Saturday, 30 November 2013

Salvaged building materials

in partnership with Quicksales

We are very big advocates of sourcing and using salvaged building materials in our renovations. It is the ultimate in recycling in an industry which is notorious for its high level of waste.

Most of our casement windows and other joinery were salvaged from old Queenslander houses to replace windows which were not sympathetic to the era of our 1928 home – the Sow’s Ear. It is a little bit more fiddly work to use salvaged materials but the results, from our experience, have been well worth it.

Using second-hand joinery is easy on the renovating budget too. Having timber doors and casement windows made from scratch is gut-wrenchingly expensive when you are renovating an entire house. Salvaged VJs, weatherboards and joinery can cut down the costs of renovating substantially, particularly if you are a DIYer.

Salvaged French doors which we replaced in the sunroom/kitchen

When we plan the next stage of our renovation, which is to fit out the underneath of the Sow’s Ear, we will try to source internal high-waisted timber doors and more hopscotch French doors to be consistent with what we have upstairs.

Anyway, I was pleased to hear about a ‘new to me’ website called Quicksales classifieds which is an online auctions and classifieds website – it is the Australian version of other well-known auction sites but without all the fees.  A big hooray for more buying and selling options!

It sells everything you can imagine both new and second-hand, so it is another good resource for renovators looking for elusive heritage building materials to suit old homes.

Have you used salvaged building materials in your home?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Australian Modern Design Giveaway

We have a great new Australian design book to give away on Fun and VJs.

Australian Modern Design: Mid 20th Century Architecture & Design is all about modernist architecture, art, design and culture. It is a collection of stories paying tribute to Australia's rich design culture. The new book aims to promote a better appreciation of this particular era of design.

There is a wealth of interesting stories contained within the 160 pages of Australian Modern Design.

Some of the fascinating stories include:  a glimpse into  Robyn Boyd's Appletree Hill housing estate; an enchanting story by Victoria Grounds, daughter of architect Roy Grounds, about the Betty Ramsay House; a peek into a secret location in Brisbane containing significant mid-century architect-designed homes; an examination of the life and work of the renowned furniture designer Fred Ward, and my favourite story is about Patrick Ogilvie, a milliner, who left a legacy of exquisite creations...

It is a beautifully produced book and it now has pride of place on my coffee table. I just wish I had a Noguchi coffee table to do it justice...

The hardcover design is a blueprint using a mid-century garden plan by landscape architect Arne Fink, whose sophisticated work is slowly being rediscovered by a new generation. The gorgeous cover is designed to age over time to achieve the patina of a well-used blueprint.

Australian Modern Design

Copies will be hitting stores this weekend in Brisbane, with other capital cities following suit next week.
Designed, printed and edited in Brisbane, Australia, this is a fabulous independent publication from the publishers of Brisbane Modern and Australian Modern. Recommended Retail Price is $80.

You can also obtain copies by ordering online at Australian Modern HERE. Please support independent publishers giving it a go.

Slipcovers being  assembled for Australian Modern Design

And if you're feeling particularly lucky, you can win your very own FREE copy by leaving a comment on this blog post. It will be our Christmas present to you.

Please make sure to leave an email address with your comment, so that we can contact you. The competition is open to Australian and international readers. Yay! Competition ends on Wednesday 4 December 2013. As always, Jason will pick the winner.

Good luck! 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Abandoned houses

For those of you who don't know, we live next to an old abandoned cottage. I wrote about it here back in 2009 when we first moved to the Sow's Ear.

I really haven't found much more information about the house since 2009... The owner comes around periodically to mow the lawn and tidy the yard: the house itself is now beyond repair and maintenance. The kookaburras peck at the rotting weatherboards cladding the house, probably to feast on the termites slowly devouring all that delicious timber.

By the looks of the house it is perhaps an early 1900s Queenslander cottage - it is definitely older than our 1928 Sow's Ear.

View of the old abandoned house from our deck. And the missing stump.

