Continuing with the tear sheets I unearthed recently, I have this interesting example from English House and Garden magazine. I'm not sure when this first appeared, probably in the early 2000's. I think I probably tore this one out not because it gave even the remotest inspiration for any interior I would ever be involved in (stately homes are rather thin on the ground in Australia), but because of the Architectural interest in this design.

The owner of this home in the English countryside wanted a house that borrowed heavily from Palladio's Villa Capra, also known as La Rotonda, located in the Veneto at Vicenza in Italy and built in the 1570's. Andrea Palladio is probably the most influential Architect in history, and the Villa Capra is his most famous and influential building. His designs epitomised all that were good about classical Architecture, and were quite revolutionary during the Renaissance. His designs of course were based on those of Ancient Rome, but he played with proportion and scale to ensure that his structures were pure symphonies of proportional perfection. Several hundred years after his death, his designs were discovered anew, this time by English Gentlemen on their Grand Tour. The Grand Tour would take in many areas with artistic and cultural merit, and Gentlemen on their Grand Tour would typically travel at a leisurely pace for several years, collecting antiquities, intaglios, statuary and sketching the buildings and scenery that they saw. When they returned to England, they wished to show off their enlightened and cultural ways, and sought to emulate the designs they had seen while on their travels.

entrance hall

stairs to the upper level

entry hall, the doorway has putti playing musical instruments hand carved especially

Palladio's designs directly influenced a style of Architecture that has become known as Georgian Architecture in England. This house is much more recent than that however, and was built in 1987. It is described in the text as being "modest in scale", which I suppose it is if you compare it to your common and garden Stately Home with 60 bedrooms. The text also notes that it is decorated with informal family life in mind. Now this is casual country living if you are used to a lot of staff I'd say. 
The interiors were done by David Mlinaric, with much of the curtain fabric being specially woven commissions. Attention to detail means that there are many little drinks tables placed where you'd want them, and items such as Butler's pantries (for your real Butler, not an imagine one) conveniently located (and apparently with charts for the staff pinned on the wall showing how a formal table setting should be done). 

bathroom with Victorian style shower

Dining room with Fortuny damask upholstered walls and a Venetian chandelier

view from the sunken courtyard

the breakfast room with Meissen plates on the wall, each one with a different bird

The drawing room

If you're interested in Palladio and his works, there is a Martin Randall tour this year on this very topic. How I would love to go on it as it is led by an Architectural Historian, and would be completely fascinating as they're accessing privately owned homes that are not open to the general public. But alas, it's not to be as I tackle my own, rather more modest Villa this year. So while I don't think that this home will give any inspiration from a decoration point of view, it's always nice to have a little glimpse into someone else's life, and in particular something that has been conjured up from someone's Architectural dream. 
We've finally got the renovations really happening. This past week a 72 year old man turned up on his own and in one day stripped out every bit of metal from the old sunroom/ bathroom and knocked a few walls down for good measure. I must say I was pretty impressed with his energy.... I do remember demolishing our little place in Melbourne, the subject of my last blog post, and literally crawling home to our apartment at night and collapsing from exhaustion.

The next day, his son turned up with a giant excavator and in around 2 hours had reduced the whole thing to rubble and started clearing the site. While we knew it was practically falling down on its own, it was still impressively fast to see it removed.

Amidst all of this, the dust has flown. We have had an incredibly dry Summer in Adelaide, and you can easily see that from the digging - bone dry dirt. Our veranda is covered in dust, and my new washing machine set up under the side veranda is rather tricky to use due to the dirt factor.

During the week I went out to dinner with a couple of friends to a meal revolving around the Harris Smokehouse range of products. Harris Smokehouse make absolutely delicious smoked salmon, along with smoked Sardines, Cod, Rainbow trout and many other smoked seafood products in the Adelaide Hills - it's available in supermarkets and gourmet food stores in Adelaide... I'm not sure it's yet expanded interstate. I'd heard a little about their produce, and knew it was related to the old Springs Smoked Salmon brand, but it was so interesting to hear the owner, 27 year old Adam Harris talk about his family's business.

