There's been quite a bit of progress on the back garden and pool in the past couple of weeks. For a few weeks after the concrete shell of the swimming pool was poured, it frustratingly all sat idle. So to see a large team buzzing around outside the windows every day has been pleasing indeed. The upside of it taking over 3.5 months for our local council to approve the swimming pool (why did it need to go to the Heritage planners for approval??), is that we decided we could now afford a large proportion of the plants. They are still small, but will grow.

Now, regarding the garden - I did not design it. I wrote about it a year and a half ago here, but I decided that it would be better to hand over to a professional. While I love gardening, I have not studied it, and did not want to make expensive mistakes that I'd be forever correcting and fiddling with, rather than watching plants grow into maturity. Naturally I always advocate having an Architect involved in a house Renovation or build, and I thought I should take my own advice and use a professional, rather than thinking that I should save the money on that fee. I'd also suggest it's really valuable to have the come in early in the design process so that you can adjust parts of the Architecture to work better with the garden. Our stairs down to the garden from the verandah were rejigged, and work much better than they would have if we'd just built them as they were originally planned and then had a garden designed around them.

My landscape Designer has more than paid for herself! I'm already so pleased with her design and plant choices. She really understood all that I loved in gardens, and the vision I had for the back, and her layout and planting schemes have been spot on. This photo above is of the Outdoor Living space, and as it's close to the swimming pool and the new formal side garden, it has transitional planting of sculptural spheres that are looser than the side garden planting. There's a white Crepe Myrtle tree, and Cycads, Japanese Box and softer plantings in between.

All the plants are selected to be water wise - we have very hot, very dry summers, and while we have a watering system (the brown drip hose you can see in all the photos due to lack of mulch at this stage), we need to try to minimise our water use as much as possible.

Up against the house, we've done some planting to screen the less desirable "borrowed view" of our neighbour's house. They have a large, reasonably unattractive rain water tank adjacent to our fence, and our fence is at the maximum height allowable. So there are 5 pencil pines planted there, which will grow to 6 meters in height. A fig has also been planted to replace the one we had to remove for the swimming pool.

The ornamental Manchurian Pear trees and underplanting of Murraya (mock orange) hedging were planted 3 years ago along our boundary fence, so are already maturing nicely. Eventually the hedge will cover the fence completely. In front of each pear tree is a Viburnum topiary ball, which mimics the formal garden at the front. Planted in amongst all of this are to be masses of blue toned salvias, a few different varieties which I'll grow from cuttings. This will give a looser, more relaxed feel to the garden, but the balls will give structure when the salvias are cut back in Winter.

The lawn is roughly divided into thirds, with the second third being larger than the other two. This protruding garden bed has a Maple in it, and more Japanese Box balls. They will grow eventually and be huge. Ignore the irrigation system being laid in the turf, plus the chair/box/ramp thing the kids had constructed (I believe it was a spaceship).

In the last protruding section of the garden bed on the South side, we have 5 pencil pines planted which will give height to this part of the garden. In front is a Forest Pansy (tree) and behind the pines are another row of Murraya (mock orange) hedging. This is the Boules Court, which is going to be a separate space. It will be used as a hard play area for a basketball hoop, and will have a small seating area in this little secret garden room. 

There are some stakes in the photo above showing the position of the new Manchurian Pears. They actually arrived today, and were planted, but I didn't have a chance to photograph anything. The surface of the boules court is also changing to be a darker colour - this is just the base that you can see.

On either side to the boules court there are a pair of Crabapples. The garden will be full of blossom in Spring, which will be beautiful.

The old roller you can see in the photos came with the house, it's from the old lawn tennis court that was originally in this area, and which we have reclaimed as garden.

The swimming pool is looking very unexciting. It is going to be tiled in a greenish ceramic mosaic. I couldn't face the thought of the extra cost for glass mosaics (3 x's the price). There's a wall being built this week behind the pool which will screen the ugly shed at the back of our garden, and the utility area of pool pump/ heating etc.

The side garden is complete, having been redug up for the solar pipes for the swimming pool heating being dug in to go up to their position on the roof. The gravel is out under the Viburnum balls and pears, and the tiny Japanese box hedges have already doubled in size (not hard, they were microscopic when planted). I have been pouring fertiliser on them all.

