Monday, 30 September 2013

He came, he saw, he lopped

We had a few old trees lopped today by old Bob the tree lopper. I actually just rang for a quote and Bob turned up within the hour of my first call. He gave a me a quote which seemed okay and then said he could do it straight away as he had a free moment or two.

You can see the dead grevillea. It used to be such a beauty too. 

Seriously, the guy was a complete trooper. No nonsense. Just a man and his chainsaw (and an extension ladder).

We had the large dead grevillea removed. Jason was not making much of a dent in it with his hand saw...and had lost hope! When he started toying with the idea of buying a chainsaw, I knew it was time to call in a tree lopper. As much as I tease dear Jason on the blog, I am rather fond of his limbs and would hate for him to be without them! A chainsaw is an unforgiving tool in the wrong hands.

Anyway, the poor old grevillea had apparently become too top heavy over time and had split down the middle of its main branch, according to Bob...Very sad but we needed to get rid of it sooner rather than it was becoming a landmark for the Sow's Ear. ("Yes, you can't miss us. We're the white house, the one with the dead tree out the front," I'd explain to first-time visitors looking for the Sow's Ear).

Bob removing all the smaller trees first. Didn't mean to get such an unflattering shot of Bob...

Bob also removed about nine other smaller trees which were planted too close together and were really under-performing. There were also some weed trees which had started growing of their own accord (think medium Chinese Elm and umbrella trees). Good old Bob poisoned all the stumps which he had cut down to ground-level too.

We left all the mock orange trees (murrayas), the frangipani and a couple of the better established natives. So now we have a little more room to breathe down this section of the garden...and we can plan our next garden project to spruce up the joint.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Renovating Sexism: Can we speak to your hubby?

It's a funny old thing the world of renovating and home improvements, which is largely a sexist industry from my personal experience. Case in point: this morning, I received a telephone call from a solar power supplier confirming an appointment I had made with them for a quotation next week.

Apparently, they want Jason, as my husband, to be present. But Jason's not interested and is happy to be a passenger on such matters...which makes perfect sense since I am generally around home and he is at work.

I told the lady on the end of the telephone this, but she said that they couldn't proceed as they wanted to speak to both of us at the same time.

It should read: "That's why tradies prefer to speak to men." 

I said, that wasn't possible, explaining that Jason won't take time off work and is not really interested in having someone come after hours to our house. He genuinely couldn't care less and is happy enough to go with whatever I think is the best option, if at all...

Then, I started posturing that I was the main decision-maker in the family...that I was perfectly capable to make a decision without The Hubby (Well, I am! Jason does the shirtless grunt work, while I do the strategic planning). Anyway, the lady agreed with me 100 per cent but she still had to check whether it was okay for me to still get the quote and would get back to me!

You have to laugh. If they do call me back, I am tempted to say that Jason can make the appointment after all and that I can't make the appointment. I wonder if they will still insist that we both be present? I wonder...

Jason finds this whole scenario highly amusing and is now dancing around the house, singing I've got the power. You gotta love the 1990s! Or is that 1890s?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Brisbane Open House 2013

As a house voyeur, I'm very excited about Brisbane Open House which is an annual event which allows the general public access to some of Brisbane's historic and more interesting buildings.

It will be held over the weekend of 12/13 October with the doors opening up to some amazing architectural buildings throughout Brisbane. Admission is also free. This year the open house scheme has widened its scope with doors being unlocked in Brisbane City, Southbank, Fortitude Valley, Spring Hill, Bowen Hills and the burbs.

Windmill Tower 1828
I'm also pleased that two very good friends have had their mid-century homes selected as part of the open house program - Eisenmenger House and the Chater Street residence. All the modernists of Brisbane are doing a fist this is a great step forward to increasing the awareness of preserving mid-century architecture. Yes!

Chater Street residence 1966
 I have featured this home a few times on my blog. Call me cutting edge.
Both architect designed homes, could very easily have been demolished or 'modernised', so it's heartening to see that the owners could see the value in restoring and preserving their homes. You must book to see these homes.

Spring Hill Baths 1886

I've already planned my itinerary and have pre-booked a couple of tours via the Brisbane Open House website. Make sure you check out the website here if you are keen to take part too.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

City Hall

The other day we all trekked to the city centre to visit the newly refurbished Brisbane City Hall. It was such a fantastic morning out and makes a great school holiday destination for those, like us, staying close to home for the September break.

