Friday, May 28, 2010

Adelaide Zoo - sustainable design influence

I have just got back from visiting the Pandas at Adelaide Zoo. Well worth a visit they are absolutely gorgeous.
Now I am sure you are thinking well what does this have to do with a house renovation or house / garden design - well the visit to the Zoo highlighted the need for sustainable design and living.

At the Zoo I was reminded over and over again, how many animals are threatened by their habitat being destroyed. On top of which the Adelaide Zoo has an education / environmental centre which shows children the importance of managing water and discusses the effects of climate change.

Hubbie and I have been discussing how we can make our home as sustainable as possible. Currently the Building code in Victoria states that extensions have to meet 5 star standard but we are going to try and improve on this by putting in a higher level of insulation and double glazed windows. On top of this we will look at installing:

- a rain water tank
- grey water options
- solar panels
- low energy lighting (no or few down lights)
- high star rated fixtures and appliances
- good window coverage - blinds and shading.

Of course this is all well and good if we don't follow this through into the old part of the house so this will also be scrutinised for ways to improve.
We also need to consider the materials being used and ensure things like the wood for the deck is FSC accredited.
Along with this we will a look at options for the garden taking permaculture principles into account (more in a later post). Also I loved the butterfly garden at the Zoo, designed to attract local butterflies. Something worth looking into - I know the kids will love it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Living in the house - the staged plan

As mentioned in previous posts we plan on living in our house while we renovate and extend. If it was just my husband and I this wouldn't be too much of an issue. We are happy to use a portaloo or shower for a while and move from room to room at a quick rate as different parts of the house are worked on. But with two kids under five, one a very active toddler this becomes a little more difficult and we have realised has to be planned out a lot more.

With this in mind we have decided on a two stage process. Step one to convert the main bathroom into an en suite, requiring us to move out of our bedroom into the lounge for a couple of weeks. Then a few months later step two, once we have moved back into our bedroom we will be able to use the lounge for all our living as the back walls get knocked out. Plus at this stage we loose currently our only toilet, hence the need to have one operating in the front of the house before this happens.

The other plan we have just realised we need to put in place (through a recent bathroom store expedition with two kids in tow) is a babysitting one, for when we need to pack up parts of the house or go hunting for fixtures.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Extension - construction manager visit

I have just said goodbye to our designer, Robert, who today brought along with him a draftsperson and construction manager. Things are really happening! They were here to check measurements, levels, take photos and have a look around. Next steps will be for the technical drawings to be done and apparently an engineer will be over in the next week to do soil testing.

This has been so long in the planning for us, living in the house for over six years, with the last two with two small children and everything that goes with them. The good thing about this is we really know what we want and what we need. We have also had the opportunity to watch and learn from friends renovations.

If you can, I would highly recommend living in a house for a least a year, seeing what it is like in every season before doing major work.

Just an aside - it was fun watching my almost two year old and four year old following the site manager outside and watch what he was doing. We plan on living in the house while the build is going on and I am sure the kids will want to follow builders around and be involved - should be interesting to say the least!

Friday, May 14, 2010

My style?

How do you determine your style for your home? Something I have often wondered about. Do I have a particular style, can it be classified?

Recently, for fun, I took a style survey in the April 2010 edition of 'Real Living' magazine, 'What's your Decorating Personality?' Well it seems I am a little confused as had equal rating on Beachy and Classic and wasn’t far behind on Bohemian. I like this, the fact I don’t easily fit into a style and I don’t think you have too.

Different styles can easily sit together in one house comfortably with linking elements. In my case I have stuck with white walls (except for the kids yellow bedroom), decorated with photos, kids drawings and pictures of things I love in black frames; warm wooden floorboards; generally wooden or white furniture with our blue sofas being an exception; with colour injected throughout the house (mainly blue but I do have a red room) via ornaments, manchester and rugs. We have a number of bookcases (more about these in other posts), which I love, as they provide a feature wall of colour.

Obviously my style has changed a little over the years as I began to be more confident in what I liked and not so influenced by what others thought or what the current trend is. Once I learnt this, elements of my style like my love for blue have stayed fairly constant.

