I've just returned from a fleeting child-free visit to Melbourne (under 24 hours). We were attending a client of Mr AV's Christmas cocktail party at their home in Toorak. With lots of interesting people to talk to, French champagne and delicious nibbles, it was a proper grown-up evening. I didn't take pics while there (thought it would be rude), but here is a pic of my outfit.

I was somewhat perplexed as to what to wear. Toorak parties are generally fairly conservative, so a dress was called for, but I didn't want to be either too casual or too overdressed. I went safe with this Tory Burch black crepe dress, and wore my pearls, which always makes Mr AV happy (as he gave them to me), and I wore my peacock feather shoes to show I wasn't too straight laced and boring. While my blog audience are probably wondering if I own another pair of heels, they are the perfect Christmas shoes. And they are still not exactly cheap on a cost per wear basis, but I think in around 10 years time I will probably be able to say they were a great buy. So brace yourself for further photos of them.

We had a drink/ something to eat afterwards in one of the bars at the bottom of the Grand Hyatt. It was very dark and moody, I could barely see all the young women snuggling up with their elderly fathers in the corners.....

And this morning I had a brief 1.5 hours of shopping in Collins Street before heading to the airport to catch my flight home and retrieve my children. I managed to avoid temptation in Miss Louise, but here's a snap of the beautiful colour themed windows. It's one of my favourite places to window shop. Chanel is across the other side of the laneway, you can see it reflected in the mirrors behind the display.

And finally, here is where we stay when we're in Melbourne - it's one of the Clubs on Collins Street, and decor wise the suite is a timewarp from Thatcher era Britain. All medium toned woods, flame stitch upholstery (which is now back in fashion), and tasteful prints hung on subtly striped wallpaper. It feels a bit like visiting your grandparent's, strangely homely and familiar. As for location, it can't be bettered - right smack in the middle of the nice shopping, and next to Mr AV's office.

Hopefully it won't be long before I make another trip back...next time for a little longer.

It's been another busy week. School Holidays started on Wednesday for my children, so my time has been somewhat taken up with the constant snack making and tidying up since then- our house pretty much looked like someone had broken in and ransacked it within around 10 minutes of them starting holidays. Seriously. If someone had looked in the window of the playroom intending to burgle us, they would have thought we'd already been worked over.

In between the mayhem of ending school festivities, I've written out 28 thank you notes for my surprise party gifts, and done the Christmas cards as well. I've used up two boxes of these Smythson note cards that I bought when we were in London earlier this year.

And I was very excited to pick some figs from our ancient fig tree that grows down in the back wilds of the garden, near the old well. I was not so excited to look out the window around a week ago and see a flock of vicious Rosellas (parrots for foreign readers) helping themselves to the almost ripe figs. That explains what happened to the figs last year - they just disappeared. After stringing a million damaged Children's DVD's in the tree, as recommended by all gardening experts, it seems that it has not really deterred them. So save for netting the tree (which I can't be bothered doing frankly), it looks like the birds will be eating the majority of them, and we'll be getting a few that they've missed. Here they are. They were slightly disappointing - not quite ripe enough, as the birds take them before they're fully ripe.


I also had to do an emergency run into Mecca Cosmetica to get a refill for my face powder, and they gave me a free sample of Diptyque's Philosykos perfume. It's supposed to smell like a Fig orchard in summer, and it does - earthy and delicious.  

I finished off making a superhero cape for my youngest's Christmas present. I used this free online pattern a few years ago while I was pregnant with him to make them for the older two, and of the three, he is the one that loves dress ups and pretending to be flying around and has been asking for his own for the past year. I actually find presents for him quite difficult - I really feel like my children have more than enough toys, and I'm trying to really cut back at Christmas time, but unfortunately we have large families who love to give gifts to our children and are very generous. This equals Christmas overload. I know that S. will love this cape, so it seems like a good compromise. He's still getting his scooter from Santa, and some books, and a couple of little bits and pieces like a puzzle, so it's not like he's suffering.

And I've been out almost constantly this weekend. Wore this to lunch today at The Grace - it's my new Hermes scarf as a top. I studied Maitai's website and after a bit of tricky knotting, this is what I managed to achieve.