Word on the street is that the house was once owned by a famous aboriginal boxer (Lionel Rose?) and the house, at some point in time, operated as an illegal brothel. Yes, a house of ill-repute!

Someone told me that under the house there are still all kinds of adult devices suspended from the floor beams...of course! I don't know that any of this is true mind, but there is always a grain of truth in these neighbourhood folklores, surely? Anyway, I'm running with the story because it's a good one!

The view of the house from our side stairs. Here is the fallen timber house stump.
I'm not game enough to find out the truth about the adult devices under the house business and I will definitely not go to investigate after one of the house's foundation stumps keeled over during the storm last week. Yikes!

Although, it is very sad the home is falling apart, I find the whole abandoned house business morbidly fascinating. Clearly I'm not the only one who finds it so, as I recently discovered.

There is a whole Facebook page dedicated to abandoned houses in and around Brisbane here. The person who runs the page records the ruins for our viewing pleasure - there's nearly 10,000 likers!

So, are you fascinated by abandoned house too?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Finel Coffee Pot

The op-shop gods have been kind...I've been on a bit of an op-shop roll at the moment. It's a dreadful affliction - this need to scour charity shops for bits of pretty mid-century glass or homewares...

Finel coffee pot

However, never did I think I would find a Finel coffee pot sitting forlornly on a shelf next to the many donated pyrex coffee plungers. I did a double-take, snatched it with both hands, clutched it tightly to my chest and whispered to it, "My precious."

Image from here
The enamel coffee pot was designed in 1957 by Finnish designer Antti Nurmesniemi and has become a sort of design icon among mid-century modern enthusiasts and collectors. It is like the Finnish equivalent to the Norwegian Cathrineholm lotus coffee pots which are also a very highly sought-after item.

Etsy image from here

Looks like it's the Sow's Ear for stove-top coffee, people!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The scent of Christmas is in the air...

Sponsored by RedBalloon*

For some people it is almost sacrilege to even start Christmas preparations, despite the retail stores already decking the halls with boughs of holly.

But not for me and especially not after I received a RedBalloon MarketPlace box containing an Ecoya Christmas scented candle delivered to my door step (actually, delivered to the carport in this instance).

And no, the Ecoya candle doesn’t smell like an Australian ‘prawntastic’ seafood Christmas either – it is a more refined Caramelised Plum Pudding scent, which is simply divine. It smells deceivingly edible…like warmed plum pudding drizzled with brandy custard…

Caramelised Plum Pudding scented candle by Ecoya from RedBalloon MarketPlace
It was an absolute treat to get the package which is the ultimate aim of RedBalloon MarketPlace, providing a little bit of luxurious delight to those on the receiving end of such a gift. It was a nice surprise too even though I knew it was on its way...Ha!

Apart from the Ecoya lifestyle boxes, you can select boxes containing products like Maggie Beer, Republica Coffee, Valrhona Chocolate, as well as a wine and beer products. It would make a fab corporate gift for work clients or colleagues as well as a great gift for loved ones…particularly for loved ones who are very hard to buy for.

You can buy a RedBalloon MarketPlace subscription starting from $29.99 per month which includes all delivery and transaction costs. The subscription is available as a one month trial, or a three, six or twelve month subscription. The Ecoya candle subscription starts from $49 per month.

So, potentially you could indulge a candle lover by giving them a candle every month if you're feeling very generous! I think it’s an awesome gift idea this Christmas even if it's just as a once-off – something a bit different too.

p.s As a special offer RedBalloon have offered a discount offer for Fun and VJ readers. Receive $20 off when you spend $79 or more on any RedBalloon experience. Visit  and enter the code REDBLOG14 at the checkout to receive your discount. Code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon T&Cs
Expiry: 31/12/2014

*I received a complimentary subscription box to facilitate this review, and an administration fee from Digital Parents Collective. As always, all opinions expressed are purely my own.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Featherston holiday and Australian Modern Design

The last few days have been kind of fun. Yesterday I was given a Featherston chair...!! But only as a temporary loan. Ha! I didn't knock it back though.

