Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Sink Has Arrived!

A big shout out to Berloni Appliances. Amazing, thoughtful customer service and great prices. I must admit, I did have reservations about purchasing a sink from Victoria and having it 'shipped' to Western Australia, I am so glad I went ahead with it. My sink arrived on time and was packaged perfectly.

I would not hesitate to do the same again, perhaps a new dishwasher or coffee machine?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Small Squawk In What Was Otherwise A Very Quiet Blog

2008 Gingerbread house
Lately there has not been a lot of action on the building front. To be honest, I have enjoyed the peace and quiet. It has given me time to unwind and indulge in a few long neglected hobbies. With Christmas just around the corner, I think the only house building that will be happening is on those constructed with gingerbread.

Today I received the retaining wall inspection report that I was waiting for. It turns out that there was some confusion about who was going to be sending it to me. This means that I will be able to submit our application for site works to the council.

2010 Chocolate Arrangement

Things will go back to being quiet until council approves our application. During that time, I will order our granite basins and chase our cavity sliding door representative whom I have not heard from since we went to our Pre-Start meeting in early June. I hope it has arrived ok!

In other news, our composite sink should be arriving late this week/early next week. I cannot wait to see it. I promise I will upload photos as soon as it arrives!

That is all for the moment, time to turn my attention to gingerbread houses. I have not made a gingerbread house since 2008. I have been dabbling with gingerbread sleighs and chocolate displays (trees, snowmen, presents, soldiers, etc). I am in two minds about whether to make one this year, or do a simpler cookie tree. It has been a busy year and I am feeling a bit tired/lazy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Selection - Ensute Shower Head

My partner chose the main ensuite showerhead. His one requirement was that when he takes a shower he wants to be wet rather than sprinkled on. Thankfully, he is not one for taking long showers (< 10 minutes), so having lower star showerhead is not going to make too big of a dent when the water bill comes in.

I must admit, my partner often, and rightly so, calls me a water scrooge. A running tap when shaving or brushing teeth drives me insane. What can I say; I do not like wasted water.

Anyway, the showerhead of choice is a WaterTile Rain Shower Panel by Kohler. Compared to other overhead showers it very reasonable for what it is. The WaterTile has a set of four 54-nozzle, fully adjustable spray heads. The internals are solid brass and the outside is polished chrome. What I like most is the low profile design and the fact that it is part of the ceiling, rather than it hanging down from a post, which is great for tall people!

Below is a promotional YouTube video showing the WaterTile in action.

As far as I can see, there is only one downfall to having a showerhead of this style. If you have long hair that you do not want to get wet every morning, you are going to need a shower hat. Alternatively, if you are like me, install a rail shower as well.

WaterTile Rain Shower Panel by Kohler
Close up of one of the 54 nozzle spray heads

Monday, October 24, 2011

Retail Outlets To Remember - POD Interiors

Replica Isamu Noguchi Coffee Table
I have no idea what this is
but I like it.
Fortunately/unfortunately there has not been a lot happening on the house front lately. I have decided to take a bit of a break and fanaticise about buying new furniture, light fittings and other accessories.

After making the final payment on our appliances, I decided to wander about the various stores in Osbourne Park. I will be sharing these over the next few weeks. If you have any recommendations on stores to visit, please let me know.

The first store I visited was POD Interiors, on Hutton Street. Despite looking, this is the only store where I have been able to find well priced replica designer furniture. They have all of the essentials, such as the "Le Corbusier Petit Confort" single and three seat sofas, "Isamu Noguchi" coffee tables, "John Brauer Illusion" side tables as well as some other pieces that I am not familiar with.

I must admit, whilst I love the “Le Corbusier Petit Confort" sofas and "Isamu Noguchi" coffee tables I cannot help but feel that they have become that item that everyone buys when they are looking to create a modern/contemporary space. These coffee tables and sofas have been done to death, which is a shame, because I really do like them, yet the part of me that loves to do something different screens NOOOO!

