Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Full Tour of my Paint Choices

It's lovely to see you here! Please come in!

Our front door is Manor Red to match the exterior paintwork and gutters. The inside woodwork is China White and the entry walls are Clotted Cream.

Please peep in again at my study. I'm so pleased with how the Cuddlepot looks!

Let's look in the older part of the house first. Because the boys' playroom faces south (no direct light), I wanted a nice sunny colour that didn't look too much like egg-yolk. This is Sundaze.

In our bedroom, I wanted something peaceful but fresh-looking: Spring Green. It looks like it will go nicely with the beech wardrobes.

The boys are thrilled with their Harbour Blue walls. This is a north-facing room so even a dark colour won't be too dark.

The bathroom and toilet next door are both painted in Diorite. Those are floor tiles on the wall -- when we retiled, the only wall-tiles available in all of Sydney were off-white! Boring!

Now let's head back down the hall to the new bit. Lots more Clotted Cream and China White on the way.

The next stop is the enlarged laundry, the only place where I think I've made a boo-boo. This Mint Circle looked just like the colour on the old cupboard doors, but it's just a little too dark and a little too green. Can't win 'em all; at least we've had professionals do the first few coats.

Back to the Clotted Cream in the family room (and in the kitchen, behind the wall -- nothing to see there yet).

There is a story to the Clotted Cream.

Many years ago, my work moved to a brand-new building, painted mainly in off-white, but with feature walls in fire-engine red, midnight blue and mustard yellow. In sunlight, it looked fine, apart from the mustard yellow (ugh!) and the too-startling red. Problem was that whenever clouds came over, the off-white turned a gloomy pallid khaki. It was quite depressing in wet spells.

I was determined to prevent such a problem from occurring in my house, so when I picked up all 150,000 off-white paint chips, I first discarded the ones which I Just Didn't Like. Then I checked the appearance of the rest in the new family room in sun, light cloud, and rain, and gave them a rating from one to three, with one being the best. The eight chips with the best results formed a shortlist, and I had a hard look at them in various lighting conditions before deciding on Clotted Cream. I was struck by how some colours which looked lovely on a sunny day could become bluish or brownish on a cloudy one. If you are choosing an off-white, take care! Other colours seem much more forgiving. Of course, if you are doing the painting yourself, you can take your time and use sample pots.

Lastly, here is a view of the Mallard Green on my pergola. I needed a strong colour to stand up to the dark brick and Manor Red guttering. The Ivory fascia and soffits are just visible.

I'm sorry I can't offer you refreshments or even a seat today, but I hope you have enjoyed the tour.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is it Spring?

After a quite staggering amount of rain over the last few weeks, today was everything a sunny winter's day should be. Except that I think we might have turned the corner to spring!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Whiff of Paint

Remember the paint colours I chose last month?

Despite atrocious weather in Sydney last week, the painters managed to do an external coat of Ivory on the windows and eaves. The white downpipe will be painted Manor Red to match the guttering.

The Geek says the return to original paint colours has aged the house. In a nice way. At least, I think that's what he meant. Meanwhile, I'm immensely relieved at the way the study has turned out (it's not quite complete here; the woodwork needs another coat of China White).

I feared it might look like the inside of a nappy, but fortunately, it looks like cocoa powder.

The boys are thrilled with the Harbour Blue in their bedroom.

And here is a single coat of Clotted Cream in the family room. You can see more Clotted Cream above the picture rails in the other rooms.

Hope you have enjoyed a sniff of my new colours! I will give you a proper tour once the painters have finished.

This post is a part of the Paint, Please link party at Modern Country Style.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


If you visit a garden on a gloomy morning after a rainy week, you can get lucky. We were when we visited Eryldene yesterday. The rain held off, mostly, and numbers were down, so we were part of a small tour of the ikebana exhibition in the elegant house and had the garden mostly to ourselves -- great when a pair of boys need to let off steam after being indoors the whole week!

It's one of Sydney's most famous gardens, and the house is the only unaltered example of William Hardy Wilson's domestic architecture. Hardy Wilson felt that the Georgian style of house (from our early Colonial period) was better suited to Sydney's climate than the Arts-and-Crafts style of his day, and with a house like this one can see his point. Eryldene has the lightness and symmetry of Georgian architecture, modernised for 1913 (which, of course, no longer seems modern to us!). The house still has the furniture the Waterhouses used, mainly 18th and 19th Century pieces with an airiness and delicacy that match the house. The proportions are delightful, and the house is complemented by the current ikebana exhibition. (While Professor Waterhouse's gardening fame rests on his detailed work on Camellias, his wife Janet was devoted to ikebana, so it was lovely to see so much of it in her house -- I am sure she would have loved it. )

View from a sleepout to the front garden. This sleepout is now part of a cafe run by the volunteers of the Eryldene Trust. I can recommend the (plunger) coffee and mixed cakes.

