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 bags...at 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

Design the perfect finish... 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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

navy inspiration...on following trends

When my stylish friend Bina from By Sabine told me she had ordered a navy couch earlier in the year I thought that it was a really brave and unusual choice.  Bina said no, that in Hamburg, where she is from originally, navy is a very classic choice, about as brave as me ordering a white couch.  Later at home I looked around the room and realised there was a lot of navy in the fabrics I had chosen, even the black fireplace wall has a deep navy tone to it, not dissimilar to the wall in the room below.  I had to laugh, sometimes you go down a road without even realising it. 
Then I looked through my Pinterest pins and realised there was a hefty dose of navy, with a bit of brass thrown in, there too.  Made me realise that navy is really gorgeous, so thought I would share with you too. 
These pics above are from my home.  I adore the Schumacher fabric and while it has many colours in it, the navy is quite a strong feature.  I also adore the greens and the corals, well what's not to like about the Chiang Mai dragon full stop.
I bought the ikat style fabric recently and only really noticed it was navy rather than charcoal once I was home.  And ofcourse there is every shade of blue in the gorgeous painting by my mother.  I love how the brass lamp looks against this painting.  Even my husband wore his navy and white shirt when I shot this Whisky Ball post.

I adore the navy kitchen with its crisp white contrast and brass tapware.
And the navy sea grass wallpaper from this master bedroom from this year's The Block is just divine too.  Navy with white and brass, its managed to get into my own home without me even knowing.

Images from top: navy dining room, selection of images from my own home, navy kitchen, glass pendants with brass detail, navy master bedroom from the Block triple threat

Friday, April 10, 2015

resort style bean bags...all year outdoor fun

I found the perfect outdoor bean bag at Resort Style Bean Bags!  Not only are they super comfortable, huge (each one seats two people easily), and stylish, but they are also really affordable.  The great thing about bean bags is they are easy to move around, and they have been all around our garden the last few days. Today I am sharing how they look in our courtyard, set up for an evening outdoor picnic with friends. All I need now is a firepit and I will be enjoying the courtyard long into this lovely autumn season. 

After a long online search I came across Resort Style Bean Bags, a Queensland based business specialising in outdoor beanbags. The bean bags are available in several different colours and lots of sizes, from a single seaters and cushions, to the Us Time that I chose which is a double seater, right up to the Big Kahuna which is a twin recliner. 
I have always wanted to screen movies on the wooden wall behind us and these bean bags are the perfect seats for the whole family.  

They are easy to clean (for any little spills) and waterproof, in case we are caught in an unexpected shower.  I really like that they hold their shape well and look like chairs, but best of all they are just so comfortable.  The first day they arrived I set them up in the courtyard, sat down in one to give it a road test, and fell instantly fast asleep.  Now that's the comfort test passed.

Earlier in the day when I was setting up Miss J loved running around and leaping into them.  In fact they have the whole family's seal of approval, you will just be able to make out Fender our cat climbing on for a cuddle.  Cats do not understand keeping still for a slow shutter speed so he is a little blurry.

If you are looking for an easy piece for your outdoor entertaining area I would definitely recommend these chairs.  At $110 excluding beans you don't have to sacrifice on style, durability and comfort and won't hurting your wallet either.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

pool cabana inspiration

It may be almost the end of summer in Sydney but we are in pool cabana design mode.  
We need the cabana for two reasons:

  • to provide shade when we are watching the kids swim in summer
  • to screen off a new neighbouring house which looms rather close to the fence
I have been dreaming of these Bali cabana's for ages, the gorgeous Alilas Villas Uluwata, and I think I have convinced Mr B that we should go in this direction.  Watch this space.  

My plan is to have the cabana lit at night for extra drama and a huge capiz shell or coconut bead chandelier.  So many ideas...

By the time we are done we will have a resort style pool area, and we will make next door's house totally disappear.  I just want it to happen tomorrow...but that would not be diy.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

bedroom credenza reveal...diy tips for making your own

My first piece of furniture, well I helped even if I can't claim I build this myself.  My fabulous hubby showed me how and I did a lot of sanding, prep and painting, but I was a bit nervous to do the drilling on such fine legs.  Even with my trusty kreg-jig I am not all that good at drilling straight.  With a lot of help, and a lot of spray paint (see technique tips below) the credenza went from a drawing to reality and I am delighted with it.  This won't be my last wood work project.
Wood work tips
For those who want to make their own the legs are 3x3cm of Tasmanian oak.  The top is 45 x 180cm laminated pine, and its stands 70cm high.  We used the kreg-jig to make the base and attach the top.  

The only problem with a kreg, and this is why I was nervous to join everything myself, is that even if your pieces are very square they are pulled slightly out of shape as you join them.  We found the best solution was to clamp the 4 pieces of each side of the frame together, before joining them.  You need a lot of clamps and patience, it doesn't take that long but it is a bit fiddly.
Spray painting tips
I used at least a can of spray paint more than I should have before I got my technique right.
Turns out I had the distance from the wood right, and I was spraying nice and steadily, but I was moving to fast.  This made the paint all spackely and rough, not the glossy finish I was going for.  

Slowing down the speed of my strokes a lot delivered a lovely glossy finish with no stripes or drips.  I sprayed across the width of the piece taking the spray right off the edge on each side to prevent pooling on the edges.
Hope that helps, this video helped me with technique the most.

Mr B also made the mirror which is my favourite piece in the room.  He cut small wooden "tiles" for the frame to create an effect something like bone furniture, actually I prefer it to the bone mirror we do have.  

If you do have the skills and patience you will be rewarded with big savings.  A similar table will set you back at least $400, ours cost $80 including wood and paint and took a day to build, and several days to paint properly.

Our room finally feels finished, for now of course.  It's never long before I start moving the furniture around again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

bronze and blush inspiration

We all know bronze and gold are so hot right now, and pink is too, it seems to have been rebranded as blush this year but it's still pretty pink to me.  These lovely bits and pieces caught my eye this week.

I cannot trace the original source of this pretty image and I would love to see more of this room.  If anybody knows where it comes from please let me know.  I love the combination of the golds and pinks, it should be way to much but it's just so pretty.
From top left: amazing diy mirror by the ever innovative A Beautiful Mess, Dorwin bronze chair, George Hoy table, Heidi boot with brass details from Forever New, pink dipped vase by Country Road

Fabulous painting by Pat Passlof - Score for a Bird (1958)
These colours are just...sigh... so lovely

Friday, March 13, 2015

the original whiskey ball ...glam like Gatsby

I love love love my oversize ice ball mould from The Original Whisky Ball.  Today I am sharing how fabulous these giant ice balls look in the tipple they were planned for, whisky.  I am a whisky drinker myself and these ice balls have made the experience that much more glam.  If you are not a whisky drinker see how I made a gorgeous lemon slice ball for other drinks here.

The mould is easy to use, simply fill to water level mark on the side, pop in the freezer, and wait until its frozen.  I refill my mould every evening so that I have a supply on hand.

The fab thing is the ice ball melts quite slowly and doesn't dilute your drink as fast as several normal cubes would do.  And of course they just look totally fabulous.

It's so James Bond, and yes I know he was a martini drinker, but they hadn't invented these yet!  I am a convert, The Original Whisky Ball is officially my favourite product of the year so far, and a fabulous present for the guys and girls in your life that have it all.

The Original Whisky Ball supplied a mould for me to test, but as usual, all opinions are my own.  Images by Eva Burgess of Build House Home.