Category Archives: Living & Lounge

The last of the wallpaper

Those of you with greater (really… much greater) than average powers of observation may have noticed something in my last post about our fancy new fireplace (which is still up there in my Top 2 list of best things this winter)… we no longer have wallpaper in our lounge.

Or the front bedroom.

Actually… there is NO WALLPAPER left in our entire house! In all the long renovation that this has been, that feels like quite an achievement.

It also feels like this has the potential to be the most mundane post of all time, but for posterity’s sake, I think I need to document “the final wallpaper removal” here. After 5 years of living the “dream” – although it only lasted 2 years in the “dream” dream?! – the end is in sight. And if only for myself and my great grandchildren one day, I’ma gonna keep at this until we’re done!

So… photos. Short and sweet. The lounge:

0703_50040703-08.18 0703-08.27And the front bedroom (formerly known as the green bedroom):0703_5008 0703-12.03

It seems everyone has a horror story or two about wallpaper stripping, but honestly, since we remembered there are such things as wallpaper steamers, it’s far from our worst reno experience. We did 80% of the lounge one Friday night, and finished that and the bedroom the next morning. It even works ok on painted paper, and makes very quick work of the backing paper that never, ever comes off with the top layer. It’s around $30 for a day’s hire – definitely a better option than various concoctions in spray bottles and fingernails.

So we’re living with less than perfect 50s plasterboard walls right now, but embracing the edgy kind of vibe while we have it…
0703_5073 0703-02.11Because I’ve just booked a plasterer in for next week!

Have a great weekend.

Hotter… colder… cold… hotter… hot!

Outside, the wind is howling, and the rain is lashing the window in violent gusts. Inside, I can hear the faint roar of logs burning, and I can feel a rosy warmth at my back. (And there the romance novel stops thank goodness!)

Each time I’ve arrived home today it’s been off with the jacket and hat and scarf, and on with… oh! Nothing! No more that big comfy, chunky cardy that’s only fit for home. Because, my friends…

…We have warm! We have an efficient wood burner where once there was…

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Ouch! Thankfully this stage was momentary, but I admit it was a little tough on my organised self. This room is the centre of our house in a literal sense, as well as a living sense. We walk through the lounge to go between the kitchen/dining area, and the bedroom/bathroom area. There is no avoiding it – even when it looks like it should be a no-go zone.

Anyway, back to where we started. Since we did away with that awful mosaic tiling back in 2011, our fireplace has looked like this:

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It gave us much, in the way of ambience and rustic style and a whole lot of love. But efficiency was lacking greatly. Sitting in the armchair right next to it was never close enough… there were many times when it probably looked like I was perched half on top of it in a bid to get some warm air! And I’ll be honest, it didn’t always look this glamorous – mostly it was all about poking it with a half burnt stick every few minutes to keep a little flame flickering. No way would it still be going after I popped out to pick up another bottle of cream, or drop kids at kindy.

And with rumours of law changes around allowing open fires… we knew we finally needed to do something about getting a more efficient source of heat.

Of course we looked into a heat pump. If you don’t have one, you’re well and truly in the minority, and absolutely missing out on being able to say gushing things about how “convenient” they are, and “so cheap!” and “oh I could never do without one”. So there must be something in them.

I lost track of how many quotes came in (they somehow all seemed to quote almost exactly the same model, and at exactly the same price?!) before we almost, almost said yes, we’ll do this. We’ll do it for the resale value, and the convenience (which are one and the same are they not?!).

But… what I really, so desperately wanted was not just for our living area to be toasty warm, but our WHOLE HOUSE! Would that really be too much to ask?!

Sadly though, no amount of pleading with these heat pump guys got them anywhere near saying yes, ok, we can place it here… or here… and it’ll be pretty effective in heating your whole house. They’re a one room only option.

Of course, there was another option to the tune of around $8000 – a fully ducted system delivering quality heat to every room we wanted at the flick of a switch. Ideal – except for the price.

And the other thing… we are a little attached to the romantic notion of a wood burner. And we knew if we had a heat pump as well, the fire would just never get lit. We’d tell ourselves it would, but of course it would just be… too hard… and completely pointless. Plus I’m suspicious of that “currently on hold” ban on open fireplaces sneaking it’s way into law without so much as a “hey I’m back!”, which would leave us with a useless hole in the wall.

So after all this indecision I was finally convinced by coming across a forum that discussed heat transfer kits and how they really are effective when used in conjunction with an efficient wood burner. Annnnnnd… with an April/May special on a 3 room heat transfer kit bought with any new Metro fireplace (which turned out to be the only brand of insert that would fit our current opening) it was looking like the better option all round. Sitting in the middle pricewise, but achieving my goal of a warm and dry house (not just a room!), and the bonus of no ongoing costs (we’ve never had a problem getting free firewood), it was a done deal. Decision made!

