Monday, August 30, 2010


"An architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board and a wrecking bar at the site."
- Frank Lloyd Wright

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Pictures: KAA Design Group

Sunday, August 29, 2010

HINT HINT: Keep your bathroom mirror fog free

My own special way of de-fogging my bathroom mirror after my steamy shower is to blast the mirror with my hairdryer until I can see my face well enough to apply mascara without poking my eye out. But I do believe there are a virtual flotilla of hints out there to ensure a bathroom mirror remains de-fogged even in the steamiest of bathrooms.
Apparently you can spray your man's shaving cream on the mirror, wipe it around until it's disappeared and give the foam new life as a de-fogger. It must work a bit like spitting in your own scuba mask to stop the fog.
A thin (and spare) layer of WD-40 is said to do the same thing! Hey, grease up, baby. An ABC forum says rubbing half a potato on the mirror can also work, but that sounds like a food crime. Have you tried to find a de-fogger that works for you?

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Pictures: Domino

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Could your house be killing you?

Has anyone else become paranoid about mould in their home following the news that actress Brittany Murphy and her husband died from pneumonia possibly caused by the fungus and mould growing in their LA home?

If the walls of your home could talk, they would say: "you have gas", "you have mould" and "you are a dead man walking".

Gasses are going off in our homes, creating indoor air pollution that can be more damaging than the air we breathe outdoors. The World Health Organisation believes indoor air pollution is one of the top 10 risks for the global disease.

There could be radioactive radon leaching out of your granite kitchen benchtops. There may be cancer-causing formaldehyde or benzene oozing out of MDF, particle board and laminate furniture. And let's not forget the paint on those walls - most hard-wearing acrylic paints off-gas VOCs (that's Volatile Organic Compounds) which can irritate asthma sufferers.

Who asked gas to start partying in our homes? Not me. Those gasses, and their good friends particulant, pollutant and chemical, just walked on in uninvited. There we were, minding our own business and hiding out in nice homes, only to discover that it's not smells, stinks or sanitation we need to worry about -- it's the materials we bring in to our homes that pollute!

CSIRO consultant Steve Brown says many homes are now built with minimal ventilation to keep out the outdoor air, which is wrongly perceived as polluted and bad. He says stale indoor air combined with off-gassing materials creates health risks.

"In America, some homes are so closed up that if someone farts, they say everyone in the house suffers for days," he says.

What's that noise? Oh, it must be the sound of my gasping.

I heat my home with an unflued gas heater which not only pollutes my house with carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde but also creates moisture which turns into mould spores that I breathe in and ...

... pardon me ...

... must. get. fresh. air...

Apparently natural ventilation is one of the best solutions to indoor air pollution. Leaving a window open to air your home - like Grandma did in the good ol' days - is something Ecospecifier founder David Baggs recommends as part of a regular housekeeping routine.

Other ways to beat your home's noxious gas party are:
* clean with plant-based cleaning chemicals rather than synthetic products;
* check the radon count on any granite or natural stone products, even the New York Times has reported increased problems with kitchen counters.
* grow indoor plants, which are nature's air filters;
* avoid buying furnishings, curtains, kitchen cabinets, floor coverings and paint finishes that contain indoor air pollutants.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Hardwoods in the garden: Jamie Durie's top tips

Once upon a time when my children were still tiny, I had the privilege of working in Jamie Durie's landscape studios to help him with a magazine project he was working on. The man wowed me with his outdoor design genius. I seriously underestimated Jamie Durie's awesomeness until meeting him in the flesh and seeing him work.
When I got this press release from Boral about Jamie's tips for adding style to a garden, I went "gotta publish it". So here it is: Jamie Durie's tips with timbers:

Why timber?
Whether it’s about laying decking boards in an unusual pattern or creating an impressive structure for entertaining, timber adds style and character to an outside space. 

Enclose or partition sections of the backyard to create separate spaces for different activities, such as an entertaining area for eating with guests and another where the kids can play. Decking timber framed around an entertaining area makes a stunning backdrop, while placed around a pool it is an excellent way to provide privacy.

