Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Real fabulous shopping

Uber-quick post today as incredibly busy attempting to write a gazillion things for the real living site for Monday. And have serious baby brain which is not helping! But, the whole reason I've had to rush this month's website upload is because I had to look after the magazine's new baby: real shopping. Have you visited yet? It's like a mini online department store with homewares, accessories like bags and jewellery, kids clothing and Christmassy stuff you can shop at 24/7 and have delivered FREE to your home. It's still in its early days - we will keep adding cool stuff as soon as we find it - but I've already spent waaay too much time on there (ok, part of the reason was because I had to write the product descriptions, proof the site and this meant re-reading every page at least three times. Not saying there are NO mistakes, but hopefully the damage if minimal!) and have a little list of things I want to buy. Here are my faves and if you haven't had a look yet, jump on - it's great for Chrissy shopping. An added bonus is you won't get blisters on your feet from walking around the shops ALL DAY!

Slighty obsessed with this gorgeous leather bag. $262

For Zakky and a potentially blue-themed Christmas this year. $24.95

Too small for me, so Zak gets to have! $24.95

Bright and cheery for the deck! $169

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Someone else's trash is...

Well, still trash. But it can become treasure with a little effort. I used to laugh at people who'd enthusiastically rummage through my council clean-up pile five minutes after we'd finish lugging it onto the street (do these people have the council's booking sheets or something? How do they know?) And then, one day walking past someone else's, Steve and I saw this chair.

BEFORE: The chair's third look since moving into the Graham household

We stopped for a few seconds while I checked its potential and then walked on. I basically wanted it but refused to be the one to steal it. So in the cover of darkness, my husband, my hero, went back and grabbed it for me.
It was originally a dark wood frame with velvet green seat. After a while, I decided I'd paint it gold with a pinkish jacquard fabric seat. I don't quite know why I figured gold would be a good idea, but I had fun with the spraycan (turning the grass gold in the process!) and then staple-gunned the fabric on. It looked a bit cheap, so sat covered in clothes in our bedroom for around six months before I painted it white while trying to use up the excess from Zak's shelves. I think I just made it look worse, so I went back to my original plan that got lost somewhere in my goldrush phase: to paint it glossy black with a black and white fabric. And here is the result.

AFTER: A lick of glossy paint and cool black and white fabric can do wonders
Now I love it and it sits proudly in my loungeroom. Not that it can really be used for a seat... the springs aren't in the best condition, but for the cost of the fabric (US$7.95 - I already had the black paint) I think it's a great little feature.
My other attempt at a council clean-up raid wasn't as successful. A lounge frame I thought would make a brilliant daybed for my deck literally fell apart when Steve tried to move it so I could start staining it. And this was after I spent DAYS sanding it back. I guess that's why they put it in the chuck pile! I've since gone back to giggling at the people who pull up with their trailers as soon as the junk hits the sidewalk and wonder what on earth they're going to do with a three-legged chair, a Roman blind that's been slashed from a broken window and an ant-infested fridge with broken drawers, shelves and virtually no side as the only way we could get it onto the street was to push it 150metres along the gravel ground!
Just in case anyone cares, I'll attempt to caption things like we do in the magazine. So... Madison fabric in Black/White, US$7.95/yard, from www.fabric.com (awesome site - particulaly if you love Amy Butler as it's really cheap). Living with Deborah Hutton Easy Art Timber Frames, $7.99 (small) and $10.99 (large), from Kmart. The large print I left as bought, the smaller ones I filled myself.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Black, white and cool all over

For all the kids out there obsessed with Happy Feet
Not only is black and white a perfect pair in decorating, it's been proven they're the most stimulating colours for young babies, due to the huge contrast in colours. So, when decorating the nursery, buying first toys or books, it's wise to banish the pink and blue for the first few months and stick to black and white.
A reader, Dani, alerted me to a great blog by a Canadian artist and designer who's come up with her own adorable pictures that she's letting anyone download - for free - to pin up in their own nursery. Which is just so nice of her, I had to share so her work is appreciated all round!

Definitely need to do a monkey for my own monkey

Let's pretend it's an echidna!