And this is a sequinned Alice + Olivia top that I wore yesterday. It puts me off buying further sequinned clothes as it's quite painful to wear - very scratchy under the arms. Aside from that I'm always a bit borderline on whether it makes me look like a Richmond Football Club supporter, or alternatively as if I'm channeling a bumble bee, neither of which are good options. But overall I decided the sparkles won, so this was for drinks last night.

Hope you all had a great week.

This before and after is for my daughter's bedroom (and my youngest son, who is currently sharing with her until the renovations are completed and he gets his own room, but I think you'll see from the photos, it's much more a girl's bedroom).

This room was originally used as the Master Bedroom. It has a painted timber mantel and had several sets of wall sconces and a very ugly central light fitting. 

My daughter, who was two at the time that I planned her bedroom, wanted a Pink bedroom. Fairly typical for a little girl, but I am not a pink person - I'm more a blue person, so initially after going back and forth with her (she is fairly stubborn), I decided that I could do a pink room if it was balanced by a lot of white. It also all fell into place when I found the curtain fabric, Thibaut's Avalon  which is quite grown up with its beautiful birds and flowers, and which is definitely more of a deep Raspberry pink colour, rather than a pastel pink that is more commonly used in little girls rooms. I'm hopeful that the room will grow with her (although she is quite put out that the walls are not pink too....). Carpet was in the same charcoal used throughout the house, and the light fitting was a glass lantern, the same as used in the family bathroom. We also had shutters installed for privacy, as her room faces the front of the house. 

I chose a raspberry linen to upholster her headboard, and it has contrast piping and deep buttons in a lighter pink that is also in the curtains. The little armchair came from my in Law's house. It is very old and is quite small in scale - perfect for a child's room (not so much for their Library where it had lived for the past 100 years or so). It was reupholstered in a Brunschwig & Fils fabric, again with contrast piping in the same pink used for the headboard. There is a cushion still to come, I'm having it made out of a Pierre Frey offcut in pinks and whites.

Furniture in the room is a bit of a mixed bag - the large Cedar wardrobe was left in the house by the previous owners. I could not understand why they'd leave such a lovely piece, until we went to move it from the room it was in (the room we took for our dressing room and bathroom) - it wouldn't fit through the door! Fortunately the builders dismantled the window and got it out and into E's bedroom, and it works well in the space (and saved having to pay for a built in wardrobe). 

The small Cedar chest of drawers also came from my in Law's house, and was used in the children's Nursery in Melbourne. It has a little Georgian mirror above it that was from my Grandfather in laws estate. No one else in the family was interested in it, but it's a pretty and small scaled one, and I loved it. 

The bookshelf came locally via eBay. It was in a shabby chic style with slightly yellowing chipped paint (it's a new piece, likely made in Indonesia to look like that from the start), and it was much cheaper than buying either new, or from IKEA. I filled the chips and painted it the same colour as the walls and woodwork. These are a fraction of the books that we have for the children - the playroom is overflowing with them. The bedside table is temporary - as we are at the ruining furniture stage, I've take away the pretty little Victorian table that was also from my Grandfather in Law's estate, and she can have it when she's older. 

Artwork is fairly mixed. The large collage picture over the mantlepiece is from Tiggywinkle baby boutique in Toorak, Melbourne. The artist is called Nicole, and I just loved her pieces. It's got little buttons, feathers, glitter, and liberty scraps on it. Very sweet. 

The "art" over the bed are Eboo bird counting cards, which I put into IKEA frames. The cards cost $30 for 12, which I thought was good value. They used to be in the Nursery in Melbourne, but the white walls here needed colour on them.

The art next to the armchair are two Fifi Lapin prints, which I loved. Fifi is dressed in Couture such as the Prada and Chanel runway collections. It just makes me laugh. Around the room are some Love Mae wall decals that I had previously used in the children's playroom in Melbourne, and as they're moveable, I restuck them here. Little birds are perched on frames or light switches.

Poor little S has a corner at the moment. I have promised I'll make him a great bedroom once the renovations have finished! 

Well, my giveaway of the cookbook After Dinner Mints for Breakfast was a staggering success. I am overwhelmed that only 8 of you, yes, that's right - 8 people entered!! Maybe everyone is all giveawayed out at the moment, there are a lot around on other blogs at the moment. I also can't pretend that I promoted it terribly heavily. So that meant that if you did indeed enter, you had a very high chance of success. I used random number generator, and it picked comment number 1 - Faux Fuchsia. Now, I did decide to bend my rules somewhat - Faux Fuchsia and Janelle are not actually followers, however they comment all the time and have my blog on their blogrolls, so I figured it didn't matter a huge amount.