Besides coffee tables and sofas, POD Interiors has an excellent selection of bar stools. We will definitely be stopping by when it comes time to buy stools for our kitchen island bench. The only things missing, was replica designer light fittings and artwork. Does anyone know a good place for abstract/modern artwork?

Unfortunately, POD Interiors does not have a website. If you find yourself in Osbourne Park looking for something out of the ordinary, it is worth stopping in and taking a look.

P.S. Does anyone know where to buy the wall lights pictured below? I fell in love with these at the store, but unfortunately they were not for sale.

Stunning wall lights that were unfortunately not for sale.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Selection - Kitchen Appliances

Omega rangehood with blue
feature lighting
Electrolux EHGC97BS glass gas
Electrolux ERCG9030AS glass
I must have changed my mind three or four times trying to decide whether to keep the “European styled stainless steel hotplate, oven & canopy rangehood” supplied by the builder or purchase our own.

For those who are curious, the supplied oven and cook top were Blanco BOSE902X and BCG95X respectively. The rangehood was a Blanco BWCE9X.

One thing was clear - I did not like the supplied Blanco rangehood. There is something about triangular shaped range hoods that strike me as clunky. Perhaps this style of rangehood would look ok if it was sandwiched between two overhead cupboards, but our kitchen does not have any cabinetry on the rangehood wall. This means that the rangehood itself becomes a feature and this is why it is definitely going to be replaced.

There are some absolutely stunning rangehoods available, for example Omega has a model with blue LED feature lighting.

I was torn when it came to the question of whether or not to keep the supplied oven and gas cooktop. Whilst these items are not terrible they just do not grab me. Is it worth spending an extra couple of thousand to buy a better looking oven and gas cooktop?

Our apartment has a black glass electric cooktop, which despite the extra cleaning required, looks lovely (especially on a black granite bench top). I really do love the look of black glass cooktops. Not only are they modern, but timeless. I do not think black glass is going to be going out of fashion anytime soon!

One of the main factors I considered when making my decision was how much time, effort and money it would cost to replace it a few years down the track. Because we have stone bench tops, replacing a cooktop requires not only an electrician/plumber, but also a stone mason to cut a hole for the new cooktop. There would also be the problem of finding a cooktop that is larger than the existing one, so that there would be no visible gaps.

The above argument also rings true for replacing the oven. A friend of mine recently replaced her oven. In doing so, she also needed to replace some of her cabinetry, because her new oven was larger than her old one.

I spent a lot of time asking myself whether I was being too greedy. I weighed up the pros and cons of replacing the appliances versus keeping the ones supplied. In the end, it was a 25% off closing down sale that sealed the deal. We purchased an Omega oven (OO912XN) and an Electrolux rangehood (ERCG9030AS) and gas cooktop (EHGC97BS).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Selection - Exhaust Fan And Light Combo

Standard electrical plan, showing the
separate exhaust fan and light.

Vent Air Levin 200 exhaust
fan and light combo.

It is rare to see separate heating units and light fixtures in bathrooms today. The days of the ceramic heater attached to the wall are gone. These separate units were replaced with a single space saving appliance that combines the heating and light elements (and in most cases, an exhaust fan is included to replace the traditional ceiling vents).

Bathroom ceiling space does not come at a premium, yet for aesthetic reasons, the before mentioned components were combined. I wonder why this does not carry through to WC and powder room design.

WC and powder rooms have significantly less ceiling space than bathrooms, yet we continue to install separate light fittings and exhaust fans.
Surely, the price to install an exhaust fan and light combo must be comparable to the cost of installing separate cabling and switching required for the each component.

Irrespective of cost, I believe an all-in-one-unit looks better than having a separate exhaust fan and a separate light. From the small amount of research I have done, there appears to be three companies that make a unit suitable for installation into a WC and/or powder room: Hellar, Martec and Vent Air.

We have decided to install a square silver unit by Vent Air. Fingers crossed, having a silver unit on the ceiling will not be too overpowering for such a small room, and the light will be sufficient.

