We spent yesterday in the Countryside, around an hour and a half's drive from Adelaide visiting our friends A & A on their farm. The farm has been in A's family since they took up the lease on the land over 140 years ago. While it's not common these days to find a house built by and still inhabited by the original family in the city, in the Country there are still properties that are owned by the same family, with the house and farm passing down through the generations.
We had a long, lazy lunch with a group of our friends and a large number of children, eventually returning home to the city late in the evening.
The house itself is late Victorian, my guess would be around somewhere between 1880 - 1900 based on the Architectural details (I forgot to ask exactly how old it is). Peeking inside homes that have had continuous family ownership is a very interesting thing - to see an old house preserved in a specific time period, as the National Trust tend to do, can be a slightly soul-less experience. Here there are layers of family decoration and memorabilia, overlaid with modern living. Many of the rooms have been left untouched, just as the generations past used them, but in the back A & A have recently completed a renovation that joined the old servants wing to the main house. This has brought inside the beautiful old exterior sandstone walls, and by leaving some of the original features in place, there's a strong sense of the old and new and they've created a beautiful new light filled, modern family living area.
back door and farm dog
In the old part of the house the room that fascinates me the most is an upstairs bedroom, which is a print room. It's covered in prints - this was something Ladies used to do to keep themselves occupied. They'd cut out pictures from magazines and arrange them on walls. This room is completely covered in illustrations and photographic reproductions from Illustrated newspapers of the time. There are a lot of pictures of Queen Alexandra and King Edward, along with Victorian/ Edwardian era beauties, etchings of cats dressed up in bonnets, race horses, scenic landscapes… it's a very quirky little room. A & A use it as a guest bedroom now.
The house also has a Billiard room, filled with Taxidermy, such as this giant deer… there are some squirrels on another wall, a fish…
Mixed in amongst the family photographs there are a few signed photos of the Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor after he abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson) from his 1920 trip to Australia, the Duke of Gloucester, and Queen Elizabeth. Some members of the Royal Family visited during their tours of Australia.
The front hall is particularly beautiful with a triple arched entry. A put a colourful rug down, and has done this throughout the house - some rooms are left as they've always been, other spaces have modern Art and bright furnishings reflecting the young family that now live there.
Outside there are numerous outbuildings - old farms were like little villages 100 years ago. This is the smokehouse, which is a tiny little building near the back of the house. A has done this up for their Children to use as a Cubby house. I don't know if you can see the scale, but there's a garden bench next to it which shows you it's tiny - it makes the perfect little house for the children with a window and chimney as well.
It was a lovely day.
It's school holidays here, and we spent the first week skiing at Falls Creek in the Victorian Alps. This was a slightly spontaneous trip, we only booked in after seeing the snow report on television the week before. It's been absolutely dumping snow, and we had probably the best skiing I can ever remember (particularly given it's so early in the season).
This was the first time we've been skiing where all three of the children were old enough to go to ski school… which meant that for the first time in 9 years I was able to ski as well, without having to juggle baby/ toddler duties. The children all loved skiing. 4 year old S has no fear (as they tend not to at that age), and behaved as if skis were a natural thing to be on. Aside from the 12.5 hour car ride to the snow from Adelaide (and the fact that the in-car DVD player became jammed with Tinkerbelle in it, which nearly lead to a riot from the boys), it was a fantastic family holiday.
We arrived back home to find that the rain had finally cleared just enough for them to lay the lawn down. I can't even begin to describe what a relief it is to see greenery out of the windows, rather than mud and dirt. Next up are plants...
Finally, I can say that the kitchen is finished. Unfortunately a delay on the pendant light fittings over the island bench meant that almost 6 months after installation, it's finally a space that is complete.
I've written quite a few posts on the kitchen design, finishes, appliances and various other things do do with the kitchen, so I will try not to rehash those posts, and instead concentrate on the finished space. I'll provide a list of links to those previous posts at the end of this post if you're interested in the process.
