Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Top 3 makeover inspiration sources

Blog post brought to you by Cordell

Online information is my preferred source of design and room makeover inspiration while we have been renovating the Sow’s Ear these past four or so years.  And as much as I love design magazines and books, they are becoming slightly more obsolete for me (mostly because limited space becomes an issue with full bookshelves) now that there are more quality resources online.

Here are my top 3 go-to inspiration sources when planning a room makeover:


Design and renovations blogs are a great and inexpensive way to obtain the information we need to tackle a project. I follow quite a few local Queenslander renovation blogs which have provided us a lot of food for thought when making choices about renovating the Sow’s Ear. West End Cottage and Walk Among the Homes have been some of my favourite local blogs and I am a huge fan of Desire to Inspire - a joint Australian/Canadian blog which showcases a diverse range of interiors and exteriors from around the globe.

The beauty of a design blog is that they are also interactive. You can always leave a comment or ask questions and the bloggers are generally very helpful.


I have a big love affair with Instagram at the moment. It is an app which allows people to share photographs with each other. It is where I have been spending most of my online time lately because it’s a quick and easy way to get my interiors and renovation inspiration fix. I stalk quite a few local and international designers, architects and stylists as it seems most have built drool-worthy design portfolios through Instagram. My favourites are Brisbane local Kara Rosenlund (she owns a sweet Queenslander too) and Brisbane interior design firm Wrightson Stewart

With our next big renovation and restoration venture I can see myself spending even more time scrolling through everyone’s portfolio.


Pinterest is a handy online tool to use if you are renovating or sprucing up a home. Pinterest allows you to find and save inspiration images onto boards which you can share online. It’s like a virtual interior decorator mood board. You can set up your boards room by room and save the inspiration images you find on the internet that are relevant for your project. It’s a great way to organise your thought processes as you plan a renovation.

I’ve set up boards for particular rooms and even have a few boards dedicated to furniture and mid-century objects which I covet. Pinterest is extremely addictive though and I try to limit my time there as I could spend hours looking through design images!

So, those are my top three online places to go when planning a room makeover.  Where do you go to get your inspiration?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Brisbane House History: more about the Stables family

Things have been a bit hectic at the Sow's Ear and it is the reason I've been absent here for the past fortnight. There's lots happening which I will be able to tell you about next week. It's huge and I can't wait to share my news with you...

Anyway, I had promised you some more information about the Stables family who had originally owned and built the Sow's Ear in the late 1920s. I am still slightly gob-smacked that I have finally been able to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle I have been trying to unravel these past few years.

Apparently there are diaries and illustrations from Zoila Stables which span over 40 years. Many thanks must go to the relatives who have compiled the following information of the Stables family.

Mary Ann Florence Day
So, the Stables children began life in Argentina. Their mother Mary Ann Florence Day, also known as Florry, was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1870.  She was the first child of Robert and Emma Day. Florry was a tall lady of six feet and was mother to Zoila, Florence and Stanley (who are on the original house title deed of the Sow's Ear). The children also grew to be six foot or more.

The Stables family were part of the large Welsh colony which settled in Argentina during the period of 1865 to 1914 to farm. "Little Wales beyond Wales" was the aim of the settlement and today there is still an evident Welsh culture and language that has survived in the Patagonia.

When Florry was 15 years old she embarked with her five brothers and sisters by the ship Tainui, to follow her father Robert and stepmother Annie to Argentina (Robert was wanted by police for theft, fleeing NZ to South America...that's a whole other story!).

William C Stables

Florry married William Cordukes Stables.  William was from a well-to-do family in England and he spoke many languages. He was an analytical chemist and worked in England and Paris, before travelling to Argentina. He analysed the Buenos Aires water supply and wrote a letter in the newspaper describing how impure it was.  William made things hot for himself and the chemist he worked for accused him of using his drugs to analyse the water.  He left for Rosario, where he met and eventually married  Florry. William and Florry moved to Colony 16 de Octubre living there on the property with Robert and Annie in the wilds of Chubut.

The Stables welcomed the arrival of Zoila Ceferina Mabel (known as Dolly), born on 26 August 1898 to the family.  Florence Mary Ethel (known as Ethel) was born 24 December 1900 and the last, Stanley, was born 10 December 1902.

When Robert and Annie Day decided to move from Argentina, Florry and William also made the decision to go with them.  They lived in Scotland, with Annie and her family, where the children went to school. Robert Day was scouting out a new life for them all, where they could farm under the British flag. North Queensland was the place decided upon.

Florry and her children, sailed from England on 8 July 1911 aboard the S.S. Rimutaka arriving in Brisbane on the 26 August in the same year. They lived at Southernwood near Emerald with the contingent of other Argentine settlers.

Their next permanent home was at Yeppoon, on the coast, east of Rockhampton.  They grew almost every kind of tropical and non-tropical produce, they were even known to try their hand at growing cotton. This property was called Palm Grove.

