Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weekend developments

Yesterday was very productive. The morning was spent looking online at appliances and using, I found and bought a Smeg 70cm oven at a bargain price. Having saved us $2000, I was chuffed at my morning's work and thinking how we could reallocate those funds.

We got everything together, and drove to my parents who were looking after the boys while we tried to get through my long list of To Do items.

First stop was driving to addresses the brick company had given me to look at finished homes that had "smoke" bricks. It was a worthwhile exercise because we realised that the brick had a grey tint and the dark roof tile colour we choose was way off mark.

Very happy with our choice of brick.

I had asked Eden Brae Homes to give us addresses of homes they had built so that we can drive past and see the finished product. Their display homes have so many upgrades, they are not a true indication of what they provide. We got a quick email back saying they cannot give out addresses of past and current clients for privacy reasons. We were not asking for people's names and tax file numbers! Strange that the brick company took the time to look through their records and were happy enough with their product to provide the details.

Our next stop was at a kitchen showroom, Dan Kitchens. We received very little help and were told that they didn't do just island benches because they might be associated with the rest of the kitchen which wouldn't have the same standard as theirs'. In other words, they wouldn't make enough money to warrant doing the job. Apparently (cue smug expression), "nobody does kitchens like Dan". Right. We were hoping nobody else would give us the same shoddy service as Dan.

Dan did however have beautiful kitchen drawers with an amazing spice rack insert.

We drove to Castle Hill and dropped into Creative Kitchens. We received polar opposite service and had an hour with the owner who gave us complete attention and excellent advise that changed our view of Eden Brae's associate Home Option Gallery. They had treated us like a production line instead of asking us key questions to find the correct layout and product choices for such an integral element in our new home. We also learnt that the island benchtop design they came up with was not properly supported for its length and weight. Then it came to pricing. All prices quoted were, at the very least, 50% less than prices quoted at Home Option Gallery. Their massive margins meant our limited budget wouldn't stretch very far to get the right design for our lifestyle.

Important tips from Creative Kitchens were

  • Drawers 90cm and over should be avoided or have extra support for the weight
  • Corian is softer and scratches easier than Essastone but has no seams and is a warmer surface
  • All composite stone companies like Essastone, Caesarstone etc make the same product and you use their colour palette to choose who to go with
  • The convenience of a drawer for plates, cutlery and cups next to the dishwasher
  • Have Essastone edge mitred if over 20mm otherwise you get an ugly line all the way around
  • Drawers cannot be retrofitted with soft close runners
  • Any light coloured stone benchtop is dangerously easy to blemish with kids around
  • The convenience of a bin drawer next to the sink
  • Importance of supporting stone benchtops at the right spots
  • The wrong and right shades of white in kitchens

In one hour, we learned how far off the mark our choices were with Home Options Gallery.

Next stop was at the Saville display home to walk through again and make sure we hadn't missed anything.

If we hadn't spent those hours looking around, there would have been a fair few regrets. It makes me happy but also nervous about how little time we have left to make the right choices.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Colour Selection appointment - after effects

It has taken a week to want to sit down and write about the colour selection appointment. I would call a 4-hour sitting ludicrous for any meeting duration. I don't know what term to use for our 7-hour stint with no lunch break.

I was already blurry eyed after staying up till 1am (the complete opposite of a great idea) with a bottle of red with Mum and then waking up at 2am and 6am to feed Baby K. We had stayed over the night at my parents since Mum was babysitting the boys. Thank you Mum xxx If I had had to take them to the meeting, it would have lasted 10 minutes.

At 9am, I managed to get myself together and show up to The Appointment on time and with two armfuls of folders, scrapbooks and colour swatches. Hubby Cheezel was with a client so showed up at 10:30am.

The meeting started off well with a quick rundown of the day's schedule (which included a lunchbreak but that went M.I.A. when we began to run behind schedule). It involved

a) Exterior finishes (entrance door profile, entrance door handle, entrance door colour, entrance door glass type, as well as the usual brick, mortar, gutter, window frames, downpipes, meter box colour, etc etc etc).