He is the 4th Generation of a family smokehouse, which started in the UK (Pinney's of Orford), and after one son left for Australia in the late 80's they set up Spring's Smoked Salmon just outside of Adelaide, in Mt Barker. This was sold to Huon in Tasmania in 2005 - Adam detailed the difficulties they had with supplying the supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths, and the price squeezing that went on while they struggled to make money in keeping a premium product going. Huon changed much of the production process (along with the brand name of Spring's), and I think you can tell in the taste. For one, they no longer use oak to smoke the salmon.

Adam set up Harris Smokehouse 4 years ago, and decided to expand the range to not rely so heavily on the Salmon, which they struggle to make money from. There were a few questions from the dinner participants about production and also about antibiotic use in farmed Salmon. Apparently our fish in Australia is relatively free of antibiotics compared to the Northern Hemisphere's Salmon as we do not have 21 different diseases that are common there. Our water is cleaner (all farmed in Tasmania), but he expressed his disappointment that there is a smoked salmon on the shelves in the big chains that is $3.99/ 100gm packet, the cheapest available. It comes from Norway and has been fed antibiotics, frozen and defrosted 3 times in the production and shipping process and is still cheaper than any Australian product that can go on the shelf. Certainly this is not because the local manufacturers are driving around in Rolls Royce... it's just the cost of the raw ingredients, plus the premium production process.

One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is local produce, local producers and local manufacturing. If you buy a $2 t-shirt, someone somewhere has been ripped off in the production process. The shop that sells it is making money, but either the person growing the cotton, picking it, shipping it, spinning and weaving it, dying it, cutting it up and sewing the shirt, then shipping it to our stores in Australia has been ripped off somewhere along the line. I don't think you have to spend a fortune on what you buy to guarantee that this doesn't happen, but I do try to be more mindful of where things are coming from. There was a fascinating (to me) documentary on Foxtel recently, a UK show called "Mary's Bottom Line", did anyone see it? Mary Portas decided to try to revive British manufacturing and decided to design and manufacture women's knickers in Britain, sourcing the raw materials locally, which like Australia has lost most of its manufacturing and industry. The towns that had been the centre of garment manufacturing 30 years ago were horrifying - ghost town like rows of empty shops from failed and closed businesses, empty warehouses in weed filled fields, and 2nd generation unemployment with a palpable feeling of despair and hopelessness.

She found the last manufacturer of stretch lace in Nottingham, formerly the biggest manufacturer of lace in the world, a guy with a few machines in a shed. But she succeeded in employing and training machinists, sourcing local lace and making a point that you could produce a premium product in Britain which while it costs more than the cheap Chinese imported knickers employs local workers and manufacturers, which is good for everyone. The range was called Kinky Knickers and launched in Liberty's in London last year. It's apparently been such a success they're expanding the range to include Men's underpants, and singlets/ vests as well.

So, a few of the slightly random thoughts swirling around my head from this week! From diggers to knickers.... a slightly strange segue!

After I put up the ugly before photos of our back renovation (which strangely sent my blog stats through the roof.... I had no idea readers were crying out to see them), and given that my highest viewed posts are the Before and After posts that I've posted on our current house renovations, I thought it might be of interest to show our first house in Melbourne. 

Just prior to moving in. Skips became a common feature in the street.
We bought our first house, a dilapidated weatherboard cottage in Albert Park, Melbourne back in 2002. The house was described as a renovators delight, which was a slight understatement. Frankly it should have been condemned. Cosmetically it was quite hideously ugly, but additionally the floors had collapsed in places, it smelt of cat wee, mould and cigarettes, and was structurally unsound. We bought it for land cost only. The before photos I'm showing I have scanned as this was around 10 years ago, before digital cameras. The reasons why we bought the house were that we felt could capitalise on the value of the property using my design skills - it had such an altered layout that most people couldn't see what you could do with the house other than knocking it down. Additionally, weatherboards are the easiest house to alter and renovate, and also much cheaper to renovate than a brick house.

looking in from the front door to the original living/ dining room jackhammering up the concrete floors. Through the hatch and doorway is the kitchen, the window on the right went to the "sunroom" as described by the agent. It had no floor.

