Friday, 14 June 2013

Study Bookshelves: A Work in Progress

Long before the house was finished we planned on putting floor to ceiling bookshelves along one wall in the Study.  I've long been inspired by the Ikea Billy Bookshelf hacks that a few bloggers have undertaken, by adding timber mouldings to make the shelving appear 'built in'. A couple of examples below:

Source: Centsational Girl

Source: Ikea Hackers

But then a couple of months ago, I came across this image in Est Magazine, and our plans changed:

Source: Est Magazine Issue #8

The study is right next to the garage entrance to the house and so it's a perfect spot to have some cupboards to store kids school bags, etc.  Also stationery for the study and the all important 'games' cupboard (every household must have a copy of Monopoly!).

We went ahead and purchased Ikea Faktum kitchen cabinets for the cupboards back in May when Ikea had their offer of a $25 gift card for every $100 spent.  We used some structural pine to make a frame to elevate them above the floor (purchased from Bunnings and they cut the pieces to size for us).  A piece of dressed pine along the bottom as a kicker, and also on the left and right of the cabinets to hide the gap to each wall.

We had a quote prepared from a local joinery business for the shelves themselves, but when the design came back (see below) we noticed the shelf widths were the same as you can get with Ikea Besta shelving.  So at this stage we're thinking of using them.

Custom shelving design

Here's the Besta layout, using the online Ikea Besta planner.  We're thinking of putting doors on the shelf extension, to hide the double thickness shelf:

Ikea Besta Shelving - with doors to hide extension shelves

Ikea Besta Shelving - internal view

Here's how the project is looking so far.  We will be sourcing a benchtop as the next step.  Ideally we'd like a laminate bench with a shadowline in a single piece right the way across (i.e. no join) but most laminate less than 40mm thickness seems to come in a maximum length of 3600mm.  We require just a little bit longer 3740mm.  You can just make out on the first two cabinets where I've placed the old laundry sink bench to get an idea of what a 35mm benchtop would look like (ignore the colour).  I was hoping for a 20mm bench so it wouldn't look too much like a kitchen, but with the Besta shelves being quite thick, we could probably get away with a 40mm bench.

Study Shelving - Work in Progress

Plenty of time to mull over the options whilst the budget catches up!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Laundry Makeover

Many, many months ago we purchased cabinets for the laundry, but it's taken me this long to ask my brother in law for help to install them!

My 'new' laundry!

Here's the room at the time of house handover:

We chose white cabinetry in a gloss finish (Ikea FAKTUM in Abstrakt White) to keep the small narrow room from feeling cramped.  The existing sink cabinet we chose with the build is a wood grain laminate and it was a tricky decision whether or not to replace it.  I figured it's the laundry so I don't really care too much for the aesthetic and so why not save a few dollars where we can?  It is separated by the washing machine from the other cabinetry and there's always the ability to replace it later if we really don't like it, but it seemed more hassle (and cost) than it was worth.

We did, however, make the decision to replace the benchtop so that we have a single piece right the way across the wall to the broom cupboard.  We went for the Ikea NUMERAR laminate worktop with a wood effect edge.  I like the plywood look (even though this is 'faux' plywood).  The bench is double sided so you have a choice of whether to install either the white or the grey side up.  We chose to go with white.
IKEA NUMERAR worktop with wood effect edge

This is the Ikea planner layout we created for purchasing the additional cabinetry:

As you can see, the broom cupboard is against the wall next to the door that leads to the hallway.  The room is quite narrow and we therefore had to get our electrician move the light switch outside the laundry into the hallway so that the broom cupboard wouldn't obstruct it.  Admittedly, this was a compromise, but I'd much prefer the storage to the inconvenience of switching on the light before entering the room.

We also had the sparky replace the ceiling light with a flush mount and move a powerpoint in the splashback area about 30cm lower, as it was situated right underneath the intended mounting for the overhead cupboards.

