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Monday, 26 September 2011

Aiden's Little Room

When I was pregnant with Aiden we continued the renovation of our Glebe St house by converting the 3rd bedroom into his room, though we didn’t know he was a he. It was at the back of the house and was nice and quiet, so seemed like a good choice for a new baby. It was also pretty small and babies are pretty small, so they don't need much stuff, do they?

Our 3rd bedroom was the typical room that most houses have; where all the junk went! It was full of boxes of comics, a crappy desk that we didn’t use, boxes of random stuff we had nowhere to unpack to and probably didn’t need, a sewing machine…. Just a whole lot of stuff really. Lots of people have this kind of room. If we were to have a room for the baby, as well as a second bedroom where guests could stay, something had to be done.

We went to Brisbane that year for Christmas and I was desperate to get back and start work on that bedroom. I was entering the third trimester and all the pregnancy books said you get really tired leading up to the birth.  I wanted to get the room finished before that happened.

Once we moved all the crap out and found other places for it (mainly the tip) we had a tiny and very tired room. I needed to fit in storage, a change table, a cot, a chair,  a little table, a bin... hmmm...I thought babies didn't need much?  I (eventually, we) started by painting the room.  For some reason I just want to be up a ladder painting when I am pregnant. Must be a nesting thing. I’m getting an inkling to paint the casual TV/dining area in our current house in Bridge Rd. Maybe just one wall?

We painted 3 of the walls in Dulux Antique White USA, and one wall a deep blue/green (sorry I can’t remember the colour!) I wanted to brighten up the room and keep it light, as well as create some depth and contrast to the Expedit bookcase from Ikea, we already had. I thought this would provide great storage for a baby because each of the cubes can be used for different functions and you can buy all sorts of options to insert in the cubes for flexible storage. I bought some little double drawers, some cupboard doors and some wicker baskets to fit in some of the cubes. The bookcase took up a good part of the wall but wasn’t very deep so it didn’t take up too much floor space of the room.

After the painting was complete we selected and had installed new carpet. Even choosing relatively cheap carpet, it was still $600, which included new underlay, installation and taking away the old carpet. The rest of the upstairs had to make due with the 20+ year old carpet! Spoilt baby! We added a Stokke Sleepi Cot and change table and a wicker chair that our friend Jacqui gave us when she moved to NZ. I added a little table from Spotlight which cost $17 because it was the last one and had no screws. A trip to the hardware store and a little paint and its been a very handy table!

To finish the room I added a large wall sticker from The Wall Sticker Company called Tree of Life. I paid a little extra to have them customise the colours to match the room. I sent them the colours I wanted and they sent me pictures in the chosen colours for me to approve. It arrived in a couple of weeks, and it really completed the look, along with new curtains and a new light fitting.

Unfortunately I don’t have any “before” photos but here is the finished result.

 I thought I would tell you about Aiden’s room in Glebe St as we are about to decorate his room in our Bridge St home. We have lived here for 1.5 years and the pretty pink and green girly room is about to be transformed into something more suitable for a 2.5 year old cheeky boy. Will tell you all about it in a future blog post!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Arty Glebe Streets

A number of months ago I was sitting in an airport in Asia, playing on my iPad killing time before my flight back home. I think I had been in China so was desperate for a Facebook fix. The Chinese government is still denying this website to its residents. My friend Andrea and I began ‘chatting’ using Facebook’s chat functionality. I have been friends with "Drea" for around 15 years! When I first met we were both living in Brisbane and she was dating a guy who was friends with the guy I was dating. I just thought she was the coolest! Amazing creative energy, naughty sense of humour, white blonde hair and riding a "Pepsi" motorbike. In awe really.

Nothing much has changed. Well we both have moved on from various parts of our life and found new parts but she has maintained her coolness, naughtiness and creative energy!

We were having a general chat and I asked her if she would be in Sydney over the coming months. Andrea has become a great photographer and I thought it would be nice to have some family shots including my pregnant belly, before the new baby arrived. The snaps I have of my belly while pregnant with Aiden are not flattering!

Andrea and my sister Emma made the invitations for Arran and my wedding and Andrea took our wedding photos on what was one of Sydney’s hottest days after Christmas in 2005. We got married in the back yard of our Glebe St house despite my mother’s protests (it was a very un-pretty backyard which we eventually had landscaped). We invited around 40 people, brought in a fantastic caterer to serve continuous finger food and cocktails and spent lots on lovely wine. It was a great party. It’s still the favourite wedding I have attended!