The design for the kitchen was a tedious and frustrating process. I love designing kitchens as I love to cook, but there were a few things that I struggled to reconcile along the way. Part of this was that Mr AV wanted a far greater input into the kitchen design than I had envisioned (he does not cook and does not work in Design, so this was unexpected). The major issue we had was the open plan concept. Open plan living is essentially a non-negotiable in modern Australia. We live and entertain casually, and it is now expected that a modern home will have a large open plan kitchen/ dining/ living zone at the rear of the house opening onto the garden and outdoor entertaining areas.
The problem with that is that a kitchen is on display constantly, and kitchens are by necessity fairly messy areas. I don't like sitting at the dining table and viewing the mess from cooking in the kitchen - as we don't have a formal Dining room, but like to entertain in a slightly more formal manner from time to time, this was doubly important. (On this topic I was recently at a large Dinner Party where caterers had been employed. The dining table was right next to the very open plan kitchen, so essentially we were right in the middle of the preparation/ cleaning up and there was no separation of the catering staff and the guests. It was not exactly hugely problematic, but some form of separation would have been reasonably appropriate in that instance.)
So, the typical response if you view this as a problem is to have an island bench with an up stand on it to block the view when sitting at the dining table into the kitchen, or to have a second kitchen (a Butlers Pantry) where food preparation and mess can be contained and a 'show' kitchen is in front of it. Instead, in our kitchen with a lack of wall space to accommodate the appliances, pantry and oven, I looked at blocking the view from the dining area into the kitchen with a wall of kitchen units, which was reasonably radical in concept to cause Mr AV and I to have a lot of… animated… discussion. The end result was that cupboards do not go all the way up to the ceiling so it still gives the open plan concept and feel.
It's been really successful and works so well. If you're cooking, you're still part of the action… but when I'm sitting at the table with guests, the kitchen can be a huge mess and no one has a view of it.
The second point that differentiates this kitchen from a lot of current kitchen design is that the island is reasonably small, and in fact the kitchen itself is not overly large - it's really a very average sized kitchen for a family home. It's in fact the same size as the old kitchen we used for 3 years, but more efficient use of the space means it functions with triple the storage, and is much more user friendly. My younger sister was surprised the first time she came over at the size of the kitchen, as she expected I would have done a cavernously large, flash kitchen instead. But I have designed kitchens like that in the past, and I don't feel they work very well from an ergonomic perspective (the design was client driven - they wanted large kitchens). This kitchen is SO easy to work in. Everything is a few paces from where you need to be, there are large areas of bench space, and it takes no effort to clean up.
So, onto finishes. The kitchen cupboards are painted melamine. They are (hand) painted in a semi-gloss pale grey enamel paint, and are easy to wipe clean when spills occur. I did the door profile in a very simple shaker style panel - my aim throughout the extension design is to do pared back semi-traditional, so simplified detailing is part of the design. The skirting is flush to the doors - there is no kicker, which has not been a problem ergonomically speaking (if you're interested), and the bench top is also flush to the cupboard panels. I was trying to make it look like cabinetry. There is a simple header at the top of the full height cupboards to make the cabinetry look 'finished'.
The wall around the steel windows are tiled in a large format subway tile that butt up against the very simple window architrave. The tiles have an undulating/ handmade look to them, and are a matt finish (rather than shiny), so give a bit of textural interest. The grout is in the palest grey grout to match the cupboards and the veining in the bench tops.
The bench tops are in a composite stone that looks like marble. I'm really happy with how it's performing. As I said when discussing finishes in previous blog posts, I love the look of marble, but know that my family will ruin it fairly quickly… so this has been a good alternative.
The handles are a brushed brass, and I chose very simple modern and timeless handles, rather than a more ornate or traditionally styled handle. I've tried to do a blend of old and new throughout the new extension.
The flooring is sheet linoleum, which has probably been one of the best decisions we made with the extension. It looks fantastic, stands up to the rigours of family life, and is very easy to clean. I really don't know why more people don't look at putting it in - it's environmentally friendly, lasts 150 years, and is dirt cheap.
