Tag Archives: auckland

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.

Summer lovin’

What an absolutely stunning summer we are enjoying here in Auckland this year! It’s hot, dry and the locals will agree that it’s not even humid!

We were lucky to spend a few glorious days at a bach on Waiheke Island. So, this was our summer – beach fossicking, swimming, stunning views, and a few motorbike rides around the winding roads!

0121_3795 0121_5065 0121_5061 0121_5058 0121_38720121_3865 0121_3845 0121_3831 0121_3829 0121_3817 0121_3806

But we are home now, and back into the DIY groove that has been off since our last big project. Of course this time of year lends itself to the outdoors, so we are tackling the backyard once again, with a pergola/playhouse in the pipeline. Pipeline – it’s a clue! Stand by…

One brick at a time

A few days ago I showed you our brick wall out the back, but I wanted to also share the process, in case you’re considering something similar. Because it was a little more of a process than we thought it would be, even though this was a rare project we decided to bring in a pro for.

Starting months ago, while the deck was under construction, Andre cut and removed the concrete where the wall would stand. A whole lot of drilling out the rock followed a while later, before it was ready to get a solid footing in place.


In the meantime, I’d posted the job on Builderscrack, but it appeared there were no willing bricklayers out there. I followed up with a few calls to local bricklayers but noone was interested in a one off, small job like this. So… we resigned ourselves to doing it the DIY way and finally finishing it somewhere in the next decade!

Our attention then was on sourcing some bricks. It took a loooong search on Trade Me, but we finally snapped up one lot of 400 bricks. Loading them up, with the help of the sellers, was the easy bit!



Unloading them, we realised we were going to need to clean them. They’d been inlaid into the ground as a patio. So thankfully, they’d previously been mostly chipped of their mortar, but a good waterblasting was needed to clear them of dirt and moss.0322_9239

Hours later, we were still going. 6 sides of 400 bricks is a lot of laying them out, turning them, cleaning them, turning them, cleaning them…. and stacking. Over and over!0322_2417

On the same day we picked up the bricks we got a recommendation from friends who’d just had a guy lay some blocks for their own outdoor space. With that came a whole lot of luck in the name of Bob the bricklayer! Semi-retired, he likes the small jobs, and is happy to fit them around his family and other job requirements. With an appointment made for him to come and take a look, we stacked up a couple of options to confirm what we liked best.

As we assumed a one and a half width layout was far too chunky.0322_2441

But this single brick width didn’t give us much room for reinforcing and concrete in the middle.



The advantages of hiring a professional were evident right from this point because Bob suggested we use a narrower (modern) brick on the inside of the wall, below the stairs where it wouldn’t be seen, so we could have the look we wanted with the strength we also wanted! It’s a little hard to explain, but you can see a few pictures down how it worked.

With that confirmed, Andre knew where to put the reinforcing steel and got to completing the footing a few weekends ago. Starting with some steel epoxied in, then some boxing, and finally the concrete.




So the finished footing ready and waiting for the bricklayer, looked like this (there’s a step in it to account for the slight slope in the ground):


Bob set up shop in our backyard for what he assumed to be 3 or 4 days. I was very impressed at how organised he seemed to be with his set up, and despite having no backyard (or clothesline) for the duration it wasn’t at all tedious. He even swept up after each days work!

Day one got us to just a few small “courses” up. Below you can see how Bob used the narrower bricks (stacked at top right) on the inside of the wall below the stair level. And above the stair level he cut each old brick to the narrower width to match. You can also see how he tied additional lengths of reinforcing steel in as he built the wall up, and filled it with concrete too of course. In addition, he drilled into the block base of the house and set some steel into there too, so this is one super solid brick wall!
0322_2915Unfortunately for Bob, he picked some of our hottest days of the summer to work out here in this sweltering backyard with no shade and no breeze. Combining that with the amount of cutting he had to do to ensure all those old and mismatched bricks would fit into the wall, I’m thinking it wasn’t his favourite job to date! It also took a lot more time than he estimated so it wasn’t until two weeks later (with a couple of days off in that time) that he packed up his brick saw and took our money!

Incidentally, our estimate of 400 bricks wasn’t nearly enough (due to quite a few of them being too beaten up for Bob’s liking), and Andre spent a few more hours hunting out another 100 or so from every demolition shop around Auckland. And Mum and Dad saved the day with the last 10 bricks we needed, which they’d just found around the back of their shed during a massive tidy up before they move house!