Andrea specialises in wedding photography and has a distinct style I would describe as beautiful, quirky and fun. She also loves photographing families, babies and baby bumps! Check out her work here

We set a date for the family photo shoot and she asked me to think about what kind of style I would like.

One of the things I love about Glebe is the street art and murals. They somehow work with the old houses and the general Glebe vibe. I just had to feature these in our family shoot and I’m so happy with the results! Andrea’s style of photography mixed with the street art is a great combination. Arran and Aiden tagged along and indulged me in the choice of background for the photo-shoot and Drea’s lovely partner Mike was a great photographer’s assistant!

The artist who did the mural in the first six photos below is Davey Mac or "Teazer" His bright vibrant work features in a number of Glebe Streets and Lanes. You can view more of his work here. The artist who completed the murals in the last four photos is Stu Barber. Stu is involved in Dulwich Hill Street Art Club, which is part of Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design.

When you are next in Glebe I encourage you to take a walk into the streets and lanes beyond Glebe Point Road. There are many great street art murals to be found. I think some of the best can be found in the area within Glebe Point Rd, Franklin St/Cowper St, Wentworth Park Rd and Mitchell St.
Spice Teaz Lego Mural Campbell Lane Glebe

"The Letter Lab". Check out the bollards made into test tubes!

"Respect Mural" by Stu Barber

"Enjoy Glebe" Stu Barber

Friday, 16 September 2011

What's the Secret?

One of the criticisms I hear about living in a big city is that you don’t have that sense of community. You don’t get to know your neighbours and people don’t care about each other. In some ways this is true. When you live in close proximity to lots of other people you learn ways of keeping private. If you are living the aussie dream on the quarter acre block with a nicely placed house in the middle, you have a fair amount of privacy and are probably more willing to get to know your neighbours. When you live in a narrow house which potentially shares walls with two other houses, or in a unit block with many others you tend to keep to yourself a bit more.

When Arran and I lived in a unit in Cook St we definitely didn’t know the people living in the units directly beside us. We did meet a few of the long term residents which was nice, but this was because of an arranged block BBQ, not because we went out of our way to know the neighbours. When we lived in Glebe St, the Terrace house on one side had a continual rotation of uni students share renting. We wished we hadn’t met the couple living in the warehouse on the other side!

We have lived in our current house on Bridge Rd for 1.5 years and have not even sighted the neighbours! Sad? Maybe. But I don’t think we are unusual in the inner city. I walk around Glebe a lot. For exercise and for mental stability! I get to see a lot of Glebe residences. It’s typical for the houses in Glebe to try and keep very private. It’s rare to get a glimpse through a window or a peak into a backyard. Windows are obscured by frosted glass, curtains or blinds. Fences are high and solid. My take is that when you get home, and it’s generally a small home, whatever space that is yours, you want to keep sacred and private, particularly when right outside the door is noise, traffic and the chaos of living so close to the city. The front door of our Glebe St house was 1 metre from the cars parked on the street.  The front door was always shut and the blinds were always closed.

This is really why this blog is called “Secret Homes of Glebe”. Houses in Glebe are very private and secret. I want to write about the people who live behind the doors and walls of these houses and share a piece of their life with you.

So how do you get that sense of community when you are shutting out the world when you get home? How do you prevent feeling isolated in the big city? One of the things that Arran and I do a lot is go out for breakfast or a coffee at Glebe’s local café’s. Arran’s regular “check-in”s on Facebook probably makes our friend’s wonder if we ever eat at home!
Aiden and his mate Rob Shaw hanging out in a cafe in Manly!
This fits well with research from Dr Tony Grant, who is one of Australia’s Coaching Psychology and Positive Psychology's gurus. He was recently involved  with a show on ABC1 called Making Australia Happy which took a group of people in Marrickville, another suburb in Sydney's inner west and used positive psychology tools to try and improve their happiness. One tool in preventing feeling socially isolated and improve general happiness is communal eating. Our favourite cafes know who we are and create a welcoming and warm feeling whenever we arrive. They also provide a place for us to interact with other people. Its not unusual to strike up a conversation with people at the next table from us. Aiden looks so striking that most people can’t help but comment and want to talk to us about him!

There are lots of great cafes in Glebe; Badde Manors, Sonoma, Well Connected, Sapphos….
Cappuccino at Well Connected, Glebe Pt Rd
Our two favourites are Clipper and Astor Espresso, both on Glebe Point Rd.  We would go to each at least once a week. Clipper has big communal tables and they always know our coffee order and that Aiden needs toast with jam. Stat. Sometimes I will stop at Clipper on the way to work for a take-a-way coffee and on the occasions that I forget I have no money in my wallet (they are a cash only business), they just tell me to pay next time. When I attempt to pay next time they don’t let me! It’s not a big deal for them I guess. What would be the cost of a coffee? And what does it gain them in my loyalty and feeling a sense of community and belonging with this business?