The base cabinet between the broom cupboard and (future) dryer is a pull out drawer instead of a cupboard.  I thought this could function as a laundry hamper for the kids.  Now that it's installed I realise it's quite a bit narrower than I'd imagined, so I'm not sure if it will be wide enough to actually function as a hamper, but is handy for all the taller cleaning bottles and my peg basket in any case.
IKEA FAKTUM base cabinet with pull out storage in Abstrakt White

I also wanted a drying rack over the sink so I can hang shirts on coat hangers to dry.  I looked at installing a chrome wardrobe rail from the overhead cabinet to the wall above the window, which I've done in a previous house.  I also considered the Ikea GRUNDTAL drying rack, which has an adjustable width so we could expand it to fill the entire 800mm wallspace over the sink and get a little more room for drying clothes than just a single rail.

IKEA GRUNDTAL drying rack

I was all set to purchase the Ikea rack but then I saw the Elfa system at Howards Storage World and liked the flexibility of having a drying rack as well as adjustable shelves.

Elfa Folding Drying Rack from Howards Storage

However, after pricing it up with the top track and wall bands I quickly changed my mind.  It would probably be more economical if I were doing an entire laundry rack system, but for just a small set of racks in the laundry that I was going to have to cut to size anyway, I wasn't prepared to pay the $150+ price tag.

I then found a similar system at Ikea for a fraction of the price - the ALGOT system:

Ikea ALGOT Storage System

As for the splashback, I intended to extend the existing white ceramic tiles across the entire bench space, but we discovered the sink benchtop was only 35mm thickness, whereas the Ikea benchtop is 40mm, so had to remove the tiles.  This resulted in damage to the plaster wall, so it became necessary to simply start over with the tiling.  Never one to shy away from an opportunity, I went on the hunt for a nicer tile...

I'm currently having an obsession with white cabinets, black taps, marble benchtops and splashbacks, thanks to the many Scandinavian blogs I follow, but can neither afford nor justify the expense of slabs of marble in a laundry!  So I found an affordable alternative in marble mosaic tiles.

A few YouTube videos and fact sheets later and I was on my way to my first DIY tiling effort!  Apart from a couple of obvious spots over the sink where I didn't push a tile or two into the adhesive enough (my tile spacer obstructed my view of it whilst the adhesive was drying.  Once I noticed it was too late to adjust it!) I'm pretty happy with my effort overall.

Tiling In Progress

I still have a couple of tasks before it is complete, such as sealing the tiles and caulking between the tiles and overhead cupboards and benchtop (perhaps a task for tomorrow if I can make it to Bunnings).

I just love the feel of the laundry now.  Dare I say it makes me want to find excuses (like extra loads of washing or cleaning) merely to visit the room?...

Laundry In Use!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Full Tank

Our landscape architect sent me an email a few weeks ago advising me that he forgot to ask the plumber to install a silt pit when they put the tank in, which means all the leaves in the gutters and various other muck will have been going straight into the tank since it was installed a couple of months ago.

Rather than pay the plumber another few hundred dollars to come back and do what arguably should have been factored into the total job price, I sourced the relevant parts from a local plumbing supplies store and Paul installed the pit himself last weekend.

Unfortunately the stormwater pipe placement means we couldn't locate the pit in a future garden bed - the pipe runs entirely under the proposed lawn area.  Not quite sure at this point why I paid a landscape architect to design - and project manage - I would have thought these are the very details he should have taken care of.

Anyway, I'm thinking of redesigning the garden beds out the front so we can disguise the pit behind plants, and perhaps do away with a lawn altogether.

As it turns out, we were a little too late with the pit installation anyway.  Paul lifted the lid of the tank...and IT'S FULL!  I can't believe it.  We had practically no rain in January, but a good few days of rain in Feb and it's been enough to fill 20,000 litres!

Tank full to the brim in only 2.5 summer months!

Now if we could only afford to install a pump we could actually use the water for our garden!  Every time we water the vegetable patch I cringe at the thought of all that 'free' water underground we can't yet access!

I discovered that our local council offers a 7% rebate for the purchase price of a tank (in addition to the Federal Govt rebate for installing a tank and plumbing it to toilets and/or laundry).  It's not a huge amount, but anything is better than nothing!

Paul has also been researching digital irrigation systems so he can remotely control it using computer, iPhone, etc.  The only one he's found so far is from the US and there doesn't seem to be an Australian distributor (yet).  Looks like a great idea, though.  Imagine being on holiday and being able to check the local weather for rain (or your own personal backyard weather station) and turn on your irrigation system at home!