My mates Chris and Susan who are publishers of the new book Australian Modern Design have an excess of chairs and not enough space to store them...typical dilemma for chair collectors. There were a few Featherstons, a Saarinen and some other great pieces that were just sitting in storage. Chris thought one of the Featherstons should have a holiday at the Sow's Ear...until it is wanted again. Classic!

How often can you get the 'designer look' without actually paying the 'designer bucks'?

The Featherston is now residing in our Queenslander bedroom until it is recalled for active duty at the modernist front.

How cool is that? And what's even cooler is that I got my hands on a copy of Australian Modern Design which will be out soon at selected locations nationally.

Stay tuned to hear more about this fabulous new limited edition book about mid-20th century Australian architecture and design...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

When things break..

One of the light fittings on our rangehood is busted. We were trying to change the light bulb and in the process we broke the actual light fitting (I'm using the royal we, and it wasn't me for a change..!).

Jason inadvertently took out the whole fitting and in the process broke the locking mechanism which keeps the light in place. Every time we pop the light back into its space it just pops right out again (imagine the seething rage and then mutterings of 'poor design' from dear old shirtless Jason). We now have this light fitting dangling out of the rangehood over the pots and pans!

It actually dangles a lot more than this but you get the picture from this image.
It should sit flush rather than as it is now

It needs to be replaced and mostly as a matter of pride - it is a constant reminder of a silly mistake...much like when I broke our new fence (read here). And Jason hates to be reminded of his mistakes perhaps a blog post is not the best thing for it...?!

Rangehood and its broken light fitting

Anyway, I'm on to the task of sourcing a new light fitting. I'm trying to get the spare part online in the first instance. Who knew there were sites purely dedicated to rangehood spare parts?

So far it is looking promising and we will hopefully be able to erase all evidence of how not to change a light bulb on a rangehood.

Monday, 18 November 2013

In the jungle...

Looking at our garden bed in the backyard you would be forgiven if you thought there was a lion sleeping there tonight. Wimoweh...wimoweh...

overgrown side garden bed

I'm not joking: sometime in the past two years we've just let this part of the garden go wild. There's vines, there's tree seedlings growing which we know we did not plant and so many weeds. It actually doesn't look so bad in the photos but when you see it in real life, it's a mish mash of overgrowing neglect. (Anyone want some random loquat plants?)

Another angle of the neglected overgrown garden
Over the next few weeks we will be steadily weeding it out, removing the unwanted trees and just giving it a general old tidy up. It's a cheap and easy project while we're in between renovation projects...We really ought to have done more on the garden these past four years.

Mulched side yard and a pile of rubbish for the tip

We've mulched in around the little cubby house, as there are a few established Murrayas screening a wire fence that we would like to encourage to grow.

And the best part of all this mulching is that over the past week we've had steady rain. The rainwater tank is filling up and all our plants are singing songs of praise!

I'll keep you updated with our garden progress.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Stove-top coffee...bringing back the moka pot

Our coffee machine is kaput. We've been resorting to our old stove-top coffee maker or moka pot for the past few weeks. It's been a nice change brewing coffee the old school way: the way we used to when we were younger and couldn't afford the more elaborate espresso machines.

Vev Vigano Kontessa Oro coffee percolator. Recently acquired

We've been contemplating getting a new coffee machine but to be honest the stove-top percolator is perfectly fine for our needs and more importantly it doesn't take up valuable kitchen bench space. We have not ventured down that coffee pod path yet...although we have toyed with the idea...

The stove-top coffee percolators look very cool if you want to view it from a design perspective. For example, the Bialetti coffee makers are an iconic kitchen symbol - the Moka Express is a design classic and has been for 70 years. A Bialetti on a stove-top screams Euro chic...if you are into that...

Bialetti ad from here

Alessi's 9090 coffee pot designed by Richard Sapper in the 1970s is another notable coffee maker and is on display in the permanent design collection at MOMA in New York.