Lighting in the space required a bit of thought - I didn't want down lights in the ceiling as the ceilings are very high (nearly 4 meters), and you'd need a lot of them to get enough light on the bench tops. I decided on a recessed strip LED light in the underside of the window architrave over the sink area. In the day, you don't notice it at all, and at night it provides good task lighting.
The island bench has three pendant light fittings that appear to be hand blown glass - they have a mottled quality in line with the aesthetic I was trying to achieve… a bit of a hand made/ textural feel. They compliment the light fitting made by the Jam Factory over the Dining table in the adjacent dining area.
Almost all appliances are concealed in the kitchen. With the kitchen visible as soon as you walked through the door into the new extension, I didn't want a wall of stainless steel fridges/ dishwashers etc to be the first thing to visually distract. I wanted the kitchen to look like cabinetry, and to be simple and in the background when needed. I think the overall space feels quite serene and uncluttered because of this too. Concealed in the cupboards are a Fridge, Freezer, bifold doors to the walk in pantry, and two dishwashers. The unit with the visible cabinetry is not seen from the living area and contains the double oven, warming drawer, range hood and cooktop.
Of course, opposite the kitchen is the visual interest for this space - the wall of steel windows around the stairs leading down to the cellar and Mr AV's study. This is wallpapered with Library wallpaper in sepia tones, which provides a nice view when standing at the island bench. The view out of the steel windows to the garden is slowly improving too as the landscaping continues.
The only regret that I have with the design is that I could not fit three stools at the kitchen bench for my three Children. Unfortunately I was space constrained - I would have had to lose space in the adjacent Children's playroom to accommodate a larger island, and the playroom was at what I considered the appropriate size, with no room to squeeze another half meter out of it. It's rare to be able to accommodate everything in a design, but this also means that we are disciplined in always eating at the dining table, rather than the island. The island stools are used more for chatting to the cook or a quick snack.
So, onto the details
Cupboard paint: Dulux "Ghosting" in Semi Gloss Enamel
Wall paint: Dulux "Fair Bianca"
Wall Tiles: from Eco Tile Factory
Flooring: Forbo Marmoleum from the Dutch Design range "Piet Hein Eek" M0512
Joinery pulls: Colonial Bronze "306 Cabinet Pull" in Satin Brass available here
Benchtops: Bianco Venato Quartz from Designer Finishes
Stools: Hay Denmark "About a Stool"
Pendant lights: "Bolla" Light from Gineico
Wallpaper: Andrew Martin "Library" in Sepia
Previous blog posts on the kitchen design
There's been a little progress with the garden this week. Finally, part of the garden has transformed from a mud pit into something looking a little bit neater. The side garden had the gravel put down, and the steel edged garden beds laid out. Next is planting, there'll be some Japanese box, a row of standardised Olive trees, and along the wall outside the back extension (the bit that looks like a pathway) will be a row of pleached Pear trees. Eventually there'll be a water feature too.
I've chosen this one from Parterre in Melbourne/ Sydney. It's zinc and I think the modern shape will look good with the extension and contrast well with the formality of this part of the garden (it doesn't come with the birds).
The back garden looks like a World War 1 battle site - we've had torrential rain and it's been freezing cold, so I'm not sure how much this will progress over the next week or so as the ground is too sodden to work.
It's been interesting to look over my Pinterest Gardens board to see that there are some similar themes that crop up. I had sent a lot of these images to my Landscape Designer, and after laughing and telling me I had a lot of ideas, she's incorporated some of the common themes that have run through them, and it's nice to see the design of the garden coming together and incorporating a few of them.
