Tuesday, May 28, 2013

new home essentials

The whole painfully long (for us!) househunt has had its advantages. It gave Steve and I WAY too much time to think about what we'd like our next place to look like and things we'd like to include. I'm forever dreaming of us in a made-up space that looks so incredible. We're all dressed in floaty summer clothes, our hair seems lighter, we're always laughing and doing lovely homely, fun things together and lounging around the beautiful garden in an endless summer. Hey, it's my imagination... Now if only I can make it a reality.
Here was our priority list for the house:

+ It needs to be close to the water - because we can't not have that lifestyle now. Tick! Across the road.
+ Size not important as long as there's room to extend to our liking - but we do need to live there in the meantime, so it can't be a one-bedroom shed (wouldn't that be cosy?!). Tick! A 3 bedder with a self-contained cabin.
+ The block needs to be sunny most of the day. Tick! 
+ Ideally it'll have high ceilings (tick!), original timber windows (cross. Boo - ugly 80s aluminium), floorboards (tick!) and some established trees or greenery (cross. Boo again. The back and front yards are barren. I hate it, but I guess we can just think of it as a blank canvas...

And the interior/designy elements we'd like our place to have? Let's get onto the good stuff: pretty inspirational pics...

Light floors
Not white, but light. That kinda lime/white-washed style where you can see the grain through the colour. If I could afford it, I'd install wide-plank Dinesen Douglas Fir Oak floors in snap, but I have a feeling they'll be beyond our budget. So I'm going to have to research the best way to get the lye finish on whatever timber we have. Mafi have a nice-looking wash but I don't think the actual product is available to the public to use on any old timber. Another alternative is Porter's Paints Woodwash - Kara Rosenlund has had great success with hers (bottom three images, above) and has some great tips on her site which I will be following when the time comes. I've had white floors, I've had black floors and I've had that typical yellow lacquered pine. I've always wanted that Scandinavian style with the grain of the wood gently coming through a casual (in look only - getting the look appears to be quite the process) wipe of whitewash, so now is the time to try it. I'll give it a whirl in the bedroom first - any imperfections can be hidden by the bed, right?! Might be time to invest in a new orbital - I think our old one might be close to power tool heaven...

Pretty windows & doors
At the risk of offending most of the country, I have issues with aluminium windows. You know the cheap nasty ones that replaced all those beautiful timber ones in the 70s and 80s (or maybe before. I just assume all ugly things were done in the 80s). Today's aluminium is fine, but the old stuff? Ugh. Well of course that's what we have in our new place - the old ugly stuff. To me, windows and doors are a big deal - even the plainest red-brick cube would look instantly better if it has nice panel windows. So it'll be out with the aluminium, and in with nicer timber - three hinged panel doors in the front living room and two or three sets of French doors in the extension, similar to the ones I fell in love with on Mokkasin blog, top of picture, above (I've fallen in love with everything on that blog - it's gorgeous). I have yet to find a 21-panel door like Mokkasin, but I did manage to find a 15-light door from Crown Doors which I think will be perfect. We also had our hearts set on a serving window from the kitchen to outside just as above, but I'm not sure it'll work with our current idea. But it's early days... we'll see. 

Black kitchen cabinets
Well, probably more like a charcoal, not pure black. At this stage, I plan to install another Ikea kitchen. I had no complaints about my old kitchen, and to be honest, I don't get the whole snobbery about Ikea kitchens. They rock. And in my highly investigative research into kitchen cabinetry (!), I've found the base cabinets to be the same - if not better - quality than top-end cabinets. So why pay three times more? Plus, this way, I am thinking I can afford to spend a little more on painting the cabinets a custom colour and installing a nice benchtop (I'm going to look into some samples of Caesarstone London Grey). I was thinking concrete benchtops but I've heard some horror stories and the stone just seems easier to clean. Of course I'll be pairing those lovely charcoal cabinets and super-soft grey with white subway tile and I'm thinking three diamond lights bulbs over the island. I just scored one for my birthday yesterday, so I'll have to stock up on some more plus the fittings (am going for gold at the moment) over the coming months.

Lofts, fireplaces and skylights
For as long as I can remember, Steve has been banging on about having a loft library in our house. I kind of ignored him for the first few years, but I've grown to love the idea. We are planning to extend and build one large living, dining and kitchen room onto the back of our house. We want it to have vaulted ceilings and at one end above the French doors, we'd like to have a little loft library. It won't look as beautiful and quaint as this one (above), but I think it will be a nice feature, extra space and I have always dreamt of a little library space of some sort. Two (or three!) birds, people! Also on the wishlist, skylights (which would look similar to Dana's place from House*Tweaking) to let light flood into the new room - some openable ones like these from The Attic Group would be ideal for a bit of extra air flow. I also dreamt the other night of a fireplace, so then got obsessed with them and found this dreamy fireplace: the FilioFocus available froma Oblica in Melbourne. I'm in love. Am pretty sure it's going to be the most expensive fireplace on the market, but man it's nice. And of course whatever fireplace I get, this incredibly cool fire-wood shelf needs to go with it - it's Oblica's Big O; one part practical, two parts cool.

