Build 101...modern gas fireplace

In today's Build 101 I am talking fireplaces.  I love our fireplace, in fact of all the many things we have built in our home this is my favourite.  You can read all about my decision to gas over wood fire here, in this post we are going to look at measurements and materials.

I would absolutely specify this glass sided fireplace again.  I love that you can see the flames from the side (see below).  Useful because our modular chaise runs along the fireplace wall, we wouldn't see much of the flames in a more traditional unit.

My husband did almost all the building for this unit himself (he is pretty amazing).  He built the floating shelf and the wooden fireplace hood or chimney breast.  We got the gas fireplace supplier to install the fireplace and we also employed a plasterer to do the cement finish render.

I wanted the floating shelf to run seamlessly across the room, I did not want the fireplace lip to come over this edge or interfere with the sight line in any way.  If this is what you want you must specify a recessed fire tray, the metal plate the stones fit on.  The suppliers can do it but it might not be on the show room floor.  Make sure you get what you want and don't take no for an answer.

Design decisions I would make again:
  • Glass sided fireplace
  • Recessed fire tray
  • Shelf that runs the full width of the room.
  • Height of shelf 50cm - slightly higher than the chaise on the sofa 41cm
  • Depth of shelf was made as narrow as possible but had to be deep enough to hold the gas unit.  Our shelf is 57cm with the plaster.  
  • The fireplace hood is 140cm wide by 141cm high.  I did not follow the size of the firebox which is actually far smaller, but a smaller hood would have looked silly.  Specify your surround to suit your space and aesthetic, not simply to clad the unit.

Decisions to consider:
  • A gas fireplace needs an electric switch to turn on.  We tucked ours discreetly on the right hand side of the chimney, out of sight from the main living room.  
  • The fireplace also needs to be plugged in.  Our plug point is hidden in the wall cavity below the shelf.   We have a sneaky seamless panel that looks like its part of the wall.
  • Use this cavity space to hide other cables and power points.
  • Don't forget to consider the thickness of the finished surface when you are designing.  You could be using plaster, wood or a stone product and they are all different.  
  • The cement finish is porous and will mark  occasionally with time and use.  We are happy with that, if this isn't for you make sure you seal the cement, or choose another finish.
  • We were warned that the cement might crack with the heat from the fire, it hasn't happened to us.
  • Use samples to test the cement finish colour.  We found a dramatic difference between sealed and unsealder, and also between the actual product and the colour charts.  
  • Consider the weight the shelf will take when finished (see below)

Getting the cement render done was problematic.  Cement render products pay attention now because you need to up your game.  The product we really liked is based in Queensland, had no suppliers in NSW nor any way we could see their product.  They don't sell samples and only sell to professional plasterers.  No surprises that we didn't use this product.
Contacting the companies who specialise in cement finishes brought no joy either.  Most never got back to us but we did get one quote for $6,000.  For a single shelf which required a bag of product costing around $100 and a day of labour tops.  Madness.

In the end Mr B had to drive a long way to buy a pack of cement from another supplier who couldn't recommend any trades.  We ended up hiring a local plasterer who was willing to give it a go, and didn't mind that the job was about 6 hours long split over three days.  At the end of the day I love the result and it cost us around $1,000 to apply.  So yes I would do this again, but with the proviso that it may need persistance to get it done.

The floating shelf is a very clever design of Mr B's.  See blog post on the construction here.  We wanted it to be strong enough for people to sit on, or for a child to stand on.  Just in case either of these things should happen, not because that is how we envision it being used.  The shelf is cantilevered off battons below it that are pinned directly to the wall battons, very strong.  This means that the space below the shelf is not quite as deep as the shelf itself, but you don't notice.  The eye is totally tricked.

For more in the Build 101 series click here: lots of tips, tricks and information to make your build decisions just that little bit easier.

around the house...succulents and skulls

I have had this amazing print by Mia Widlake for about 5 years, safely rolled up while I tried to decide how to frame it.  Finally I was inspired by some floating prints in Sabine McDonald's home and decided to mount this print between two pieces of glass.  I am thrilled with how it turned out.  Worth the wait and will definitely use this framing method again.