Hardwood timber decking is also ideal for fencing, offering year-round protection against the elements and providing a smart, natural finish for the front and back of the home.

Decking can be a decorative feature that lends itself to borders and edging. Use timber boards either horizontally or vertically to add texture and colour around plants, trees or herb beds.

Structural applications
A strong and durable material, hardwood timber decking can be used to build structural items for the garden. Pergolas or gazebos are a beautiful feature, helping to provide some shade during the hot summer days. For the kids, timber can be used to construct a cubby house in which to play.

Statement pieces
Create an arresting timber centrepiece as a focal point around which the rest of the backyard design can flow. With a variety of species to choose from, a timber statement piece will bring warmth and texture to the backyard for years to come.

Outdoor room
Timber decking can form a continuation of the indoor living area, carrying the look and feel through to the outdoors for a harmonious, flowing aesthetic.  Matching the timber species to indoor flooring will produce a seamless space and can be further accentuated with potted plants boxed in the same timber.

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Pictures: David Matheson for Jamie Durie's Outdoor Room book


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Q&A: How to find places to store kids toys

Q. Finding enough room to store my kids' toys is making me want to turn into a little green martian. How do people manage this?

A. All parents learn something called toy tolerance. It's a special skill required of people that may have once wanted their home to look picture-perfect but decided to have children instead. All parents must find innovative storage solutions for toys. The real art of toy storage is not the myriad of solutions at places like Howards Storage World, Freedom, IKEA and even the Go-Lo or Reject Shop - it's more about creating storage your kids will actually use. It's no use buying a beautiful toy box if your child simply refuses to play with any of the toys at the bottom where they can't reach. Toy storage must be extremely functional - kids need to see which toys are where and be able to access them (and put them back) easily. See-through crates are perfect and you can pick them up for less than $10 at the Kmarts and discount shops of this world.

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Pictures: LivingETC

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Way to go with wallpaper

Once upon a time in an age where I wore silly platform heels popular in the early 1990s, I worked in the same magazine office as a stylish woman called Shannon Fricke. Shannon has a wonderful eye and created the quirky little wallpapered cupboard for Australian Women's Weekly. She's tres clever, no? I would have neither the time nor the patience for such things ...

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Pictures: ShannonFricke

Monday, August 23, 2010


"An architect is the drawer of dreams."
- Grace McGarvie

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mondrian retaining wall: better than the old

Retaining walls tend to need detaining for visual crimes against gardens. Most retaining walls are ugly, obvious and just plain obtrusive. This is a new retaining wall product from Boral called the Mondrian (as are many new products - for some reason, that painter is inspiring a tonne of renovation products in his name). The great thing about the Mondrian is that it costs under $100 per m2 and has a smooth top so doesn't need those hideous looking capping units, or separate corner units. With 72 blocks in every pallet, 12 blocks in each pallet can be used as either corner blocks, half blocks or base course blocks. As a result the wall can be designed during installation without the builder having to worry about being short of corners or caps. There are six different patterned blocks to create a unique wall design each time. The drystack wall system is designed so that blocks are fitted together when the back lip locks down over the top of the course below to form a flush face wall. There is no cutting required to form a corner or for half units as the corner units bond in with the standard blocks and the corners can also be turned to use as half units. Hey, I sound so proficient at this retaining world business that I could possibly lay it all myself. Oh wait ...

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Pictures: Boral

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Q&A: Do eco homes have higher property values?

Q. I heard that going green is all the rage and can add value to my house - how much more money can I expect to get if it has all the right eco bells and whistles?