Do you have an all-in-one-unit like this? If so, was the amount light sufficient? Which unit did you buy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Selection - Floor Wastes

Bounty Bermuda floor grate from
Bounty Brassware as seen in a
Ventura display home.
Floor wastes are another one of those items that are commonly overlooked when making your selections. I am surprised that builders do not offer an upgrade when you do your Pre-Start meeting.

I remember a friend telling me that when he was building his house the tiler suggested that he go to Bunnings to purchase some metal floor wastes to replace the standard white plastic ones that his builder was supplying.

Tip: It is worth making a point to check with your builder whether they are supplying metal floor wastes. Plastic floor wastes may discolour or crack over time. For $5-10 extra it will cost to purchase metal ones, I think it is worthwhile.

As mentioned in a previous post, we decided to buy some fancy floor tiles. I do not know about you, but I am not a fan of floor wastes. I would rather not see my drainpipes and the associated fluff and hair that stick to the grate.

To overcome the negatives of slotted floor wastes, we have selected tile insert grates. I love the seamless look that these create. We will be installing these in the WC, Powder Room, bathroom and laundry.

Friday, October 7, 2011

So Close, Yet So Far - Chasing Paperwork (Part 2)

Just when you think everything is back on track, something stupid happens. On the 28th of September, I received what should have been our updated site classification report. Would you believe that they had spelled my partner’s name wrong?
If it were a case of spelling his surname incorrectly, I could understand. However, how do you write the wrong name?

Oh well. Perhaps someone was having a bad day. We notified them of the mistake and new reports should be in the mail.

Thankfully, we have some time up our sleeve. We are still waiting for our retaining wall detail and letter from Ventura. Fingers crossed that the retaining wall detail has the correct name written on it!

I hope that we do not have to wait too much longer. It would be great to get the site works started sooner rather than later, especially as the contractor does not have many jobs scheduled for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

So Close, Yet So Far – Chasing Paperwork (Part 1)

Our block, ready and waiting.
(Marked by the blue and white
Ventura Homes sign.)
So close, yet so far. If there were one saying to define the home building process, this would be it. We are close to starting site works, so close, but still so far because of the windy road and unexpected pitfalls.

Thankfully, these pitfalls are not insurmountable, just annoying. Today’s essay, covers the joys of applying for building permits.

Knowing that any visit to the council is never straightforward, I called ahead to ask for confirmation on the supplementary paperwork/certificates required in addition to the application. Coincidently, the Contracts Administrator from Ventura Home did this also. Both she and I had come to the same conclusion. Things were looking good.

On the 20th September, I visited the Wanneroo Council offices to submit our application. Low and behold, our application was rejected - at the front counter! The certificates I had attached had the wrong name, and two were missing. Arrghh!

Apparently, a site classification report carried out by the builder may not be submitted to council as part of your site works application. This sounds a little bit odd, because the contents would be the same despite the client name written on it.

In order to satisfy council we had to have the site classification report transferred into our name. Who would have thought that changing a name on a report would incur a $55 administration cost?

Tip: If you require a change of name on your site classification report, the builder i.e. the original client of the report must arrange this.

I can understand the above restrictions, however annoying they are. What I struggle to understand is the reason why we need to supply the additional report – a retaining wall detail. I would have though that whether or not a garage wall sitting on top of an existing retaining wall is structurally sound would be part of the construction application, not a site works application!

The final thing missing was a letter from Ventura Homes outlining the extend of our involvement in the building of our home. This, I understand perfectly. What I do not understand is why no one told Ventura or us about this!

Today is the 4th of October, we find ourselves waiting for our updated site classification report, retaining wall detail and letter from Ventura. I am hoping that we will be able to submit our application to council next week.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tools - SweetHome3D

Unless it is an apartment or other tightly strata managed property, home building is never a cookie cutter affair. Homes by nature are as individual as those who live in them. Whilst you can look at a plan and say that is a Rendezvous by Ventura, or a Monarch by National Homes, or a Nautilus by Dale Alcock Homes, you will always find differences between the base plan and the finished product.

