February 27, 2011

Main bedroom in progress

Above and below shows the main bedroom 'before'. This room had been used by the previous owners as an office and included an exterior door and workman's bathroom.

After finding a pile of unused house bricks behind the rainwater tank, we had the builder fill-in the odd shaped window and external door on the western wall.

This shows the same view now (and I've just noticed the crooked cushion on the wingchair - how annoying). The two decorative cushions on the bed were custom made by Laura Ashley. The wingchair is temporarily substituting for the long-awaited black velvet armchair.

Note: The delightful green, brown and cream splotchy carpet (new carpet is on the way). I also need to paint the skirtings, the ensuite has no door and I am having a white roman blind made for the window.

On the opposite wall is a cluster of artworks above the chest of drawers including a horse miniature purchased in India, a cross-stitch by my mother-in-law, and a 1940's silhouette. We are also in the process of converting the former walk-in pantry into a walk-in wardrobe - a separate post on that coming.

February 23, 2011

Bathroom in progress

Above and below are a reminder of the 'before'. Key features to note: Culinary themed feature tiles to match the original kitchen, tiny bath, and odd shower screen involving metal brackets and small in-fill section in bottom right corner.

Important note: There was no budget for the bathroom. Original priorities were kitchen, living room, master bedroom and dining room. Farmer Joe and I had decided that bathrooms were expensive, we didn't need to live in it, and we could always shut the door when we got sick of looking at it. Then we learnt the strange game of tetris that is house renovations. Before we could do the kitchen, we needed to have the new timber floors laid. Before we could have the new floors laid, we needed to fix the huge patch of wet and mouldy slab that we discovered under the dining room lino. And to fix that... you guessed it. No choice but to demolish, reseal, and redo the old bathroom (which was leaking all of that water into the slab).

Due to the lack of budget, we had to do as much as possible ourselves, including all of the demolition and jackhammering out the old floor. Chipping off tiles is an awful job, I had tile splinters in my hands for days (and no, it never occurred to me to wear gloves). Added surprise - when I knocked the tiles off in the shower recess, there was nothing behind them except studwork. The gyprock had long ago rotted away and the tiles were being held up by silicone (and back comes the builder to replace two walls).

This is a bit of a teaser really. The bathroom is now complete, I will finish painting the woodwork this weekend, and the artwork is being framed. The first official Chambers 'before' and 'after' shots coming soon!

February 18, 2011

Art... A commission with Julia Davis

Artist Julia Davis is something of a local legend for (amongst many other talents) her wonderful paintings of cows. One of her pieces hangs in our local pub, and we have been admiring it for ages now (and wishing it was in our living room). As a combined valentines day/birthday present for me, Farmer Joe commissioned Julia to paint a large canvas of the cows on our farm. Julia came out for a ride in the ute, and armed with only my terrible cheap camera, took snaps for inspiration.

The cows were very obliging, clustering around the ute in various poses.

Julia also took landscape shots for the background, and some interesting details too.

A very excited Farmer Joe and I shared a wine with Julia this week to finalise the details. I would love to show you one of her completed works but there is nothing on Google. Enough to say these photos don't do her work justice, so I will have to settle for showing you mine as soon as it is ready.

February 17, 2011

Dining room in progress

The dining room 'before' (deep breath). Exposed brick wall, bright red feature wall, brown lino and fluro bar light.

Above and below shows the dining room at present (about 50% complete). Floors laid, downlights installed, painting complete (spot the occasional bit of blue painters tape where I couldn't reach to remove it). The brown aluminium window to the left will be replaced (along with all the others in the house) when we commence the exterior renovation. Still to do - install white roman blind, have dining chairs reupholstered (the cat has destroyed the loose-weave linen currently on them, I'm on the hunt for something tougher, and white), and purchase a large rug for under the dining table (still deciding between colourful Persian or natural and sedate sisal).

As it is now, I feel the room lacks personality and is too 'straight-laced'. We entertain at home regularly and I would like this to be a lively space with lots of character. So I'm on the hunt for a quirky artwork to hang on the large empty wall to the right of the room. Yesterday I found this pennant flag at Pony Rider:

Photo by Pony Rider

The text is a working recipe for scones. I love the food reference, and the vintage-style text. The flag can be hung on a baton (as seen below) or possibly framed? 

Photo by Pony Rider

Definitely need feedback on this one guys - I'm heading out of my comfort zone. I've already bought it, so if everyone hates it, it will look great in the new laundry!

P.S. Tradie Blunder: Came home last night very excited to see my completed kitchen, only to discover that our builder had installed 24 drawer handles in completely the wrong spot. They look ridiculous, and of course, can't be moved because holes have been drilled through the drawer fronts. Not willing to live with second best after so many months of effort, I have just been on the phone to our kitchen company to have all the drawer fronts replaced (and the budget groans a little louder...).

February 15, 2011

Living room in progress

Two 'before' shots of the living room (and if you are wondering, those garbage bags are full of clothes because we were moving in - classy!).

It got worse before it got better. The living room became a storage area while the new kitchen was installed. See Farmer Joe's clothes drying in the bottom right corner? Remember, we were living in this. Unfortunately, I never took a picture of the worst stage, when the dining table was in the middle of the room and the fridge was next to the fireplace (which Farmer Joe loved - he could sit at the table, eat dinner, watch TV and get himself another beer, all without getting out of his seat).

Above and below are the living room as of about an hour ago. Brick wall covered, oak floating floors laid, downlights installed, new fireplace, walls and ceiling painted and painting of the woodwork underway. The lump on top of the armchair is Belly the cat. She refused to move for the shot, and she's the boss.

