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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bookshelves & Study Nooks

If you have a decent collection of books, as most people seem to, you're going to need some kind of bookcase or shelves. We currently have an Expedit bookcase from Ikea that's pretty chock-full of books (below), but we'll have to get rid of it when we get our built-in wardrobe installed in its place.

We don't really have space to put a bookcase anywhere else in the apartment. But I've come up with a solution.

See that little wall protruding next to the dining table? Our engineer told us that we can't remove it as part of our renovations, so it's here to stay. And it's actually 600mm wide. And see the laptop on the dining table? Nowhere to put that either.

So, I've decided to install white floating book shelves on the protruding wall, right up to ceiling. The ceilings are about 2.7m high, so we should hopefully fit most of the books that are currently in the Expedit. I'll make the first shelf desk-height to house the computer, so we'll just pull up a chair from the dining table when we need to use it, and voila - a study nook! Up there for thinking.

It will probably look something a little like this. Now if only our builder would get his act together...

Here are some pictures of bookshelves and a study nook that I came across in my travels:

There's even a resident pug on the couch (although ours is black)! See how striking the dark background is against the books? Ooohhh can't wait to paint!

Bookshelves between the fireplace and the wall - a great use of space that would otherwise probably go unused.

A staircase that is also a bookcase/library, with steps wide enough to sit on. Possibly one of the coolest ideas ever...

Elegant, floating cube shelves.

This study nook is part of a kitchen, like ours will be, only on a much grander scale!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australian Abstract Painters

I'm one of 'those people' who really like abstract art. Good, abstract art mind you. One of my favourite artists is Dale Frank, an Australian painter. Frank's works also have an element of surrealism:

If I was seriously cashed-up, I'd definitely buy one of these (much to my husband's outright horror - we have totally different tastes when it comes to art!)

I think I'm just a sucker for really large works, with absolute colour saturation, and these paintings give me that in spades. Plus, Frank has the funniest names for his works, like 'No matter how little he ate he always remained persistently bloated.' Love it.

I also like Ben Quilty, although some of his paintings are a little heavy, or disturbing. I still appreciate them, but I'm not sure I could live with the more confronting ones. Love the budgie though.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy weekend! Architectural tour of Seven Shillings Beach, Double Bay, Sydney

Well, like any good renovation, ours is experiencing delays. So delayed in fact, it's yet to even start.

Our builder was meant to have the plans to us to sign a few weeks ago. Until we sign them, they can't be submitted to council. With this delay, we're probably looking at a start date in late-February at the earliest! I'm not very good at being patient. And of course there's no 'before' and 'after' photos to put up here yet either - sorry.

Not only is our own work delayed but my husband, Tom, is replacing all the existing light fittings in the common areas of our our art deco apartment building and this has also been delayed! The lighting shop didn't give us all the right parts and one of the wall-light fittings was bent. The main fitting is up in the lobby and looking lovely, but needs to be weighted so that it doesn't lean to one side. So, hopefully now that the missing components have arrived, everything will be fixed soon and then we can upload some photos!

In the meantime, I've just got a new iPhone 4 that I started playing around with yesterday. I thought I'd put up a few photos of Seven Shillings Beach, Double Bay where my husband, niece and I went for a swim yesterday. For all you non-Sydneysiders, this is only a few short kilometers from Sydney's city center, and has a lovely harbour pool called 'Redleaf'. There are also some private properties that back onto the beach, both old and new. In the interests of 'seeing how the other half lives', here's a little architectural tour...

 This is Redleaf Pool, at one end of the beach - great spot for a weekend dip!

 This is facing the other direction (away from the City).

Same view with a hypstamatic lens.

 A 1920's block that looks like it's had a recent adjustment with the addition of balconies. I'd say that the top, red-brick part represents the original exterior.

Same building with a hypstamatic lens, also showing the original boatshed.

This looks like a 1970's block to me - all crisp lines and boxiness. Normally I am not a fan of 1970-80's brick buildings, but this is an exception. Somehow it looks fresh and nautical. The white rendering and dark blue awnings help make it 'fit' in its harbourside location.

Same building, looking up.

This a modern house, probably built in the late 1990's or early 2000's.  I would call this particular style 'Bunker' because it looks like...a bunker. Interesting that the older buildings house multiple residences, while the more recent additions are large stand-alones...

