Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The bliss of Bath.

There are two types of people in the world: those who like baths, and those who don’t.
I suppose when it comes to children you might add a third category, being of the type who don’t like baths but are made to have one regardless, but for the sake of simplicity, I shall stick to those who are in control of their bathing choices.
I love a bath.
But I am picky.
I can’t take a relaxing bath in a bathroom which is crowded with kids toys. I can’t take a bath when there is kid-craziness and general hullaballoo going on in the house outside the bathroom door. In fact, I really can’t settle to a bath unless there is a reasonable degree of security that I will be uninterrupted by partner, child or cold water.
Bath is sanctuary.

“There is no problem on earth that can't be ameliorated by a hot bath and a cup of tea.” 
- Jasper Fforde, Shades of Grey

Bathtime is solitude. Bubbles, oils or bathbombs, a robust book (book holder or skill required here), and beverage of choice is necessary. Assume the position hitherto known as ‘bliss’. (Side note: now I know wine or bubbly is generally regarded as the stereotypical ‘ladies’ bathtime beverage, but there’s a lot to be said for spirits, too. Tea is also a personal favourite, although one should take care to not simultaneously overheat internally and externally from hot liquids. Iced tea is safer. Passing out in the nick on the bathroom floor due to carelessly dehydrating from excessive indulgence does tend to dent one’s bliss).
To take a bath is to remove the trials of the day as you disrobe; to add some magic potions to soothe and soften, and to wash off the dust and stress. There is method and meaning to this ritual of Bath.
That act of slowly inching my scrawny, tired and neglected frame into the steaming water, adjusting to the heat and enjoying the tingle as the senses awaken and then subdue, is something I often think of when I’d rather be somewhere else. Somewhere, lying in a bath, nostrils poking above the waterline like a hippo, wallowing and enjoying the sensation of becoming as buoyant as the water depth will allow. Ah, my bliss.

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.” 
- Sylvia Plath

So one of the indulgences in our build is to add a bath to the ensuite. It was a conscious, selfish decision because, clearly, I don’t want to share. This bath is mine. No discussion will be entered into. You can take your rubber ducky and leave right now.
Despite that, we made a mistake in planning this bath. In the whirlwind of making decisions on all the bathroom fitouts, we managed to choose just the very basic bath for both the ensuite and main bathroom, which will be mostly used by our kids. Partly this came about due to budget but also because I didn’t realise how petite the bath would be.
When the baths arrived and were installed onsite, I blanched. A kid-sized bath in a kid’s bathroom I could live with, but a kid-sized bath in an adult bathroom was quite another thing. I’d blundered.
Thankfully, we negotiated for the builder to remove the ensuite bath while we quickly ordered another, still fairly budget, but much more adult-friendly. Sigh. Of. Relief.
Oh, there were thoughts of palatially-proportioned bath 'bowls' which would bath the whole family at once (although how could this ever be relaxing?). Or perhaps a spa bath big enough for two (definitely NOT relaxing and so irritating to have my book interrupted). A flick through the latest reno magazine or scroll through Pinterest gets the wishlist whirring.
But at it's core, remember this: a bath does not need to be any longer than your own body, and only deep enough that you can wriggle your shoulders down under the waterline. The rest is excess and a waste of good book money.
Had I  the money, then yes, perhaps I would have loved a more serious bath in both spaces, even extending to that spa. But here’s the reality for most people: there’s only a limited budget and something’s gotta give. The kids will have a kid-sized bath. Adults will have a (modest) adult-sized bath. And in the future we may add an outdoor spa.
I might even share the spa. But don’t bet on it.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Injecting the vintage into our build


It’s an exciting milestone in our house build – we’re at lockup! That’s right, that time in the build which most people consider the ‘hump’, not least of all because it’s generally the biggest payment stage, which feels pretty humpy financially, but it’s when all the external doors and windows are in and it feels like a real house.

The plasterers have been working hard and we’ve complicated their task a little because they have to work around one of the features we included to inject a little vintage vibe, pine lining boards.

There’s a bit of a throwback to pine lining boards lately thanks to the recent ‘shiplap’ trend popularised by a few American house restoration TV programs, but of course the use of timber boards to line ceilings and walls in Australian housing goes back to the original European-style houses in Australia like the slab hut.

The invention of plasterboard and asbestos- and fibro-cement sheet post WWII led to lots of beautiful timber boards being removed and new construction opting for the cheaper manufactured alternatives. Today, timber lining boards tend only to be used as feature points in design for a point of difference in architectural focal points.