Faux Fuchsia, I think you'll have a great time with this cookbook - knowing your love of cooking it's definitely going to a deserving home.

Now, I'm going to pad out this tiny blog post with a few gratuitous shots of my garden.

This is "Giant Sea Holly"

Buddleia with bee flying in

David Austin's "Claire Austin"

David Austin's "Graham Thomas"

Oak leaf Hydrangea

Salvia's and Ecchium
School finishes for the year tomorrow at lunchtime. I'm hoping I'll be back tomorrow night with a before and after, but I'm not promising!
I've been a bit quiet (maybe you haven't noticed, it might be it was more in my head...), because I've been receiving the builders pricing on our extension over the past week, and the pricing on the pool, and working out how to make adjustments accordingly (downwards, that is).

Like everyone we have a budget (well pretty much everyone, I did work on a house in London that had no budget, literally. A Middle Eastern client whose 6 year old son was getting 80,000 pounds worth of wallpaper in his bedroom, and that was 13 years ago now....). And like pretty much everyone, our project has come in over what we'd like to spend. The ways that we are looking at trimming down some of the costs are by analysis of the following:

- Money into Architecture first
- Not overcapitalising on the property (particularly important in the current economy)
- Can things be delayed until later

Not exactly earth shattering, but I'll explain my rational.

Architecture is the permanent stuff - it encompasses the things that will be permanent and unchanging without another major renovation. Things like how many rooms you build, ceiling heights, window design and quality, insulation in walls and ceiling, quality of permanent materials. It is not your kitchen. Kitchens have a life span of around 15 years. Appliances have built in obsolescence of around 5-10 years (depending on which brand you buy). So looking at it like that, putting in a $15,000 stove may not be the best way to spend your money. You can definitely make your kitchen look great without spending loads of money.

Overcapitalising on the property is very important. It is very easy to get carried away. I'm certainly no exception. There are so many things and products that I have seen that I'd love to put into my permanent house. But I won't, because working in commercial Property Development in Melbourne for a few years taught me to be fairly ruthless when making my financial assessments. The only way you are making money in property is if after your purchase price and renovation and holding costs you are able to turn around and sell it at a profit (having taken out normal market rise). Not many people actually achieve this domestically. So it's something to bear in mind when you're making assessments of where to spend your money. While we don't plan on selling our house, you can never be sure of what circumstances and changes life will bring, so you should still consider this in your assessment.

Source: emmas.blogg.se  

A massive part of the cost of our renovation is in concrete (which has risen substantially in Australia in the past 2 years). A large part of this is for the new office downstairs for my husband. But when looking at the value that adds to the house if we were to sell it, versus the cost of including this in our building program, it is definitely not something to cut out.

Things being delayed later is fairly obvious, and that is why we have a 6 stage building process going on at our place (the extension will mark the half way point.....).

So, one of the things I've been looking at this week is cutting back on the cost of the flooring. We have 150 square meters including the laundry, playroom and kitchen/dining/living inside, and around 80 square metres in the outside dining area and veranda. My initial thought was that I wanted the flooring to flow from inside to outside, emphasising the conservatory type feel that I'm trying to achieve, and I wanted it to be dark to ground the space with the very high ceilings. Some of my inspiration photos are above. Tiling costs around $60/ per square metre for the labour alone. Tiles are on top of that. I went to a couple of tiling showrooms, asking to see tiles that were around $40-60/ square meter mark, and they were not great. At all. They were too shiny, to perfect, too fake looking, especially over such a large area. I'd inevitably gravitate toward the $180/ square meter tiles. Ideally, I'd have run Mintaro Slate both inside and outside, however it's around the $245/ square metre mark, so that was definitely off the agenda. I came to the realisation that I'd prefer not to have a poor quality tile on the floor, which I'd still be paying a lot of money for.