Love how it goes with the succulents and cement.  Have a lovely weekend

jenny wolf design inspiration

I have to share this amazing Noho loft by Jenny Wolf Interiors.  Its a gorgeous muted but textured interior with lots of luxe details.  I just adore the chevron marble tiles with the brass shower hardware, and the detail in the wood and handles of the wardrobe door, sigh...  Skip down for more eye candy and pop by the Jenny Wolf site to see more of their lovely work.

So much to like in the entrance below.  I always love distressed mirrors, and am a huge fan of a bench near the entrance where you can put your shoes on.  Clearly in my home with my children a bench like this could not be used for display.  Those floors are awesome, love the colour of the door and trim, and adore the light.  I could live here tomorrow.

Love the painted brick wall with the crisp kitchen.  Just so lovely...

Around the house...

Love fresh flowers around the home.  One of the lovely things about winter is that it's tulip time.  My long legged horses agree.

Have a lovely weekend

cotton on and mark tuckey's divine homewares collaboration

I fell in love with this new collection the moment I saw this press release!  I already have a few must have pieces picked out.  How gorgeous is the round tassel pillow below (for Miss J) and I must must have the blue velvet with blanket stitch edges and the shaggy white and navy, especially the shaggy white and navy, a bit further down.

I am already a huge fan of everything Cotton On and Mark Tuckey, and while I have many Cotton On items in my home I have never been able to afford anything at Mark Tuckey.  Here is hoping that this collection will combine Cotton On's great quality and price point with Mark Tuckey's fab style and fresh Australian aesthetic.  We will all find out when the collection goes on sale online on 3 July.  It will be in select stores from  9 July, hopefully somewhere near me will be stocking it.
My gorgeous hubby made me a Mark Tuckey inspired day bed just like the one in the shoot below, we couldn't afford to buy it, and it will look sensational with these cushions on it.  May have to get a few.  Absolutely loving these knits in the fresh citrus colours.

My heart totally belongs to the moodier part of the collection, and really I am thinking I might be on the same wave length as the creative team, see my diy blanket stitch detail of velvet pillows here, and I am obsessed by Morrocan wedding blankets which have a very similar vibe to the white and navy shaggy pillow, (see my 2015 trends here).

Can't wait to go online and see what these are going to be sold for, I am really hoping its going to be reasonable and I can get a few things to do a winter update for our home.  Congrats to both Cotton On and Mark Tuckey on what looks like a truly fabulous collaboration.

Build lightly on the grid - using solar panels to reduce your energy footprint

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 ago, reducing our energy footprint was an important part of the plan and we incorporated these energy saving feautures into our home:

  • Double glazed glass, insulated floors, walls and roof.  Insulation to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Windows designed to encourage natural airflow throughout the home.  
  • This works far better than I thought.  If we have been out on a hot day and the house has been shut up we open our bedroom door upstairs and a door downstairs and you can feel the cool breeze flowing down the staircase.  The whole house is cooled naturally in ten minutes.
  • Ceiling fans instead of an air conditioner.  
  • Solar panels to harness the great natural sunlight we all enjoy for free
  • A shaded central courtyard opening onto all our living spaces - provides a cool summer space which cools all our living spaces.

    Did we survive without air conditioning? 
    Its been three 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, solar installation 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. 

    At the moment we feed the power we generate back into the grid and are paid for the contribution.  This is not a winning deal for us as the amount we are paid is far less than the amount we are charged per unit.  Even though (personal gripe) the power companies can sell green energy for top dollar prices. 
    I would prefer to store the energy we generate in a battery that we use instead of drawing on the grid, but the battery technology is still expensive and not necessarily efficient.  An investment for the future.

    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!

    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 which is 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 tile that can be laid as part of their tiled roof systems, 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.

    Having lived in our house for 2 years I can tell you that our west facing walls get blisteringly hot in summer.  We faced the house away from the west heat and only have a drying yard on that side.  On some summer days its almost to hot to go out and hang up the washing, it certainly feels hot enough to fry and egg, and the wall finish takes a pounding from the sun.  Imagine if we had clad the entire wall in solar panels – no maintenance and it would generate energy.  Perhaps a solution for the future

    At the end of the day all these features have been very worthwhile, we have a house that lives lightly on the grid, and is comfortable for us and our pockets.  We should all be future proofing our homes for energy efficiency.

    For  more in the Build 101 series: where I share my experiences to make your build decisions easier, click here.

    Image inspiration via Houzz: top, bottom