A. How long is a piece of recycled string? Answering questions about property value is complex. While prospective buyers could be willing to pay more for a property that uses energy wisely, just how much more depends on price range, location and features. After all, that harbour view could add a few million dollars but installing one energy efficient light bulb may not add one cent. A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics studied sale prices and eco star ratings in the Australian Capital Territory - it found that for a house worth $365,000, increasing the rating by half a star would add, on average, nearly $4500 to its price. With electricity prices in NSW expected to increase by a whopping 64 per cent over the next three years, improving your property value is just one more motivation to take up eco renovating. Everything from shower roses to solar panels can alter a property's carbon footprint, so it's worth starting somewhere.
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Pictures: CoteMaison

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cool chicken coops

I don't care that roosters crow at dawn. I don't care that chickens get creepy little mites or destroy your garden with their wretched scratching that is said to improve the quality of the earth - I STILL WANT MY OWN CHICKENS. My mum has some down in Tassie and they provide endless entertainment as they bawk bawk bawk around the yard. OK, I would require someone else to shovel out the chicken poo, but all those eggs would make it worth it, wouldn't it? And then there's the totally cute chicken coop I'd have to keep them in. I rather like this swanky one made in the US ... how about you? Are chickens one of your secret fantasies?

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Pictures: Main picture by Anthony Willis
 Chickencribs via Shelterrific

Monday, August 16, 2010



"God, to me, it seems, is a verb, not a noun, proper or improper."
- Richard Buckminster Fuller

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Flameless candles! What next - chocalate free Mars Bars?

I have been emailed about the wonders of these flameless candles, but can't help wondering what's next ... milk-free milk cartons, meat-free Big Macs or alcohol-free wine? Oh that's right, all those things already exist. Anyway, these candles are for those who don't want to deal with fire risks or replacement costs of a wick candle."Fixed with quality LED lights powered by household batteries the candles flicker and cast dancing shadows just like a real flame!Made from 100% paraffin wax this stunning collection includes a selection of pillars, tea lights and votives," promises the press release. I still prefer a real candle, or am I just missing the point?

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Q&A: Cheap makeovers for bad kitchens

Q. My kitchen looks like it threw up all over itself - there are tiles from the 1970s on the splashbacks, '60s timber cabinets and a laminate benchtop circa 1992. Help!
Long-term rental properties are notorious for containing bitsy, piecey renovations - perhaps due to landlords being able to deduct the improvements as "repairs" rather than capitalise renovation costs? Whatever, tenants either have to shut their eyes or do something to make it bearable. You don't want to spend a lot of money but there's plenty you can do. Shiny new accessories can brighten a bad room instantly - a new dish drainer, tool storage and tea towels in the kitchen; or try getting creative with the overhead cabinets. If they are timber, unscrew the doors and openly display your nice things to draw the eye away from the rest of the kitchen. The backs of the cupboards may be unfinished timber or plywood, so buy cheap, sturdy paper or decorative card to tape over the top of the cupboard backs. Hanging a pot rack or pegboard is usually within renters' rights and will give you more storage. You'll need to keep the doors (and screws) somewhere safe to reattach when you move out.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Laminex: more eco than you think

Well blow me down with some melamine, Laminex has become the first Australian company to achieve Chain of Custody certification from the oh-so-eco Forest Stewardship Council. Essentially, that means the wood fibres in those white panel doors pictured above are legally sourced and traded. The Forest Stewardship Council is a super strict independent body which offers certifications to encourage responsible management of the world’s forests. Its trademark provides international recognition to organisations that support responsible forest management. The low  pressure melamine board is available in 15 decorator colours and can even have a FSC-certified timber veneer over the top if required.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Now here's a watering can

I love my courtyard. I hate my watering can. It's blue. It's plastic. It's ugly. Oh I've tried those swanky looking glavanised watering cans that look nice. The spout falls off. They don't sprinkle nicely. And they are too heavy to lift. Big W just sent me this Jamie Durie-designed watering can. I like it. I like that it's only $12.98 even more.