Inside, it's been busy. I've been quite unwell for the past month or so with Shingles, of all things. It's the remnant of the Chicken Pox virus, which I had when I was nine. It apparently can reappear when you are immune suppressed and run down. It's been a bad few months with sick children in the house, and not a lot of undisturbed nights sleeps for me as a result, hence why I became ill myself. You don't get the actual Pox, but an ugly rash instead and a viral flu like thing. I've been very tired as a result.

So it was nice, after a month or so of boring inactivity and a lot of time in bed sleeping to go out to dinner with Mr AV on a Saturday night. We went to Giallo in Kent Town, where it's cosy and the food is always good. I wore a lot of pink in a nod to Spring, with a lot of black as well as it was still cold.

Pink silk floral skirt, pink patent clutch and pale pink Clic Clac. Black knee heigh suede boots 

I managed to rally enough to have the Dad's over for Father's Day. My younger sister and her boyfriend came too, so there were 10 of us for lunch.

I had no flowers in the garden so cut off some of the blossoming pears for the flowers. I made a leg of lamb roast with mushroom and onion gravy, just as my Mum used to for all our family lunches. There were roast potatoes and a salad of slow roasted veggies with avocado and rocket.

For desert I cheated a bit. I'd made Lemon Curd a few weeks before, and had a jar of it in the fridge, so I made these little tartlet cases out of Careme sweet vanilla bean shortcrust pastry that I blind baked the day before, and filled them with a dollop of lemon curd and topped them with a strawberry and blueberries. Easy and delicious.

This week I'm clearing out the "Library"(that would be the junk room without books at present) as we've given the go ahead to the new bookcases I designed a few weeks ago. I have a lot of paperwork to get rid of and a big shredding bin that was delivered this morning to fill.

 gratuitous shot of Lillies in the kitchen.

Hope all is well in your world.
My bedroom

The late, great Interior Decorator Stuart Rattle was reported to have said that every design scheme he did started and ended with the Bedroom as it was "The first place you see and the last". I am also of the mindset that it is the most important room in a house, as it's also the most private room. Generally visitors don't see a bedroom, so it can be a true expression of all that you like and hold dear. It can be a fantasy get away, a sanctuary and a haven. But many people leave this as the last room that they decorate, perhaps because you are not held accountable in the same way that you are with an undecorated living area. With other financial priorities, such as purchasing furniture and decorating a room for children pushed to the forefront, I have seen some fairly depressing bedrooms in my time.

my bedroom - bay window

I have been interested in Interior Design for a very long time, and have always noticed details. I can clearly remember being invited to a school friend's house when I was 12. She had a beautifully decorated pink bedroom with wallpaper, matching curtains, coordinated furniture - all very girly and frilly (it was the 80's). The main living rooms in the house were also highly decorated with coordinating sofas, lamps, pictures on the walls etc. I can clearly remember the shock of then walking into her parent's bedroom with her for some reason or another, and finding that the room was undecorated. It was such a contrast to the rest of the house. The ensemble mattress was pushed up against the wall without a bedhead. The bedside tables were unattractive, small and perfunctory without lamps, there were white walls and no pictures. Bedding was mismatched. Two years later her parent's divorced. If ever there was evidence that there was little effort going into maintaining their relationship, it was in the decor of the bedroom which was clearly considered the most unimportant space in their house - everything else came first.

So with that said, there are things that I believe should never be in a bedroom. They include:

  • Paperwork, computers and other office related things
  • Exercise equipment, especially large treadmills and weights
  • The furniture you don't want to have in the publicly viewable parts of your home
  • Clutter and junk

You will never see these things in Interior Design magazines, so the best way to make your bedroom resemble one found in a magazine, or like you'd find in a boutique hotel, is to banish these things from your own space.

I'd also suggest that colour schemes should be restful - you can certainly use red or yellow in a room, but balance it out with neutral or cooler colours. A room that is predominantly red or yellow is not a restful space. Televisions should ideally be banished, but if you do have one, try to hide it somewhere, as black screens are voids.

