Friday, 28 August 2009

Weekend jobs

New improved window sill with lambs tongue frame

New lambs tongue skirting vs the old quad

This weekend Jason is planning to replace the door frames and skirting boards in the kitchen. He did an early morning raid to Finlayson's to buy the joinery on the way to work this morning. He was probably an unusual sight at 7am in his business suit.
There is only quad as skirting in the kitchen. Jason wants to replace all of it in the kitchen with the lambs tongue profile, similar to what is in the main living area of the house. The door frames in the kitchen will also be replaced with the lambs tongue profile. Currently it is colonial style which is inconsistent to all the other parts of the house.
Replacing them will mean an easier paint job. It won't be a startling change but it is the little things which you don't notice that complete a room.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Kitchen nirvana

Island bench with newly installed pendant lights

View of inside from kitchen sink window
Working tap and sink

Super monster deluxe cooker

The plumber arrived!

We are truly eating again. I will be popping out to the butcher's for my carnivorous family. Mmm...home-cooked meals again!
There are still more things to be completed such as the splash backs, servery, drawer adjustments and floating shelves. Despite this, I am experiencing kitchen nirvana.

Friday, 21 August 2009

A work in progress

The waterless sink

island bench with badly flaking paint on back wall
view of kitchen from back deck doors

As you can see, the kitchen is very slowly coming together. The granite was put in a few days ago and we are still living with the fine stone dust which was left behind in the stone mason's wake. It does look terrific though.
Mr Rangehood installer also came to do his end of the bargain, but the most important person of all is yet to arrive - The Plumber. Without him we are waterless and gasless and it will mean another weekend of microwaved and BBQed meals. Won't he be a sight for sore eyes and hungry tummies!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Empty sunroom. Will have a more recent photo soon.
I have been looking for a sideboard for our sunroom. The dining room table lives there and I’d love to have an area to store my napery, placemats and serving ware. I had a squiz at a vintage Fler sideboard in Vinyl Frontier but was distracted by these two Danish Quality Furniture (DQF) Viking chairs.

DQF was a Brisbane maker which used to make Danish style furniture in the 60s and 70s. These chairs date from the early 70s.

“Didn’t you go out to buy the sideboard?” Jason asked, as I pulled up into the driveway with the chairs in the back of the car.

The sideboard can wait until there are more dollars in the bank account...

DQF viking chairs in the sunroom

Friday, 14 August 2009

I love eBay

My little old cooker escaped the scrap heap.

Here I was ready to put the poor old thing out onto the footpath. It was in reasonable condition and worked fine, but since we were renovating the kitchen with new appliances, it was no longer needed. I also wanted a super deluxe monster cooker.

A change of heart made me think that perhaps I could sell it on eBay and get a couple dollars. Again, my expectations were very low – I just wanted an easy way to get rid of it while giving it a second life somewhere else.

Who would have thought it was a highly sought-after cooker? Twenty-one bids and a few hundred dollars later, it was sold!

Now, how cool is that?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Kitchen update

The kitchen is coming together nicely. All the cabinetry is in and it has exceeded my expectations, which is always quite low when “out-sourcing” work done around the house.

Our plan with the Sow’s Ear is to retain most of the original features and do a renovation which is mostly ‘keeping-in’ style with the house. We are re-painting the entire interior white, so it is a blank canvas for our 60s and 70s Danish style furniture and objects. Although our styling will lean towards mid-20th century modernist, the essence of the house will be what it is - Queenslander circa 1930s.

All the kitchen cabinetry is white with a simple router on the doors – similar to what exists on all the original interior French doors. We opted for a vinyl wrap finish which is harder wearing than 2 pack. With three growing children running amok, it is less likely to chip or damage.

The bench top will be light-coloured natural granite called white Kashmir. It is a light grey stone with flecks of purple, red and white. Sounds ghastly as I describe it, but the two slabs I saw at the Fine Stone warehouse were beauties.

The kitchen windows above the sink have been removed (we will recycle them on other parts of the house) and have been replaced with bi-fold windows which open onto the deck. The new windows are the exact profiles as the original windows. They are fantastic and have opened up the space without major structural change to the house.

The bi-fold windows ready to be installed

Ta daa! The new windows will open on to a servery

We are still waiting for the kitchen to be completed – just need the granite and the appliances to be hooked up. In the meantime, Jason will be painting the VJs. Fun, fun, fun! I don’t think so...

Friday, 7 August 2009

Carte blanche

An acrylic light shade in kitchen

“If we buy this house, we’ll do up the kitchen straight away. You can have carte blanche,” said Jason eagerly, consoling me during our first house inspection.

Ah yes, how those words appeased me during the drawn out 60 day settlement.