Compare this to our recent trip to Deus Ex Machina at Camperdown. This is primarily a motorbike shop. They would have to have the sexiest, drop jaw drool worthy motorbikes around. Works of art really. They also have clothing, t-shirts and such featuring great design. And there is also a café with big timber communal tables. The whole business is housed in an industrial space and I just love sitting in there soaking up the art, bikes, bikes and art. The food is also great. It’s a shame however that they have missed the communal point of a café. You have to line up to place your order (hate that) and you get the obligatory number to take to your table (hate that) which somehow makes the wait staff want to take the number back off you as soon as possible. It’s a bit like restaurants that are desperate to establish whether you are having wine with dinner as soon as you sit down, and then whisk the wine glasses away if you waiver on your wine commitment. What’s that about? But that’s another blog post……

On our most recent trip there, it was taking ages for Arran’s coffee to arrive. He has a need for a second coffee at any establishment so things are not going well when the first one doesn’t turn up. Mine arrived, breakfast arrived but no coffee for Arran. We hailed one of the busy attendants and enquired about it. Took a while but eventually she came back, with a receipt of our order to prove that it was not originally ordered.  Who cares? Bring. The. Coffee. She then asked if Arran still wanted the coffee (YES) and was he prepared to pay for it (SPARE ME). When she brought it back she asked for the $4. I don’t begrudge a business needing to make money. Of course they need to make money. They made their money that Sunday. In encouraging people to be welcome, share their space and help create a community for people who live in the inner city in small private places, I think it was a big fail. They got their $4 but probably not our return business.

Its not all about cafes though. My hairdresser (and Arran's) Stevie English Hair always make us feel welcomed and valued. Apart from doing great hair, they have a groovy salon vibe, free wireless and iPad's to play with, a big espresso machine where they will make you any coffee you want, or if you aren't pregnant there is always wine and beer on offer. Stevie has created a culture in the salon which is friendly and fun. I think that most clients, including me, enjoy just being there. The salon also gives back to the community by having strict environment credentials and inviting their customers to bring their special "Stevie English Hair" keep cup and grab a coffee anytime. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Time to makeover the bathroom

Behind the kitchen, the bathroom and laundry in our Glebe St house were the next most desperate rooms that needed a makeover. Initially the exposed brick entry below,  led from the lounge room straight into the laundry! That’s what you want to see as you are enjoying your dinner!
We bricked up this entry before we moved in and removed the bricks from the kitchen entry and squared it up .

The downstairs bathroom and laundry was in an appalling state and it was hard to imagine how it got that way. There were pipes emerging from the floor in places where they shouldn’t, a deteriorating plastic toilet cistern, BAD plastic mirror cupboard thingy (that wouldn’t shut) and the worlds smallest hot water system which meant not even one person could have a shower without running out of water! When we replaced the hot water system (long before the bathroom reno) we discovered the system was designed for office use, for washing up dishes and mugs! Not for the showers that Arran has where he splashes about like a duck in the hottest water possible.

We basically never used the downstairs bath and shower (and one of the key criteria when buying the house was that it had to have a bath! That it was usable was irrelevant!) Most of the time we lived in this house the country was gripped in a drought so a bath was a luxury we didn't enjoy very often. Both the laundry and bathroom were small pokey spaces so it made sense we when renovated to open the two rooms up into a more practical space. Actually on reflection, renovate seemed the wrong word. We basically replaced everything (ceiling, roof, floor) except the outer walls so it was more of a room replacement than anything else.

Knowing this we auditioned a couple of bathroom designers to see who could come up with the most practical usage and storage for the space. We ended up going with a design from one of Australia’s largest home retailers, who really should stay away from renovation work and just sell stuff! The design was fantastic; we fitted in a full size bath with rainfall shower overhead, heated towel rail, huge vanity with lots of storage, lovely clean floor layout, a remote control skylight (to get more light in) and large laundry cupboard with doors that slid back into themselves (to save space) and a toilet with soft closing lid. The project management and quality of trade work was appalling. For such a small space it took longer and was more expensive than any of our other renovations and the home retailer company narrowly avoided us taking them to the small claims tribunal. There were so many annoyances along the way, once it was finished it was hard to enjoy the finished product, even though it looked great. 
When we sold the house we got more compliments from prospective buyers for this room than any other part of the house.