I spent about 30 minutes on building up a colour scheme around a dark brick colour (PGH's "nutmeg") but changed my mind after spotting "smoke".

It took probably an hour to choose the door colour because the consultant we were working with simply handed me a huge bundle of colour cards that had 8 shades of every colour in Taubmans' entire range, and expected me to choose one colour from the 1000s in there.

Cheezel and I agonised and umm and argghed while the consultant sat with a blank/bored look. We wanted a bold, bright welcoming colour so ended up looking for a bright firecracker red. Amazingly, Taubmans don't do bright reds so we were handed another bunch of colour cards (!) for Bristol's range. At this point, I was irritated with the consultant's lack of knowledge and her insistence that we go for what "most people get". She also did not have all the samples and colour cards to adequately display our choices. We ended up choosing Corinthian's "Madison" with translucent glass panels. We settled for Bristol's Hi-C Red for the external door face and frame.

b) Kitchen layout, design and finishes
The kitchen layout is a galley style with a 4100mm bank of cupboards against the wall housing an induction cooktop with rangehood. There is also a 2900mmx1000mm island bench housing a double sink. We have dropped the ceiling over the kitchen with a 300mm bulkhead to separate it from the large living area. There will be no above counter wall cabinets (may put them in at a later date) but I will be putting in floating shelves for display objects and a clock etc.

I cook a lot and I'm sure my boys will be doing their homework on the island benchtop when they're older. The kitchen will be getting a decent work out.

We chose laminated kickboards in brushed aluminium to match appliances, the island benchtop to be in Essastone 40mm (see picture) with stone slab end to one side, and white laminated cupboards and drawers.

c) Interior finishes (internal doors, paint, )
Our internal doors will match the wall colour. We've chosen Taubmans "Living Proof Silk" paint (3 coat) which is a $1000+ upgrade but you can wipe it clean without taking the paint off.

I chose 3 colours to anchor our house around : a warm white, coffee, and a pale/egg shell blue. From the Taubmans range, those colours translate to "Ocean Pearl", "Coffee Break" and "Angora Blue".

d) Plumbing
At this point, I had one or both my hands on my head at most times. Choosing two shower heads almost tipped me over the edge. Cheezel was offered and accepted an apple from the plumbing consultant since he hadn't even had breakfast and it was 2pm.

Square, above counter basin we chose for ensuite (we're having twin basins *bliss*)

We also chose toilets with concealed cisterns. We have not chosen tiles yet but I want them large format in a charcoal colour.

I vaguely remembered being asked about towel rails. At that point, I nodded mutely and would have agreed to a pit toilet if asked. If you don't know what a pit toilet is, don't look it up on Wiki especially after eating.

On a prettier note, here's the bathroom colours I'm going for (I love the use of art in the bathroom):

e) Blinds
I prefer soft furnishing windows so curtains are the go (eventually.. we're going to have no window treatments in most areas for a while). At this appointment, I clicked off my brain and went into standby mode. The blinds consultant asked questions and Cheezel answered. No one was home over my side of the table.

After talking blinds, we went back to the original consultant to choose cupboard handles and other bits and pieces and almost ran out when she printed out our selections and asked us if it was all correct. Hmm quick glance pretending I was reading was all I could muster. I handed it back knowing I'd be able to review it all and change my mind. Now that, I CAN handle.

If you are also building a house, I highly recommend checking the manufacturer's website for every item you choose. Some of them even have pricing so you can easily see if it's worth going direct to them instead of the builder. We were told our window frames couldn't be white because Stegbar's colour range is very limited. I was very disappointed to have to choose beige. I wanted absolutely no beige in the house. Yesterday, after looking at Stegbar's website, I learned that their colour chart is actually substantial and they have exactly the same colour ("surfmist") that matches our Colorbond garage door. Bye bye beige.

