Monday, 31 December 2012

an interesting plainness

'An interesting plainness is the most difficult and precious thing to achieve' Mies Van Der Rohe

I wrote this quote on the first page of my renovation notebook and it was this quote that I referred to the most throughout the whole project. It was a guiding light. I am not sure that we were always able to achieve an interesting plainness - and we're still on the journey - but here are some moments along the way.

(SECOND TOP RIGHT Blue print is Pool Shadows 2 Mrs Eliot Books; MIDDLE IMAGE ABOVE BLACKBOARD wall of images includes some family photos, many of my own prints, photo by Colin Blakely The Suspension of Physics Necessary for All Athletic Endeavors and watercolour/drawing by Julie Morstad - this image no longer available but there are other lovely ones on her site, Henri Matisse Femme print bought from the Matisse Museum in Nice, southern France when I travelled there with my sister... seems like a lifetime ago... still one of my favourite prints; MOST OTHER ELEMENTS in these images are discussed previously on this blog.)

Sunday, 30 December 2012

happy new year

We are finally remembering what it feels like to relax .... good, good and more good. 

After a huge 2012 we wish you a fabulous and happy 2013 filled with lots of dreams come true.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

home with you

It will be hard to get this house out of my heart. Whilst it's tested us - there's something about having crafted it ourselves that's made it stick. Knowing where all the cornice joins are, where the bits of plastering that worked out well and where the lumps and bumps that got the better of us hide. How we wrangled each floorboard into submission and where I wish I hadn't placed the knotty looking ones. Where the slightly wonky walls make the skirting stick out too far and where the ones are that worked out just right... and of course the design and decoration that sat in my head for years and has now been realised.

We are almost there now, all the structural work is finished and most of the trades are done (some electrical, tiling and plumbing to go) and we're on our own now to finish some plastering and then lots of painting (interior and exterior). So I gave this beautiful print by Merrilee at Tuesday Mourning to the Lovely One and the Babes as a 'nearly there' gift this week, because whilst this house has consumed us this last 18 months... it is nothing without them.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

keep going

This sentiment is where we're at this week. Don't give up, just keep going.

The Lovely One is being master carpenter on weekends and evenings and I just seem to endlessly paint whenever I have a moment. It's school holidays so there are a whole new set of demands. Keep going, keep going.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


When I was pregnant with Babe 1, one of the first things I made was a big Marimekko Unikko canvas in red and pink to hang on the wall of her new nursery. As we've moved homes it's been the one constant in their bedrooms.

A month or so ago I realised that the fond sentimentality it held for me was not shared by Babe 1 when I found it had been taken off the wall and replaced with yet more Justin Bieber magazine clippings and her new One Direction poster (to go with all the other One Direction posters). It was apparently taking up too much precious wall space.

The moment held a strange mix of feelings. On one hand I felt this kind of deep stabbing angst about her growing up and on the other a kind of deep stabbing love at watching her exert her individuality.

Which brought me to this week and the need to finalise feature wall colours for their bedrooms (yes, very excited that we're getting close to painting Stage 2!). Given that the rest of the house is all white and grey I felt it was important to let them express themselves in their rooms and if they wanted to have colour, then I wanted to embrace it. So what do you do when it comes to sitting with them and pouring over colour charts (which I admit is overwhelming for an adult let alone a small person) and they both start selecting all the colours for the tops of their lists that I would put at the bottom of mine! I'm talking real crimsons and bright turquoise blues, maybe a candy pink or two thrown in. It was such a quandry. Let them exert independence and individuality whilst also getting my own way?!@!#!

In the end it was a really fun hour or so and I prompted and prodded so that we happily found a middle  ground and I tried to ensure they felt they'd come to the final decision themselves. The colours are of course brighter than I would have liked but they love their choices and it's brought on a whole new level of excitement for them which is so gorgeous to watch.

In short, Babe 1 has chosen a kind of cornflower blue - not quite purple, not quite blue for the wall which we'll match with grey linen curtains, maybe a grey rug and some pinks in the linen (a big change from her original electric turquoise).