View to the side garden from the same sleepout. The Sprig declared this to be "just like a picture," and how right he is.

This temple, designed by Hardy Wilson, is on a side axis in the front garden -- plenty of formal symmetry in this garden...

... but informality too. This path is behind the temple and runs very close to the street boundary -- but you'd never guess while you're walking on it!

The camellia walk runs up the eastern side of the house, and the collection her will interest even non-camellia enthusiasts. (Isn't it funny how sometimes a genus can take hold of a person?) Note the little path off to the side: there are little side-paths throughout the garden, subverting the formal structure. My children are keen to see me replicate this idea at home. A pity we lack Eryldene's acre of ground!

Hardy Wilson designed several different structures in the garden over a long association with the Waterhouses. I love this walled fountain (1921), particularly the low bubbling jet in front. Note the Asian influence: both Hardy Wilson and EG Waterhouse were Sinophiles.

The tea-house, on the edge of the tennis court, was built in 1927. We'd call it fusion, these days.

Somehow, I've never felt entirely comfortable about this moon-gate. I know it's part of a tennis-court fence, but the metal tubing construction always seems wrong to me, no matter how practical it is.

I do love one other feature of Eryldene: camellia flowers floated in bowls of water throughout the garden. I don't know if it is typical of large gardens of the period, but it's pretty.

So is this formal path.

(And yes, that little structure in the background is what you think it is. When the house was built, the area was unsewered.)

Garden tool enthusiasts will be sorry to hear that The Old Mole is closing, as the people involved are retiring to other projects, particularly travel. However, Richard Bird was at Eryldene with his beautiful tools at sale prices, and I picked up a few of them. I'll show them off another time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Return of the Hill's Hoist

That black stake towards the right is important. It is an X that marks the spot.

A day after I hammered it in, our builders replaced it with my old Hill's Hoist. I hadn't realised how big my clothesline was until I measured it -- each arm is eight feet long ( I would have guessed six feet), giving it a diameter of 5m. You need to allow at least a metre from any obstructions such as fences, so that your sheets can fly out in high winds without snagging.

Suddenly, my back yard feels more homelike, more like my little bit of postwar Australian suburbia. But not entirely. Here's a shot (taken by one of my children) of the Hill's Hoist in its original, convenient location: in line with the back door and close to the house to save steps.

The people who would have lived in my house first would not have ever had a back garden. They had a back yard, used for drying clothes, growing vegetables and fruit, and keeping chooks. These were not things you invited visitors to see, hence the prime location of the clothes-hoist.

These days, we cherish our outdoor time as our jobs are sedentary, and want to show off our back yards. Yet I still wanted the Hill's Hoist, so where could I put it?

My vegetable patch seemed to be a little too hot in summer: I had problems with plants suffering sunburn and dehydration. I'm moving my Hill's Hoist there, into a spot where it won't block views from our new doors. The vegetable garden will be closer to the house and water tanks, but you'll have to stay tuned for more about that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nursery Crawl

While a few interesting things have happened on our house this week, I'm starting to think about my poor half-destroyed garden. My new herb bed is filled with broken bricks and tiles, recycled concrete aggregate and planter box mix, and it's just sitting there looking at me, all ready to go...

Well, I thought I'd just see what's out there* in the nurseries up Dural way, which is where you go for interesting nurseries if you live in Sydney, so last Wednesday I spent a chilly (maximum 11 C) grey day by myself doing just that. Here are all my stops, in order:

Flower Power, Glenhaven. Just like the smaller Flower Power nurseries in Sydney: a full range of plants and inoffensive indoor-outdoor decor, but not particularly interesting or inspiring for obsessives -- Enfield is a better place to go. I also became dubious when I spotted Dietes grandiflora and D. bicolor in the 'Native Plants' section -- they are from South Africa. A nice general nursery, but with all the competition up the road, it might be struggling. The cafe was full. I am wondering a little about the "eight themed display gardens" advertised on the website, as I didn't notice them at all!