Brisbane City Hall

We visited the re-opened Museum of Brisbane which is a fab space located on level 3 of the building. Admission is free and there is currently a walk-down-memory-lane exhibit of Expo '88 focusing on the daily lunch and night time light parades. I felt like I was 15 years old again wearing stone wash denim and and a bandanna around my wrist. Jason's only hazy memory of those six months of the World Exposition was of the Munich Festhaus...

The Museum has a very contemporary feel and is a nice juxtaposition to the neo-classical style of City Hall's architecture.

Museum of Brisbane sitting area

From level 3, you are also able to book a tour to the clock tower which we found out is the largest clock in Australia. Who knew? I hadn't been up to the clock tower for about 25 years, and Jason and the boys had never been. You are transported in the old cage lift, which was originally the maintenance/service lift, to the viewing platform where you get a lovely view of Brisbane. The tour runs at 15 minute intervals and the kids really loved it. Again, admission is free.

View from the City Hall clock tower. The curved building in the centre is by the modernist architect Harry Seidler who designed  the Hilton Hotel in 1986

I didn't realise that we needed to pre-book the actual city hall tour before we went, so we missed out on seeing the renovated building in all its glory.  We probably would've been pushing it given the attention span of a certain #3 Son, but we plan to go back to see more of one of Brisbane's most iconic civic building.

Vintage travel poster for Brisbane in the Museum

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bog carpentry

Real craftsmen/women please don't judge us.

Remember, last week when Jason was figuring out how to re-mould the decorative top for the batwing lattice door? Read here to refresh your memory.

Well, he's done it. Have a look in the photograph below and see how he's matched the top bits. For those not in the know, it looks for all the world like there had never been an issue with the doors.

After shot of the batwing lattice doors

Jason's managed to shape and fashion a new decorative top with plain old builder's bog. Yep, a wannabe tradie's best friend...guaranteed to make you the Rodin of the carpentry world.

It's a slightly unorthodox approach to fix the problem but it seemed better than the alternative, which was to get new doors made. The batwing lattice doors are not a standard size - it would probably have cost us the best part of a grand to get new ones custom-made...

So, for about $25 for the bog and hardener set, the doors have been salvaged.

And now Jason's OCD twitch has dissipated substantially and all is right with the world. Amen.

before shot of the batwing doors for the sake of comparison

Friday, 20 September 2013

Harvey Graham Couturier uncovered

Brisbane Arcade is playing host to a number of events during the lead-up to its 90th anniversary. They are currently displaying the design of mid-century Brisbane couturier Harvey Graham who had a shop in the arcade during the 1960s.

Recently a box of garments was uncovered by vintage fashion dealers 'Can you keep a Secret?'. Fourteen dresses were purchased from the estate of Mrs Vilma Parker, who was Graham's former personal assistant. Harvey Graham died in 1993.

According to Ajanta Willert from Can you keep a Secret? many of the dresses were unworn and ooze a sense of style and class, which provides an insight into Brisbane couture during that particular period. 

There will be a rotating display of the vintage Harvey Graham frocks from now until the Arcade's 90th celebrations from 12 October to 19 October 2013 and the dresses will also be paraded during the week of festivities.

It's fabulous to see Brisbane fashion gaining wider recognition. Last year there was an exhibition at the Queensland Museum of Gwen Gillam dresses and I know that in the next Australian Modern there will be an article about one of Australia's leading milliners, who was based in the Rowes Building in Edward Street.

Brisbane fashion has a long and stylish history, which I find completely fascinating given we Queenslanders are much-maligned by our southern counterparts for our bold use of colour.

Fabulous colourful frocks are hard to dislike, I say! Vive Brisbane fashion.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Vale mid-century Brisbane home

Very few people bat an eyelid when post-war homes are demolished in Brisbane.

Call me sentimental but I always shed a silent tear for the mid-century homes destroyed, especially when they are replaced with McMansion style homes. It seems an absolute shame that well-designed mid-century homes are fast disappearing from our urban landscape, much like the reckless destruction of Queenslander style homes during the 80s and 90s.

The other week a 1957 architect designed home in the neighbourhood was quietly demolished. It was sold earlier this year. It had previously kept company with homes of a similar style in the street for nearly 60 years. I shudder to think what will be built in its place...however, one must be optimistic!