Babe 2 had her heart set on stripes so we've found a sunny yellow for the wall to match a multicoloured striped IKEA rug with grey linen curtains (a better solution than the suggested yellow, purple, orange and pink stripes on the wall).

I promise photos in a few weeks time... please, please let all this be nearly over in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

desperately seeking magic

'Those who don't believe in magic will never find it' Roald Dahl

I believe, I believe... but man it's testing every part of me at the moment. The internal walls in the old house look like this photo while we wait for the renderer. We're open to the elements in places again where the windows are being altered. There are huge holes in the floor where the walls were moved and even though the finished section offers some respite... it's rapidly filling up with building materials and fixtures that can't be left in the old house because they'll get trashed. The excitement of last week's wall relocations is fading as we face the hard slog ahead.

I hate to write these posts as it makes me feel ungrateful and frankly it's dull complaining because really we just have to get on with it... but I also feel they're sometimes necessary. I know friends reading this are going through the same thing and it's wrong to think it's always rosy or rewarding or satifying... because sometimes it's just plain miserable. But I believe, I believe... let's hope magic is hiding behind the next ceiling joist.

Friday, 31 August 2012

ross gardam oak light

Oh hello wonderful lights. Available in three finishes with black cord at Ross Gardam. Is August too early to send wishes to Santa?

Thursday, 30 August 2012

prints charming at spotlight

The very lovely Cath and Kirsten of Prints Charming have just launched their new collection at Spotlight stores in Australia. You can read more about their new drill fabrics in their beautiful designs here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

timber wall hooks

Have just ordered 5 grey and 2 yellow wall hooks from the very clever Margarita at Chocolate Creative for the new hall in the old house. Looking forward to the little parcel in the mail.

Monday, 27 August 2012

pretty pegs

As the project nears the end... and money is so very, very tight, I will need to compromise on a 3 seater sofa and IKEA will do the trick.

Pretty Pegs provide an alternative to the big lumps of timber (that IKEA offer as legs) and replace them with Pretty Pegs. Yay, instant update.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

touching base

It's been crazy and I can't believe how long it's been between posts, and just how much we've done. We worked like lunatics through June-July and finally moved into the completed section (new kitchen / dining / living / outdoor) at the end of July. The weather through that period was cold and miserable and at many points in the process we felt physically broken ... but just had to keep going and now it's all worth it.  It's absolutely beautiful and working so well. The Babes still keep saying "I love our new house" and we've even had a few lunches with friends and family to celebrate and enjoy the new space.

It's simple, un-precious, spacious and easy. We're within budget (maybe even a smidge under... but of course we're not finished yet) and feeling so happy with all the decisions along the way. "Beautiful on a budget" was our mantra and whilst it does look a little homemade in parts - we're hoping that it adds character (?!).

Still lots of little bits to finish from Stage 1 but we're cracking on with Stage 2 (as of last week). The old house now looks like demolition site, the old kitchen floor down to bare dirt and all the new openings cut through brick walls with new brick walls filling the old ones. All sleeping in one room with mattresses all over the floor, it's dusty and horrible and chaos again but I LOVE the reconfiguration. Making a central hall down the middle of the old cottage looks better than I even imagined, it's given our dinky little dark house a sense of grandeur (grandeur in a relative kind of way!) and the new bedrooms still feel generous in size. I didn't think I could be happy in so much dust... but maybe we're just getting used to it.

Time remains scarce so I won't wax lyrical about it all now but I promise, promise, promise to post some photos soon. Thank you lovely friends and sister overseas for your lovely emails of support and encouragement... and yes... photos when it's not so filthy and still resembling a storage unit!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

the white choice

"The first of all single colours is white ... We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness." Leonardo Da Vinci

At long last we are putting white paint on the walls... the days of decorating have finally arrived and just in time for my sanity.

It has been lovely talking through the subtleties of white with the Babes. When we were down to the final 3 white swatches on the walls Babe 2 pointed to one and immediately decided "Not that one. It looks like it's been dropped in a muddy puddle and then rinsed off" - so it was out with the grey-white, she was right.