I like some degree of formality
topiary and hedging
In other garden news, we were up the Hill at my Dad's house in Stirling today. It was freezing cold. Don't let the photo below fool you - it was 6 C and about 10 minutes after I took this photo it started to hail on us. Unfortunately we had gone down the hill to admire the Camellia's at the bottom of the garden, so a rather hasty run up the hill proved how unfit we all are…
Dad has recently had this Camellia identified. The bush is part of the original plantings in the garden, so would be around 120 years old, and the bush stands around 3 metres high. Dad spends a lot of time in Winter when he can't garden looking up his reference books identifying the trees, camellia's and rhododendrons in the garden. They used to have tags attached to them, but they were separated from the plants. So he sits with a large pile of the old tags, and identifying leaves/ pinecones/ flowers and tries to work out what they are.
Camellia Japonica - "Camden Pink"
This is a Camellia called "Camden Pink", and it's extremely rare. It's named after MacArthur's Camden Park Estate, and it's an Australian Camellia, a sport of one that the MacArthur's grew in their garden. Dad thought it might be a Camden Pink, and had emailed a photo of it to the head of the Camellia Society, who confirmed it. He's now thinking that the other extremely large and old Camellia bushes in the near vicinity are similarly Australian Camellia's, so is waiting for them to begin flowering so that he can see if he can work them out too. I think he enjoys the sleuthing aspect of working out the Garden's history.
A book I read this week runs on a similar theme - "Chasing the Rose" is the story of a mysterious rose that is found growing in an abandoned villa's garden in Italy. The author's Great-Great-Great Grandmother had designed and laid out the garden, and his search for the rose's identity takes him to Paris, to Malmaison and the Empress Josephine (the most famous rose collector of that period, and a friend of his ancestor). It is an Old World rose, thought to be extinct - the book follows the history of the Rose - the plant collecting from China and other parts of the world, and the era of Botanical discovery that was running parallel to this at that time. Old World roses nearly became extinct after World War 1, when fashions changed and Hybrid Tea's became popular. With no demand at the nurseries, they stopped breeding them, and many species were lost at this time. A lovely read, and a very pretty book - beautiful illustrations (although frustratingly none of the actual rose in question, however I have found an image of it on this blog). It would make a great gift for a rose lover.
Onto other topics, Mr AV and I celebrated a milestone this week with the anniversary of when we met - 20 years ago. We've now been together for over half our lives, so to celebrate we went out to dinner at Magill Estate on Friday night. I frocked up in this black drapey chiffon Chloe silk dress (old photo below - I didn't wear the Chanel belt with it), my black knee high suede boots and my pearl necklace and earrings.
Dinner was delicious - they've changed the format slightly from the last time we were there, and it's now 7 course degustation only, with matched wines available if you like. We chose the matched wines, but far from being the smaller glasses I thought they'd be, they were full sized wine glasses. I had to largely abstain from the last 3 as I was in danger of being carried out of the restaurant at the end of the meal, having already enjoyed a pre dinner glass of Champagne in the bar area. The food was delicious as usual, and the wine was very good - I had a rather jolly time…
this was the "snacks" course with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc champagne - there were 4 different little tasters to enjoy, and excellent bread and butter.
Lastly, we had friends for afternoon tea yesterday, and I made this delicious Apple and Honey cake, the recipe from this weekend's "The Weekend Australian" magazine. I highly recommend it - I used some Kangaroo Island honey, and it was so moist and yummy. My styling does not give the magazine's a run for her money, but you get the idea…!
Apple and Honey cake
225g unsalted butter
250g honey, plus extra to glaze
100g brown sugar
3 large eggs
300g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 apple, peeled cored and grated
Put butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and melt, once melted bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute. Allow to cool. Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin and preheat the oven to 160C. Once honey mixture has cooled, beat in eggs and add SR flour, cinnamon and apple and beat to combine. Pour into cake tin and bake for 65minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, turn out and glaze with 2 tbsp of warm honey with flaked almonds in it.
Our dog, Scruffy, living up to his name in his first blog appearance after foraging in the garden at Dad's (where he currently lives) and looking a little bit rat like and muddy.
Hope you had a good week...