I’m very thankful that we did hand this job over to someone who knew what they were doing, not only because it happened much faster than we could ever have done it (even though it took twice as long as estimated!) but also for the peace of mind that it’s done right.

To be honest, we wouldn’t have been nearly as fussy with the bricks as Bob was, so we might have saved a bit of money doing it ourselves, but the finished product would have been a little dodgy! And that’s really not how you want a brick wall in your backyard to be!

All up, this one cost us around $1600 – ouch! But the pain was very short term and all over once the cash changed hands and I turned around to take another look at the wall!


The old bricks we bought ourselves came to $364, reinforcing steel a mere $52 and the labour, mortar, builders mix and handful of narrower bricks Bob supplied was $1192.

So to DIY this would have cost us around $800 in materials anyway. Which means for only $800 we got the job done within two weeks. Definitely worth it!

I’m just hoping this amazing autumn-but-more-like-summer weather will hold so we can get the pergola done soon. Because we’re definitely DIY’ing that one!





I call that a lawn


As Master W would say (he gets this one from his mama), “Pretty much!”. Pretty much a lawn. If it needs mowing it’s a lawn right?!


Oh I just love our front yard. It’s far from magazine-worthy but it doesn’t scare me anymore. And I’m even a bit proud of it! And the lawn… well it’s not perfect (at all) but I’m proud of that too – we did it all by ourselves! Dirt, grass seed, tlc


There are bare patches, but it’s filling in slowly, and I have high hopes it will get there in the end. My dreams of a weedfree lawn are lying shattered but I’m not crying about it. I’m fine, and to prove it I’ll even show you a picture of the worst patch:


The shady bit under the tree. Perfect for a diy nail box swing, not so perfect for growing grass.

Definitely looks better if we spin around the other way:


More spinning…




Oops big bare patch.

One last request – take a step just outside the gate for a view of the afternoon sun in all it’s warmliness (definitely a word).


That winter sunshine is begging for attention a lot louder than the gate pillars that need plaster and paint, the patio that needs another go with moss, the baseboard that needs painting, the hedge that needs trimming, or the invisible border planting that can’t wait to tidy along the base of the fence and hedge. As for the mud on the drive… that does get pretty loud. Might have to add it to this weekends list.

Let’s hope sunshine is also on the list – it does make winter hibernating so much more pleasant! Enjoy your weekend.

Modifying plans

I’ve been making the most of the Auckland winter sunshine and getting outside into our backyard (such as it is) and dreaming of how it will look this time next year. Fingers crossed!

With a builder waiting in the wings we’ve had to make a decision on the deck. You might remember we started with two quite dissimilar plans? I’ve sort of fallen for one of them.

And made a few small modifications…

0702_Backyard plan

We’re going crazy paving (once I convince Andre we need to break up the concrete!) and a small deck. While the multi-level deck would have been fun, and a great play space for the kids, we think this plan suits the house better, allows us to work with what we have (and hopefully save some money) and provide more variation for kids play (and adult zones!).

Since the previous version of this plan we’re thinking of keeping the entire existing raised garden bed at the left, and will plant either a screening hedge or potentially make it a vege garden. To allow more room for an outdoor dining table on the open concrete space beyond the deck, we’ve also decided to keep the stairs to the right of the deck.

I’m pretty excited about it and can’t wait to get started! May the sunshine last…

Here’s a couple of my doodlings from yesterday afternoons Vitamin D session:


I was just trying to visualise how we could arrange/scale some concrete planters. Looks like it’s going to work for us to do that instead of the terracotta pots. Sometimes Plan B is even better than Plan A! (Even when you’re a diehard Plan A girl!)  I think I might give them a dipped look to fancy them up a bit (and to match our dining chairs and kindling crate)…0702_7247

I’m not yet certain of the pergola/playhouse structure but I’m thinking something semi closed in with screens and a climbing vine on two sides and the roof. More than likely it’ll house a sandbox and some simple benches. I kind of think it would be fun to create an outdoor play kitchen, but I must remember kids can make that happen with whatever is around all on their own! Let’s not overcomplicate things!

So… deck railing research is calling…

Have a great day!