Alessi 9090 coffee machine.
image from here

One of my favourites is the Atomic coffee machine which was designed in 1946. You could liken it to a work of art on a stove-top such is its sculptural beauty. Designed by Giordanon Robbiati in Italy, this machine is still produced to this day. It is also permanently displayed at the Design Museum in London.

Atomic Coffee machine
Image from here

At the Sow's Ear, we have a small Italian stainless steel percolator which we use in the mornings. We've had it for nearly 20 years and it makes a decent cup of coffee.

Our small coffee percolator which we use daily

And recently we acquired a second hand Vev Vigano Kontessa Oro pot which is just the nicest looking percolator while being incredibly well-made. It is made out of stainless steel with a brass handle and knob. It's a large 12 cup coffee percolator which we will use on the weekends and when our mates pop over for a cuppa.

Vev Vigano Kontessa
Image from here

Do you have a favourite coffee maker?  What do you use to make your brew?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Books for Christmas and a huge giveaway!

This post is brought to you by Bookworld

Books: they are one of my go-to gift choices during the silly season because the love of reading and an appreciation of the written word should always be encouraged. 

Christmas is also a time of year that most people tend to unwind and take days off so books, especially among my friends and family, are a much appreciated gift.

The inky smell and crisp touch of a new book, yet to be discovered, is the most delectable of feelings. It doesn’t matter if it is a literary novel, design book or beautifully presented cook book – the promise of what is inside those pages is seductive.

I am super-organised this year and I’ve already bought the children some books to go with their toys on Christmas day.  But I didn’t realise the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 8: Hard Luck was out and now I will need to get a copy for my boys - they’re nuts for that serial and are loyal Greg Heffley fans.

On my wish list this year are a few design and cook books and Bookworld has a huge selection of popular and affordable titles which will fit the bill.

I’m eyeing off Donna Hay’s The New Classics and New Suburban: Reinventing The Family Home In Australia And New Zealand by Stuart Harrison. I love having books on my coffee table to flick through over the Christmas holidays.

And in big news we have a $150 book pack to give away to make sure that you and yours are busy reading this Christmas too. What a terrific prize!

All you have to do to win the Bookworld book pack is to leave a comment below telling us what genre of book you love best.

Entries close Tuesday 19 November 2013 with Jason selecting his most favourite response. Only Australian readers may enter and you must have a valid email with your response so that we can contact you as soon as possible.

Good luck!

EDIT: Congratulations to Courtney from Foodmuster who won the Bookworld book pack! Thanks to everyone who entered the competition. xx

Monday, 11 November 2013

A-mulching we will go...

Heigh-ho the derry-o, a-mulching we will go.

Jason sporting a new look this summer - the akubra is his chapeau of choice this season... 

This past weekend we've concentrated on mulching the back yard garden beds at the Sow's Ear. We had some leftover sugar cane mulch from the front garden makeover and bought another few bales to make a decent start.

This part of the Sow's Ear garden has been neglected for a while...Mulching it forces us to weed it!
It's a good project to tackle, as it forces you to weed the garden beds at the same time. Yikes!

We weeded out all the unwanted little nasties, placed a few layers of newspaper down and then covered it with a thick layer of sugar cane mulch. It instantly lifts the yard - from complete neglect to looking 'cared for' after a morning's work. We'll try to finish the rest of the garden over the next few weekends.

The mulch will keep the soil around our plants nice and moist and give us bang for our buck every time it rains or when we water.

The weather has been incredibly dry and all our plants are suffering from the lack of rain. No matter how much we water, it doesn't seem to be enough to make them thrive...they are just barely existing.

Fortunately, there is rain and showers predicted for all of this week which will be the opportune time to fertilise.

Is anyone else getting into gardening this summer?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Planet lamp

The Studio K Planet lamp is a highly desirable piece of Australian industrial design. Its simplistic shape and bold colours captured the imagination of post-war Australia and it is still being produced (although in limited quantities) today by Planet Lighting.

Designed in 1962 by Bill Iggulden, the Studio K lamp was the 'it' item among the general public and  many architects and designers. Strong and durable with an industrial edge, the lamp won many awards such as the Australian Design Award and the Prince Philip Design Prize: not bad for a task lamp produced by an Australian family business.

