More beach inspiration

These seaside photographs by Jackie Cooper just capture the feeling of the beach.  Jackie has a whole series taken in Manly and the Sydney harbour, I like that they hint at where they were taken rather than being a panoramic tourist vista, much more interesting.

I would still love a few of these in my home.  Surfers at Manly above, Manly wharf and reflection of a ferry in the harbour below.

I thought this front door (in a villa by Edward Suzuki Associates) and still life captured the easy beach essence too.


Beach blue inspiration...

I am feeling like bright blues and white will be big this year, or perhaps they just never go out of style.

This gorgeous little piece of heaven is in on 9 Beaches in Bermuda.  Imagine the sound of the water as you are going to sleep.

Robert Allen Lattiscape in aqua,  mug from Freedom, Cape sunbird mustard pot (& flask above)    

garden design love...franchesca watson

I have loved Franchesca Watson's designs for years.  She creates the most gorgeous garden rooms, both big and small, intimate and expansive.  The gardens that compliment modern homes are my personal favourite, layers of textures and greens with anything from grasses to succulents.   Had to share, enjoy.
How amazing is this courtyard!  We used to live not far from this home and also had a high wall that created a narrow courtyard at the back of the house.  I created a koi pond surrounded by gravel and bamboo which worked well in the space too.  But I love the green creeper walls and the ancient olive tree.  Dreamy sigh...
Inspired by the ground cover under these grasses I have planted a creeping succulent at the base of our large gum tree and around my grasses.  Hope its going to look something like the path below in a few months.
Love the way this deck is enveloped in greenery.  A very simple and effective planting scheme in a small space, and just shows how you can have lots of greenery in even a small urban backyard.

See more divine garden inspiration here.

the garden two years on

So satisfying looking back at the garden and how it has grown.  Below is the garden in late January, but scroll down to see how it looked without a blade of grass exactly two years ago.  
Our trees have grown feet in height and width, and the hedges are about 8 feet high and filling out nicely.  Instead of seeing the neighbours we now have a gorgeous green screen.
Two years, 1 month ago - the lawn being carried into a dust bowl.
Exactly two years ago - trees and hedges just planted, the hedges are only about a foot and half high and the trees are far smaller.

Feeding the plants and keeping them well mulched has made a huge difference, we have been rewarded with massive growth.  It is almost impossible to remember that the garden is really just two years old.  I do love that we have made such a positive and hopefully lasting impact on the site.

valentine's lantern chandelier

I threw a little valentine's party for my family this week, really an excuse to dress up the table and make some fun food.  Also a good excuse to visit my favourite $2 shop and decorate with lots of pink.  The lantern centrepiece was quick and easy to make, none of the lanterns cost more than $2 and I used nine.  
The trick with the lanterns is to vary the length they hang as well as the sizes, see below for a more detailed diy.  All in all it took me about half an hour once I had the rope tied over the table.

Setting the table

I wanted to diffuse the pinkness a little so I used a piece of pink and blue fabric as a simple tablecloth.  I bought this piece a few years ago to make cushions but never got around to it, looks better on the table anyway.  Its only 1.5 wide by 1.5 long and was around $35 per meter, not a huge investment for a very pretty result.

Fun food details

I also bought pink and white striped gelato cups, and matching straws, at my favourite $2 shop.  
Filled little bottles with pink cranberry cordial and finished with the straws.
Made strawberry jelly in the gelato cups and topped them with a red celophane heart chocolate.
Not a lot of time for a whole lot of smiles.

Suggested combination of lanterns:
  • 2 large plain pink
  • 3 small plain pink
  • 3 small pom poms
  • 2 small polka dot lanterns
  • pink organza ribbon for tassles

Hanging instructions:
  • I started at the centre with the two larger lanterns and then filled in around them.
  • Use the hanging lengths as a guide and push them closer together to create a full effect.
  • Remember to walk around the table to see that it looks good from all sides.
  • Hanging lengths shown in cm

Tieing tassles to hang straight down:

If you do a simple knot to tie the ribbons they don't fall prettily.  To make them hang straight down tie them similar to a business tie, see below.

Step 1 - Fold ribbon in half and thread top loop over the lantern wire
Step 2 - Open the loop and thread the ribbon tails through
Step 3 - Pull tails firmly downwards
Step 4 - Center ribbons on lantern

I heart the chocolate details, this little bit of red looks fab with the pink and blue scheme.

Its not to late, stop at the $2 shop, buy some jelly, and you will have a valentines party of your own in no time.   

living lightly on the grid...designing an energy efficient home

Having a light energy footprint is good good thing, good for the planet, good for resale (people are thinking about these issues more and more) and good for your wallet.  Win win I tell you.

When we built two years reducing our energy footprint was an important part of the plan and we incorporated these energy saving features into our home:

1  Insulation
Double glazed glass, insulated floors, walls and roof.  Insulation to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer

2  Windows designed to encourage natural airflow throughout the home 
This works far better than I thought.  If the house has been shut up on a hot day, we open a door or window upstairs and downstairs and you can feel the cool breeze flowing down the staircase.  The whole house is cooled naturally in ten minutes.

3  Ceiling fans instead of an air conditioner  
Allows you to sleep with your windows open, which you can't with an air con, and they keep the mozzies off in summer too.

4  Solar panels 
To harness the great natural sunlight we all enjoy for free

5  A central courtyard that opens onto all our living spaces  
Creates a cool, shaded summer space.  Its a lovely private space that offers shelter from the wind and sun.