The house was circa 1890, and had originally been two single fronted cottages consisting of a very narrow hall, two rooms (one behind the other) and an open kitchen/ dining with a tacked on lean to for washing etc. Out the back was the loo onto the back laneway. In the early 1960's the two houses had been knocked into one in a fairly clumsy manner by a DIYer. It had a single, off centre front door that opened directly into an open plan living/ dining area. Off that to the left ran a very narrow hall to three bedrooms, some with questionable colour schemes (navy blue and purple being one). From the dining room you stepped down to the concrete floor of the kitchen (almost no cupboards and a stove that was declared dangerous by the gas inspector). Through that you went into the old leanto which was a laundry on one side and the bathroom on the other. Almost all walls had holes in them, the electrical wiring was dangerous, and any original Victorian features (skirtings/ fireplaces) were long gone. Our neighbour across the street could remember it being done, apparently the Policeman who did it spent a couple of years on it on weekends, then sold to the owner that we bought from (it was a deceased estate). The previous owner was clearly very poor, and alcoholic - my first job was putting out all the empty jack daniels bottles that were on the roof, stacked in corners of the garden and hidden in undergrowth out for recycling. This took three weeks of emptying and filling up the recycling bin. No upkeep or work had been done on the house since the 60's renovation.

the view in the bedrooms, that was to become the second bedroom, although for the first 2 years was our Living room until we renovated the back of the house.

The built in unit in the second bedroom with collapsing plywood floors
The first job was to repair the structure. Mr AV and I had very limited funds, so we had to do as much as we could ourselves, and we had to do it quickly as we couldn't afford the rent on our apartment plus the mortgage payments. So, we did demolition on weekends (with some lovely friends that helped out), jackhammering up concrete that had been poured into holes where the floorboards had rotted out, stripping out the old 1960's ceilings that were collapsing and getting things ready for the builders who had to do the more professional aspects. We had the house restumped (the bits that go into the ground and hold up a floor structure), and rebuilt the entire floor structure as we discovered when demolishing that basically it didn't have one. We then laid all the floor boards ourselves, had the house rewired and had new walls built to alter the layout to a more conventional hall with two rooms on either side (one side having narrower rooms as the door was still off centre - there was a structural brick wall down the centre of the house). The narrow rooms became a bathroom and a nursery later down the track.

View into the back garden from the back of the house

In the back corner of the house looking back at the house

Next, we moved in, without power for the first week. After the first 5 months, we built the new bathroom where the original open plan dining area of the house had been. I selected limestone tiles for the floors, and a white subway tile for the walls. The shower and bath were original Victorian fittings that came from renovation works at my Parent's house in Stirling (they brought them over on a trailer one weekend for us). The vanity was a sofa table from Freedom furniture that I found on sale, cut down to the correct height and painted white. The hand basins, taps and toilet were Caroma - I used to get a trade discount at the time, which is commonly given to Architects and Interior Designers. Above the handbasins the two mirrors conceal built in medicine cupboards from Stegbar, which I put frames around using bits of architrave. We had a heated towel rail (a nice luxury in freezing Melbourne) and not pictured were two velux skylights, one above each handbasin. We had the manual opening ones, which was fine as our ceiling height wasn't too extreme. The cupboard in the corner with the bifold doors housed the laundry - a stacked washer and dryer and a laundry trough with shelving above.

Victorian bath, double vanity with medicine cupboards above

Ladder style towel rail, frameless glass shower and Victorian shower, bifold doors conceal the laundry