Irrigation Caddy

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Progress in the Patch

I've been enjoying our vegetable garden in the last few months - it's the first time I've attempted to grow my own food and has turned out to be the perfect time in my life to attempt it, as I'm home every day on maternity leave.

Currently we're enjoying a multitude of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, parsley and basil.  The strawberries are no longer flowering or fruiting (much to Oliver's dismay) so it looks like we'll have to wait till next season for more of those.

Favourite tomato
(came in a mix of heirloom seeds so not sure what it is.  I think perhaps Black Russian)

I planted beetroot seeds last month and have been enjoying the leaves in salad.  I'm careful not to take too many leaves or it will be at the expense of the beetroot bulb!


Our small chilli plant is sporting about 15 chillies.  I'm looking forward to when they turn red.

Cayenne Chillies

I haven't bought any carrot seeds, but I have what appear to be carrot seedlings popping up all over the patch.  I suspect they came amongst other seeds I bought.  Hopefully they'll do ok and I'll have a free harvest!

Surprise seedlings!
Left: is that a carrot?!  Centre: Beetroot I'd given up on germinating  Right: Thai basil

Lebanese cucumber

2nd Round of Cos Lettuce

Second patch of late season plantings (sugar lump tomatoes)

Diggers Heirloom Mini Yellow Capsicum

Diggers Heirloom mini chocolate capsicum



Cheeky snail - trapped!

Truss tomatoes


Late season plantings

In a couple of weeks I'll be preparing the beds for winter crops of garlic, fennel and onions (well that's the plan anyway!).

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Landscape Plans

There's been no progress on landscaping since the installation of the tank - we're going to have to wait until I finish maternity leave and hence resume two incomes before the next phase can be executed.

Here's the big picture of what we're working towards.  It's a 5+ year project in reality, due to the expense.  We'll have drainage, levelling and retaining walls all professionally done, and things like garden edging, soil introduction and planting we'll do ourselves.

The tiles and plant species listed aren't necessarily what we'll go for, they're just suggestions by the landscape architect.

The front yard:

The back yard:

Key priorities for the next phase are:

  • Concrete path to side of house
  • Drainage and retaining walls and steps in backyard
  • Concrete slab for sunken courtyard area (for future tiling)
  • Front fence and retaining walls in front yard

It would be a dream to have this and a backyard lawn done by the time Lucas is walking.  Oli isn't fussed - he loves using the clay embankment as a slide (but Mum is a little over all the washing and torn knees!  Not that landscaping will stop that, I'm under no illusion of that!)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Many Mini Projects

Over the last few months we've been crossing a few decorative and functional tasks off the list.  It's slow going, but each little blank space is gradually being attended to.

Picture rails in the Rumpus Room

We bought some picture rails from Ikea months ago to hang in the Rumpus room, but had put off installing them as I had grand plans to paint the room pale grey first. 

Dulux Milton Moon
Chosen wall colour for the Rumpus

As with all my other grand plans of late, I realised this wasn't going to happen anytime soon seeing as the room is fully furnished and an active toddler and baby aren't likely stay out of the main living room long enough for the paint to dry.  So we hung the picture rails.

I like that I can change the contents at any time.  At the moment they're displaying some of my travel photos (a cute stairway entrance to a house in Venice, the spiral staircase in the Vatican, a shot of the basalt rocks on the South Shore beach in Iceland) and my favourite shots of the boys (Lucas checking himself out in the mirror wearing a new knitted cap from Grandma and cuddle pic of Oli and I when he was just one day old), some Mud ceramics I got for Christmas (cute little grey and orange cream cups.  I would fill my entire house with their porcelain pieces of magic if I could afford to, and also didn't think my boys would break them!).

The entrance is looking a little better too.  Paul received Muuto The Dots Coat Hooks for his birthday and hung these above the hydronic heater - a great place to hang a wet coat to dry in Winter.  I purchased a few Inaluxe prints some months back and put two in Ikea Ribba frames to hang above the console table.  I am planning to paint the console in the near future.  I think I'll use spray paint this time, given the turned legs would be hard to avoid streaks and drips with a paint brush.  I'm as yet undecided as to whether to paint it white, pale grey or pale pastel green.  I would also like to get a storage container to place under the console for housing hats and bags, and perhaps a wall mounted shoe cupboard instead of the open shoe rack.