The Stables children, now almost grown, had a large part of the work assigned to them, along with achieving skills of their own such as music and drawing.

They also gained academic qualifications, which saw both Zoila and Stanley gaining degrees from the University of Queensland.  Most of their study was done by correspondence until the family moved to Brisbane (the Sow's Ear) for them to complete their degrees.        
One of Zoila's illustrations

Zoila gained a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Literature and subsequently wrote many articles and some books. She also worked as a commercial artist and had a love of photography.

Ethel and Alan Lucy

Ethel studied and became a nurse, she moved with the family to Brisbane in 1927.  She met Alan Bertram Lucy, who was born 30 May 1904 in St. Paul’s Street, Randwick, Sydney - he had studied and worked with Stanley.  (Alan was orphaned at the age of 15, while playing in a game of cricket.  He hit his father in the head with a cricket ball, which killed his father. A fund was set up to help him continue his studies at Mechanical Engineering and he was awarded an apprenticeship with Evans Deacon & Co in Brisbane). He suffered all his life from epilepsy.  Alan and Ethel were married in Brisbane, on 8 November 1933, in the Albert Street Methodist Church.

Stanley graduated, with a degree in Engineering, which took him to New Guinea during WW2.  He was employed to build many roads and bridges and an aerodrome for the Americans.  He often talked to the Italian POWs, (there were many Italians in Argentina, so he spoke their language) which made the Americans suspicious of him.  They thought he was spying, so they sacked him. An investigation was held and proved the allegations unfounded.  For the rest of his working life, Stanley was employed by the Department of Main Roads, initially as a surveyor and then second in charge, where he preferred his wages to be paid in ten pound notes.

William died in 1935, Florry died in 1943, Alan died in 1954, Ethel died in 1971, Zoila died in 1987 and Stanley, the last of this line of the Stables family, died in 1989.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Found! The Stables family

Never in a million years did I think we would ever find photographs of the Stables family who were the original owners of the Sow's Ear. If you are new to Fun and VJs, part of our renovation journey also involves researching the history of our home. You can read all the History blog posts here (you'll have to scroll down a bit).

There was no immediate next of kin as far as I was aware...that was the case until I was contacted a week ago by a cousin of the Stables via the Fun and VJs Facebook page.  The power of social media is strong!! 

This relation had generously offered to provide me the information they had compiled for a comprehensive family tree, which included information about the Stables branch of the line.

Zoila (known as Dolly), Florence (known as Ethel), Stanley and Mary Ann Florence Stables (nee Day and known as Florry)

And there were many photographs! To say I was completely blown away by the contents of the email I received yesterday would understate the emotion I felt...To finally put faces to the names of the people who lived in the Sow's Ear was one of my dearest wishes.

Zoila and Florence (Dolly and Ethel) when Zoila graduated from the University of Queensland.

photographic portrait of Stanley Stables
There's more to the story but it's getting late and I will post more in the next few days...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Sneak peek inside 1943 Queensland cottage

It's fascinating to visit other people's homes, particularly homes which are as well-loved such as the one I visited a little while ago.

The house is a circa 1943 timber and tin weatherboard cottage which is set high upon a hill in Brisbane's inner west. It is owned by a jet-setting couple who spend many weeks out of the year travelling the globe for work and pleasure.

Between trips the couple have completed a fairly extensive renovation to undo the sins of past renovations and to maximise the spectacular views afforded by this stunning home. The front of the home has been opened up and has been turned into a sunroom of sorts. Custom built windows were installed to capture the views out towards Mt Nebo.

In this new section of the home a modern look which references the Queenslander vernacular was achieved with the use of coloured glass mimicking louvre windows.

It's a clever take on a traditional design feature as the windows are also engineered to block out the heavy traffic noise from the busy road below. Throughout the day, the play of light changes subtly in this front entry to create a warm and beautiful place to sit and enjoy the verdant outlook.

The different coloured glass is encased inside two panes of glass to form  one large single pane for these casement windows.

One thing that strikes you as you walk around the home is the amount of colour and pattern which abounds in this home. The owners are unafraid to punctuate their home with colour - yellow was chosen for the main living and dining rooms and suits the sensiblities of the artistic owners.

Beautiful exotic floral Jatana cement floor tiles (made in Byron Bay) were used as an accent in the main bathroom. It is so refreshing to see a bathroom bucking the clinical trend which is so prevalent in bathroom renovations today. It is unique yet entirely appropriate for this style of home.

Found objects, thrift finds, inherited pieces and souvenirs from travelling expeditions can all be found in this tastefully curated home. The pottery, art glass and ethnic textiles add another layer to make this a warm home.

West German pottery vessels found in an op-shop

Tribal harvest mask takes pride of place in the kitchen
 I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of a lovely Queensland style home. Long live colour and pattern!

Blue painted exterior with delicious timber porthole windows

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