May the roof above us never fall in
And may we good companions beneath it never fall out.

~Irish blessing

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A trip to Ikea

Occasionally, after we've moved house or I'm re-organising a space, I'll suggest to Tom that we should maybe make a trip to Ikea, and he always looks back at me like he's hearing the shrieking violins from Psycho. He comes around though in the end, and into the car we get. We always 'fuel up' on the way to Richmond (this time a choc brownie and coffee from the Auction Rooms in Nth Melb) and arrive primed with the mantra 'IN and OUT'. We grab our list, the big yellow Ikea bag and brave the crowd. Inevitably, we always find ourselves two hours later dragging our heels through the kitchen storage section, starving and exhausted and desperately in search of more trolleys to stack our growing cargo.

The irony of going shopping at Ikea is that I always want to go there because we already have TOO MUCH STUFF. Too many things and in our small house nowhere to put it, and with a baby on the way the situation is all the more pressing. I've got to say though, if you're willing to face the flat pack, then Ikea do have some very clever and affordable storage solutions and a surprisingly large range of baby stuff.

Though I'm new to this whole child rearing thing, I've noticed with other friends' children that they seem to grow out of things really fast. Like from size 0000 to 000 in the blink of an eye, from bouncer to high chair, and from bassinet to cot in a flash. For this reason, we've decided to buy second hand as much as possible. It's cheaper, better for the environment, and so much of the stuff has been barely used anyway. We already have a Leander cot we bought on ebay that never even made it out of the box, and I especially like it because it transforms into a child's bed when the baby grows out of it so you can use it for longer. 

Cute, huh? They also do a matching change table that turns into a kids desk...

But in our little nursery (almost all painted now but not quite ready for the big reveal) it would be too bulky, not to mention too expensive. For a fraction of the price we found this 'more than meets the eye' Hensvik change table at Ikea that  becomes a child's bookshelf.
As you can imagine, they have all kinds of complementary nappy changing accessories on offer which we over-zealously took advantage of, before going on to make a series of impromptu purchases including a persian rug for the bedroom (yes, Ikea have persian rugs now!), a shoe cabinet and small bookshelf for the hallway, glass jars, one of those fabric wardrobe hangers, muslin wraps, baby-proofing gadgets, a kids' wall hanger that looks like a frog... the list goes on. How much did this all set us back? In total, less than the price of the Leander change table so we were pretty happy with that.

Were we still happy at a quarter to midnight that night?

Even the pooch looks unimpressed - evicted from the living room because she kept walking through all of my little piles of Ikea screws. We got there in the end though, thanks to my long suffering husband who when everything was assembled had to fix the shoe cabinet and bookshelf to the hallway wall, but he does like having somewhere convenient to put all of his trainers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Spring Gardening

Phew, where did the week go? Well I'm glad it's Friday anyway, and I have a moment to quickly load some photos of what we were up to last weekend in the garden. All of this warm September weather (it was 28 last Friday and 25 yesterday) has been a reminder to get mulching and preparing the soil for the hot summer ahead. Something I'd noticed was the two camellias in the front, after flowering beautifully over winter, were not coping well in the full sun and drier garden bed in the front. It's not a part of the garden I want to invest too much water in, and the salvias, magnolia and grevilleas seem to cope with this very well. Just too dry for the camellias though I think because they were looking quite sad with browning petals and leaves, so we dug them up and relocated them into some large pots in the shadier back. Already they're looking happier and the delicate opening blooms have gone from this...

to this.

This left the front garden bed in need of some taller replacements aside from the magnolia, most of the other shrubs only grow to around a metre and a half and the plan is to develop a mixed screen to around 3 metres for privacy. I'd love to be able to open our bedroom curtains in the morning and look out at greenery rather than the razor wired carpark we currently have across the way.

In place of the camellias and a daphne we also repositioned, we planted this beautiful grevillea longistyla,

a dwarf eucalyptus forrestiana,

squeezed in this little ground-covering grevillea (sorry, the name escapes me)

and this dwarf cultivar of a hakea laurina.

Can't wait for its beautiful pincushion flowers.

So this weekend? Painting, painting, and more painting. And to all the camellia lovers out there, happy happy Friday :)

Image source: unknown. But isn't it beautiful?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scrapbook #3: Kids Rooms

So as many of our friends and family now know, the big news at chez Our Old House is that we're expecting a baby. This has slowed our renovations down somewhat, as it has taken me out of all the chemically laden tasks I'd previously been doing - painting, stripping old paint, filling etc - giving Tom twice as much to do. With not a lot left for me to do on the house (luckily still lots to do in the garden), I've taken on more of a project management sort of role, and specifically started thinking about baby rooms. 