Jason and I inspected the mid-century house and even contemplated making it ours...unfortunately the timing and our meagre finances were not in our favour (and what would we do with the Sow's Ear?). We are sad we weren't able to buy it and save it from its eventual fate...

I am not sure who the original architect was but, in the mid 1960s, a substantial extension by well-known Brisbane architect Robert Froud (one of the architects of Torbreck) was added to the home.

The home was built at a time of great possibilities. It was by no means a flashy house but in its day it would have been quite cutting-edge compared to the standard post-war homes found in suburban Brisbane. The simple timber and brick home was constructed at an angle on the block to capture the best possible aspect.

The home's entry was quite stunning - floor to ceiling glass was used to create a light-filled and welcoming first impression. An internal rockery with a leafy palm tree located near the front door was a sweet mid-century flourish.

A panelled wall which spanned from the top to the bottom of the split-level home when accessing the internal staircase was another stunning feature. All four bedrooms and the main bathroom were located upstairs, while the kitchen, dining and living were on the ground floor. A second bathroom, laundry and utilities room were situated downstairs.

Timber panelled feature wall
In the picture below there is a large boulder embedded through a wall of glass that formed part of the Froud design. The brick extension was an extra family room which included timber built-in wall cabinets and a sloped beamed ceiling which cut into the original ceiling quite seamlessly.

There was definitely an emphasis on bringing the outdoors inside when the house was designed. It was also obvious that the landscaping was well-considered, with meandering garden paths and rock-edged garden beds dotted throughout the yard.

A boulder feature which goes through a glass wall

mid-century house exterior on auction day
The kitchen was in near original condition and had what would've been an expensive stove in its day - the St George Supermatic!

My modernist friend Susan inspecting the oven situation
The home had so many possibilities and I am certain that if the home was in the right hands it would've made a spectacular and stylish abode. Clearly the new owners thought differently.  And so it is with great sadness that I bring you the last photograph of the mid-century home.

demolished mid-century home 

Vale mid-century Brisbane home. May your successor be as full of possibilities and as sweet.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Repairing the batwing lattice doors

For a few years, Jason has been driven mad by the fact that our external lattice batwing doors on the back deck were slightly mismatched.

It's not hugely noticeable (most people have never noticed it) but for OCD Jason it is like staring at a huge pimple. Yesterday, he could stare at it no longer and set about to fix the doors.

Batwing lattice doors

The problem with the doors was that at some stage they had been trimmed at the top and the bottom when they were hung. It meant the doors were just slightly off when they were closed. 

You can see in the picture below how the decorative top was sliced off one of the doors. Yikes! For OCD people, this type of thing brings on an uncontrollable twitch. 

We could probably just buy another set of doors, but it would seem a shame not to try to salvage the ones we have. Jason's added a strip of timber to the bottom of one of the doors so that the doors are now the same height. He's re-hung the doors so that the hinges were at the same level too. Ha! He's Mr Symmetry.

Jason is also going to attempt to re-mould the decorative curl at the top. I have no idea how he thinks he's going to do that ... but I have a feeling that builder's bog will factor into the equation and more paint!

Anyway, it is the small things that make a house a home and if something like a pair of symmetrical doors ticks the boxes then so be it.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Mid-century coffee table

Over the past few weeks I've kept my eyes peeled for a slightly larger coffee table for the living room. I've looked everywhere for a nice mid-century style one...

I was completely thrilled when I stumbled upon a round mid-century table in my travels. It's in good condition but it will still need to be sanded back and have some chips filled, as well as a good drink of Danish oil.

It pretty much ticks all the boxes except that it is much taller than I had first thought. And I'm still not used to having a round coffee table either. But for $20, I really shouldn't complain!

Jason doesn't know that I bought the table as I'm going to do an experiment to see if he actually notices it... I predict he won't notice the table for at least the first hour when he gets home later today.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Since the weekend I've had a particular little ditty in my head. It's from a 1967 film called Les Demoiselles de Rochefort which is a Jacques Demy film that is basically an hommage to the Hollywood musical...but with a French new wave twist.

Where have I been not knowing this kind of stuff exists?

While the rest of Australia was congregated around the telly on Saturday night to watch the election results (modernist house owning Tony Abbott romped it in by the way), I went to watch this French film at my friend's place. I was warned there was a bit of everything for everyone in this film and that it was tonnes of fun. And it was!