I haven't done a weekly update for a while. Frankly, my life has been rather dull and routine of late, and I don't have anything exciting to update on. We are sorting through the defects list with the house (almost finished, just have a couple of lights left to hang… if the damn cables ever materialise from Italy - it's been 5 months now!!), so I still have the occasional builder around, and I've been productively spending my free time sorting out all the accumulated dust from the renovation in the front of the house, and organising in the new spaces in the back.
But last weekend my sister and I accompanied our Dad to a Black Tie dinner. I finally got to wear this Lela Rose dress, bought heavily discounted early last year when I was going through a cocktail dress purchasing phase. It's a hard dress to photograph. To save you all a lot of shots of my armpit, this is the best I managed to get! It's got a fab ruffly shoulder thing, and is in a flattering shade of champagne coloured silk. The neckline doesn't work with a necklace, but I wore my pearl drop earrings, and a gold bangle and cocktail ring, my gold clutch and gold glitter soled shoes.
The dinner was fun, although the family pathology showed through - we three were the first to arrive. We all harbour a fear of being late, but this was slightly extreme as we were all 15 minutes early. We had to cool our heels with a glass of champagne... or two…. until the other Dinner attendees arrived.
I haven't done a lot of clothes purchasing this past few months - another thing I've been quiet on. Instead I've been keeping my eye on the main game with furniture and garden purchases. Truth be told I think I may have reached a state of Wardrobe Nirvana for Winter - I haven't felt like I needed to add anything more to what I already had from last Winter, plus a couple of sale purchases in January and February. I did, however, decide to buy this APC chambray tunic style dress for next Spring a few weeks ago. I've been wearing it transeasonally with a Cable Melbourne merino top under it and with black opaques and black knee high suede boots. I quite like APC - it's a French brand that has very simple lines and is quite pared back in the detail in their clothing.
In house news, the garden has not progressed much. It's been an inauspicious start - the Landscaper has been caught up finishing off another job, and so we have had mud in our back garden for the past few weeks after they started with the heavy machinery and then stopped again. It's not been great from my perspective with the kids (they like it, needless to say). We've also found the neighbours cat seems to have enjoyed walking around on our back veranda, and sleeping on the swing seat. I found paw prints as evidence….
Attractive side garden
Back garden - mud with trampoline marooned in the middle
cat visitor evidence
The Jam factory sent a photographer around yesterday to take photos of the light fitting, so I seized the moment when I had the entire living area devoid of clutter, and the kids chairs, to take some photos myself. I had lugged the enormous TV out of the room earlier in the day, and my GOD it looks so much better without it. I can't wait until we sort out the TV situation. I'm planning to do some custom cabinetry with a pop up feature in it, so the TV will be hidden most of the time, unless it's actually being used. That way it won't block the window permanently - as it does at the moment. I am going to send these photos to Mr AV to hopefully move this up on the long list of things to spend more money on….
Sorry, that's probably photo overload. But I do love this light fitting so much!
S's bedroom furniture arrived this week, and he was incredibly excited. Here's a shot of his bedside table made out of Tasmanian Oak with a lamp I bought that fortuitously matches his blind colour perfectly - it was from Freedom Furniture. I never spend a lot of money on lamps for the kids as chances are it will not make it through to the time when he eventually leaves home (although that is some time away, given he is currently 4). I'll take some proper room photos and do a before and after on this room, our former kitchen, soon.
All three children have had new bedlinen purchased in the mid year sales. E's is a particularly pretty set from Yves Delorme, we did a Mother/Daughter shopping trip into the city one Saturday afternoon and E took her little pink market trolley with her. We must have looked suspicious as we were trailed by the store detective through David Jones.
This weeks flowers are a bunch of cabbages. I thought they'd look reasonably neutral for the photos the Jam Factory wanted to take. I've also got another Orchid…. I'm hopeful the three that have finished flowering and that are currently living in the laundry will put out a new shoot, however with my track record I'm not holding my breath.
Lastly, I've been absolutely gripped by this book - Empty Mansions. Such a fascinating (real) story of the creation of one of the US's greatest fortunes, and the fate of the reclusive heiress who inherited it. A definite recommendation from me.
Hope you've had a great week...
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