This old building is set so far back from the beach in private gardens, you can only jut see the top of it (you can see more if you click on the photo)... that's a gorgeous old magnolia tree in the front, left. It looks around Federation-era to me.

I'm not sure if this is Federation or Victorian era, but it's been converted into apartments. Again, set well back from the beach in extensive private gardens.

This is the cutest little boat shed at the end of the beach. I think I'd be quite happy living in there...

View from the beach toward the City. Spot the Harbour Bridge?

I think properties in the harbour-side areas of Sydney have a particular kind of aesthetic. It's interesting to see how the urban and natural environment influence the local building and decorating styles - lots of white, plantation shutters, polished floorboards (its also getting quite popular to paint these white too), modern aboriginal art, slick kitchens, balconies, fresh flowers, indoor/outdoor living, high ceilings...

It's interesting to see the difference in architectural styles that this one little harbour beach displays. I definitely know what I prefer, what about you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amazing paint

It's truly amazing what a coat of paint can do. If you don't believe it, check out the pictures below from my favourite wholesome, American blog, Young House Love:



Just had to share because what they've done here is so simple, but so effective. As far as I can tell, they've just removed the poky little folding doors, added a mirror, and painted the trim white and the walls in a nice contrasting colour. Voila!

Just a short post tonight. x

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Art and alternatives

I love art.  It can lift your mood, reflect who you are, and inspire you. And it totally transforms a room - I don't think there's such a thing as an amazing interior with blank walls (well, unless you're an ultra minimalist, but even then...)

But good art is normally expensive (as in, thousands and thousands). I'm lucky to have two large paintings by recognised artists, neither of which we paid for, mind you. I'd really like some more, but after our renovation I don't think there's going to be an 'art budget'! So what's the alternative? Well, I've been looking and there are heaps of really cool ideas for walls including mass photo displays, decals, paper garlands, tapestries, blackboard wall-stickers, mirrors, word press pieces, prints, vintage posters, and vintage maps.

Etsy is a great source of original art, plus prints and posters, often at really reasonable prices. And with the Aussie dollar this high, it's a good time to make a purchase...

I think these vinyl wall stickers at Urban Walls look really effective, with a similar effect to wallpaper. US$45 for 8 pieces.

This is an original 19x15cm oil painting at 'dailyportrait' for US$275. This shop also has lots of original sketches around the US$50 price range. The artist drew a portrait a day for a year, which is chronicled on his blog, and the results are up for sale at this Etsy shop. Cool, huh?

Dr Kennedy Jones' shop on Etsy has quite a few whimsical, retro-style prints around the US$30 mark. The obvious place to use them would be a kids' room, but I think they'd work equally well in a bedroom.

Letters - a little trite now, but essentially still a pretty cool idea. These ones are US$75 at William Dohman

An understated but fun print from Made by Girl (US$12.75).

If you like fashion illustrations, have a look at silverridgestudio. I love these colours - very moody ($US75, Glicee print).

Cute word-art (US$25 at dazeychick).

Gotta love the colour saturation (US$24 'Pink Triangle' print by twoems).

200+ birds cut out from old dictionaries for US$3.00 at LoveTspVintage - just imagine the possibilities! Also airplanes and butterflies available. So cheap you could order, like, 900 birds and just roll around in them...

Large, vintage maps can also be displayed as art. A world map would be great in a lounge room (this one is US$275 at Vintage World).

Well, I could definitely keep going in this vein so I'm thinking, look out for 'art and alternatives' episode #2...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review of Grand Designs Australia

Grand Designs Australia is a fairly new program shown on Foxtel's Lifestyle channel (which I am slightly addicted to). It's the Australian version of the very successful English program. And if you'd never seen the English version, mores the better. Because, in contrast, this falls short. However, if its your first introduction to the 'Grand Designs' brand, you'll probably like it just fine.

It follows a relatively simple formula - find a person, or more typically a couple, building an ambitious project from the ground up, with absolutely no construction or project management experience. The resulting situation is inevitably fraught with avoidable stress, mistakes, and delays. Factor in cost blow-outs and personal challenges along the way, and you have for some fairly dramatic television, irrespective of whether you have much of an interest in architecture or construction.