Front entrance
Another pressing task was to get all our filing back in order - paperwork stacks up so quickly and I can't stand having piles of it lying around.  We were using a set of filing drawers before the move, but the problem was I really didn't want it going into the new study in its original form - an orange beech laminate.  All the cabinetry in the new study is and will be white.  I tried looking for a new white filing cabinet, but nothing measured up to the form and function of our old one.  These drawers have been the best filing solution I've ever had.  As far as filing cabinets go, they're not as ugly (and noisy) as the traditional two or four drawer metal filing cabinet and each drawer has a lock.

So I made the decision to paint them white.  I uhmmed and ahhed over whether to use an enamel or water based gloss paint - enamel being nice to work with in terms of getting a smooth even surface, but water based gloss has the benefit of not yellowing over time.  I chose the water based option, and used Dulux Aquanamel.

I gave the drawers a light sand and primed them with a laminate suitable primer and they sat in the garage that way for months!  I knew I'd need a good few hours of uninterrupted time to do the top coats quickly and evenly and evenings weren't going to be an option as the bugs would love the wet white paint!  Day options were limited too with many being too hot to work with a sticky paint.  All good excuses for months of procrastination, right?  In the end I just had to get it done, as all the boxes of filing on the study floor were driving me nuts!  So I dedicated an afternoon to it while Paul was on holidays and could distract the two boys.  Now it's done and I'm relieved to free up some floorspace in the study and hide all the ugly paperwork!

Preparing for primer
(I did remove the handles, locks and drawer fronts before painting, but didn't take any pics)

The finished product

Hmmm...have you gone too far when you decorate the toilet?  Possibly, but for a $15 picture shelf from Ikea and five minutes of effort, I couldn't resist.

Paul has been busy outside too.  He and his Dad installed a Rotary Hills hoist in the backyard so that, for the first time in FOUR YEARS, our clothes have been able to dry outside in the natural breeze!  I'm so sick of clothes horses!  Our landscape plans have a fold up clothes line mounted against one of the fences, which I agree is more aesthetically pleasing than a big rotating one in the middle of the yard, but I wanted my bed linen to dry freely, without fear of hitting a dirty fence!  And with two young boys, I have so much washing I wanted to be able to hang out an entire week's worth in a single day.  So function trumps form on this particular item for me.

Paul also put up some fence extensions along the South side of the house so the bathroom, Lucas' bedroom and our ensuite no longer look straight into the neighbour's kitchen and dining rooms (baths, showers and nappy changes are not great sites for the neighbours, particularly when eating - apologies go out for the months of sufferance).

My Dad came to Melbourne at Christmas, armed with his whipper snipper and bless him, he slashed the entire backyard.  We're so grateful, as it was in quite a state prior to this.  To describe it, one of my friends recently referred to it as an African savannah (think long grass gone to seed and swaying in waves in the breeze).  The ground is so uneven from the excavation to connect the house plumbing to the sewer at the back fence that there's no way a lawn mower could do the job.  The digger piled the excavated clay on top of the existing decent topsoil which has turned to mounds as hard as rock, yet the couch, clover and milky thistle have all thrust their way up through it and continued to grow!

We trundle back and forth across it each day to our temporary vegetable patch, which we cleared space for last September in the back corner (well Paul battled the couch grass to clear it)!  The landscape plans have five raised beds, but there's so much other pre-work that needs to occur before these go in, so it won't be this year.  We have tomatoes, strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, parsley, capsicums, beetroot, beans and celery.  I love growing salad vegetables as they spoil so quickly when purchased from the supermarket.

A glimpse of the veggie patch behind the peach and plum trees 

Some of the harvest

We are presently sharing our ripening plums with the local birds too.

Mum has given me a heap of succulent cuttings from her garden, which I have in various pots strewn around both inside and outside the house, waiting for a home in the garden when we can afford to get it done!

My succulent nursery

Of course, we have many more tasks in progress and yet to be started.  Whilst it's great having the time to dream it all up, being on maternity leave, but I seriously need to get back to work so I can afford to realise the dreams!