I am not a fan of clutter and am continually like sorting out my home as it feels like it is bursting at the seams (looking forward to our extension and a lot more storage). I do however love the house to have warmth, character and reflect the family’s personality, so generally a fan of old houses decorated with a classic feel but with some contemporary and fun twists.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First step - house plans and so it begins

Existing house layout

We did it, we finally agreed to the house plans given to us by our designer. This has been at least a year in the making.

Before we even approached a designer, I drew plan after plan myself, I was a little obsessed. Some were dramatic, moving all the front of the house around to give the house a long hallway like in a double fronted cottage (the house is actually a typical 1950s layout), that then ended in an open plan layout at the back. Others I kept the house basically as is but added more family space and then bedrooms upstairs (didn't want to loose too much garden space).

But in the end it does come down to money as well and our designer after a number of iterations, came back with a great plan within our budget. The existing house is staying fairly much as is, with the existing bathroom becoming an en suite and walk in robe being added.
At the back the laundry is being knocked out and so is the back wall on the kitchen side (to save money, the kitchen is staying as is for now, with the exception of knocking a hole in the wall above the sink) to give us more living space (will be our new family room), two more bedrooms, new laundry and family bathroom. We will also build a new deck, including an alfresco area on the dining side of the house. So with this we will loose a bit of garden but in this current climate, with little water maybe not a bad thing.

Current family room (dining on plan), looking back into lounge (which we also use as a study)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Autumn in the Garden

Happy Mother's Day to my Mum, my Mummy friends and all the Mother's out there.

In Melbourne it is a beautiful Autumn day, the kind of day that I love to spend in the garden. The perfect temperature to get out there and enjoy it.

Looking at it today and watching the kids running around it really hit home for me that this time next year a chunk of the garden will be gone and in it's place our extension. This will mean a garden re-design and the removal or cutting back of a couple of trees, but I am happy to say the Maple will still be our centre piece and I am determined to keep a herb and vege garden. It also provides an opportunity to look at some sustainable gardening practices such as permaculture as part of the design.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The toy invasion - how do you deal with it in the home

Toys and stuff that goes with children are everywhere in my house. As my husband says the soft toys are like gremlins, they just seem to multiply over night. We need more storage and joke that we are doing our house extension just so we can fit everything.

The problem with me is I am one of these people that hates clutter, I like things to be tidy and am passionate (or as some might say obsessed) about interior design and rooms being 'just so'. I have to admit I actually get a little stressed if things are a mess and look disorganised. Now I am not a minimalist, I love a house to have warmth and character and express the family’s personality, just in an organised way, so wanted storage options that also add to the style of the room. The other thing I am concerned about is the environment and so always feel a bit funny about the amount of plastic toys the kids get given.

After my first I managed to keep things tidy organised and clean, with just one we could store most of the toys in her bedroom which we can't do now with the two in the one bedroom (we have a two bedroom house).

So being the neat freak I am have had to work out ways to deal with the toy explosion, both design / storage ideas and with my environmental hat on looking at the reduce, reuse, recycle concept.

Reduce - could say well stop buying so many as lets face it most kids play with it for about two minutes then loose interest, problem is we are not the ones buying them. My kids are the only Grandchildren on both sides of the family and their grandparents love to give them things especially as they live interstate from us so don't see them that often. We are trying to put limits on gifts and get them to buy books or things to make rather then more plastic. The great thing about books too is they have no extra packaging to get rid of.

Reuse - we have joined a toy library, so every three weeks they have different toys to keep them amused. We also often select games or puzzles which take up less space. Have also started the de-clutter of passing toys on that they have grown out of to either friends or charities.

Recycle - not an option for most toys unless you look at it in terms of giving to others as above.

Storage with a design element - as for the rest; storage, storage, storage - that fits in with the style of my rooms and is not an eyesore.

One of the best things I have discovered is small cane baskets from IKEA, they fit well into a standard bookshelf (and one thing I love is having bookshelves around the house, they can add a lot to a room if kept ordered, almost like a feature wall of beautiful things and colour) and in them I can store small things like cars, Little People, train set stuff, tea set. I have also bought larger boxes with beautiful designs (IKEA) and cane baskets that also act as side tables (from Queen Victoria Markets).


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