So, it was onto scrubbing up that fireplace to get ready for it’s fancy new insert! We have always intended to do something about the marker scrawls all over the brick (drawn as a guide for the mosaic pattern), as well as the mantel and hearth. None of the three were in great condition, but we’d got used to them… and knew it was going to be a messy job, so avoided it accordingly!

But the time had come… to set up an adult size play fort a sealed dust enclosure, and get to work.

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Despite our great precautions, this red brick dust has a mind of it’s own and did manage to find it’s way out, but a little deep breathing, a stress relieving cup of tea, and a whole lot of vacuuming, wiping, and mopping, and we were back to relative normal. And Andre had a good long shower!

And once the dust settled and the nerves calmed, we could see the plan to remove the marking all over the brick was rather successful! But it seemed the brick was a little less attached to the wall than we assumed, because of some chunks of mortar having broken off and weasled their way in between the wall and the surround over time.

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However, what was going to be a straightforward job of chipping that away and refixing the top half of the surround to the wall ended with dismantling the entire surround and a good portion of the firebricks inside.

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Meaning… no fire at all until the new one was installed. I did have a little moment of sadness that we would never sit in front of our open fire again, but was glad I had “wasted” the entire previous evening reading a trashy novel right in front of the crackling flames!

Life Lesson #1: do nothing more often – you won’t regret it!

It all got put back together safely a few days later, and we could stand back and see how that brick was looking. My first reaction was “oh! it’s so orange!”. And actually I’m still thinking it’s rather orange… the grinding took off not just the drawn on pattern, but a layer of red stain/paint/mortar/something-or-other. And while I’m not a big fan of red (don’t ask me how it got to be the somewhat overriding colour in our lounge?!) I’m even less so of orange. Especially when it suddenly clashes with our rug.

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Sealing it with the same two part Peter Fell mix we used on our concrete floor helped tone down the brightness a little…

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…And I made an executive decision to leave thinking about it until the new fire was put in, then live with it for a while and make a decision over time. Because what we do with the brick, is dependent on what we do with both the hearth, and the mantelpiece.

The mantelpiece had its front edge planed off a while back on a whim. A whim along the lines of “I wonder what kind of timber is under here?” We may replace this entirely with something non-combustible, so we can remove the heat deflector from off the top of the fire.

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And the hearth is a little disastrous looking right now too – rough ground concrete which doesn’t play nicely with the brick, surrounded by some battered timber edging. Not sure what we’ll do about this one. It’ll take some sitting in front of the fire contemplating no doubt!

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Anyway, we had the insert installation booked for one day last week (which meant about two weeks between enjoying our last open fire, and getting the new one in), and I was more than a little excited as the day approached. I was that annoying person that rings to check in the morning – “What time did you say you were coming?” Afternoon it was. Afternoon came, and was passing… and by 3.30pm I was thinking this doesn’t bode well for lighting our fire tonight. So one more phone call which eventually came back with the message that the installer had no record of our job on his schedule. Oh I could have howled! And just to rub it in, everything had been delivered the day prior, and we had to pretend like it was ok that we were making do with a picture on a box.

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I knew, with the recent weather we’ve been having that that could have meant another two weeks delay before we could be scheduled in again. But the installer must have felt sorry for us and offered to come over and get it done in the middle of the only long weekend we get between April and October! Even though it was raining and slippery up there on the roof. Thanks Colin, thanks ever so much!

After a tedious afternoon of conditioning the fire by lighting two sheets of paper on the hour, every hour, for eight hours according to the instructions of the user manual (and the first time I’ve seen Andre read one, let alone pay any heed to it…?!) we finally got to light it for real the following day. A fire for the Queen’s birthday – how about that?!

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And the next day I woke to a fire going (thanks Andre!), and came home to a fire going, and came home to a fire going again… oh this is the life!

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And now, I’m off to sit with a trashy novel in front of the fire.

Life Lesson #2: Pay attention to Life Lesson #1 – you won’t regret it!

The curtains that nearly weren’t

 

 

 

These curtains. They’ve been a long time a comin’.

So first the pictures, then the story…

0527_1153-(2) 0527_1232-(2) 0527_1241 0527_1244-(2) 0527_1249-(2) 0527_1255 0527_1257 0527_1259 Starting way back when I first eyed up this fabric, in… August 2012. Gulp!

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Then we DIY’ed some curtain rods a year later. And they stayed bare for many more months, while I shopped around, and around, and around. Call me thrifty, call me cheapskate… but I didn’t want to spend over $1k on one pair of curtains. One summer passed by and I missed the special deals. Another summer came… and I juuuuust scraped in, with a few lessons learned along the way.

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After hosting a few big brand curtain consultants who offered only scary quotes and less than helpful advice, I decided to trust my own judgement on the fabric and style I’d had plenty of time to mull over, and hunted down a smaller scale curtain maker.

They appeared professional, with a simple website, some good reviews, and plenty of helpful advice. Not to mention a 30% lower quote than the cheapest of the big names.