Example 2-D sketches created
using Microsoft Paint.
Our Rendezvous has definitely been personalised. We have moved built in robes, extended the kitchen and alfresco areas, and completely re-designed the wet areas.

When we initially began changing the plans, we used Microsoft Paint to edit a picture of the standard plan that we downloaded from Ventura’s website. This method is not precise, because the image we were working with was not to scale.

Despite these limitations, the above method is an excellent tool for recording our ideas. It was helpful to be able to take these pictures to our first sales meeting. Being able to show someone your ideas is always easier than trying to describe them. I have continued this trend whenever we need to communicate ideas to the builder.

Once you have scale plans, you are able to start looking at the specifics of home design, such as the size and placement of windows, kitchen and bathroom cabinet configurations, size of the shower recess, etc.

At this point, we outgrew Microsoft Paint and needed to find a proper home design package. Some people may think that creating a 3D model was overkill. Initially I would agree, but it has been invaluable because it has helped us to avoid last minute variations and unnecessary changes. Obviously, the more changes you made to the original plans, the more important a 3D model becomes.

For example, earlier I posted about our shower screen dilemma. The builder’s suggestion to add a small wall seemed a good idea in theory, especially as it would have allowed us to have a hidden recess for shampoo and soaps; however, it was a significant deviation from our original design.

I do not know about you, but when someone who has been doing this for a lot longer than I have makes a suggestion, I tend trust them more than I do myself.

If it was not for being able to visualise these changes by use of a model, we may not have decided to stick with our original design, even though that it required some legwork to find someone willing to install the shower screen after handover.

Our ensuite design showing the raised
areas and large shower screen

Screen capture from Sweethome 3D
showingthe 2D modelling view
and the 3D walk through view.

3-D render of our bathroom created
using Sweethome 3D
As an aside, having a 3D image of how we wanted our ensuite to look, helped immensely when looking for someone to install the shower screen. Trying to explain a bathroom with steps here, and raised areas there, is a lot harder than showing them a picture and saying “it looks like this”.

Home design software packages are plentiful. At this point in time I have far from scratched the surface of what is available. When I started looking for design tools, I was short on time. I needed a free package that was quick and easy to learn, which was capable of producing both 2D and 3D floor plans.

Whenever this topic arises, Google SketchUp appears to be one of the most popular answers. Whilst it is very powerful package, Sketch up was more I was looking for. Realistically, SketchUp is a CAD program, not a home design program.

On the opposite side of the scale is My Virtual Home. My Virtual Home is very user-friendly program that allows its users to rapidly create 3D models of their home design. Most of the people I speak to have used this program, and recommend it highly. Unfortunately, it drove me up the wall. I wanted a program that would allow me to enter precise dimensions and would not try to fix things for me. What I was looking for was something with the precision of SketchUp and the usability of My Virtual Home.

The solution to my problem was SweetHome3D. It allows you to:

  • draw straight, round or sloping walls with precise dimensions;
  • insert doors, windows and other furniture;
  • change the colour, texture, size, and orientation of furniture, walls, floors and ceilings;
  • simultaneously view your design in both 2D and 3;
  • annotate the plan showing room areas, dimension lines, and text; and,
  • create photorealistic images and video to export in a number of standard file formats
(For a full list of features visit: http://www.sweethome3d.com/features.jsp

The only real downside I have found to Sweet Home 3D is the inability to draw a roof on your home. For the most part, this did not bother me, as I was primarily interested in the house’s internal structure. The furniture models it comes bundled with are limited, but you can import a wide range from Google’s 3D Warehouse.

What software do you use to create 3D models of your home designs?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Inspiration - Homeone.com.au

Homeone.com.au has been an unending source of inspiration. I have learned so much in the short time I have been reading the forum. Everyone is willing to share (or show off) their homes, thoughts and experiences. One of my favourite threads is “show me your kitchen.” It is full of great kitchen photos and advice.

The people are lovely. They understand exactly what you are going through. Encouragement and advice is only one post away. There are no silly questions.