Bedside tables should be a generous size - as Stuart Rattle said in an interview with The Sunday Age it should be "big enough to hold "a lamp, a radio or clock, a glass and water jug, a cup of tea, a glass of whisky and a stack of books. There it is, my whole life sitting next to me."" I like mine to have a drawer so that you can hide a notepad and pen, lip balm and any other bits and pieces you want next to you, but I don't think that they have to match, either. For a very long time I had a skirted bedside table on my side of the bed, and Mr AV had a small Georgian side table (now our hall table) on his side. The thing they had in common was that they had matching lamps, and were both a generous size. Small chests of drawers can make excellent bedside tables.

Making the bed as the focal point of the room is obvious - an ensemble mattress, no matter how artfully placed or bohemian dishevelled it may be when styled in a magazine does not scream comfort or luxury - you want something that is visually inviting for rest. I'm very fond of upholstered bedheads, having one in my own bedroom, but a decadent four poster bed, or canopy are also wonderful. As it is a bedroom you can go a little crazy with fabric - don't play it safe, choose something that you really love, and it will always feel special to you. As you only use a few metres for a bedhead, if you'd prefer not to spend the money on curtains this is a way of using a beautiful fabric in a more cost effective yet impactful way.

I love the sweep of curtains in a bedroom to both block out the outside world at night, and to give a luxurious element to the room - fabrics will always do that. Again, I don't think that doing cream curtains or blinds is the best way to go. The cost is the same for cream curtains as it is for patterned curtains, but the patterned curtains will have a much bigger impact on a decorative scheme.

And it goes without saying that a quality mattress and bedlinen are imperative. I always like to make my bed look comfortable - that means large European pillows, and two other standard pillows behind them. Don't get caught up on thread count with your linen either. This has become something that is being used as a marketing tool. It is definitely quality over quantity - Target 1000 thread count bed linen is not in fact equal to Frette or Sheridan 400 thread count bedlinen in the comfort stakes. Buy the best you can afford, but don't be afraid to go down in thread count between brands as it is not an indication of the quality of the cotton.

If you have space an armchair, or pair, or a sofa are also good - somewhere to hide away from the world with a book, or to chat with your significant other at the end of the day. Lighting your room with lamps is also a way to make it feel cosy. I rarely put the overhead lighting on - the room is lit by bedside table lamps and a lamp on the Secretaire in the corner.

I do plan to post pictures of our bedroom at some stage - it is still mentally 'unfinished' for me (proper lamps!). It was a room that I planned a long time ago when we still lived in Melbourne, and was decorated exactly as it is in the photos above for us to move into. While other rooms in the house were more transitional or unfinished prior to building the extension, I wanted a sanctuary from family life and renovations, so it was important to have this done when we moved in. I have to say that the fabric choice is reasonably bold, but nearly 4 years later is not something that either of us are tired of, and that is the key - choose something that you love and that suits you, and you'll always feel good when you're in your space.

More beautiful bedroom pictures on my Pinterest Bedroom board
It's a fairly recent thing that we buy clothes in standardised sizes off the rack. Not that long ago you would make all your own clothes, or have them made for you.  I remember watching the Television show Mr Selfridge (about the creation of the Selfridge's department store in London) and the radical concept of off- the- rack dress shopping was discussed (it is set circa 1910)- women would buy sized garments off the rack and then have to alter them themselves. It was though that women would never take to it. Of course we all now buy this way, and the reverse is true that it is rare to have a garment made to measure.

We are all squashed and squeezed into 'standard' sizes (which frustratingly vary from brand to brand and country to country. And don't even get me started on vanity sizing that has seen me drop several dress sizes despite having had 3 children and carrying a bit more weight than I used to in my teenage years). It's rare to find a woman who is the ideal fit for those standardised sizes, but it seems that in this day of cheap fast fashion few are willing to put the expense and effort into having clothes altered to suit.

this one was altered to fit

I have often mentioned in previous blog posts on clothes that I take things in to be altered by my alterations lady in the city. Most often this is for a dress that is designed for women with small waists and pneumatic breasts. I fit only one of those descriptions (sadly), so generally my dresses require that they be taken in on the top. Sometimes I might have a hem taken up (as I am not model tall, quite the opposite) to make a dress sit in a less awkward position than at the fattest point on my calves. All of these things mean that the clothes fit better, suit me, and are things that I'll reach for as they are comfortable to wear and flatter me. The dress above had the top altered to take it in around the bust region, and then hemmed to sit just on my knee (covering my knee, but not awkwardly placed as it had previously been).