After the bathroom was complete (it was done first as the old original one was truly, truly horrible - when you showered water would go through the wall into the next room... and that is just the start of the problems) we started work on the facade of the house after the council approvals came through.
The facade had no original features. We demolished everything, and put in new windows (salvaged Victorian sash windows that would have been the size of the original ones), a highlight window over the front door to bring light into the hallway, and re-weatherboarded the whole thing (this was all work done by a builder. We are not that clever). Mr AV and I then built the veranda, front deck and front fence and painted the whole thing inside and out. Outside, I put up a French enamel blue and white street number, two copper up/down lights for outside lighting and planted a Murraya hedge and white wisteria to go up the veranda posts. After the facade was finished we could finally put in insulation in the ceiling, and carpet in the other rooms along with a built in wardrobe in our bedroom and salvaged doors - the originals were long gone and had been replaced by plastic sliding concertina doors. Luxury at last! I was fortunate to get the carpet from a Commercial installer very cheaply - it was left over from the Westin Hotel construction project, and was a very good quality wool plush pile. 
During demolition

That's happy me in steel capped boots with a shovel setting out the stumps for the deck

All finished

The next stage was the back of the house. Initially I drew up plans that were approved by council for a knock down and proper larger extension. But we didn't feel comfortable with the amount that our mortgage would have ended up being, so we decided to instead work with the original footprint and open out the old kitchen/ bedroom 3/ bathroom and laundry and turn it into an open plan living/ kitchen/ dining room. We used french doors from Schott's in Melbourne across the entire back wall, and I put an oversized (for the size of the cottage) salvaged sash window in the seating area to flood the room with light natural light, as the back of the house faced South. We installed a Jetmaster gas log fire to heat the entire house, and the floors were floating floors with a jarrah veneer to match in with the boards we'd used in the hallway - the entire back of the house was on an existing concrete slab. 

The kitchen posed a couple of problems. Appliances had been purchased from Miele with a hefty discount when we were planning the larger extension - I had chosen a wide oven and gas cooktop, and a built in coffee machine which I had felt would be a good selling feature in the future (and it was, the next owners wanted it specified in the contract that the coffee machine was part of the sale). Large appliances with a much smaller kitchen meant that the layout was a squeeze, but in the end I was very happy with the kitchen - it was extremely easy to work in, with everything in proximity to where it was needed. I used laminate for the cupboards (Laminex Parchment, which is my favourite white in the laminex range), and a composite stone benchtop (no specific branding, I got it from DeFazio tiles in Victoria Ave, Brunswick along with the bathroom tiles - they are fantastic and if you're in Melbourne I highly recommend them as they can get stuff in for you if they don't have it in their extensive range). The splashback was colourback starfire glass (starfire glass is colourless glass, ie it has no iron in it which makes any colour that is painted on the back a true colour, without a greenish tinge). The tap and sink were from Caroma again, and the brushed chrome D handles were from a supplier at my work at the time, who sold them to me at cost.

Later on we built in the bookcases on either side of the fireplace.

After we finished all house renovations, we decided to start a family. While I was pregnant, I designed the back courtyard which was still as originally pictured in the before shots, and had a few challenges. Firstly, we were overlooked (as is common in inner city Melbourne). Secondly the ground level was higher outside than inside, which had in the past meant that water would come into the house when it rained. We re-levelled the garden, painted the fences in a unifying colour (there were 5 different fence types in a very small area, so painting them one colour was a much cheaper solution to building new), and had large sandstone coloured concrete pavers put down on concrete pads. In between I planted mini mondo grass (trays and trays of it when I was 8.5 months pregnant. It took me two weeks to finish. Extreme nesting.) which was on a watering system. This was because I wanted a very small area to look lush and green all the time - entirely paving it would have looked quite harsh, and we couldn't lawn such a small area. The garden beds contained Bradford pears, an ornamental pear, which have a pretty autumn colour, and lovely blossom in spring. I clipped them and trained them over a few years to block out the view of the neighbours. In Summer it was a lovely green private space (these pictures were taken for the real estate listing in early Spring). I wanted a feature in the courtyard as a focal point and something that drew the eye from the front door down to the back to make an otherwise tiny plot seem more spacious. We bought the giant rusty urn on plinth at Going Going Green in Hawthorn and it did the trick nicely. I planted English box hedging, and roses underneath the trees and that was where the planting stopped - we had a Jack Russell so he needed somewhere to dig and play. We put in a sandpit later on for the children, which is the wooden lidded box you can see to the right in the second picture. 