What I like most about this forum is that it is active, but not full of garbage. Aside from your standard question and answer threads, the forum also contains logs of people’s personal home building journeys. These logs are very informative, especially if it is your first time building because you are able to learn from other people’s experiences.

Your homeone journey does not end once your house is built. There are sections for interior decorating, landscape and garden design, renovations and extensions, DIY and home maintenance, and, home automation. These sections are equally as informative as the home building threads.

If you are building a home, or even debating over what style of window covering to buy, pop on over to Homeone.com.au and join the forum

P.S. If you are building a new home, make sure you read this thread, it is worth its weight in gold. When you are building your home, it is too easy to forget the little things. This thread acts to remind what not to forget.

homeone® - Australia's home building and renovation resource.
Australia's home building and renovation site since 2001. Plan your build, renovation or home improvement and find local builders, tradesmen and suppliers from the directory, read home improvement articles and discuss your project at the popular home building forum.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Colour Dilemma - External Colour Selection

Just when we thought that we had reached the end of the "design and selection" tunnel, we have reached one more stumbling point - we have failed developer approval because we chose one colour for our front façade:

“A minimum of two materials or colours must be used in the primary street elevation (excludes windows and garage doors). “

To be honest, I do not see why the garage cannot be taken into account. Garage doors offer a significant contribution to a given house’s street appeal. This is especially so in those cases where it is painted in a feature colour or is constructed using a feature (expensive) material.

Our current external colour selection.
I can understand the developer not wanting the estate to appear boring, but I think they need to be careful, too many colours and materials can easily look tacky and become out dated.

Do you think our front facade is boring? I would have termed it conservative, perhaps a little ‘traditional' compared to some of the modern houses with lots of small square windows and architectural pillars. However you describe it, I just hope it does not become old fashioned.

If you were us, and were forced to add an additional colour to the front rendering of our house, what would you paint and what colour would you use? I have included a picture of our front elevation which has the different renderable areas marked, so that we are on the same page regarding terminology.

The various sections of our front elevation

So far, we have received the following suggestions (thankyou) from the lovely people at the homeone forum and Decorating Forum. What do you think?

Big shout out to mimi23, Anna and kdgirl. Thankyou for your suggestions!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inspiration - Retail Outlets

A gorgeous wall mounted vanity
display at Bathroom Décor and Tiles

A unique pairing of wall and floor
vanities at Clever bathrooms.

A mock bathroom display at
Primier Tile Gallery
Retail outlets are a good way to see the current trends and fashions in home fittings, fixtures and furnishings. In a previous post, I sang the praises of company showrooms. When looking for specific items, for example a freestanding bath, company show rooms are excellent as they can save a lot of running around and potential disappointment because a store does not have the item you are looking for on display. However, they tend to be quite drab and boring if you are visiting to get an idea of what style, colour, shape, size, etc that you like.

This is where retail outlets shine. Even though the range on display is restricted to a small number of manufacturers, the staff members spend a lot of time and effort presenting their stock in an innovative and stylish manner. The best example of this is bathroom stores.

A good deal of thought goes into matching the various shapes and sizes of basins, vanities and tap ware, so that it looks appealing. This can save you a lot of time, and give you some great ideas and show you combinations that you will not see in display homes. Wall hung vanities, vessel basins and freestanding baths are the first things that spring to mind. I do not remember visiting any display homes that had these features.

Bathroom stores are not the only ones who spend a lot of time on their displays. Tile stores are another example. Not only do they group tiles that go well together, you will commonly see mock bathroom scenes, designed to show you how the tiles look in a real world setting.

Being the "over researcher" that I am, I visited a number of kitchen stores looking for inspiration. Unfortunately, the ones I visited imported their cabinets from Europe. Unless you get your builder to remove all of your cabinetry, there is not a lot to gain by visiting these stores as compared to looking at photographs on websites such as Houzz.com.

Some of the displays at the Häfele showroom.
What I will recommend is asking your builder what kind of hardware their cabinetmakers use. In our case, it is Häfele. I did visit the Häfele showroom in Malaga to see what innovative products they had on display. This is one of the rare occasions where we decided to stick with the builder’s brands. If you have the money to spend, I do recommend it.