Babe 1 pointed to the yellow-white swatch and decided "Not that one". When I asked why she replied, in that 9-going-on-10-you-have-no-idea-mum-tone "It's called Princess Bling". I still forget that overnight all things princess have gone out of style. It was obviously no reflection on the quality of the colour though as I suspect had I changed the name to One Direction Denim it would have won hands down.

postcript... I have gone with Resene Alabaster - a bit Nordic snowy landscape, a bit art gallery white - and I love it. Just love it.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

light at the end of the tunnel

It's been night and day renovating these past weeks. Plastering, painting, tiling and preparing the floors for the engineered boards. We're at that point in Grand Designs when Kevin McCloud ponders "I just can't believe that they're going to get it done on time and on budget"... and the truth is, neither can we!

The Lovely One has been doing 16 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday and I work the 5 hours that the Babes are at school and then try for a 7.30-10.30pm session after they go to bed. My sweet mum has offered her services as labourer - sweeping and cleaning everything a couple of times a week (and a clean building site is so much better for our sanity... she seems to sneak in a bit of time in the laundry as well which is also so, so helpful, and of course it means the girls have clean school uniforms).

Other than the food parcels - which mum, my sister and mother in law have all delivered - we're eating pretty badly and the old house is actually now disgusting it's so dusty and full of boxes and fixtures that keep being delivered but can't yet be fitted, so they sit in the living room in more boxes.

However... we're hoping to finish Stage One (kitchen, living, dining) in 4 weeks and we can endure the mess until then. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be shining brightly enough now that it can blur out the chaos in it's glare.

Monday, 14 May 2012

just plain busy

Flat out now. Any time spent not working or child minding is spent building. The Lovely One is putting up the Gyprock sheets and I'm following close behind plastering - and like most things in a renovation - it's taking longer than we hoped. We're trying to finish the kitchen/living/dining by July 1 (the start of the next school holidays) and leaving everything else to the latter 6 months of the year.

We're both very focussed and when we're in the thick of it we still seem to be able to laugh about it all... so I think we're still on track. However I am constantly reminded that a self-build is never as romantic as you think it will be. Just have to keep the overall vision and then do the hard work, it's all just hard work in the end.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

prints charming workshops at koskela

I did a screen printing course with the gorgeous girls at Prints Charming about 3 years ago and have never looked back - I've been addicted ever since. They're now running workshops at Koskela in Sydney throughout June.

If you're interested in paper cut screen printing, embroidery or kids classes, you can email Koskela at or Prints Charming at for more info on dates and times. Their classes are incredibly popular... so hurry!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

crossing the ocean

'You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.' Christopher Columbus

I think for the first time I can see the new shore! This weekend we started plaster-boarding the walls - and now we can see some of the walls in place for the first time.

Survival through this journey has meant I've needed to be incredibly detail and task focussed, because if I ever looked too closely at the big picture I became entirely overwhelmed and quickly got back to 'one step at a time' mode. So it's been a big leap for me to finally step back and take it all in - to really see just what a big project it has been for a tight-budget mostly DIY - and I feel really, really amazed, really surprised, really happy and really quite courageous.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

poppies to remember

... just how fortunate we are.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

cellar door awards

Our very special friends Pete and Hannah Logan's Cellar Door has been nominated as one of four finalists in the very prestigious 2012 Gourmet Traveller Awards. If you'd like to lend your support you can add your Vote Here or find out more about delicious Logan wines at their website. Good luck lovelies, we have our fingers and toes crossed.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

drawstring purse

Simple and lovely. See how to create these sweet little purses over at Between the Lines.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

unexpected surprises

There is much of the renovation journey that can be predicted. I have imagined this extension for several years so much of it is about realising the vision of the spaces, the structure, the furnishings, the light. There is also much about renovating that is unpredictable and annoying, like rock where you want to excavate and sand where you want to lay a concrete slab, dodgy steel frames that and need to be constantly worked around, rain and more rain slowing the whole process down.