Things were looking rosy and I had high hopes of hanging some curtains before winter began. Deposit paid!

And then… a few weeks later I thought “hmmm, looks like autumn is arriving, I wonder how my curtains are going?”

My emails bounced back, phone numbers were disconnected and a getting desperate phone call to the fabric supplier came up with “oh, they closed their account with us about a year ago”.

I felt pretty scammed. I felt a little silly, and a whole lot disappointed. I felt annoyed and grumpy. I felt like I’d just lost a few hundred dollars.

Then I got mad and hunted down the guilty party. I found an alternative email address in the depths of a business listing website, and my firm but friendly email didn’t bounce back!

But who knew if it had been read…

Then a few days later, a reply! Woohoo! They’re alive! But all it said was the fabric had just been ordered. Not so promising but at least a response and a way of contact was formed.

Days passed before another reply to my “where are my cuuuurtains?!” and apparently there’s trouble in the small-scale curtain maker camp. So my hopes were low.

The next email got a little more threatening and I did feel bad about that but Autumn was well and truly settled in and I just wanted my curtains! Or my deposit back.

I didn’t get a reply to that one. But eventually I got an email to say “your curtains are ready, where shall we send them?”. What? Really? My hopes rose a little but the fingers were still well and truly crossed.

Until a week or so later and just as I was walking out the door one morning, a courier van pulls up with a big box?! Noooo… it can’t be?! I told the kids to stay in the car, and ran back in with my box, grabbed the scissors and opened it just enough to peek in. Hallelujah!!! We have curtains!

I half expected spiders or mice or something to jump out at me too, but no. I just got my curtains, as ordered and as lovely as I hoped! Relieved and a little bit wiser, but I took a few days longer than I would normally to pay the balance. Fair’s fair I say.

And now these are my favourite curtains to pull every night and morning, and we can enjoy dinner without the cold draught through the french doors. All is well!

Especially now I’ve adjusted the hooks and they hang just right. I snapped these photos below before I fixed them up so ignore their bunching at the bottom, and just admire how they look from the living room (I forgot to get more photos from this angle after I’d adjusted them).

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The fabric is Pegasus EMI Imperial, in Duck Egg. My fave!

And the curtain rings come in packs of 10 – Nusa, in pewter (but I sprayed them the same colour as I sprayed the rods) by Windoware, from Bunnings.

I’m not naming the curtain maker because I believe they are/were genuinely in trouble and did their best (the curtains are well made and their advice in the beginning while we sorted the details was appreciated) but in future I will make sure to have a physical address for contact because phone numbers, email addresses and websites can disappear in an instant!

 

A curtain call

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Last week you got a peek of the curtains in the lounge when I got all summery and rearranged it, along with a promise that I’d share the bedroom ones real soon. Is now soon enough?!

I’ve done a bit of less than artful cropping, so my apologies for the substandard photos. I’m just really starting to get irritated by the ugliness slash junkroom-ness of the master and spare bedrooms, so I didn’t even want to see the worst bits through my viewfinder, let alone share them with you all. One day I’ll be excited to show you every little nook and cranny, but not just yet ok?

This is the spare bedroom… all pretty and light with those dreamish curtains over our black out blinds –

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At US$4.99 a pair, these are an absolute bargain, and the smile value for money is huge! Get yours here at Ikea. The only catch is having someone in the US (or Australia or the UK) to help you out with shipping them beyond the edge of the Ikea world to l’il old NZ.

Here’s how they look in the master bedroom:

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Oh I just can’t get over how much of a difference such a flimsy piece of material makes to not just the window, but the whole room. The way they filter the light… oh yes I could get poetic if you let me!

But how about I just show you a couple more close ups instead?

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Gorgeois! (pron. Gorge-wah)

You can see they are quite an open weave, which frightened me a little when I first saw them (like old 80s net curtains) but I’m well over that now, and actually they’ll go perfectly with my macrame plant holder (my eyes are peeled, watch out TradeMe!).

In case you missed the two part story of the DIY curtain rods, you can read it here and here.

By the way, wasn’t it quite the morning with Oracle bringing it to 8-8. I have butterflies and they’re not going anywhere until the final race is over. C’mon boys!

Lounge-o rearrange-o

The sun hit again this afternoon and it sent me off on a rearrange the lounge frenzy. It’s been in cosy mode for a few months and I’m excited to try it back the other way again (although I’m not tempting Murphy by taking that kindling box out just yet!).

Pictures, pictures… here they are: 0920_8160 0920_8161 0920_8163 0920_8165 0920_8166

And one little bonus shot of the sun streaming into the dining area –

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Hey did you spot those dreamy new curtains in the lounge?? I’m just going to whip the rest of the house into shape so I can get some photos of them up in the master and spare bedrooms too. Enjoy the weekend, and I hope to be back next week with those bedroom curtain photos for you!