Happy 5th birthday Byestelladotcom!

I know. I know. The stories have become fewer and much further apart. There’s a good reason for this: not only do I have a finger in every pie, it would appear in every piece of confectionary coming out of my local bakery. I kid you not.

Now that the house is 95% complete, I have thrice the cleaning. For awhile, to get on top of household chores (after a day spent doing HRH’s paperwork and catering to the kiddos) my after-dinner “entertainment” consisted of either washing bathrooms, cleaning floors, wiping the glass balustrade or dusting the several kilometres of skirting boards in the house.

It’s a great house to be sure and I’m proud to have come this far, but it’s the sort of house typically maintained by a barrage of maids instead of one frazzled mother. Would I do it again? Definitely. I enjoyed the creative process and learnt a lot from my builder, John Hardy, and his men.

Just a month ago I had a neighbour stop to congratulate me on adding value to our area and for choosing a builder who took care to keep noise to a minimum. In his words, “It went up like magic.”

I love that my eyes can feast on all that green while cooking.

You won’t believe this is the inner city!

Amanda now has friends come over weekly for study sessions and to complete assignments. I’m pleased to report that after the hell of grade 6 (teacher failed to see her need for acceleration and she sought to escape boredom by zoning out) she’s kicking ass in grade 7. Not only is she in the gifted and talented programme at the top semi-selective state school (number 2 State-wide after Boy’s Grammar) where a minimum of B is expected across ALL subjects, she scored 5As out of a possible 6 last term.

See how cheeky she is?

Ethan horsing around IKEA.

Amanda the clown.

Ethan wearing Amanda’s clown wig.

Ethan is a typical toddler; he’s wilful, stubborn and inquisitive. I somehow manage to get work done with his Gangnam Style blaring away. We’ve hauled him to the cinema for a late-night movie a couple of times. He usually winds up asleep on my lap even before the opening scenes and leaves thinking that the stream of advertisements beforehand is what we came to see!

I hope this post finds you well. I’ll see you again some time in July. Hopefully…

  • Hanging out with Erlin at GOMA.

    With Geetha at home.

    A wefie with Amanda.

Renovating a Queenslander (Part 3)

Can you believe we’re already in September? How time flies when you are juggling a massive home renovation, work and family! Phew! I don’t know about you, but some mornings I feel like we are only a month away from Christmas and New Year! Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but my favourite white-y pal, F, shares my longing for the year-end break.

Here, work stops for roughly a month over Christmas and New Year, but that’s fine by us as we’ll hopefully be in our revamped Queenslander by then.

Friends have pointed out that what I’m doing – while technically a renovation – is actually a new build; in that, I’ve put the equivalent of a 4-bedroom house behind a 3-bedroom cottage (Queenslander) and joined the two via an internal walkway to form a single dwelling.

People have asked me why I need such a huge dwelling and all I can say is I have a high need for personal space. Well, I do spend a lot of time indoors. I even work from home, so each to their own, yeah?

John Hardy, my trusty builder, has been true to his word – “no shortcuts.” I like that about Aussies; you get exactly what you pay for. I told him this house has to last me until I have grandchildren, until I go into the ground and become worm-feed, so every decision he’s guided me to make for the build has been based on longevity. Function before form. Durability and ease of maintenance above all else.

We’re now at the end of phase 2, which is the internal fit out of the new build. The bathrooms are plumbed and tiled and have been fitted out. All that is missing are shower screens. Pics to follow when that’s in and John has given the rooms a clean.

The kitchen is going in mid-September, the benchtops a week or two after that; the cupboards will be 2-pac in Vivid White, satin finish, hand-less, mostly drawers, the benchtops Caesarstone in Bianco Drift. I’ll show you pics in my next post so keep a look out for that!

Since my last post, all the windows have (obviously) gone in. Mine were custom-made by the good people at Energy Efficient Windows. They are double -glazed and tinted to reduce glare, which translates into lower heating and cooling bills, less outside noise, and significantly reduced glare, especially in the afternoons when the sun is at its strongest.

My lust-worthy Big Ass fans go in soon. I’m salivating just thinking about that. They do add that special touch to an otherwise plain, white, ceiling. Did I mention they come with a lifetime warranty and they cost only $10 a year to run? The fitted LED lights supposedly last 20 years!