I know I'll be printing out my own and framing them for my son's room - not just cause they're so cool, but because I actually have to make it newborn-baby-friendly again as am pregnant with my second child! Maybe I should rename this blog renovate, decorate and procreate?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

My floor - before and after

Super exciting post this one - about floors. But if you've ever ripped up carpet expecting to find lovely floorboards underneath ready for a light sand and polish, but instead discovered rotting rubber moulded into the floor and just a lot of hard work, you'll know where I'm coming from in terms of whoo-hooness.
When we first moved in, my husband, Steve, spent a whole week covered in dust removing spray-on concrete-like stuff from the ceiling in our living and kitchen area. This landed - not surprisingly - on the floor (and all over him!), so rather than vacuuming it up and waiting to do the floors, we figured we'd rip up the carpet, dust and all, and live with bare floorboards for a few weeks until we found the time to give them a polish. Unfortunately, the carpet was kitchen carpet which was rubber-backed and GLUED all over the floor. So while the carpet came up, the rubber did not and no amount of elbow grease, industrial solvents or machines would get the black out - huge parts of it had moulded into the wood, making it look rotten. It was so much hard work, we just gave up and concentrated on other parts of the house. For three and a half years. I figured we'd come back to it when we found something dark enough to cover it...

BEFORE: After years of sanding and scraping, this is the best we got the floor looking.

BEFORE: A lovely close up to show how it really looks!

Then I discovered Feast Watson Black Japan while editing an article in real living. It's a really dark stain - practically black - and would be perfect to cover the patchy floor. It goes on like a dream - gliding over the sanded floor with one of those sheepskin applicators and dried surprisingly quickly. We followed with the top coat and said good riddance to the hideous floor beneath it and hello to dark, shiny floorboards.

AFTER: Much, much better!

Pros: Obviously dark enough to cover our bad floor, it's a great colour for all interior styles and easy to apply.
Cons: Unfortunately because it is like a paint, it wears away easily and high traffic areas will need to be redone more often than normal. It's made more obvious as well because it's so dark, so the contrast between the new stain and what was underneath stands out more. That said, it's entirely possible this is just our stupid floor or our application! And it didn't help that the workmen from the bathroom renovation scuffed it up a bit with all their heavy materials and shoes...
Overall: It's an incredible improvement on what we had before and we love it.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Supernatural chair

I think I love this chair. I say I think because I'm still trying to work out if it's really cool and funky or really ugly. It's really quite bizarre how two very different feelings about something can also be so borderline. And so trivial - I mean it's a CHAIR! But, it is very different, which is probably what makes it so hard to come to a definite decision.

Supernatural chair, $89 (RRP $180), Matt Blatt

I considered buying two to sit at either end of my dining table which is paired with two benches, but my husband said he'd rather one more as a decorational chair, which would work. It'd also be great to get a couple because it's weather resistant and made of moulded plastic, so would be great on the deck and very handy as extra seating. The sweetener is that it's currently only $89 from Matt Blatt, except that ends today. Doh! From then, it's $180. But I have noticed Matt Blatt often rotate their specials, so I might just wait until it's on sale again - maybe by then I'll have made up my mind! What do you think? Love? Hate?

Friday, 19 October 2007

homemade window film

I discovered Emma Jeffs' Adhesive Window Films in my internet travels and thought it the perfect solution for one of my bedroom windows that is neither private nor pleasant to look through. But after discovering it's not only hard to find here, but quite expensive for the tiny space I'd be using it for, I thought about other options.

The original and best - Emma Jeffs Otto Adhesive Window Film.

Then I was in Lincraft one day and found some plastic table runners that I thought would do the job nicely! For a couple of bucks a metre, I simply cut it to fit, then stuck it on the window with one of those spay-on adhesives. (I haven't taken it off yet, so not sure how ruined the actual glass is by the adhesive!?) Considering I got change from $5, I think it looks a bit of alright!

My version: plastic daisy runner from Lincraft, about $2 a metre

Detail shot: a bit more privacy and much better view than the neighbour's Colorbond fence!