Last night we watched that wonderful French documentary 'Babies'. It's a totally absorbing, funny, beautiful look at the first year of 4 babies living in Namibia, San Francisco, Tokyo and Mongolia. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Anyway, one thing that comes across very strongly in the film is that babies aren't too fussy about their surroundings, clothes, toys etc. They don't give a crap about fashion or coordinated nursery decor and in some cases less is actually more. There's a classic scene where the Japanese baby girl throws herself down on the floor in a fit of frustration amid her many toys, while in Mongolia a baby boy tethered to the bed by a length of rope (sounds worse than it is, don't worry, he's much loved) is thrilled to get his hands on an endlessly fun roll of loo paper.

Don't get me wrong, from my toddler years onwards I have great memories of the colours and textures of the homes we lived and holidayed in, as does my husband, but when it comes to babies, the styling is more for us than for the baby, and I admit I am having lots of fun browsing Oh Dee Doh and the like. Here are a few from my scrapbook so far.

Modern Grace Designs 

Watmaakt Suzette Nu 

Via So Lovely 

Apartment Therapy 

 Apartment Therapy

Via Desire to Inspire 



Oh Dee Doh 

 Oh Dee Doh

Oh Dee Doh 



Pink Wallpaper 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sustainable House Day

While there was little work done around our house over the weekend, there was certainly plenty of inspiration. Sustainable House Day on Sunday opened environmentally conscious houses and gardens to the public across Melbourne and we were lucky enough to have two amazing homes in our neck of the woods to visit. 

The two homes we saw were stylistically very different but both revealed an enormous amount of hard work and commitment to household energy and waste reduction. The first home we visited was a cheerful share-house complete with free-ranging hens, fruit trees and a fantastic edible garden. We were given a tour by a lovely volunteer named Walter who explained the frugal, low consumption philosophies of the owner of the house and the work he had put in to improving the energy footprint of the home and householders.

Bio paints on display in the kitchen.

New doors that reach the floorboards reducing drafty gaps - not sure what their plan is for them but I love the raw timber finish. We have these same 100 year old baltic pine floorboards and they are drafty. Tom filled the bigger gaps in our bedroom with coloured caulk when we first moved in, and we have rugs in most rooms, but in this house the owner crawled underneath and stapled insulation to the underside. An unenviable job but one that would make a huge difference.

Another clever thing they did was relocate their hot water heater from the back of the house to just outside the bathroom, and install an internal thermostat and on/off switch to prevent water heating when they don't need it. 

Somehow I managed to accidentally delete the photo I took of their wonderful garden but it was a veritable food forest designed with consultation from a permaculture expert to maximise space and sun. Both front and back were choc full of edible plants and fruit trees but unfortunately you'll just have to take my word for it, or visit them next year!

The second house we visited was a beautifully renovated Californian Bungalow and we were lucky enough to be given a personal tour by owner Gavin, an inspiring and passionate host who has undertaken much of the work himself to create an innovative, low-comsumptive, stylish and comfortable home for his young family.

Unobtrusive hydronic heating panels in every room are complimented with ceiling fans and wall, roof and underfloor insulation. Like in the first house we saw, Gavin has squeezed under the floor in the old part of the house to staple 75mm polyester bats to the underside of the boards, before taking on the arduous task of removing the weatherboards one by one to insulate the walls. Solar orientation and double glazing in the new extension, with styrofoam insulation under the concrete floor meant despite the cool windy day, the house was incredibly warm and quiet.

A manually openable skylight illuminates the kitchen during the day and can be opened in Summer to cool the room.

LED downlights run off the 1.5kW solar PV system which provides 95% of household energy use. Gavin estimates with the premium feed in tariff, the $3000 system will have paid for itself in 3.5 years.

These upside-down windows are a neat trick Gavin designed to work as a 'thermal chimney', allowing the hot air to exit the top of the room in Summer.

There is plenty more to mention, but I could go on all day. Thanks to the owners who generously opened their homes to us and I look forward to seeing more next year. It really got us thinking about what we need to do with our house. Straight away when we moved in last year we put in ceiling fans, blinds, caulked the floor as I mentioned earlier, and had gas heating installed. There's old insulation in the ceiling but the insulation efforts of the houses we visited really pressed upon us the importance of draft reduction and we have a ways to go in this old house I think.

So yes, it was more thinking and planning than doing over the weekend, although Tom did get a couple of coats of paint on the meatsafe which is to be the cabinet in the ensuite. Scubbed up alright, huh? The colour is Murobond 'marble' - low VOC, plus we're upcycling the meatsafe so we felt pretty good about this one on Sustainable House Day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scrapbook #2: Kitchens

Following on from bathrooms last week, a few kitchen favourites...

 El Mueble


Source: unknown 

Madelaine Felkay's apartment via From Me to You

Source: unknown

Source: unknown

Cottage Living

Via Small Place Style

Source: unknown

Via Desire to Inspire

Via Feel Inspired

Milk and Honey Home

Anna Spiro

Art and Decoration