On a practical level, we had a clothes line put to the side of the house - I hate having washing on display from the open front door, which is something many houses in the area suffer from due to small plot sizes. On the other side of the back of the house Mr AV built a small shed to house our (now extensive) tools. We also put in evaporative air conditioning just before our oldest was born.

We started with a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house, and we ended up with the same, but the layout suited modern living much better. We also did not spend a lot of money on this house - we were always mindful that it would be a house we would sell, and we also did not want to increase our mortgage to a point where it was uncomfortable for us while we were living in it. And so we lived in the house for a total of 7 years - the first 2.5 was the period of renovations. 

I tried to keep the house neutral and classic - as there were not any original features, I tried not to recreate them in too obvious a manner, so no iron lace on the veranda, ceiling cornices or roses. The house had such a lovely, warm feel to it, it was just too small for our needs, so with some sadness we put it on the market and moved on... but then that led to our current house and project. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

I'm feeling a little bit under the weather with a common and garden head cold. The type that makes you feel exhausted and your nose runs like a tap. Fabulous. Especially useful timing as Mr AV left at 8.30 this morning for Melbourne to go to the Grand Prix. He had a nice day sitting in a Box overlooking Pitt Lane. I spent the day catching up on laundry and keeping children entertained in between sneaky naps on my bed.

Anyway, to recap the week, we finally got around to putting up the sunburst mirror that I bought from Early Settler/ Recollections, the shop I only recently discovered as a good source of decorative stuff (if you sift through the tat, that is). After quite a long deliberation period, it has gone over the fireplace in the study. The fish still life painting that it has replaced is going to go into the new extension, and I'm going to finally get onto buying the De Gournay wallpaper panels that I looked at early last year - three of them will be framed and go above the desk on the opposite wall. The light fitting you can see reflected is the last one in the house that is earmarked to go. I just haven't found the right thing to replace it yet. I'm very happy with the mirror, the dull gilt works really well with the colours in the room.

On Wednesday I went to Urrbrae House, which is a circa 1892 house and garden that was gifted to the University of Adelaide by the Waite family, the original owners. The grounds are now used as an Agricultural College (the winemaking degrees are done there), and the house itself is used to educate school groups on what life was like in 1892. I was there with my oldest's Year 2 class. The grounds really are lovely, as is the house. Unfortunately it's fairly empty inside.... obviously not a lot of furniture was gifted with the house and land, but it works well for its educational purpose.

 On Thursday I dropped my children off and came home to do a bit of admin before going to a Tasting lunch, to find when I came out of the house that I was somewhat trapped.... the asbestos removal had made us into a leper colony of sorts. The front of the house was very well sealed off from the back, so there was really no danger (and the asbestos was very low grade), but I had to jump the fence to escape.

The tasting lunch I went to was for a ball that I am helping to organise. What can I say, I have become the very definition of a suburban housewife cliche. I'm there more for the design point of view (or so I like to think) rather than any social pull I may have, but the tasting was fun-ish (still on my elimination diet, so that posed some difficulties). This was the plate of desserts that my friend and fellow committee member K. got to try.

And I have continued on my de-cluttering ways. Faux Fuchsia, patron saint of decluttering would be proud of me. Gwenneth Paltrow wrote an interesting post on her Goop website about the well edited closet this week, and Maggie Alderson also wrote two pieces about decluttering that made for interesting reading, so it seems that everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is doing a spring clean of sorts. I was feeling like a clean out, as I generally try to keep my wardrobe fairly streamlined, so their posts were fairly timely inspiration. Having everything out on view does help keep me disciplined, but as it's the end of Summer, I decided it was time to farewell the things that I hadn't worn this season. Mr AV enthusiastically joined in by turfing a couple of suits after he saw my efforts. I think he could do a little more though. Most of my pile consisted of J Crew purchases from a few years ago - many don't fit me now, but quite a lot haven't lasted the difference (after only 2 years). This is interesting as the older things from 7 years ago are still going strong.... I'm thinking the quality has gone a little downhill since then.

And now I'm off to have a cup of tea and early to bed to try to shift this cold.  Hope you had a good week. 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
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