Dining chairs madeover

It’s been a good day for my dining chairs. They got some Vitamin D, a spruce up and two of them even got something like a pedicure.

Last night, on a spur of the moment* trip to Daiso $3 Japan I got a couple of treats for my chairs, and a few other treats for my kitchen, windows and stationery drawer.

While the sun streamed in the french doors I got to work with some magic sponges ($3.33 for a bag of 12 from Daiso – I thought I’d see how they compared to my original Whitewash sponge) and gave my hard working chairs a spruce up. Grubby fingerprints be gone!

Then with that out of the way I opened up this little bag of cuteness:

Oooohh! Chair socks! Have you ever heard such a thing?! I found Andre checking out the tie rack at Daiso and showed these to him, expecting a snort of derision. But I got the opposite! He was the first to suggest we bring them home for our chairs. And because it was that sort of spur of the moment* night where I just felt like grabbing anything that took my fancy and figuring out what to do with it later, I did. Neon green or orange were available, but while fashionably “just so”, I thought these pastel blue ones (sans strawberry perhaps) were more our thing.

Conveniently the strawberries were just hanging on by a thread so I snipped them off and will save them for another project…

The concrete floor does get cold, so I know my chairs appreciate this little touch:

And while we opted not to go the neon route, the paint-dipped legs effect is keeping our chairs right on trend (here‘s some more trendy chairs, and here and here):

We just got a couple of “pairs” (pairs of pairs?) so might have to go back for more. We can’t have jealousy between chair-friends. I also need to go and get my owl from Typo. So inconvenient of their eftpos machine to be down. At 2 minutes before closing. The particularly helpful hurrying-want-to-go-home staff member had no idea I was in town for the first time in over 6 months and was highly unlikely to be popping back in tomorrow.

The chair socks make coffee so much more pleasant. Especially when both kids happen to have coordinated their afternoon sleeps and there is no chance of noisy chair scrapeage to wake them up.

Go our golden girls and guys!

*Spur of the moment: n. 1. a rare occurence, only happening when grandparents do dinner and bed and I get to go out with only my (half empty) handbag and husband for company. 2. something I miss. 3. something I want to not miss anymore!

Just Down the Road!

It sounds very DIY geeky obsessed but I’m really very excited about the new Bunnings that has opened in Mt Wellington. It is now officially our closest Bunnings store and saves a long haul trip south, west or north to one of the other stores.

I plan to visit later today as an outing with the little one. At the tender age of a bit over 1 he already has the hang of power tools (puts mama to shame!) and was most disgusted when I took the angle grinder off him this morning and locked it away. For those who may be concerned about his safety please don’t worry – I worry enough for all of you so rest assured he’s quite ok. I must also add that “power tool” is used very loosely here and can be anything from a screwdriver to a hair brush or potato masher – if it’s accompanied by a “vvvvvvvvvffffff vvvvvvvfffffffff” (drilling noise) it’s most definitely a power tool.

Now, back to the point Bunnings excitement… it will become something of a second home over the next few months years while we continue the arduous process of renovation so I’m looking forward to checking it out, although there is no point familiarising myself with the layout in order to duck in and grab whatever I need quickly. I have learnt the hard way that a trip to Bunnings with the husband is never over in less than 1 hour and all aisles must be browsed even if you just want a new paintbrush.

Just a little aside as to why we prefer Bunnings over the multitude of other DIY superstores now within a stones throw from each other in Mt Wellington: Husband’s Employers Staff Discount!

A Blank Page

This is even worse than the first page of a Moleskine, or more recently a Dear Little Dot notebook (I just bought the whole set here).

We (my husband and I) are renovating our first little house to make it into a home and even though we are total newbies at this game, maybe some of our victories and failures can be inspiration or warning to those heading for similar adventures!

About a year ago we spotted an open home sign and headed this way. With a little one asleep in the car Andre and I took it in turns to run in for a look. I remember the afternoon sun streaming into the lounge, reflecting on the polished wooden floors and warming up the white walls – a pleasant homely feeling.

And now this house is becoming our home.

June 2010 we moved into our little 2 bedroom 1950’s stucco already with plans for modernising and adding a bedroom somewhere.

The first hammer has gone through the wall (or ceiling as in this photo) but there’s not much we can call finished yet. With a promised date (from husband to wife) of May 22 for having the new kitchen in, the clock is ticking…