I came across Taubmans colour consultation service while browsing online and immediately the idea appealed to me. When I emailed them for details, they came back with magical words saying their designers will select every colour required internally and externally even on non-paint finishes like Colorbond gutters and aluminium windows etc. I called and confirmed this on the phone because I thought I misunderstood the email. Nope, they are willing to help as much as required for a total "look". All this for $150! Granted, I have not seen their qualifications or any colour schemes they have come up with. I'm willing to throw in the money and spin the wheel to see what shade of white pops out.

I've emailed them an itemised list with colour charts for every option on every conceivable finish we need to decide on. Also included photos of special features we've added, furniture we have, how every room will be used and my sources of inspiration. They will review it all, call me to discuss everything in more detail. Apparently that should be enough for them to give me a complete colour scheme for every room with a detailed run down on where each colour is to be used. They will also give me brushed out DL sized painted samples of each colour they recommend, so that I can hold up the sample to the wall and see what it would look like instead of having to paint out samples onto the wall.

Sounds truly like a godsend. If I get a colour scheme that mixes mint green and peach in the family room I will reconsider my original colour palette and be happy with my own colour blindness. I mean colour choices.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Colour Selection - BEFORE

Being given the colour selection pack at the last tender appointment was like Xmas morning for me. My husband glanced over and knew how I much I wanted to walk out of there immediately and rip it open. Only he would know how much I wanted to have some quiet, one-on-one time with brochures.

Opening it up and glancing through, I was disappointed with the lack of detail in them. There was no reference to what the "standard" items were and the "upgrades". We made a trip to the Home Options Gallery on a Saturday which was also disappointing for the same reason. Also, there was such a limited display. Being a "gallery" was using the term a bit liberally. The staff there had no idea what we were entitled to and kept to the line that the "colour specialist" or the "kitchen selection" meeting would be where we'd get the detail we needed. Unfortunately, we'd have to wait until the actual Colour Selection Meeting. Apparently, in 6 hours we are meant to see the options available and decide on everything from mortar colour, bathroom tiles in two bathrooms, roof tiles, kitchen layout, benchtop material, shelving and storage, cupboard colours, water heater, internal doors, external doors, gas outlet locations, an electrical plan, wall colour, ceiling colour, cornice colour, etc etc etc.

WHAT? How can anyone do this and be remain happy with their decisions. For that matter, how can anyone sit for 6 solid hours and not give in to the first/easiest choice after Hour 3?

I have been preparing for months for this but even I am going to be drowning in the ocean of choices. On a happier note, I've settled on a colour theme. All the colours in the beautiful room below will feature in our home.

Keep an eye out for my next post to see how the colour selection meeting panned out.

Finding treasure

The more I look into interiors and styling, the more expensive furnishing our home is going to be! I've come across some industry secrets that have allowed me (and our budget) to make our first purchase for the house. Its the pendant light pictured above that will welcome us home when we walk in.

I have always bought furniture without thinking about important factors like room size, lighting, colour, and the overall look and feel of the room its going in. I have NO background in interior design. I was brought up in a home that had odds and ends, hand-me-downs, and generally "essentials only" which my mum would stretch the budget to buy usually on sale at retail outlets. We would all then marvel at how much money was saved.

I have to fight back the urge to buy things simply because they are on sale. Really fight. To do this, I have started plotting the furniture we own and want to keep on the house floorplan. Painstaking yes I know... it involves measuring every item first. It has allowed me now to immediately picture each room and discount things I come across which I previously may have purchased. And later regretted.

Also, lots of my free time is spent with magazines, books and online trying to figure out what I love. I am closer now... I know what I don't want! I'm onto my second scrapbook and have picked up flooring samples and colour charts and have been inspired walking into a beautiful store. My husband has agreed that my birthday present (next month hooray!) is going to be picking an item from that store. It is going to be the longest day for him.. being with me while I choose ONE thing.

We have a beautiful dining table that I still love even though it's from Ikea. I have found four perfect chairs (low profile with clean lines to not detract from our home's biggest "wow factor") on an online auction and am on the lookout for armchairs that will sit at the head and foot of the table. I will have to reupholster the chairs from the auction and maybe also white wash them.