Recently I posted a picture of my Max Mara coat (highly flattering night shot above) asking for opinions on what to do with it. To recap, I bought it in 2001 in Melbourne, it was too long for me and was swamping my frame- I used to wear heels to work so it was ok, but in flats I looked like I was playing dress ups with someone else's coat. The shape was still current, so I took it to my alterations woman to have it shortened, and look!  I've got a new coat! Just in the nick of time for Spring….

 Yes, I have legs.

The buttons were also replaced - the old ones had shattered after being exposed to dry-cleaning fluid over the years. I chose these charcoal coloured buttons with some subtle silver edging to them.

While I was having that done, I also had a navy blue silk Carolina Herrera evening coat taken up on the sleeves. I bought it recently on eBay for $210 - it looks almost unworn and would have cost around $2000 new. It's a pet hate of mine to have sleeves that end in the middle of your hand  (on men as well as women). It just looks ill fitted, and as you can see in the very poor quality photo above, the sleeves came down to my fingers). I remember reading many years ago that an old couture trick was to cut a sleeve just above the wrist bone as it makes your arms look thinner and more elegant. At any rate the sleeves had to come up, so ta-da, here is my new evening coat

all photos taken from the view point of a 6 year old

I also went to the Button Bar in Adelaide Arcade and bought some new buttons for my JCrew schoolboy blazer. It came with shiny brass buttons that gave a faux Military Club type feel to it. The ones I chose as replacements are a little more subtle (for some reason the colour came out as black here, but the blazer is navy and so are the buttons). I have to admit that it was tedious to sew 8 buttons on the jacket, but well worth it.

the old, very shiny, brass buttons

So all this, coupled with a trip to the cobbler to fix 5 pairs of shoes up with new heels and soles ready for Summer (won't have to buy new ones, so that's a win), and I've ticked off a bit of satisfying wardrobe maintenance.

I've always felt that if you buy good quality things they're worth investing effort in maintaining them (such as my shoes), and occasionally something that is not such good quality can be improved by a few small alterations that make the proportions sit better on your body. Certainly I think the rise in popularity of dressing in separates has come about from the difficulties in fitting into a standard size in a dress for most women. I love a dress, and am certainly not a standard size, but alterations are well worth investing in if you find something you love.
As many long term readers know, I have a fondness for the old and the antique. I quite like a bit of patina here and there, as I feel it gives gravitas to a decorative scheme and stops it from looking like a shiny new show home that no one lives in.

As a child I used to spend countless hours trailing my Mother and Grandmother and Aunts around Antique fairs, Antique stores, Church Fetes, Bric a Brac shops and, of course, Op Shops (Thrift Stores for overseas readers). Buying a bargain is an inherited family condition I'm afraid (one of my Aunt's ran an Antique store on Unley Road for a few years, and another Aunt and Uncle managed to supply most of the family with furniture when they moved to Adelaide from Glasgow, Scotland in the 80's after they had acquired a sizeable amount of furniture/ china and sundry items from the local Car boot sales and Auction houses). As an adult I have found myself gravitating to exactly the same sources for my own furniture choices, mixed in with a little bit of modern furniture bought new that is suited to family life.

As I've written previously, we lived in a very small Cottage in Melbourne for 10 years. This meant that when we moved back to Adelaide (and into a large family sized home) that we had larger spaces and we required more furniture. This was not a bad thing - accommodating a family of 5 on one 3 seater sofa doesn't work particularly well frankly. But it has meant that I've had quite a bit of furniture to buy, and that I still have to buy, and I'm taking my time in doing so. I want to ensure that the pieces I put in our home are there for the long term.