Hargraves Nurseryland. A well-known family-run nursery, with a delightful layout on a sloping site. Beautifully-tended plants attractively arranged, and a definite nod to the cooler climate of the Hills District in the selections. Browse and enjoy. No cafe -- the big signs saying CAFE out the front refer to the next-door neighbour, but if you have already parked in the nursery parking area there are signs saying Strictly No Exit This Way (as it would block their In driveway), so it was either tramp down the steep hill on foot or continue the journey. Off I went. (Website warning: contains music)

Swane's Nursery. Possibly Sydney's best known nursery, again a family business. Swane's staff will always say hello, even if they're not in customer service. Signs indicate which plants have been "grown by Swane's" (ie, on-site) and note their lower carbon footprint. The retail nursery looks pretty big when you are in it but is only a small part of the Swane's site. I remember walking right down to their dam when I was a child, past plants being readied for sale, but these days there's a gate with a No Admittance sign (when I was a kid it was just obvious we weren't in the retail section). As usual, the rose garden out the front -- guess the Swane's speciality -- is in apple-pie order and there was a vast selection of bare-rooted cultivars for sale. July is our coldest month, the time to plant and prune roses. With few people braving the bleak day, the wrens happily flitted through the garden, chirruping away, just as they always have. It might be the nostalgia factor -- I used to come here regularly with my Dad -- but I find it hard not to buy here. Lunch in the cafe, which used to be their sales office: leaf tea in a plunger (hooray!) and rustic vegetable-and-bacon tart with salad. (Website warning: poorly-organised and buggy)

Dural Garden Centre. All that's visible from the road is pots, because this is also the premises for Pots Online. There is a wholesale nursery at the back and the retail stock I saw was mainly herbs, though there was a greenhouse for shade plants. I was not quite sure whether I was supposed to be in the back section or not, as it had a wholesaler's look but there were prices up on the rows. There were a few herbs officially for sale. It also had a big cafe of the type that doesn't put the prices on the blackboard. I didn't try it, but it looked appetising, and was warm and buzzy despite its size.

Engalls Nursery. The website says they specialise in fruit trees and roses, but I would have said fruit trees: five types of fig alone! And I didn't count the citrus, but it was obvious that much of their land was devoted to it. A small nursery with an impressive array, and I'll be back here next time I want a fruit tree.

Geranium Cottage Nursery and Cafe
. Another small specialist nursery which imports new geraniums and pelargoniums from Europe. I admired their display of scented geraniums; I think the full set were there. But the really lovely thing about it was the cafe with the fire in the grate and the Devonshire tea (leaf tea again, hooray!) I had while sitting beside it. I think the local jams, honey and eggs on sale in the old shed are another reason to visit it again, even if I'm not after any geraniums.
* One brown boronia, one echium, two different strawberries to trial, then from the 'priced to clear' area a couple of pansies, a lobelia and a veronica. All from Swane's. I was GOOD, I tell you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bifold Doors and Chokoes

We have reached lockup stage now. All our doors are in, including the bifolds for the family room. Aren't they lovely?

In winter, the sunlight will stream in to warm the slab in the family room. In summer, the pergola will be covered with vines for shade. In fact, I already have a choko (chayote to some) growing on the windowsill towards next summer. My long-term plan is for a passionfruit vine to cover the pergola, but even if I plant one as soon as I can, there won't be enough of it to provide shade this year. The choko vine, however, will be luxuriant in months.

The choko vine and the passionfruit vine are staples in Sydney, though chokos -- traditionally grown over one's shed -- are much less common than they were. The newer dwellings don't have enough space for a choko vine, for one thing, and secondly, a lot of us grew up eating chokoes way too often! I saw some nasty big yellowish ones at the shops today for $3.99/kg, way too much, and at least twice as big as they should have been. Of course, the one I bought was even worse: I could see it was starting to sprout, which was why I wanted it! I don't understand why greengrocers persist in selling such old chokoes.

I saw the aggregate and the planter box mix being wheeled in this morning to fill the herb bed, but I can't really plant my choko until the pergola is painted. I might sneak in a few late bulbs, though. Or if I can find my strawberry plants... if they've survived... I might pop them in.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lots of Glass

The first glass installed (apart from replacement of cracked panes in the older part of the house) was the window in our family room. The saw is set up for cutting the window architrave, but look at all those glass doors!

Here's the architrave installed. Note the picturesque view of our future driveway and the fence.

Here's where some of the sliding doors went:

The idea is that we can use the garage as extra space for parties. Handy in wet weather or when the kids take to playing country music.

The other doors are aluminium bifold doors for the family room (as the Geek says, not quite as nice as the cedar ones, but considerably cheaper). There will be lots of sun coming in to our family room, especially in winter, to heat the concrete floor. The house won't be quite so dark or cold. This frame was installed on Friday, so I suppose the doors will go in on Monday.

In the meantime, Lizzie keeps an eye on the materials stored in the garage.

We have found evidence of her inspection visits in various parts of the house, but we won't elaborate...