In Bunnings the other day, I also found rolls of plain frosted window adhesive for about $5 - another great option if you have windows that look out onto nothing exciting or for rooms such as bathroom where you want to let light in but not peeping eyes!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

sneaky style inspiration

I'm a little obsessed with checking out interiors - in magazines, in movies and TV shows (I bought The Break Up DVD for Jennifer Aniston's character's apartment. And wardrobe. Oh, and hair...) And I'm sure my nearby homeowners sick and tired of my very obvious attempts to peek at their luxe living rooms and spacious decks on my daily walk along the waterfront reserve they face. But I've found another way to satisfy my interior cravings: real estate websites. Aussie sites like domain.com.au and realestate.com.au are great for local inspiration, but I'm in love with the incredibly lush Hamptons homes and New York lofts at corcoran.com and the pretty English homes at primelocation.com. It's a great way to indulge in a posh life for a few minutes, make note of unique ideas or fab furniture and most of all, be inspired by truly magnificent properties featuring the best money can buy. Even if you know you'll never be able to afford the contents of the home, let alone the building itself, it's great eye candy and source of inspiration. Just print your fave pics and add to your dream home scrapbook... Or is it just me who does that?
Love how this room looks real and lived in but still eclectically stylish

The trifecta: hair, dress, house - perfect!

Tip: Look for the posh areas of major cities - anything in Sydney, Eastern suburbs and Northern Beaches; London's Notting Hill, Hampstead or Belgravia and New York's Greenwich Village, Tribeca and The Hamptons. I want a house in the Hamptons. More specifically, I want Gwyneth Paltrow's house in the Hamptons. Quite surprisingly, given how she's always on about her privacy, she opened the doors of her summer home to American House & Garden. And it's perfect - there are a heap of style pointers to steal. And to my delight I noticed a few tiny similarities to my own style: the lamp in the bedroom (my version is the Freedom Bolero), use of graphic black and white fabric on an occasional chair and an ottoman in a Signature Prints fabric I had put on my list-of-must-buys after seeing it in the November issue of real living! Stretching the comparisons, I know, but I did feel a little smug at my "Gwynethness"! You can check all the images at House & Garden's site. Or for a heap of brilliant behind the scenes pics and a bit of gossip, check out the very cool Habitually Chic. Wish I had those contacts!

The bright and breezy living room

I want everything in this room. (except the shoes - have a pair already!)

Love contrast of dark wallpaper and bright white

Perfect! I could live right here...

PS: real living is launching an online department store in just a few more sleeps. You can buy great gifts for your friends and family, your kids, yourself and your home from October 23. The address is realshopping.com.au, but you can read all about it at our website. I already have a list of things to buy once it goes live (shh, don't tell my husband!)

bathroom reno: finished!

OK, so my tiler didn't die, but he did quit! Nice, huh? He rocks up for work on the Monday at about 10am, tells me there's a problem with money (um, don't agree to do it then?!) and that he's finishing today. Then waltzes off, leaving me open-mouthed, teary-eyed and completely peeved. What the heck am I supposed to do now? Not impressed. Of course what annoyed me the most was my inability to go off at him. I just nodded and shrugged my shoulders as if to say "oh well, these things happen" while in my head I was screaming at him and chaining him to my half-completed bathroom and refusing to let him leave until he finished tiling it. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
I made a frantic call to Jeff - who was also completely horrified - and in a few hours he had organised someone to have a look the next morning. He can't do it, but his mate can - on Thursday. So I'm a few days behind yet again, but Colin is my hero, turns up, asks what I want done and not only says "no problem, whatever you want", but also says "oh that'd look great"!!! whoo hoo - no more grumpy tiler. Three days later I have a beautifully tiled bathroom. Then the plumber and electrician pop back in, put in the fittings and the final touches and it's DONE!

I love the earthy feel to the room.

The mosaics that caused so much drama for my grumpy tiler

Cool towel rack and shelf in one - from Howard's Storage World

The loo, tucked away behind the door!

I love it. It's a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be, and bizarely, seems bigger than it did when there was nothing in it! Go figure! Anyway, it's all done and I'm just thrilled. Just needs a cost of paint now (and, the showerscreen hadn't been put in when these pics were taken). And I didn't really go over budget. All up, the bathroom cost under $9000. Awesome!

