a very preventable cost you can keep to a minimum.

Building is a huge investment in capital, time and emotional energy and it is absolutely worth taking the time to get things right the first time.
I always dreamed of building our own home.  Of course, because life never happens as plans we didn't just build, no, "surprise!" we had a baby too.  It was a HUGE year.  We learned a lot, we cried a lot, we didn't sleep a lot, but in the end I love my new home and expanded family - a lot!

It really doesn't matter how big or small your build is, what matters is that you are happy with the end result.  I hope this series makes your own build just that little bit easier.