Its been two years and in that time Sydneyhas had record heat waves.  Did we survive without air conditioning?  Yes!  There were a few super hot days but with the ceiling fans on, and the windows open we were fine, even on the hottest, most airless of nights.

Anybody who has paid an air conditioning bill will tell you just how expensive that is, so designing a house that doesn’t need any has been a fabulous investment.  Investing in solar panels has been another!

Fitting solar panels
Fitting solar panels on our home was easy to do.  With a largely flat roof (we have a small incline to handle rain water) the panels were easy to position in a north facing direction and are not shaded at all.

Solar panels need to be correctly angled to maximise the energy you can harness.  The angle is different depending on your latitude, and whether you want to save energy in summer (for air conditioning) or winter (on heating).  
A rough guide is your angle should be your latitude +10 degrees for summer savings, - 10 degrees for winter savings.

You also need to make sure you install enough panels to make a difference to your power bill.   Looking back we could have installed double, but at the end of an expensive build we spent what we could afford.

These are all considerations that will depend on your property and budget, and solar professionals can help you work through the considerations.

Are the power bills down?
Yes, perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but it definitely helps. 
It’s very satisfying to check the meter on a hot day and see just how much energy we converted to power for the day!

At the moment we feed the power we generate back into the grid and are paid for the contribution.  This is the standard deal and my only gripe is that we are paid far less per unit than the amount we are charged per unit, even though the power companies can sell green energy for top dollar prices.  
I would prefer to be able to store the energy we generate in a battery and draw on that energy instead of the gird, but battery technology is still expensive and not necessarily efficient.  I am watching this space, the moment its worthwhile I will be holding onto all my green energy myself. 

Types of panel
We installed the tilted solar panels on top of our roof that you are probably familiar with.  They are on the top of our largely flat roof and we can’t see them at all, great because they don’t interfere with the look of the house.

But if you have, or are planning, a tile roof, Monier produces a solar roof tilethat is incorporated seamlessly into the roofline.  What a great idea!  The efficiency will depend on the angle of your roofline and how much of it faces in the right direction but it’s definitely an idea worth investigating.

A comfortable home with a light energy footprint
At the end of the day the combination of these features has been so worthwhile.  
We feel we have made good choices for the environment, as well as choices our budget could manage.

The house has a really stable ambient temparature.  It stays pleasantly cool in summer without needing aircon, and retains the heat we do spend on in winter well.  In a world where energy costs are expected to increase
 and create a very comfortable and energy efficient house in both summer and winter.   The combination of them all, plus the solar panels, have set us up for the future.

This post was written in collaboration with Monier, but all opinions are, as usual, my own.

A quick update for the entrance cupboard

You may remember that when we did our Ikea hack on the entrance cupboard we designed a shelf area for baskets and display.  I bought this wonderful wooden bust last year, but it needed more.  Last week I spotted this gorgeous elephant ear design fabric, bright and summery but still crisp and thought it would be a perfect backdrop.  I have been admiring it in my local fabric shop for a while.

You will need:

Make your own:
  • The most difficult part of the revamp is cutting the board to size.  I made my board slightly larger than the niche so that you can't see the edges, it gives a cleaner finish and means you don't have to cut exactly straight.
  • Iron fabric and place right side face down on the floor or table.  Place the board over the fabric making sure you have the design straight.
  • Turn the bottom of the fabric over the bottom of the board and glue to hold in place.
  • Next pull fabric at top firmly over the top of the board and glue in place.
  • Cut notches in fabric at corner, fold neatly, then glue sides in place making sure fabric is stretched taught.
Its a little like wrapping a present with glue and fabric.
The board flexes easily allowing you to bend it so that you can fit into place.  Use 3M picture hanging strips to hold in position.

So pleased with how it turned out, and when we want a change it will be easy to remove and recover.  

Summer brights & unexpected combinations with The Home

I can't wait to share these rooms with you.  This gorgeous colourful home belongs to Lexi Mills, the woman at the helm of The Home, a favourite online store of mine.
Have you discovered The Home yet?  Free membership and stylish quality products at pocket pleasing discounted prices.  I stocked up on white bath towels in a recent sale for a steal.  

Having spent a few hours chatting to Lexi these wonderful rooms make perfect sense.  Lexi is warm and outgoing, fun to chat to, but there is calm determination and a sharp focus when she speaks of The Home and where it is going.  Business is Lexi's second successful career, her first was ballet, she was a professional ballerina in Stuttgart for 8 years.  An unexpected combination for sure.  Clearly this is a woman unafraid of hard work or change, she is disciplined and determined, but I also see a taste for adventure.  A move from ballet to management consulting, Europe to Australia and now leading a fast paced on line retailer.  I am wondering where she will be in ten years time.

When I asked Lexi to share a style secret with us she explained that at the moment she is experimenting with schemes based on two colours that you wouldn't expect to go together.  She used coral and turquoise in the living area, pink and yellow in a bedroom, with a strong classic base of white and neutrals.  
Like Lexi herself, an unexpected combination with a strength and attention to detail, and a warm and inviting feel that creates a very successful whole.  

Its so fresh and vibrant and I love the flamingo!  The rooms are sprinkled with cushions, rugs and bed linen you may find at The Home too.
Lets learn a little more about Lexi.

Download your free Magazine app with

All images with permission of The Home: Stylist - Marj Silva, Photography - Lisa Zhu