Now its back to working on my list. Items we have versus what we need. This will help keep me on track to spend on essentials first. The right essentials.

But I have my eye on this beautiful provincial glass canister. Essential? Definitely not. So far, I've talked myself out of buying a couple. Progress? Yes.

Journey so far

Building a home is like having a toddler. One day you feel like you're in charge and then the rest of the week, you realise that you're not.

I'm dealing with both. There's also seven-month-old Baby K on the scene. My toddler, B-Boy, has just turned three, so technically, he's now a "pre-schooler". There's no use explaining that to him though as he's still likely to have a meltdown because someone else is on the swing he wants.

I digress.. back to building and meltdowns on a grownup scale. We decided to build in Sydney's north west early this year after realising what we wouldn't get in Sydney's eastern suburbs for the same amount. Quite quickly, we decided on Eden Brae Homes as our builder and eventually settled on the "Saville 27" floorplan. I say eventually because I'm not great at sticking to decisions. I have a tendancy to keep looking for something better. We did have a decent look at several builders but the Saville 27 floorplan suited our needs best and that's what won in the end.

We went into the first meeting with an EB's sales consultant early on Easter Sunday thinking that it would be an hour or two. Four hours later, we called my parents who were babysitting and told them to have lunch without us. It was our first taste of the time and effort involved with building a home. Tummies grumbling, we went over the floorplan and realised the real potential of the Saville. We added a "playroom/rumpus" at the back that would have French doors leading to the garden, made selected rooms larger with the extra 2 sq meters promotion offered at the time, extended the laundry out to meet the garage, added a wash basin in the WC, and raised the ceiling height. At that early stage, we thought we had done a brilliant job with customising the floorplan. HA! That was round one of who knows how many before the final plan was signed off.

We initially thought we'd have a contract signed by the end of June. That's only just happened a few weeks ago (end of July). The delays have been incredibly frustrating but there have been several weeks added to the process because of the extensive list of "variations" we have requested. If we had decided on the standard design, it would have been a much faster process.

Many hours were spent with tape measure and "how-to" research via internet to try and pin down my ideas on paper. We provided facts, figures and pictures in simple terms via email and then again, face to face with the builder. The translation was lost and the "tender" document was full of discrepancies. Hard to imagine why when they were provided every detail to get it right. Instead the next iteration started with fixing up items from the previous. This process was long and time consuming. It involved a lot of time spent going over the tender and making sure that nothing was missed. In a way, my frustration provided more drive to get the floorplan exactly right. One thing led to another and eventually we ended up with a better floorplan. The longer I had to think about it, the more it evolved. Suddenly one of the rooms from the standard floorplan was deleted entirely and my dream kitchen was born.

We had stuck a copy of the floorplan on our fridge and it seemed everytime I glanced at it, there was a new improvement to make. I sent weekly emails with my ideas to our EB consultant (the lucky guy) and then changed my mind several times over. Eventually, we worked off one "variation" document that reduced all the confusion about what we were going ahead with.

Eden Brae just wanted us to sign. There was pressure but we wanted the correct floorplan. We have seen people walk into a project home builders office, see something they like, and sign a contract without reading it. We are the other extreme. We took a tape measure to the Saville display home and cross-checked it with their floorplan. There were discrepancies and due to our thoroughness we ended up with more for our buck.

The Product Review website gave us a heads up in regards to what to watch out for. There are many disgruntled people who have built with EB. As with most other builders. Also, reading blogs mapping building experiences from start to handover gave us a picture of the process involved. So with eyes open we researched, we put ideas forward, we read every detail of the tender and went through it the next day again with fresh eyes. You get the picture. Building involves lots of due diligence which if not done, will lead to disappointment. We want to know what we are getting. Down to the last millimeter.

So with contract signed, we're onto the next stage. Colour selection appointment is next week and its something new to focus on. How to make so many decisions and not change my mind afterwards? I'll let you know when I figure that out.