...and then there are the unexpected surprises...

Monday, 16 April 2012

more timber floors

A few friends have asked me to expand on the finding a timber floor adventure so some thoughts follow...

I have already waxed lyrical about Tongue n Groove - Sydney in a previous post, however another discovery is a  beautiful supplier in Melbourne - Royal Oak Floors by Harper & Sandilands (pic above). I particularly love their smoked floors and they have gorgeous stair nosing (if stair nosings are your thing?!).

Another incredibly helpful supplier is Havwoods, they have a comprehensive website and can deliver direct. They have a huge range from pale to dark and their Europlank collection is a more affordable option.

Of course already familiar to most is Porter's Paints who also have a range of wide boards in lots of new colours from white, through natural and grey to black. Always beautiful.

Monday, 2 April 2012

quiet hearts

'There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it' Minnie Aumonier

I have let life get too noisy lately... or was that the power tools? So today as I rather deliriously roughed in the electrical cables (only 5 hours sleep as Babe2 was up half the night vomiting) I looked beyond the construction site and realised that the Magnolias and Gardenias have not noticed the chaos, the scheduling and the dust... they are in glorious lemon-scented bloom all over the garden and I have been too lost in the noise to notice.

Hello garden, I miss you.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

easter eggs

I think the Babes and I might get out the paints and decorate these beautiful wooden eggs for Easter this year. Check them out with some other Easter ideas over at Blank.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

hello lovely timber floors

My sister and I have been searching 'pale timber floors' for a full year now, and despite a vast search we could never really find quite the right one. It's not just about the right colour but also the right board width, depth and length plus whether or not you like bevelled edges and which texture is right.

Then Andrea from Tongue n Groove walks into my life (though technically I guess I walked into hers) and I discover a world where floor people think like me! Then I realise after a week of a fair few renovation lows that happiness really can come in the simplest of things - a pale timber floor.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

still on the grey theme...

I love these reproduction encaustic tiles from Jatana Interiors for a bathroom or foyer floor.  However now I'm wondering if the ones below might be an alternative to the concrete kitchen splashback I've been imagining....

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

finding your inner author

Part of Babe 2's homework this week was to write a story using Storybird. They had authored a 'group' story in class and she couldn't wait to get home and create one of her own.

You can either upload your own images or choose from a huge collection of illustrations to inspire and direct your plot lines. She wrote a fabulous adventure 'The Happy Ending' about a couple of rabbits (excerpt above).

You can then publish the story online or buy a fully bound print version through the website. A great tool if you've had a story in your head waiting to be published or if you're looking for some inspiration to start one.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


'Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity'. Albert Einstein

I got lost in the clutter this week.

The to do list got too long, the mess too great, the decisions too rapid (and often not right) and the money running out. So this morning we did a massive cleanup and a trip to the tip - which always seems to helps my morale. The sarking is being hammered on as we speak and things are looking a bit brighter.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

the link

'At first glance it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again'.
Mary Anne Rodmacher

Today they have broken through the back wall of the house to join up the new extension and the old house... and I feel all wobbly. Somehow living through it all up until now, project managing every step, it's always been a separate project happening in the backyard, kind of separate from family life. Of course I've had complete nightmare days and many bits have gone wrong along the way, but over all it's just been one big problem solving exercise, made up of daily smaller problem solving exercises. Then (almost) suddenly there's this massive structure of steel and timber and concrete behind us ... and the cladding is soon to be added to take it to 'lock-up'.

However all the while we've still been grooving along in our little 2 bedroom cottage, living the life. So today, as I packed up the last of the toys into plastic boxes and the inevitable plumes of dust broke into the house I stood there thinking "Oh ... this is it ... this is the real deal ... now there's really no turning back"... and now I'm all wobbly.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

koskela's new store

I first met Russel Koskela and Sasha Titchkosky in 2000 through my lovely friends Deb and Thomas. One lunchtime, Deb took me to visit Russel and Sasha at their new studio in a small upstairs Surry Hills warehouse - Koskela had been born. It was a small space with a few of the incredibly beautiful new pieces they had designed and they were both embarking on a complete life change and an amazing new adventure. At the time, we had only wandered a few streets from our Surry Hills office for the visit but in terms of adventures, I felt as though I had walked onto another planet.  I was in the depths of exhausting corporate culture at Boston Consulting Group back then and these guys were living a wonderful, creative dream... I was smitten.