How I thank God for Google. There is no way I could have traipsed to the various kitchen display shops with the brood in tow. I even selected the cabinet maker based on their website. That is definitely a leap of faith, but those words “carte blanche” chimed soothingly in my ears, until...

The phone rang late one Sunday afternoon in June, while Jason did another obligatory Bunnings raid to buy “No more Gaps”.

state of the kitchen walls


“It’s just me, Babe. You wouldn’t believe it but I can’t find the car...I think it’s been stolen,” Jason said through the crackle of his mobile phone.

My heart sank. “What? No. [long pause] Are you sure?” I demanded unhelpfully.

“I thought I may have forgotten where I parked but I’ve walked around the car park and it’s definitely not here. So can you come and pick me up? I’ll call the police when I get home,” said poor dejected Jason.

Our finances have taken a battering. Although the car was a 12 years old Hyundai Excel (we’re amazed it lasted so long, truthfully), Jason used it every day to zip into town for work. It was just the run-about, but an extremely low-cost convenient run-about. Fortunately, Jason had it insured for theft (I had no idea he had so much foresight) and was able to wrangle two weeks car hire until he organised a new car. (You will note Jason is great at making decisions, “Even a wrong decision is better than making no decision!”)

We always knew we would have to replace the old girl one day but the timing was just lousy. Our renovation money was depleted instantly. A few weeks prior to the theft, we had signed the kitchen contract and bought the appliances. And those once comforting words “carte blanche” came back to haunt me!!

P.S The Hyundai was found abandoned in Mt Gravatt three weeks ago. We were paid out by the insurance company and it is now their problem.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The kitchen - how it was

Real estate photo of kitchen pre-sale

It appears the Sow’s Ear underwent two major renovations -1950s/60s and 1990s. As a result, the kitchen has morphed into this enormous space. From what we can gather, the original bathroom occupied a section of the current kitchen. We believe the bathroom shifted to the back end of the house in the 50s or 60s probably the same time as when the sunroom was built.

There was also an addition of a deck on the back of the house, so again the kitchen was enlarged, we assume, when that work was being done. Sadly there have been too many alterations to do a true “restoration”. But houses are always a work in progress reflecting particular moments in time.

But back to the kitchen. It had two distinct styles – the circa 1990s colonial timber kitchen with speckled green laminate top occupying one side and circa 1950s style built-in painted cabinetry on the other side. Damn! I never got around to taking proper pictures of the kitchen before they ripped it out...

I actually didn’t mind the look of the older style. It gave the kitchen a little bit of history and charm...however it wasn’t really the original kitchen cabinetry and it was entirely useless for storage because the cabinets were too shallow. Alas, they are a casualty of my circa 2009 major kitchen renovation!!

The wall where the old cabinetry lived

The older kitchen cabinets discarded on the front lawn
Cabinet-maker removing timber kitchen
I keep thinking of the future generations who will buy this house, tut tutting all the changes Jason and I made to this place...

Before purchasing the Sow’s Ear we resolved to renovate the kitchen immediately. The previous owners had a tall laminate pantry, antique lead light cabinet, an aquarium, an imposing double fridge and a table with four chairs. There was too much happening in the space.

As the kitchen forms the largest part of the internal space, we thought the money spent to do the kitchen would be money well spent, particularly if we stay her for at least five years. Our quality of life would improve greatly to have a fully functioning kitchen.

It will also be the first time I will have a dishwasher and a while since I had a pantry – my friends are aghast that I have lived so “primitively” for so long!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The first few projects

With any condition Queenslander house there is always work. And lots of it when they need TLC.

The first job we did was to sand the deck and oil it to bring it back from the brink. It's a massive covered area, so it was a big job - particularly when it was pouring rain every time Jason was ready to oil it.

The second project was to sand and scrape the front entry ready for a coat of paint. Jason also needed to fix up the VJs which were covering the architraves. It looks a million dollars now.

We used Dulux acrylic low sheen white (wash and wear) for the VJs and a gloss white for the doors etc.


We are now living without a kitchen waiting for it to be installed later this week. It was ripped out last Friday, so it has been an experience with my hungry boys.

Anyway, I can't wait for it to be up and running!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Move

Real estate photo of sunroom pre-sale

Whoever likes moving needs to have their head read. Someone told me that after death, divorce and childbirth, moving house is next on the list of life's stressful events. After my experience, I'd have to concur. Traumatic with a capital T.

We only moved two minutes drive from our old place. The move before that was only three doors up, so we were proud of ourselves we found a place which was not in the same street. After 10 years living in the same street, it was kind of sad to leave. Particularly as the Sow's Ear was not a place I would say I loved...well, not yet.

I actually thought that when we next moved, we would purchase a fabulously funky 50s or 60s modernist house. You know what I mean? Flat roof, large glass timber sliding doors, open plan, perhaps a sunken lounge, terrazzo bathroom floors - a home built around its environment. A Hayes & Scott designed home without the huge price tag. There is one a few minutes away from here - just gorgeous despite the not-in-keeping kitchen and bathrooms...