So, after a fair bit of thought, I've decided on using linoleum inside, and Mintaro Slate outside. Before you all click away in disgust, I'll explain why. Linoleum is definitely not Vinyl. People my age seem to know nothing about it, but it's one of the best products out there - it's environmentally friendly, being made of compressed limestone, wood resins and linseed oil with pigments on a jute backing. It's the same process as when it was invented 150 years ago, and is still made in Scotland, where it was originally invented. It is incredibly durable (will last around 50 years or more), softer underfoot than a stone or concrete surface, and when laid can appear completely seamless (they have invisible welds between the sheets). It comes in so many different colours and patterns and textures (even crocodile textured!). It also costs around $60/ square meter fully installed. I would prefer to have this on my floors any day over polished concrete (which uses a very toxic epoxy coating to seal it).

Source: trendir.com  

Floors are usually a permanent feature in a house, but my thought was that this wouldn't actually be a feature. With large area rugs under the dining and seating areas, very high almost 4 meter ceilings, the antique French limestone fireplace, and beautiful and large steel framed windows, the floor would be very much in the background. So I've had the Forbo Rep visit me this week bringing me samples, and I've chosen a very dark grey with a slightly textured surface that will match in with the slate thresholds at the french doors and outside. It will be a continuous, unbroken and simple floor surface that will receed into the background of the rooms, and we will save around $25,000 by doing this.

I'm actually quite excited about my new linoleum floors. I've also convinced my Dad to use them for the upcoming conservatory he will be building at his place. We'll do a large scale soft grey and white checkerboard effect there, which will suit the heritage house well.

via look at all the things you can do with it! Just not necessarily in my home....
Actually, while googling images for this post, I've come across a number of different Architect's blogs, where they sing the praises of linoleum in domestic projects. It's just that it's been marketed only Commercially over the past 50 or so years, its reputation sullied by the advent of Vinyl flooring, which has absolutely nothing to do with linoleum. In addition, the Forbo website is not very user friendly, so it's clearly not been pushed at the domestic market, which is a great shame.

So, necessity is the mother of all invention. While budget discussions can be difficult, they do make you go back over your plans and examine your reasons for everything. This can mean that you not only save money, but you make improvements as well. There is a silver lining in everything if you look for it.

This before and after is of the main Family bathroom, shared by the three children. The room was set up as a Study when we bought the house, but it would originally have been used as some sort of Butler's Pantry/ Servery, as there was a door in it that connected into the house's original Kitchen. I don't have a full before shot - the room is quite small, faces South, and had dark Navy wallpaper. It was a very dark little room. There were also around 3 sets of wall sconces to give it some light. This shot below was taken during the renovation - they had removed the ceiling and the roof, and the sun was shining in, the wallpaper had also been removed and they were in the process of blocking up the door into the kitchen. The same view as it is now is seen above. 

The floor tiles are the same as I chose for our bathroom - I wanted consistency. As this bathroom is used by little boys, I also didn't want natural stone. It's too porous, so I went with a porcelain flagstone effect tile from Aeria Country Floors, and a large format wall tile in a brick bond pattern. I didn't want to tile the whole bathroom walls, as it would increase the echo factor (and be incredibly expensive due to the high ceilings), so the tiling is in the shower and behind the toilet only.

The toilet is Duravit (bought on super sale at the Mary Noall Warehouse sale in Melbourne).  The chrome towel rail is part of the Hydronic Heating system, and the floors also have underfloor heating in them. The main light fitting is a simple glass lantern. I was planning to reuse one of the existing two that were in the hallway when we bought the house, however they were stolen from the site (unsurprising, they were they only two that were any good, the others being universally ugly), so these were supplied by the builder, and were actually much nicer anyway. It has a fern leaf pattern up the sides.

The bath is by Studio Bagno, which is Italian, and was the very big splurge in the bathroom. It was 50% off in the Mary Noall sale. It was always going to be the centrepiece of the bathroom, as it was located in front of the window, so I wanted something freestanding and special.

The vanity unit was designed to maximise storage space for the three children using it. I wanted it to look like cabinetry, but also not to project into the visual path too much (it's in line with the doorway). The mirrors are framed and the lights set into the mirror. The lights are from Vaughan, and I chose them to match the taps, which are fairly classic 1920's style chrome from Astra Walker. The basin was an undermount Villeroy and Boch, as I like the ease of cleaning an undermount basin, and the countertop was a caeserstone for the same reason. Vaughan lights come without their candleshades, and I'd forgotten that in the moving rush, so I put the two more chinoiserie style candleshades that I found at my parent's house in the back of a cupboard. I quite like them, so I think they'll stay. The pressed glass knobs are from Mother of Pearl and Sons.