Unfortunately, for us a custom Häfele proved too expensive. I would have loved to install all sorts of pull out draws, shelves, and racks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Selection - Basin

If there was one item that made one display home bathroom look like another, it was the basins. They were all fitted with two out of the four popular basin choices: square/round semi recessed, under-mount or round inset basin. 

$99 oval basins from
The Bathroom Outlet.
By now, you would have gathered that we want our house to be a little bit different to the standard cookie-cutter houses pumped out by the builders during the boom. Bathroom basins are one of the places where you can do this without obliterating you budget (assuming you do your homework and shop around).

When looking for a basin, one of the first things you notice is that the cost fluctuates greatly. A white ceramic vessel basin can cost as little as $90 and peak around $700. If you want something special and imported from Italy, you can easily pay over $1000. I found the majority were between $250-400, assuming you were not shopping in a boutique bathroom store.

Alpe White WT4 pedistal
basin from Reece.
When choosing a basin, a few questions that need to be answered:
  • How will you use it? For example, in a powder room where you are simply washing your hands, a shallow basin is perfectly adequate. If you are shaving, washing your face, cleaning your teeth, you may want to consider a deeper basin;
  • How will it be mounted? Do you love the look of pedestal basins, wall mounted ones, semi-recessed, vessel, under-mount, etc;
  • Do you want your basins to match? Some models of basin are made in different sizes so that you can have larger ones in your bathroom/ensuite and have a smaller one in your powder room; and,
  • What else should I consider? If you are looking at materials other than ceramic, you may want to consider whether the material is easily stained by hair dye, teeth whitening solutions, etc.
Glass basin from
Bathroom Warehouse
Once you have chosen your basin, there are another set of questions, depending on the style of basin chosen:
  • Is the plumbing located in the correct place? Wall mounted and pedestal basins may require different plumbing to a more traditional vanity mounted basin;
  • Is the vanity deep enough? This is especially important if the house was originally designed with semi-recessed basins. Semi-recessed basins allow for more space in small rooms because the depth of the vanity can be smaller. For example, the standard vanity depth on our plans was 500mm in the bathroom and powder room, but 380 mm in the ensuite! Do not assume all of your vanities are the same depth;
  • Where are you going to mount the taps? Depending on the answer to the above and your style of basin, you may need to mount your tap ware on the wall if the vanity is not deep enough for both the basin and the tap ware; and,
  • What else needs to change? As an example, if you move your tap ware to the wall, you may need to increase the height of your splash back, unless you are intending to mount it on the mirror.
Vessel basin and mixer
from Reece
These are only a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when selecting a basin. I am sure you will come up with many more to suit your particular situation.

If you are supplying your own basin for a builder to install, I do recommend taking a technical drawing of both the basin and the tap ware to your meeting, so that the builder can see exactly what they are installing and whether they foresee any issues.

For those who live in Perth, Western Australia, there is a lovely store called The Stone Super Store. What I love about this store, besides the excellent customer service, is its ever changing stock and its brilliant pricing.

If you want to buy a basin for your new home or renovation, I definitely recommend looking at their website, then going to see the products in their show room. It is worth telephoning or emailing their friendly staff before you come to check that they have a particular item on display, especially if it is a new or large item (e.g. a bathtub).

After looking through countless bathroom stores, we chose a Shanxi Black "Dianna" granite vessel basin from The Stone Super Store. I think it will go well with our black/white/silver colour scheme, and the rough-cut edge definitely gives the basin a bit of character. I cannot wait for them to arrive, so that I can share a photo with you all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Plans - Floor Plans

As requested, here are the plans in a more readable size!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Plans - Elevation

Front elevation

Rear elevation

Left elevation

Right elevation

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finally, The Final Plans

We have the final drawings and everything is looking good. The picture recess and the cavity sliding door are now drawn correctly.

As requested, here is the floor plan in a more readable size:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

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