It's impossible not to compare the British and Australian presenters - both are middle-aged, Caucasian, male, architects. So much the same, but oceans apart in character and personality. I remember hearing the ABC 702 radio review of the first Australian episode where the critics cut the Australian presenter, Peter Maddison, some slack, wondering if he just needed a few episodes to warm up. Unfortunately, not.  Across the whole series his interactions range from socially awkward to positively excruciating.    

My favourite episodes are 2, 'Very small house, Surry Hills, NSW' and episode 8, 'Cottage Point House, NSW' as they're the most interesting projects. In episode 8, Maddison shares many awkward, almost sexually tense scenes with the male owner-builder, at one point standing on a pile of cement together, so close as to appear almost face-to-face, discussing the build. In another, they dance with the owner's new girlfriend in the basement 'club' of the house, sipping champagne, disco lights flashing behind them as the camera pans away. Did this strike anyone else as slightly odd? Can't quite recall a similar comparative in the English series.

In any case, the substance of the Australian series is not quite of the same caliber as the English program. Overall the projects are not quite as interesting, ambitious or aesthetically inspiring. One project set in Darwin (episode 5), is run on such a shoe-string budget that there never seemed a hope of it being resolved in time for the end of the episode. And it isn't. It's left in a totally unresolved state, in a very unsatisfying result for the viewer who just has devoted about an hour of their life to see how the project would turn out. Who knows?

It's not all bad though. If you're a sucker for design, building or architecture, you'll appreciate the fact that an Australian series is engaging with this subject matter, in a local context. Just goes to show how important the presenter of a show really is though.

Overall, I rate it 6/10.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Favourite things

I love a good list. Here are some of my favourite things at the moment:

Maggie Beer's burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice-cream - if you haven't tried this, you need to (only available in Australia I think - I get it at Parisi's Rose Bay).

Have You Met Miss Jones makes quirky porcelain/ceramic decor, including retro-style ceramics and porcelain table lamps in a range of different styles (e.g shells, cockatoos, etc). This camera lamp is pretty cool ($95).

Gemma Correll's 'Pugs Not Drugs' series is so cute. She makes T-shirts, tote bags, badges and prints available online from her Etsy Store.

Love the fact that Zara is opening in Sydney in 2011 (Westfield, Pitt St Mall). Finally some affordable, good quality work-wear. Bring it on H&M and Topshop!

Bassike (pronounced 'basic') t-shirts and singlets. A great Aussie label doing a range of t-shirts, sweats, singlets and other, er, 'basics'. What sets them apart are the interesting cuts, good fit, soft fabrics and a variety of cool colours. 

Glasshouse candles. They have two wicks, a long burn time, a range of interesting and beautiful scents, and are triple scented so they perfume your whole home. They retail for about $35 so are really good value given how long they last for. Plus they have names like 'Bora Bora' and 'Amalfi Coast'. If only... x

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cushions, lights and rugs

I've actually had a cushion obsession for years now, and probably spent way too much if I added up the cost over the years, but I can't seem to kick the habit. Every time I go homewares shopping, or even get anywhere in the vicinity of cushions, I can't help having a browse. Tom is so over my addiction, apparently if I buy one more cushion there's a chance it may end up inserted in my nostril! So this blog may be a good way for me to purge...

Ada and Darcy do the coolest cushions. These zebra print ones are fun, and include a feather insert for only $60 - bargain! They also come in different colour ways.

These 'coat pocket' cushions from Blue Caravan are re-purposed from, you guessed it, a coat. Handy to store the remote in, environmentally friendly and another bargain at only $30.

These cushions, also from Blue Caravan, pick up on the current Ikat trend but are also quite timelessly beautiful. They retail for $60.

I love linen, and these cushions, again from Blue Caravan, are 100% and only $45.

I really like these little white lamps for the bedside, and they're only $69.95 each at Beacon Lighting.

I also like this pendant light, also at Beacon Lighting, for $469. I think this one would look great in a hallway, or hanging above a little armchair/side-table combo for a cute reading spot.

I also like the following rugs from Ikea:

Alvine Rand, wool, $249, 1.7 x 2.4m

Alvine Ruta, wool, $249, 1.7 x 2.4m (this one was definitely not named by an Australian... read it aloud)

Jorun, $279, wool, 1.7 x 2.4m

I can't wait until our renovations are done and I can, um, buy some more cushions! x