Buying secondhand is the best way to stretch your budget, and frankly, the best way to find interesting pieces for your home. Some items are not so easily able to be bought secondhand - the coffee table that we recently took delivery of (above) was a custom made piece, as I needed something that was 1.4 x 1.4 m, and most shops had far smaller tables available (and this is naturally not something that you can buy at the local Auction rooms as historically coffee tables did not exist - they are a recent invention, and certainly not made in the sizes that they are today). We've been really pleased with it - it looks perfect in the space and has filled in the void that was existing visually, as well as of course providing a practical place to put a glass of wine or platter of nibbles.

But a primary source of furniture have been the local estate Auction houses. This requires some dedication to looking at the listings every week, but you can find some absolute gems. This is a little Regency era (1811- 1820) card table (above) I bought last Monday night, and it complements a large watercolour painting also bought at a local auction house a few months ago. Neither piece were expensive - certainly to buy a new, designer piece of furniture made to the equivalent standard of finish as the table would cost at least 3x's as much as buying an antique. As for the painting, the cost of the frame with its linen mount would be almost as much as I paid for the whole thing, and given the artist had a gallery in Woollarah, Sydney, it was a fraction of the price it would have cost new (plus we really love it). These items are going into the new Library (now that we are not using it as our everyday living space).

 But you do need to be dedicated - I can go months not seeing anything of interest, and then find 3 things in a week…and you have to be prepared to lose some items - there are many more pieces that I've lost out on by being outbid by $10 at the last minute (I usually leave an absentee bid as I can't attend an auction with children). Or there's the situation that occurred on the weekend, when I completely forgot to bid on some chairs I was very keen to buy. Of course they sold for a low amount, and I am SO unhappy with myself. I'll probably now see them in a local antique store for three times the price. Sob!

But I was flicking through a few design magazines on the weekend, and came across a couple of things that I found interesting - one was this Branford dresser from Pottery Barn. It costs $1,849.00 and is in an antique style. I just can't understand why you'd want to buy this when you can pick up an antique chest of drawers for around $800 in the Auction rooms (and sometimes less). The antique will be over 100 years old, solid timber, beautifully made and have a real patina to it (rather than the Pottery Barn faux created patina).

I saw that Domayne furniture are doing a range of Mid Century modern inspired pieces, such as the item below - a Metro Buffet for $1,849 - again, you can buy the real deal at the local auction houses for a fraction of the retail on a new piece, and the old pieces are generally better made. I've used these two items as examples as auction room are full of these things - they're staples.

But for other items I've found Ebay or Gumtree are also good sources - one of my earliest posts on the blog was on blue and white china, and my love of Isis Ceramics. Two of my Isis items were absolute Ebay bargains. This lamp base below was $20, and the flower brick (at the top of this post) was $5. The retail on the flower bricks are $250, the lamp a lot more.

I bought this bookcase below quite cheaply for my daughter's room a few years ago from a local seller on Ebay and repainted it. It looks appropriate for the decorative style of her room, and is the perfect sized bookcase for her.

Gumtree is also good source of modern sofas and modern dining settings in particular, things that wouldn't go to an auction house as they're worth more than they'd get there, but for whatever reason someone has to sell the item - they might have sold their house and the furniture is too large for instance. The photos I've included below are from my friend's Gumtree listing, she is selling her beautiful 10 seater solid oak Jardan dining table. If anyone in Adelaide is interested her listing is here - but this illustrates that you can find anything from the Designer to the Junky.

This post is getting long on examples - I could keep going and show you my Waterford Crystal glasses that were $25 each instead of $210, or the genuine old wicker laundry basket (instead of a newer faux wicker one) that was $10, but I think I've illustrated my point sufficiently! I'd just suggest that the first step when decorating should not necessarily be a big box furniture store. Even when an item is on sale you can often find similar items cheaper elsewhere. Certainly if the aesthetic you're going for is more traditional, then buying the real deal via an antique is far better on your wallet, and will add a lot more to an interior than one full of faux antiques. As you can see, I have a wide mix of the new, the very old, fine antiques, second hand and everything in between. I also have some items from big box stores like Pottery Barn or Ikea - but I think it's the mix that is important in giving a character filled home.

Any other avid Auction room attendees or Gumtree/ eBay success stories out there? I know I can't be the only one with a good bargain story to tell!
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Architect, Interior Designer, Mother of three, Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on
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