The shower has a moveable height arm so that small children can use it too. On the opposite wall is a hook for hanging towels (you can see it in the first picture)

My main criteria was firstly ease of cleaning, then a reasonable amount of storage and finally a serene and timelessly classic bathroom. 

The madness has started this week. My children's school breaks up in a week and a half, and so the round of Carols, year level break ups, piano and ballet end of year concerts has just landed on us. I managed to get the Christmas tree up yesterday, as you can see in my last post.

I think the dark circles under my eyes says it all. Mr AV's work always seems to go a little bit crazy at this time of year  (when we moved 2 years ago in the week leading up to Christmas he had a short notice trip to San Francisco. Which meant that I moved from Melbourne to Adelaide with a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 6 month old on my own. Not ideal. He also suggested early in December that rather than "all the driving around on Christmas day" as we shuttled between his parent's house and mine, that we might also hold Christmas dinner at our new house to save the hassle of that enormous drive (a distance of some 15 KM), which would of course make life much easier, what with a half renovated house, moving boxes to unpack and three small children underfoot. Lets just say I wasn't that accommodating to his request). So Mr AV has been a bit absent the past few weeks shuttling around the country, and making mad dashes back to things like the Carols on Thursday night.

School Junior Primary Carols was on Thursday night, which was very cute - I love the children's enthusiasm. Friday night I went out to dinner at the Stirling Hotel's Grill restaurant with some of the School mothers (the Fun ones). I decided to theme myself and wore Christmas Bling - here's my giant sparkly necklace. It's an old Kate Spade one (someone once asked me if it was real. Insert hysterical laughing here - can you imagine how much it would be worth?).

I decided to match it with more bling - my Sergio Rossi peackock feather shoes. To refresh your memory, here is a pic from a few months ago.

Last night Mr AV and I went to Ruby Red Flamingo (which is in the former Manse restaurant in North Adelaide for Adelaide readers). They have a no bookings policy, and usually I won't frequent a restaurant that does that, as I had a bad experience in Melbourne (at Cicciolina in St Kilda) years ago where we arrived at 7pm, was told it would be an hour and a half, and were finally seated with our two friends at 10.45pm. By then we were not very hungry having filled up on bar nibbles and as we had been drinking for almost 3 hours, were fairly tipsy as well. They could have given us stale bread and we would have thought it delicious.

Anyway, Ruby Red was ok - only waited an hour, and the service was fast, but my main bugbear was that it was all very "Melbourne" in style (as in Collingwood/ St Kilda grunge cool style) where the chairs were all odd as were the plates, glasses etc. All from Op shops (what you call "thrift stores" overseas readers). Here's a pic of the 70's faux earthenware plates to illustrate my point. These type of plates make my skin crawl for some reason - I just loath chipped plates and glasses, and cheap mismatched ones do the same thing. They were awful plates back then, and they haven't improved with age. I'm sure that a basic white commercial plate wouldn't have cost much, it's more a look they're going for. Aside from that the food was good.

So lastly, a giveaway! Thank you to all of you who read along and leave a comment - I can't tell you how much I've appreciated it. On Friday night we called in before dinner at the Stirling to a drinks party at a friends beautiful home to launch a cookbook, After Dinner Mints for Breakfast. Jess founded the Captain Courageous Foundation after her third child was diagnosed with Diamond Black-Fan Anaemia at eight weeks of age and it funds very important research into Bone Marrow Failure disorders. Jess is truly inspirational - not only a very involved mum with all three of her children, but she manages the day to day difficulties of managing a very serious condition, and the worry that brings, with no complaining or sense of martyrdom.

The cookbook is gorgeous - it's been endorsed by Maggie Beer no less, and it's a collection of recipes from friends and family that are all tried and tested and beautifully photographed in a hardback cookbook. So I decided to buy two copies, one for me and one for a blog reader. The book cost $50.

So, to win the cookbook, all you have to do is become a follower (if you haven't already), and comment on this post. The competition closes next Sunday at 7.00pm Adelaide time, and I'll draw a winner by random org number generator then.

If you don't win the book, but would still like a copy, then look out for it at the Magnolia Square Christmas market later this week if you're in Melbourne, or you can buy through the online shop in the link above.

Hope you had a great weekend xx
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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