Bathroom renovation days 9, 10, 11

My tiler is DEAD! He didn't turn up for work, I didn't hear a peep from him, and as he told me two days earlier "If I don't turn up for work on Wednesday, I'm dead", what else am I meant to think? You'd think so too, right? I was actually feeling really bad for him and was making all sorts of panicky phone calls to Jeff, wondering if he'd heard anything. Turns out, he DID turn up, only my gates were closed so he assumed I wasn't home. He left a business card, but seeing as I didn't leave the house all day waiting for him to call or turn up, I didn't see it. Anyway, he came the next day and did the second coat of waterproofing. And would have laid the concrete floor the next day, but it wasn't dry so we got delayed yet another day. So far, we've been pushed back three days. That's three extra days without a shower. Thankfully, Steve's parents live nearby. And we've also made good use of the indoor swimming pool down the road! And I'm so, so glad we have another indoor toilet - I certainly didn't fancy using the outhouse, which is really now just the spiderhouse...

Bathroom renovation days 6, 7 & 8

Slowly getting there...

Our walls have chicken pox!

Well, our lovely plasterer sealed up all the cracks and crevices beautifully, but then the tiler popped around to see what had to be done and I began to think my good luck with tradespeople had run out. First of all, he grumbled about the size of the room, told me he charged more for the floor tiles and mosaic feature tiles, then proceeded to tell me how difficult it would be to do my feature tiles. Um, are you or are you not, a TILER? Seriously, all I want is for a few mosaics to be placed between the top of the vanity and the bottom of the mirror. Now, you'd think this was a common thing, but obviously not. He didn't get it "you want the tiles as a border around the room?" NO "You want the tiles as a border around the mirror?" NO! Gosh, I had to find a picture from a catalogue of something similar and then he told me "well, that's going to be a real pain and will just have to fit in with my rows." Hmmm, I think he was the real pain...

My builder and I rolled eyes after he left - he hadn't worked with this guy before and apologised, saying he hoped he wasn't going to be a problem. He couldn't believe his attitude and said I should be able to get what I want. I agree. The most annoying thing about all this was I spent the whole weekend attempting to work out how I could possibly make the feature work around "his rows" and even did the one thing I hate most in the world - maths - to try and make it as easy as possible for him.

So, Grumpy turns up on Monday morning and proceeds to waterproof the bathroom. He doesn't make eye contact with my husband, Steve, refuses to even look at Zak who is doing everything in his power to get his attention, and finished off saying if he doesn't turn up on Wednesday, he's dead (he was having minor surgery on the Tuesday). After he's gone, Steve mentions he doesn't trust him and I nod. I think Zak has good sense of character too, because the whole day he was whingy! Quite a contrast to everyone else who's worked on our bathroom - most of them have even scored extra work out of us. I spoke to electrician about a couple of things, the plumber is going to fix my leaky kitchen taps and the plasterer smoothed out a few other walls we messed up when moving windows around. So to have Grumpy so, grumpy, is quite the change...

Friday, 12 October 2007

My silhouette family!

My family in silhouette form. Zak looks like Casper!

After seeing this in a mag months ago, I finally got around to making my own little silhouette family! Only now, what I thought was rather unique is HUGE! Silhouettes are everywhere - check out this month's real living mag, there are silhouettes in several features. Anyhow, I still think it's rather cool having my family displayed in some way other than the usual photographs. And, it's so easy, I thought I'd share with you how to do it.

1. Take a photo of your subject's profile (from the side).
2. Print out on normal paper (don't want to waste precious photo paper!)
3. Using tracing paper, tissue paper or even baking paper, trace around profile with a pencil.
4. Turn the traced outline face down onto a piece of cardboard.
5. Retrace the outline with a pencil, or gently rub over the pencil, and the profile will imprint into the cardboard.
6. Cut around the cardboard outline, turn over (so any pesky pencil marks are turned over) and stick onto constrasting cardboard.
7. Frame and display.
8. Admire!

Dandi ironing board covers

While doing some research for a laundry feature I'm writing for an upcoming issue of real living magazine (http://www.reallivingmag.com.au/), I came across these funky ironing board covers from Dandi for $39.95. Even the most boring domestic items can be spruced up!

Dandi Geo ironing board in Duckegg Blue, $39.95

Also check out there gorgeous Pini aprons - a few Christmas' ago, I bought my nana and I matching ones in Olive Branch Chocolate ($29.95). She was baking on Christmas morning and forgot to take it off when she went to dinner at my cousin's place. She only realised when my aunty commented on how pretty her dress was - and it was actually the apron. How funny!