Last week John started on my car park, phase 3 of my renovation project. First he was digging to China and scooping out buckets of water (we had an uncharacteristic late-winter downpour), then putting in the form work for the concrete pour. Now I have a mountain of reactive soil to be trucked out before 60 tonnes of appropriate soil is brought in.

Meanwhile, John is adding architraves to the windows and skirts to the floating floor. I went with 14mm, natural-coloured, strand-woven bamboo, low VOC, on a noise-dampening underlay, because it looks good and is tough enough to stand up to the rigours of day-to-day family living.

Okay, why don’t I stop yapping and just show you the pictures I’ve take so far. Do enjoy!

HRH inspecting the view from our new kitchen/dining.

HRH inspecting the view from our new kitchen/dining.

Internal walkway linking cottage with house.

Internal walkway linking cottage with house.

A day at Bunnings Warehouse

A day at Bunnings Warehouse

Big Ass fan mid-installation

Big Ass fan mid-installation

Laying of the floor in the family room.

Laying of the floor in the family room.

The stairwell with one framed window.

The stairwell with one framed window.

Earthworks for car parking.

Earthworks for car parking.

Pumping concrete into the formwork. Blockwork to follow.

Pumping concrete into the formwork. Blockwork to follow.

Concrete pad for blockwork to follow. Window looks out onto my future Japanese garden.

Concrete pad for blockwork to follow. Window looks out onto my future Japanese garden.


Happy 4th birthday ByEstellaDotCom!

Hello! Hello!

It’s that time of the year again. Byestelladotcom is now officially 4! Thank you for being here to help the blog blow out its virtual birthday candles on the imaginary birthday cake.

How have you been? As you may have gathered from my last post (I know, it’s getting further and further between posts and I feel a tad guilty about that), I’ve embarked on the mother of all renovations; I did the math the other day and it turns out my Queenslander may be closer to 100 than 90.

Right now, you wouldn’t envy her; she has a half-formed infant’s body and the face of a hag! But never fear – she will have her full Megan Fox-esque facelift once I locate a couple of gold bars somewhere. In the meantime, John Hardy, my trusty builder, and his men have been slaving away on her body. She’s shaping up to be a stunner, if I may say so myself.

As of this week, we have finished the foundation of galvanised steel and Hebel, built at a height determined by Hydraulic Engineer Anthony Lenehan of Lenecon to withstand flooding, framed to roof trusses, protected her from the skies above with a welded and painted Colorbond roof, had some of the custom-made double-glazed and tinted windows put in, and three quarters of the external Hebel skin put on. Members for the frame were specified by my wonderful Structural Engineer Steve Hackworth, and built by John Hardy to both their exacting standards. Here I wish to thank Michael Nguyen of Fresh Design & Drafting for his countless updates and changes to the original plans.

In the interim, I’ve been reviewing fixtures, fittings and tiles for the 2 en-suite bathrooms, deciding on balustrades for the stairs (HRH has his heart set on glass), pendant lights to hang over the stairs (with a nod to Queensland, I’ve picked 3 plywood pineapples – pretty groovy), put a down payment on kitchen stuff at Winning Appliances after Janaki so graciously ferried me to and fro, and babysat the boy while I swan about the showroom, trying to picture how each appliance would jive with the interior scheme of my future kitchen. I gave more consideration to function over form. Still I went with a Schweigen black glass cassette rangehood as it not only looks hot (hello, black glass!) but has a mean suction of 3200 rpm. It’s silent to boot, thanks to twin motors, installed on the roof of the house.

I was meaning to leave it to the final reveal, but I also must thank Kirby Hood of Big Ass Fans for assisting me in my purchase of 5 absolutely efficient (I am a stickler for utility), bespoke, utterly drool-worthy ceiling fans that will keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter. As I’ve told HRH, the house is a modest-gal but she will have a touch of sparkle here and there; probably not apparent to most except dedicated readers of Inside Out and House & Garden like myself. I’ve also drawn heaps of inspiration from all the articles and pictures on Houzz – my style album is yours to flick through should you wish.

Even though its size (350m2 inside) obscures the fact, it is a GREEN build: the ancient front (98m2) has been kept in entirety, the new build (252m2) is of quality material which is fire-rated, insulating and sound-retardant. Hebel also boasts green credentials, in that it is recyclable – although I chose it for its other attributes and longevity.