I’m sure you could have predicted just a ‘focal point’ of timber lining was never going to be enough for me. Nope.
So I pushed the friendship a little with our builder and made the call: timber lining on the ceiling throughout the entrance, main living area and hall. Also I opted for a few full walls, being a large wall in the central living area, two walls in the lounge and one in the master bedroom. I chose to have them installed horizontally in the fashion of early Australian architecture.
The trickiest bit, where I may have pushed the envelope little, is the ceiling of the al fresco area, because it’s vaulted and will need a bit of time to perfect the angles.
It’s going to look superb and I can’t wait to see it painted up.
If funds had allowed, I would have gone further. I perhaps would have liked to have included the hall walls and all the ceilings, but we had the draw the purse strings somewhere and I think the choices we made for where to put the timber lining will definite add a strong vintage feel without blowing the budget and avoids the feeling of the timber just being a ‘token’ addition.

I also chose to use the side of the board which many people think of as the reverse, which gives a feeling of a wider board and reveals the curved bead line which, for me, really gives it a more period feel. Combined with a modest cornice choice, nearly every room will have a vintage hit which will be un-missable.
Next week the next stage of fitout begins, with architraves, skirting boards and tiles being delivered for installation. The slow reveal continues!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Manage your expectations (and don't sweat the small stuff)

Hello again!

It's really panning out to be an eventful week, with our brickies starting a few days earlier than expected and now looking to be almost finished by week's end. And the impact is amazing. Thank goodness.

You see, the bricks is one of the elements we had to adjust our thinking on several times. I wrote here about some of the constraints of building that we encountered. One of them was regarding the cladding material, which meant we had to adjust the mental picture of our new house from a weatherboard-look, to being mostly brick.

This wasn't an easy thing to do, because we'd built up an emotional attachment to a particular outcome. Detaching from that, and adjusting to the idea of a partly brick house was a fair shift, and finding a brick we liked, that would fit the bill aesthetically was a bit of a struggle.

However, we did find a brick we liked, and then became quite attached to it. It was a recycled brick, which fitted with my idea of trying to bring recycled or preloved elements into the build. I loved it.
But of course, recycled is de rigour now, and it's a material which is not easily sourced or cleaned.

When the builder tried to order for us, disaster struck. To our utter dismay, we found that the demand for our lovely recycled brick way outstripped supply. We were looking at minimum three to four months waiting, with no guarantees. We were gutted. We rang supplier after supplier but it was no good. Our brick was not going to be a part of our build.

At this point we were in a fair pickle. Bricks needed to be ordered quickly to keep the build moving so we had to make a quick decision about a replacement, which seemed crazy given how long it took to find the other one and then fall in love with it. And yes, I'm saying this about bricks, such is the nature of building a home.

Our local brick supplier, to their credit, offered a pretty good alternative, which was a brand new brick just released to the market, so new that the mortar on their own brick display wall hadn't even dried yet. It's a brick made to resemble a recycled product, with glaze and tumbling applied. Although not quite as red as the other one, and obviously lacking the provenance, we settled on our brick, the brick which now graces the walls of our new home.
It's the Tribeca 'Manhattan' brick from PGH, with an off-white mortar.

I can't say that this choice sits totally comfortably with me yet, but it's growing and I'm feeling very positive about the final outcome. Being a totally new product, I've only found one very small wall on a half-built house locally to give me a sense of how it might look on a larger scale. After seeing that small wall I had two reactions: the first was that I was worried I would hate it (being that I was comparing it in my mind to the previous brick), and that the mortar had to be light to give it a chance to get the antiquey look we wanted.

So after some eleventh-hour emails, we upgraded to an off-white mortar, which I'm glad we did, because it's going to look great once it fully dries. We also decided to go to an upright header above the windows and doors which really lifts the finish.

And the brickies love it. They thought it was a recycled product, so good is the effect. They also like that it's lighter than old bricks and is consistent in shape and size, making it easier to lay.
There have been several instances similar to this, albeit not as major, where we've had to readjust our expectations of how things are going to look. This can be a result of lack of communication, assumptions on behalf of various stakeholders, financial squeeze, or, as in the case of our bricks, availability.

Having to shift mindset from one expectation to another at short notice, is somewhat difficult, but sometimes it just needs to be. Losing sleep over our brick was a possibility, but now I know that was probably a waste of energy and desperately needed rest.
My philosophy now is to try to keep an open mind about alternative possibilities. There's often upside, so long as there's not an unwarranted or significant financial impact. Don't sweat the small stuff, just open your mind and let go of old ideas.

And in the case of our bricks, I can definitely see a new friendship developing.