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Monday, August 9, 2010


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

- Leonardo da Vinci

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Pictures: World of Interiors mag via Shannon Fricke

Sunday, August 8, 2010

HOME HINT: How to fold a fitted sheet

My mother has bought a motel and I thought I was being most helpful by folding the laundry that came out of the dryer. Alas, the housekeeper slapped my wrist and told me I had no idea how to fold a fitted sheet. She was right. I am used to fitted sheets being a bunch of horror in my linen press and I didn't realise there was a knack to it.
 To fold a fitted sheet so it doesn't bulge out of the shelf requires skill and a love of corners. You kind of have to tuck the true corner of the sheet (as opposed to the elasticated edge) into each other.
STEP ONE TO FOLD A FITTED SHEET: Have the sheet with gathered edge facing up and long sides at the left and right. Pinch the lower right corner with your right hand and turn it inside out with your left so the seam is exposed and the corner has folded over your right hand like a loose glove. Bring the corner up to meet the upper edge of the sheet and tuck it inside the upper right folded corner. Repeat with the lower left and upper left corners. You should have a squarish shape. Smooth creases and straighten the left, lower, and right sides.
STEP TWO TO FOLD A FITTED SHEET: Pinch the upper right corner and turn it inside out. Bring the right corner over to meet the left corner and tuck the right corner inside the left. This is what I mean about the edges fitting into each other.
STEP THREE TO FOLD A FITTED SHEET: Smooth any creases. You should have a slightly rectangular shape with two straight edges and two curved edges. Fold the sheet in half lengthways with curved edge on top. Fold in half again. Fold the two short edges in to meet in the middle and then fold once more for a neat finish that will surprise and delight even the sloppiest housekeeper (IE, ME!).

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Q&A: A cheap way to renovate a kitchen: all about benchtops

Q. I want a new kitchen but everyone's saying it's cheaper just to get new benchtops. Are they right?

Well, there's much to think about. Replacing benchtops can be more affordable than replacing an entire room of cabinets, especially if you aren't changing appliances or plumbing. You can even get old benchtops resurfaced to look like new but that's another discussion altogether. When it comes to choosing materials, most of us like something flashy that will smarten up the look. All benchtop materials have pluses and minuses. Natural stone such as granite or marble can look fantastic but is expensive and requires sealing. The quality of stone can also vary depending on where it was quarried and how it is prepared. Engineered stone such as terrazzo or SmartStone can be similarly priced to natural stone but you can save money by buying thinner profiles and having it finished with a straight edge; bevelled or fancy edging costs more. Engineered stones are usually made from stone or glass chips mixed with a resin and don't require sealing. Remember that all stones can chip or crack if heavy or hot pots are placed on them, so they're not as bulletproof as people think. Engineered stone is especially prone to chipping around an under-bench sink. Stainless steel is expensive but is long-lasting and extremely durable (if you don't mind the fingerprints). Laminate is the hardiest and cheapest bench material and comes in many colours and profiles. It usually has a quicker turnaround time to custom-install than more expensive materials, too. Timber is one of the most overlooked benchtop materials but hardwood is durable and easy to sand back and reseal to update its appearance. Some timbers even have natural anti-fungal properties.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tiny holiday house, room for four (plus a dog)

Am feeling all inspired by this gorgeously rustic cabin an American family built themselves ... I WANT ONE TOO! Especially today. Go and check out the rest of the tour here.
The ingenious little family built the shed on an island by taking out a small loan and tailoring certain things - like deck rails and windows - to their own tastes. It's only small - barely even 20 square metres - yet it looks like a great place to escape to.
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Pictures: ApartmentTherapy

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Which floors are best? hard or soft ...

I used to hate carpet. Now I love it. There's nothing nicer than walking over my hand-tufted silk runner on a cold winter morning. Carpet also hides much dirt. It's cheap. It's insulative. The bad thing is that carpet harbours dust, requires regular vacuuming (rather than mopping). Tiles are a much more utilitarian flooring option - easy to clean with a quick sweep or mop, but they tend to be loud and a complete bastard if you drop your crockery on the floor. Timber is soft and ages well, but can't be mopped as easily as tiles and tends to cup or warp if the environment becomes too moist, hot or cold. Which floor do you prefer to walk over?

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Monday, August 2, 2010


Blogger first set

"A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise clients to plant vines."
- Frank Lloyd Wright

Sunday, August 1, 2010

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