On the non-house-related front, my hours pedalling away in the sweatshop of HRH’s admin office have increased in tandem to his burgeoning private practise. We are a family enterprise so all (including the kids, who frequently roam hospital lounges) must put in their time. Just this evening, HRH was harassing me  to get his Business Activity Statement done, chase payments and type what he says are two weeks worth of patient letters. Oh brother!

I’m still routinely prodding my brain for inspiration to complete my next manuscript; Amanda likes it better than the one I was writing when I gave you my last update, so its yippee-ki-ay-aye for me. Picture me doing a happy jig in my jammies.

I’ll leave you now with pictures of my Queenslanders journeying to the 22nd century. Do Enjoy!

Holes for foundation.

Holes for foundation.

image image image image

image image image image image image

Looking from under the old house.

Looking from under the old house.

image image image image image image image image image imageimage image


Side profile of my house taken from my neighbor’s place. Trees obscure part of the length. Total building is 43% of my block size.



Renovating a Queenslander!

Hello again!

Happy 2016! How was your Christmas? I took a blink-and-you-will-miss-it break from the business of renovating my resident wooden geriatric, my 90 y.o. Brisbane-City-Plan-protected Queenslander and joined HRH in country NSW where he locumed over Christmas.
Between drives around the countryside, we binged on Pringles and veg-ed out in front of the telly as all shops were closed, save for service stations. Which is just as well because breathing new life into a 90 y.o., stumps-all-gone, termites-chewed-on-your-walls Queenslander is certainly not a cheap affair!

With the guidance of my trusty French builder, John Hardy, recommended by a friend he’s done work for, it took me close to 9 months to get all the necessary surveys, plans and permits for building work to go ahead. I won’t bore you with the number of hurdles I’ve had to jump, or the tricks I’ve had to perform standing on my head but in getting to this stage I’ve had to engage a town planner, building designer, hydraulic engineer, structural engineer, building estimator, building certifier (who not only granted permits on behalf of the city council but also organised for my new home’s energy efficiency to be assessed), John the builder…There were consultations with HRH’s accountant, then our personal banker, the highly efficient Chris White of Commonwealth Bank, as I first put our apartment up for sale, the our Melbourne home. In the end we decided to sell neither. Instead I worked with our managing agents to upgrade our investment properties so as to make them solidly tenantable. They are all well located so it was only a question of doing the necessary works, fixing and refurbishing, to make them as competitive as similar properties in the area. I didn’t have to do much to our Melbourne home as 7 groups came to view the first Saturday it was listed for rent. By the following Monday morning I had a tenant who offered me 2 months rent (excluding the standard 1 month bond) upfront.

As for my old gal, her Cinderella-moment started on November 30 when after 4 more weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with the builder and the banker, we were given the green light to go ahead. Yes, finally! I slept like a baby that night. Well, a good baby, not my now 2-year-old son who still treats me like a 24/7 booby bar – not that I mind. I adore my children.

Even as John started demolishing my old bathroom and front stairs and cleared away what I had underneath the house, I had to liaise with Energex and Origin and APA to disconnect utilities. It took 2 months and 4 requests to Origin to get them to disconnect my electricity. I had to beg APA to disconnect gas in time for the old gal to go up. After 1 neighbour backed out of lending power for the house raise (despite being offered compensation), John approached my other neighbour who thankfully agreed. To see me would have been to belie my mental state which was alternating between excitement (yay! It’s finally happening!) and anxiety (oh no! Please don’t throw a spanner in the works).

Since she is a cottage we have elected to build back instead of under. If she had been a grand Queenslander with wraparound verandahs, building down would have been the preferred course of action as the bigger footprint would have justified the cost of working with an old building and factoring additional cost to get the project through council. At the end of this, we essentially have a house that is 3/4 new (excluding car parking as that will bring the proportion up further) that is built to exceed an energy rating of 6 stars (most built of similar material have a rating of 8 stars) fire and sound-proof (due to the natural qualities of the material and windows chosen), designed and engineered to withstand flood waters and local wind speeds, every footing, beam and pole engineered to ensure safety of her occupants.

We are only halfway through phase 1 of a 3 phase project. Here is a visual timeline of the renovation so far.

My belongings covered in plastic to protect them from construction dust.

My belongings covered in plastic to protect them from construction dust.

image image image image image image image image image image image image image image