Orange Studio K Planet lamp

Last month an original Studio K Planet lamp took up residence at the Sow's Ear in Son #1's room. The new orange lamp replaces an old ikea one which lacked personality.

It makes a fabulous desk and reading light as it can be adjusted and angled to suit the task you are completing. It also has a decent length cord that reaches the only powerepoint in the room. Son #1 likes the new lamp too, thankfully!

Planet lamp

We feel cool owning one of these iconic lamps. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Eleven Queenslander house renovation blogs and resources

I've been gallivanting around the countryside flirting with mid-century modern design and architecture and sadly neglecting core business which is the Sow's Ear and renovating this old Queenslander. Ha! Talk about sidetracked!

I guess after four years or so we can afford to slow down and take our time with this interwar Queenslander house. It is far from finished and we still have quite a few projects that we need to tackle...but all in good time. Jason's lost his mojo somewhat too...which is not a good thing when he's chief renovator...

Anyway, there seems to be quite a few other bloggers who are well and truly in the midst or about to embark on a major renovation.

Here is a list of the links,  if you want to get a fix of Queenslander house renovations via blog reading:

Crazy House Capers
West End Cottage
Bungalow Bliss
The Old Post Office
Life in our blue house
Sunshine and Paint Pots
Family H.O.M.E
Heart Hanworth House
Restoring the Old Girl
Old Pearly Jenkins
Hill Manor is a new to me blog about a young man renovating his 100 year old house in Toowong. He's got a big job ahead of him.

Some of these blogs have been on the scene for quite some time while others are new to me. They're all different and I think such diversity is always good when one is contemplating the task of renovating their Queenslander house.

If I have missed someone off the list, please let me know in the comments so that I can add them.

Also, for those who are keen DIY'ers there is a great book called The Building of the Queensland House: A carpenter's handbook and owner's manual by A L Jenner which was first published last year. It is a book full of advice, diagrams and has lots of details about the restoration of a Red Hill Queenslander - written by a local Brisbane carpenter who has years of experience restoring these magnificent homes.

I think the book is independently published and is available at Black Cat Books in Paddington and the Woolloongabba Antiques Centre.

I have yet to get my hands on the book but am keen to give it to Jason. The man needs his DIY mojo back!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

QAGOMA California Design exhibition

A very cool new design exhibition has hit Brisbane - California Design Living in a Modern Way 1930 to 1965.

I attended the launch (thanks to the lovely Elizabeth from Walk Among the Homes who moves and shakes with all the right people) last week and had a sneak preview of what the exhibition entails at the Queensland Art Gallery.

The exhibition features many of the design icons that you would  normally associate with California during the mid 20th century and introduces us to some other new designs/designers from that period. Curated by Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LCMA), the exhibition is a tasteful selection of the work of pre- and post-war American designers.

Qunicy Jones and Frederick E Emmons sofa and side table from Spencer House 1961-64, with Milo Baughman cocktail table 1950

From the sleek industrial design of an airstream Clipper trailer and an Avanti Studebaker to the enormously popular furniture designs of Charles and Ray Eames, there's a little bit of something for everyone in this star-studded tribute to California design.

Airstream Clipper 1936
California furniture, fashion, textiles and jewellery have their moment under the spotlight in this wonderful exhibition.

Dan Johnson desk  1947 and Dan Johnson Gazelle lounge chair 1959

Levi Strauss & Co pants and top 1955

There is also an excellent book called California Design which goes into more detail about what is in the exhibition, as well as an accompanying book called A Handbook of California Design with biographies of the craftspeople, designers and manufacturers.

I received a copy of California Design for my birthday earlier this year and bought the handbook at the launch.
A lovely addition to my bookshelves at the Sow's Ear

Both are available at the QAGOMA gift shop 

Two very astute design junkies reading Australian Modern

It really is a fun exhibition and if you are into design, it is a must-see show. It closes on 9 February 2014
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