When the gay guy watching the film with us pipes up during the opening sequence "OMG! That is so gay!" you know that you're in for a treat!

It stars a young Catherine Deneuve and her older sister Francoise Dorleac, who died  in a motor vehicle accident shortly after this movie was shot. The film is a feast of carefully selected colour and costumes and can only be described as whimsical multiplied by 100.

Have a look at the clip.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Valance finished

Jason recovered sufficiently from his bout of man-flu to finish the valance painting. It looks fantastic and it is another job we can tick off the list.

Timber battens or valance around the deck

Jason hard at work, painting under the back stairs
I'm keeping this post nice and short because I think I've caught Jason's man-flu. I probably should've been more sympathetic!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Home advice for Tony

Looks like we're about to get a new Prime Minister next Saturday if all the newspapers and polling results are to be believed. That'll be three different Prime Ministers since I first started this blog and it's only just clocked up four years! Who can keep up with Australian politics' version of musical chairs?

Anyway, if Tony Abbott is going to be the next person in the top job then I need to see how the man lives. What kind of house does the wannabe-PM call home?

After consulting the oracle that is Google Images, I found more shots of his Forestville home than any other politician's home I have featured on Fun and VJs. (You can read about Julia, Kevin and Bob by clicking on their names)

There's exterior photos of Tony's home, some shots in the kitchen, a few in the lounge room and one near the internal stair case. I've simply been spoilt for choice on this occasion!

Tony Abbott's home. Pleased to see some Aboriginal Art on their walls...
image from here
image from here

Image from here

Well, I have to say that I never picked Tony living in a retro pad! (Jason was quick to crack a joke about the retro house being much like Tony's retro views...ha! Good one!) 

It's groovy and I'm so jealous that I could cry in my cornflakes. I love the cantilever style facade, the awning windows and how it is positioned high on the block. It looks to be a late 1960s house, but I could be wrong...

I'm not a fan of the exterior house colour though. It looks beige in these photographs. It would look striking in a strong dark colour and white. It looks kind of bland at the moment.

There's even a pool in the front of the home for Tony to parade in his sluggos. How is that not a surprise to me as well?
image from here

I was, however, most disappointed when I saw shots of the kitchen...

image from here
Look, it's a nice kitchen but they didn't embrace the mid-century theme as I had hoped. I bet you the original kitchen used to be orange with lots of brown accents. Their kitchen cabinetry is far too country/traditional for the home in my humble opinion. They ought to have gone mod style. Think timber veneer and plain cabinets...slick.

image from here
The entire interior seem to be very cream and beige... It's a bit too safe for my liking. It really needs some pops of colour, don't you think? 

You'd never know from looking at the interiors, that they had a very cool looking house exterior. An injection of Danish Modern furnishings would suit the home too...I might send them some links to my favourite mid-century mod blogs to steer them in the right direction.

And tonight at 8pm, Kitchen Cabinet is airing on the ABC with Annabel Crabb invited to Tony's home for a barbecue. Hopefully, we'll be able to see more of the would be PM's retro house.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Wall mural

If you had told me at the start of the weekend that I would graffiti our side fence, I would've responded BS!

For some inexplicable reason, I was compelled to go through our stockpile of spray paints and began vandalising our old fence like a mad woman. As you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I know, why wouldn't I just paint the valance instead? That would take all the glory from out-of-action Jason, that's why!

Anyway, I had fantastic ideas which I sketched on paper and when it came to transposing it on a larger scale onto the corrugated iron fence it did not work as well as I liked. I take my hat off to the graffiti/street artists of the world (not the tag vandals because there's no talent in that) as spray painting is not as easy as they make it look!

This is one of my favourite street art images found in Melbourne.

image from here
I also had visions of an abstract mural similar to the one found in the modernist Rose Siedler House in Sydney...

But I will need to work myself up to something as fancy as the stencil graffiti and abstract murals. So in the meantime, I'm sticking to basic spring flowers - a little bit of a nod to Orla Kiely, the great pattern reinterpreter.

The corrugated iron fence is not the prettiest thing in the world. Jason and I are happy enough to make it a blank canvas for something more interesting. We will change it every few months depending on what captures our imagination. I have hope the kids will do something cool for summer.

The painted fence will probably be the only bit of spring colour that we will see in the Sow's Ear's garden this year!
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