Dandi Olive Branch Pini apron in Chocolate, $29.95. There is a matching one for mini mes!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair

Zak's highchair has finally arrived and I had to share how cool it is. I wanted to avoid a plastic highchair, so looked around for wooden ones and this was my fave: the Stokke Tripp Trapp. It's quite expensive ($299 just for chair; $69.95 for babyset) so I ordered it while on sale at David Jones a few weeks ago and scored 10% off. So I put it together (I'm the handyman in our household; I rock at putting flat-pack furniture together) and Zak took to it immediately - even without a cushion! He already realises this is his dinner chair and gets rather impatient if I haven't shovelled some food into his mouth immediately after sitting him in it!

The great thing about this chair is it grows with your child - the grooves run the length of the legs, which means you can adjust the seat and foot rest to fit your baby/child - even you, as the Tripp Trapp can hold up to 100kgs. I've even heard a rumour that this is the chair all staff at Stokke have at work, which is good to hear they believe in their product! It's made of really smooth, stained wood which is so easy to wipe down, is very stylish and comes in a huge range of colours from bright orange and turquoise to white and various stains of wood - I chose the walnut.
The good news is, Babies Galore is having a huge storewide sale, starting today (Saturday, July 21) and the Tripp Trapp and its accessories are all on sale - for 10% off! There are also a heap of other bargains between 10 and 30% off, so if you're pregnant or a mum, hit the shops now some bargains or shop online at http://www.babiesgalore.com.au/

Bathroom reno - days 3, 4 & 5

Well, it's starting to take shape - our plumber, Trent, set up all the plumbing, electrician Col organised the wires for our heater/light/fan thingy and the walls are now back on. And the bath is in its new home.

New pipes for the shower/bath

The bath is in. Can't wait to use it

It suddenly looks tiny again, so I really hope once all the fittings are in it isn't too small for us... Jeff has also rebuilt the wall with the door in the middle, so it's looking like a room, not just a big, dark hole. My plan is to use the new nook created outside the bathroom as a small office area. I'll pop a linen cupboard in the corner and run a narrow desk the length of the wall for my computer and paperwork. Don't believe it'll fit? Wait and see...

The new nook created on the outside will become my "office"
It has walls! Starting to look like a real room again

Bathroom reno - day two

The big gaping hole that's to be our bathroom. Can't quite imagine it just yet...

Lots more banging and mess today as Jeff ripped out the door and walls and left a huge big gaping hole - which then proceeded to let in ALL the freezing cold air into our warm lounge room. But I can handle a few cold draughts for a new bathroom. He jackhammered the tiles up which made a fair bit of noise at 8am and made sleeping in a bit difficult, but again, I'm not complaining, just reporting! It's hard to imagine the finished product when the room looks like this - I hope my vision comes off in reality...

Bathroom reno - day one

It looks better already!

Once everything was bought and delivered, Jeff, our builder, came to the rescue and ripped out the bathroom’s insides - bye bye tiles, walls, ceiling, floor. Bye-bye showers also - we’re living here during the renovation without a shower which isn’t great, but has to be done. Luckily, the in-laws are not far away… Banging, crashing, dust everywhere - it’s not the quietest place to live, but Zak doesn’t seem to mind. He finds it all hilarious and spends a lot of his day craning his neck from his floor mat, trying to check out the progress. By the end of the day, we have an empty shell with a gaping hole in the wall (barely covered with a piece of plywood). I’m a little nervous about the wind picking up again (it’s a whole two days after the major June storms), but the plywood sticks through the night and rain stays away. Phew.

The bathroom - from drab to fab (hopefully!)

FINALLY, we’re starting our bathroom renovation. I’m thrilled. I’ve hated this room the most since we moved in. It’s tiny - barely enough room for half a person, let alone two! It had lovely (that’s sarcasm) sunflower tiles which I had to paint over when we moved in cause I couldn’t handle them, a window that doesn’t close, no exhaust fan (just an old vented ceiling covered in some spray-on concrete-like stuff) and a super-heavy door that also won’t close because it’s back is tiled?!!? Who does that? Weird.