Anyway, that didn't happen. You'd think after being with the same partner for over 12 years, you would know them...Jason wanted a Queenslander. He dearly wanted a Queenslander that he saw potential in. The last house we previously lived in was my choice and he never truly loved it. He loves this house and is so happy we live here.

Jason's a brass kind of a guy and I am chrome. When he's thinking of furniture for the house, he's thinking English country gentleman and leather chesterfield, while I am thinking Hans Wegner Danish modern. It shall be an interesting journey of compromises.

We were given early access to the Sow's Ear a week before settlement in mid May. Oh dear. What a state it was left in. Let's just say one person's clean is not anothers...and I am certainly not a clean freak.

The first thing we did was to rip out all the lace and frills on the windows. Then all the nails, hooks, latches, barrel bolts that no longer worked or had any purpose went. Sounds like a small task but takes a day in a house this age with three kids running around like escaped lunatics. Our poor neighbours.

Speaking of neighbours, the house next door is vacant, abandoned, deserted. It is a small decrepit Queenslander cottage on a sprawling 812 square metre block. The agent said that a fire went through it years ago and was left vacant. The yard is full of trees, the gates are barricaded shut and it's spooky looking. We've told the boys that Boo lives there. Very 'To kill a Mockingbird'.

Moving day was a 7am start when the removalists arrived. I spent most of the day cleaning the old house and picking up the bits and pieces that were left behind. Thankfully the boys were either at school or being minded by a friend. Jason was at the other end supervising the removalists and setting up our new home. When I finally arrived to the Sow's Ear late that afternoon I was expecting the worse.

Fortunately, Jason had weaved his magic. All the rooms were set up, the beds were made, furniture was put into position - he lovingly put our possessions into our new home and it looked so welcoming. There were still heaps of boxes to unpack but at least the major stuff was done.

Two months or so have passed, we are still surrounded by our packing boxes waiting for some projects to be completed to give us more storage space. Although we have built-in wardrobes in each of the three bedrooms, we have very little in the way of storage. There is one small cupboard in the sunroom near the bathroom for our towels, but it is also used as a broom cupboard for the vacuum cleaner etc.

Our first major project is to renovate the large eat-in kitchen which will give us the much needed storage space for most of our things. It is in the pipeline at the moment, so I will post more about that soon.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The backgrounder

It was all Eunice's fault. She was the real estate agent who was so determined for us to sell our old home, she found us the Sow's Ear. I wasn't prepared go through with the sale of our home (we got an offer within the first few days) until we had secured a new place.

"There is a house just around the corner from you. It hasn't come on to the market yet but I know the owner is looking at selling very soon," she said in her broad New Zealand accent.

I was against it from the beginning. The house was in a street with the same name as our infant son. "We can't move there. Everyone will think we named him after the a dog!" I pleaded to Jason.

"Most people would say it was serendipity, that it was meant to be," he replied.

Eunice had arranged for us to inspect on a Sunday morning. She was prepping us on the condition of the house. "It's a lovely is a bit cluttered at the moment. It has a lot of character. The man who's selling it is by himself and he wanted to fix a few things before he put it up for sale. He's happy for you to come and have a look but there are a few repairs that need to be done."

Fore-warned, fore-armed. Oh dear. Yes, the bones were good. Lovely amber and clear coloured glass french doors, original casement windows, wide honey coloured pine floorboards, VJ walls, 3 metre high ceilings, enormous eat-in kitchen, large covered deck, long sunroom. But, oh dear. Flaking paint everywhere, water leak marks on the ceiling, wood rot, cracked window panes, a DIY bathroom tiling job, neglected yard, no storage. The house was tired. No, she was down right exhausted.

From the moment we walked into the house, all I could see was work, as is the case with most Queenslanders. Jason on the other hand was enthralled. It was a fait a complit. That evening we made an offer on it.

We found out later the house was a matrimonial. They had three sons too. The couple had split up, the husband was living there alone, hence the sty state. Eunice said that he actually tidied up before our first visit, so I'd hate to think how bad it really was...

So, good-bye to our funky post-war that was home for 7 years and onto the next adventure!

Welcome to fun and vjs - the story of our Queenslander renovations

It was with much trepidation we purchased our "new" old home earlier this year. Truth be told, the trepidation was all mine.

When Jason, my husband, drove past our home the for the very first time, it was love. When he first entered through the doors of this sad old home and saw the VJ walls, the affair had begun.

This will be a blog chronicling our home renovations (with three young children) and our attempts of turning this sow's ear into a silk purse.

So, welcome to Fun and VJs...and the sow's ear...

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