There is a huge amount still to do - the front aluminum sliding door is to be replaced with a double white timber and glass opening door, three large artworks on canvas by local artists will be hung in the living room and entrance space (seen at rear) and smaller decorative touches such as a rug and table lamps, etc, are still needed (I am on the hunt, but the budget is groaning). I'm thinking a progress report on the dining room next if you guys are interested?

February 14, 2011

Creating a vegetable garden

Very early in my 'Chambers' experience I decided to establish a vegetable garden and orchard. My previous interests (theatre, restaurants) were now several hundred kilometers away, and new hobbies were urgently needed. In the spirit of getting carried away with my own ideas, I decided not just to grow vegetables, but to become self sufficient for fruit, vegetables and herbs. For good measure I also decided to learn to cook so that I could create culinary masterpieces from my organic produce. The best laid plans...

Farmer Joe built four raised garden beds from recycled railway sleepers and I enthusiastically planted dozens of seedlings. Remember the series of mishaps I referred to in my first post? This is where they began. One week after planting, I came home from work to find the garden completely demolished. Every last plant had been pulled out by the roots and thrown aside. In a single day. Nothing left.
Insisting on a solution that didn't involve a shot gun, I had Farmer Joe string fishing line across the entire area with little strips of alfoil attached to scare away the birds. The cockatoos stayed away and I replanted, though for several weeks it looked as though crazy people lived in our house who were expecting a visitation from space.

The new plants matured and we began to harvest. Enter mishap number two. Farmer Joe and I were woken at dawn by the unusual sound of sheep bleating outside our bedroom window. Farmer Joe had left a gate open.
800 sheep. 800.
I stood in the dirt in my dressing gown in front of the dust bowl that had been my vegetable garden and (I am embarrassed to admit), cried. Country life has some unique challenges.

Farmer Joe built a fence, I replanted and the garden grew again. We are now enjoying bountiful harvests of tomatoes, zucchinis, sweetcorn and beans. The cockatoos stay in the trees and the sheep can only stare in from the other side of the fence.


February 12, 2011

Kitchen in progress

Above is a quick reminder of the before - exposed brick wall, lino floor covering and early 80's cabinetry.

With the old kitchen demolished and brick wall covered with gyprock. At this point I had learned three things - none of the corners in our house are square, the measurements on the original house blueprints never made it into reality, and it is possible to cook from a microwave for six weeks (but I have never felt less healthy).

Oak floating floors laid, walls and ceiling painted, downlights installed (my father-in-law was genuinely disappointed to see the old fluro bar light go - he thought they gave a good crisp light), and the first of the cabinetry in place.

Cabinetry completed, granite benchtops installed, splashbacks tiled, painting of woodwork underway (sincere apologies for saggy-bottomed painting pants). Has anyone noticed there are still no door handles? We ordered them seven months ago. They just arrived. I think the delay added a few dozen grey hairs to Farmer Joe's head, but the builder will be here Monday to finish the job (Oh, happy day!).

February 10, 2011

Ticking and Damask

I have developed a passionate (though expensive) addiction to custom made furnishings. This began after Farmer Joe and I spent several disheartening hours searching major furniture retailers for a lounge suite. After much mutual grumpiness we gave up and headed home - only to spot a new interior design store along the way. Despite Farmer Joe's protests that we "won't be able to afford anything in here" we entered, and my first foray into the world of custom made had begun. Served by (two!) enthusiastic designers with countless fabric sample books, our vague notion of 'contemporary farmhouse' quickly materialised into a blend of ticking, linen and damask. We ordered a sofa, two armchairs and five cushions, all for less than the major retailers had wanted for a single couch (and locally manufactured no less!). My love affair had begun.

Sadly, I must report that shortly after we took delivery of our new items that wonderful store went out of business. I have had several smaller pieces made elsewhere, but am yet to find anyone who compares to them. I now have my heart set on a black velvet armchair for the master bedroom - so the hunt continues.

February 3, 2011

Meanwhile, on the farm...

Three hundred beehives have just arrived to pollinate the lucerne. The only problem is that the bees don't stay in the lucerne and are very fond of buzzing around the house and garden. Sure enough, I took one step outside after they arrived and promptly got my first bee sting in 20 years. After hopping around the house looking for the phone to ring Farmer Joe (I'm not sure if I wanted him to help me or just wanted someone to whinge to), I eventually retired to the couch with a bag of frozen beans tied to my foot. This morning my foot wouldn't fit into any of my shoes (Farmer Joe's suggestions of thongs or ugg boots were not considered appropriate for work) and I spent the day hiding one bare, swollen foot under my desk.
Ahhh...farm life.

February 1, 2011

Living in the 80's

I thought a tour of the 'before' house may be appropriate at this point. The house was built in 1980, and very little has been changed since. The previous owners installed new carpets in the living area and had several feature walls painted - but it's otherwise original. The photo above is of the living room with a view to the master bedroom (previously used as an office).

The kitchen. This room worried me at first as it had so little natural charm, but I quickly came to appreciate it as a blank slate. As nothing was worthy of being retained, the sledge hammer came out very shortly after moving in.

The dining room forms an open plan area with the kitchen. The lino on the floor is actually placed over the slab (without underlay) and unsecured. Luckily that made it easy to peel back and look underneath (although we soon wished we hadn't - more on that in a coming post).

Finally (for now) the bathroom. Apologies for the photo - the room was almost impossible to get a decent angle on (partly because it's so small). Oddly, the feature tiles above the bath have a culinary theme and are the same that appear in the kitchen (I suspect they bought in bulk).

That was my challenge! On first impression the house needed light, life, and a consistent feel flowing between rooms. Work has been underway for six months now and several rooms are nearing completion. Room by room before and after posts coming soon!