Before: drab and falling apart vanity

The linen cupboard takes up most of the room! It's going

The huge shower will be replaced with a bath/shower combo

The PC items (I don’t actually know what PC stands for, but that’s your loo, vanity, shower etc) are just a vanity and a shower. A linen cupboard takes up a huge chunk of the room, so whoever designed it didn’t make the most of the space. There’s no toilet. That’s in the old garage which was converted into a bedroom and is on the other side of the house. And no bath. I LOVE baths and was devastated to leave my old claw-foot bath in our other house when we moved.

I made up several plans and was actually surprised when the builder said it was doable - we’re going to fit a bath, shower, toilet and vanity in the tiny 1.8m by 2.2m space. Ok, so the shower and bath are combined, but still…

Tip: If you’re clueless about where to start a renovation, call your local hardware store or trade centre (like a plumbing place) and ask them for recommendations.

SHOP TIL I DROP Before any building can be done, I’ve got to organise my PC items so I shop, shop and shop some more for tiles, towel rails, a toilet, bath, vanity, taps… Don’t feel you need to head immediately to the nearest bathroom renovation centre. Hardware stores sell a lot of the PC items (Bunnings rocks), BIG W sells taps and mirrors; and Howard’s Storage World has great towel rails and bits and bobs. I was happy to spend on the vanity and taps, but for everything else, I was happy to buy the cheapest piece to fit the space. In the end, I spent up big at Bunnings on the wall tiles, taps, toilet, bath, exhaust fan and vanity. I bought some feature mosaics for $10 each at Amber Tiles (on sale - bargain) and the floor tiles from CTM. I also ordered a window and frameless mirror.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Zak's room, before & after

When we fell pregnant last year, we figured we better actually finish a room! So I spent a LONG time emptying out the spare room of, well, crap, and spent even more time getting the walls ready to paint. When we moved in, almost every wall was covered in wood veneer (which is actually having a revival at the moment, but there’s no way I was keeping this stuff!). Underneath the veneer were very bad walls: cracks, holes, chipping plaster - some even had several layers of wallpaper, each layer worse than the one before it.

Before: bad wallpaper and cracked walls.

Luckily, the room that was to be the baby’s (who was born in November and is named Zak) was the best of a bad bunch so with a little help from my father-in-law, Cliff, we had the ancient carpet ripped up and walls prepped, primed and painted in a few days. Of course, as is Murphy’s Law - the one area of the house we wanted to re-carpet had beautiful boards; the space we wanted to sand and polish was a disaster, but that’s another story…
I didn’t want to go too crazy with baby colours - we didn’t know what the sex was going to be and I’m not into majorly decorated kids rooms anyway, so earthy and airy was what I was after. We went for Dulux Whisper White for three walls and the ceiling and painted the only full wall a neutral feature colour - Porter’s Paints Donkey Grey.

After: with a greyish brown feature wall and white furniture.

I was lucky enough to score a relatively new cot for free, my sister’s boyfriend lent me his own baby wardrobe and my mum’s rocking chair would come in handy nursing and rocking baby to sleep. All I bought was a chest of drawers for the change mat and some cheapie bookshelves for $20 each from The Reject Shop (of all places!) which I painted white - several times. That laminate stuff really soaks up paint! I really wanted the IKEA Lack cubed bookshelf but I’d already bought one for the living room and another $269 was better off spent elsewhere. Like on my pram, which was really the only expensive thing I bought. I splurged on the Bugaboo Cameleon and yes, it’s ridiculously expensive at $1499, but I personally think it’s worth it. And I got it on sale. That’s the trick to buying baby stuff. You’re pregnant for so long, you get to take advantage of at least one major sale throughout the year. And most department stores have huge annual baby sales or expos which is a great opportunity to grab everything on your list at a reduced price. Also, if you buy a whole heap of nursery gear from the same store, ask if they’ll give you a discount - it works sometimes!
On the shopping-for-baby topic, I wrote a Bringing Home Baby article for the June issue of real living and some of the extra info is online at the website. So check out my essentials list at http://realliving.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=263139
Back to Zak’s room. Now that he’s here I’ve rearranged the room and am in the process of jazzing it up a little - pictures, decorative touches and personalising his space a little more - stay tuned.
I also have a tip: by placing the cot up against one (or two) interior walls, rather than an exterior wall, it’ll keep baby warmer in winter and cooler in summer. You really feel the cold/heat through a wall (especially if it’s not insulated like old houses often aren’t) and this helps a tiny bit.
And another: a shelf above the change table isn’t the most genius of ideas as I discovered when a little bottle of baby shampoo fell off and landed on Zak’s head. We both cried. He got over it, but I still kick myself.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

My (very) humble home

I’m almost embarrassed to say where I work. I mean, I LOVE my job, but when I say I work at real living magazine, I kinda feel like a fraud. Why, you ask? Well, because while I write about fabulous homes and decorating ideas and have a hand in their planning, my own place looks, sadly, like this (see below)

The original front door

The main bedroom.