Now... all these years later... they have grown and grown and have now opened retail paradise. The Design Files has a wonderful write up about their latest venture (and Briar also has some photo's over at Sunday Collector)... smitten, smitten, smitten.

Images from


Have you heard about the Mend project and the beautiful tote bags they create? It's a collaboration with the makers on Inkodye (a fantastic light sensitive fabric printing dye) to help women in Northern Uganda. Every handbag made at Mend has a story and each product carries the name of the seamstress who made it. You can read all about it at Mend.

Monday, 13 February 2012

loving bemz - slip covers for IKEA furniture

Inspired by my mum's search for a cover for an old - very grandchildren loved - IKEA sofa, I came across Bemz. Heaven for IKEA shoppers, they ship internationally and they have perfect white cotton and some great linens in both form fitting and loose fitting styles. Check it out at Bemz.

Friday, 10 February 2012


If you're in Sydney and renovating a bathroom I have to recommend the Tile Factory Outlet. It's absolutely worth the trip to Smithfield. I went yesterday and organised the tiles for the first small bathroom for half the price offered by the tile shop (even with trade discount). 300x300mm Mono coal floor tile for $19m2 and 300x600mm white gloss wall tile for $13 m2.

Now I can justify using the money I've saved to spend on some of these beautiful Orla Kiely bath towel's.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


We have decided on an engineered, lightly limewashed oak floor for the kitchen/living/dining (above right) that I can purchase direct from the manufacturer and we can install ourselves which will make it much more affordable. So now I need to choose the carpet for the stairs and downstairs living room. I prefer darker carpet in high traffic areas - it shows white fluff but hides all the splodgy stains that kids and a dog deliver. So I went to the carpet shop with my mind wide open to possibilities and despite best efforts to explore all the new options... I just kept coming back to the carpet we had in our last houses in Surry Hills and Randwick (see Cavalier Bremworth loop pile left)... though I also liked the plush pile in the same colour (see middle). So... is this good because I obviously know what I like and I should just go with it? Or... is this bad that I'm boring and staid and need to branch out? Or... perhaps more importantly... are there far more significant things happening in the world that I should be worrying about!

Monday, 6 February 2012

dunlin home

I am trying not to buy any beautiful objects at the moment... all funds are going into steel, timber, concrete blocks and insulation... but I have to mention a beautiful new Sydney online shop, Dunlin Home... full of beautiful objects... there's no harm in browsing!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Despite the rain, we're making progress and the living pavillion is taking shape.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

crafty kids

I love to make Christmas presents for all the grandparents with the girls - even when the end result may not turn out entirely as planned - I believe that the creative journey is important.

This year for Christmas we did some kid friendly screen printing on calico bags and they were splendid.

Using screens, squeegies and fabric paints (even with small talented crafters like our girls) is always a fairly messy business, so this version of printing is much easier. Just take ordinary self-adhesive contact paper and using a utility knife cut out any shapes you like (the flowers where inspired by Kikki-K and the dots were an easy option). Then remove the cut shapes and stick the contact onto a plain calico bag (t-shirt, tea-towel or whatever) and using a sponge and fabric paint get the kids to sponge colour into the open areas (you can also use a paintbrush). They can be as messy as they like because when it's completely dry, you just peel off the contact paper and viola, beautiful crisp screen-print like edges.... more importantly the look on their faces as they peel back the sticky contact to reveal the final design is a Christmas present in itself!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

palm springs

We continue to laugh that we chose one of the coldest and rainiest summers on record to build our new pool! Nevertheless, on the rare occasions when the sun has visited we have loved visiting our beautiful new pool. I was going for the Palm Springs 1940's aesthetic and am so, so happy with the outcome.