What else? Oh new roof (swapping the tiles for Colorbond - possibly Shale Grey, Surfmist or Windspray depending on what council regs), weatherboard cladding (going with Linea) painted dark charcoal (Porter's Paints Palm Beach Black would be perfect - not sure if I can use on this kind of cladding though?!), backyard deck, new bathroom, trees and landscaping, high skirting boards, fresh white paint (am thinking just the untinted white. I like my whites to be bright!) and maybe an attic storage space with pull-down ladder. We had one in my house growing up and man it was handy. And that's just the reno stuff. Then there is decorating and that is a whole other series of posts. I can't wait!

So, I guess my love of white, black and grey hasn't disappeared...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So for Mother's Day I got a .... HOUSE!

On Saturday, it was a year to the day (day before Mother's Day!) that we moved back to the coast from Sydney. The day before, we exchanged contracts on our new house. The house? The very first house we considered buying when we decided to move back. In a nice tidy roundabout, we spent a year searching for a home and ended up buying the first one we (kind of) looked at. Sounds like a nice waste of year, really, doesn't it? Not quite...

Our new (oldish) kitchen. It will eventually be replaced, but until then, I'll probably look to paint the cabinets a dark colour and maybe do something with the benchtop... The house has three bedrooms, one bath with a loo in the laundry (ugh), a weird little corridor room that leads out to the back patio (through that glass door, above), awful fluro lights, bad aluminium windows, highish ceilings, a water view and a large cabin with living room, bedroom, kitchenette, bathroom and laundry. So whatever we do to the main house, we'll have a "spare" utility in the backyard. Yay!

When we decided we wanted to move back, we were pretty determined to buy a waterfront property. They were so darn affordable compared to Sydney prices. In the area we were living in North Sydney, we might have got a not-so-great two-bedroom unit. For around the same price, we could have got a not-so-great two-bedroom waterfront shack. I know what I'd have preferred... So I moved into realestate.com.au (not even kidding - I should have shares in that site. I could account for a large percentage of daily hits all by myself) and searched. There wasn't much - just one house that we'd seen on the market a while back, but it seemed to have disappeared. Then I found our house - a three bedroom fibro shack a street back from the water. It had a bit of a view from the living room and access to the waterways a couple of houses along. It was way under our budget and we decided that our lifestyle would be no different if we lived there than if we lived in a waterfront property - except we'd have a much smaller mortgage and less stress of the "what ifs". A few weeks later we headed up to look at some other properties and it had disappeared from the market. We ended up renting and when the time came to start looking properly again, I called the agent to find out what happened to the house - I never found any sale data and she said the owners decided to wait and sell in a better market (which, mind you, is NOW. Houses are being snapped up around here within days of being on the market). She said they were still keen to sell but wanted a particular price. Having not seen it - and with tenants in the house making a quick inspection out of the question - we decided we couldn't agree to a price beforehand and so just let it be. A few months later, it was back on the market. In the meantime we were in talks with a former neighbour about buying their house, but when he said he was going to wait a while longer, we went to the inspection. Afterwards, Steve made an offer a little under the "offers over" price and a week worth of major stress later, we're just awaiting settlement in a few weeks. So our plans to stretch ourselves and mortgage to the hilt were replaced with a much better plan - tiny mortgage, great reno, awesome lifestyle, hopefully mortgage-free in a single-digit years and another happy home. 

It has been 10 years since we bought a house and while this is the third time we've been through it, I pretty much had no idea what I was doing again. A big bundle of nerves comparing, applying and waiting for final finance approval, negotiating contract stuff and dealing with various real estate agents about a million other different things... I have managed to lose about 5 kilos this past week. I also had 42 phone conversations in one day - I counted! How is something that happens every single day so friggin' stressful and painful? That said, I can happily recommend Bankwest - we ended up going with them after doing a lot of comparing and from the very first phone call, the guy I randomly got paired up with was brilliant. He organised everything so quickly and effectively - we were unconditionally approved in three days (would have been two but I had to resend something) and managed to set up our mortgage beyond the first "deal". 

And now just when I should be breathing again, we have more stresses. The house we're renting sold (in two days!) and we were given our 30 day notice on Wednesday. Today, the tenants in our house were given their notice. That is a week later. If they can't find something in the next few weeks and move out, letting us settle early and move in before the new owners of the house we're renting settle and move into their house, then we'll be homeless for a few weeks. YAY! How's that for confusing?! Anyway, I'm going to give myself a few more days before I go back to panicking about that kind of thing. 

And I'm going to spend those few days daydreaming about how we'll transform our fibro worst-house-in-the-best-street into something fab. It'll never be the best house in the best street when the houses across the road are million-dollar properties. But that's fine - it's just got to be the best we can make it for us. To quote Dana from House*Tweaking - "it's not the house of our dreams, but it's the house in which we'll pursue our dreams." I loved that line the first time I read it and can relate so much. And heck, if we pursue our dreams to the letter, then it might just end up being the house of our dreams as well!

I'm looking forward to getting into it - apparently I like living in rubble! But it's going to be fun - I'll share some more pics and ideas later and you will be SICK of hearing about renovations, I'm sure, but I plan to document it all right here. You have been warned :)