Our kitchen from the living room.

OK, so we don’t really live like this (although there were a few days there…). This is actually the result of ripping out previous-owneritis - approximately 50 years worth of extremely bad planning, bizarre design and fittings obviously bought at The Hideously-Ugly Décor Shoppe. So while it doesn’t look like this all the time, the bedroom is, unfortunately, not too much better. Even after close to four years. Because living in the place you’re renovating while working full-time in what sometimes seems like another state, you don’t get very inspired to do hard labour in the few hours a week you have to yourself.
When my husband Steve suggested we buy our house I thought it was time to have him to committed. I figured he’d gone insane. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” I asked him. “Yep - look at all the potential,” he replied excitedly. Ahh potential. I’m all for it - see it in a lot of things. But in this case all I saw was hard work. And I’m not adverse to a little hard work. But this was going to be a LOT of hard work. We’d planned all along to get a house that we could make minor changes to to make our own. We wanted something near the water, with a big yard and near transport - seeing as we were going to be living 80km away from our jobs in the city, we needed it to be close to the train line. And he wanted to live here. With my nose turned up at the granny décor, neglected yard and shabby exterior, I exited stage left, figuring we’d continue our search. But then Steve started describing what we could do: move this door here, add a window there, put a deck on here, add a floor there for water views… and soon enough I too saw its potential and added my own suggestions: oooh we could paint it all white and add a deck and convert the cabin into a guest room and add French doors off the bedroom… Sold!
But like many renovators, our enthusiasm to strip, build, paint and polish started to slow and soon we found ourselves living with bare walls, unsanded floors and a mess that a dumpster manager would be proud of. Then we met a builder and got him to do some construction work and then fell pregnant and it was time to turn the spare junk room (we have a few junk rooms!) into a liveable space for a baby. So the reno began again. And it’s still going… I’ve been documenting what we’ve done and for some odd reason am sharing it with the world! But that’s kind of a good thing. For one thing, for those feeling down that their own renovation isn’t going to plan, it’s proof that creating a home take time, money and effort - and not everyone can dedicate their whole lives to doing it all in one hit. And not everyone can afford an interior designer to help either. So in case you thought the people behind magazines lived in fabulous homes with designer furniture or follow trends to the letter, this may come as a delight or disappointment, but we don’t. Not all anyway. And certainly not me. I AM the real living reader. I’ve a young family, have to balance work and home time, I need inspiration for my home, I have too many ideas and not enough time to put them into practice… Sound familiar? So, we’re in the same boat. Hopefully my own trial and error will somehow help you with your own. And please, feel free to share your stories.


Welcome to my blog! It’s only 18 months late. I’m very good at procrastinating, as I’m sure you’ll discover… I’m also good at changing my mind. I thought blogs were just another sad internet craze worsening our ability to get outside and do things and communicate effectively, but then I discovered some good ones in my internet travels and got a little inspired to set up my own. I might even help someone somewhere, somehow! Basically, I’ll share any tips and tricks I learn during my own home renovation and from my experience working at real living magazine. My colleagues are a bunch of interior design, shopping and decorating gurus whose wisdom on such matters should be shared with those of us setting up home or simply wanting to improve the look and feel of a space. So think of this as your stop for renovation tips, great stores and product reviews, sales, projects and other great sources of inspiration related to turning your own home into a cosy haven - easily, stylishly and as cheaply as possible! And, because I’m a recent addition to the motherhood club, I’ve become all baby obsessed and might talk about that for a bit too - bear with me, please, I’ll make sure that’s somehow interesting to you too, by sharing cool websites or baby-related shopping sites. I’ll also be posting behind the scenes stuff from real living and asking for your input and thoughts on the mag, so get ready to comment. But please, be kind…