Another Covid lock down, another blog.
We have been in the house for over 3 months now, so probably a good time to review the design. I will do this in a different format and run through a standard day at Wilson Court.
My phone alarm goes off at 5:30am and I reach up to the VJ board lined ledge behind to stop it. I hop straight up and pull the charger out of the USB power point and wander to the walk-in robe and place it in a box on my shelf.
I try to jump straight out of bed and think how you feel in those first moments give you valuable feedback as to how you are travelling in life.
I enter the Ensuite and the recessed LED sensor light under the vanity comes on. This looks good, but is not very practical, as the light does not stay on long enough for the standard duration of a night-time visit. Pro tip: check the timer can be adjusted before selecting or you will be plunged into darkness midstream.
I jump on the scales, which sit neatly under the wall hung floating vanity. We have 2 basins, but one would have been enough as it is rare that both are used simultaneously. More important for us to have the long bench top rather than the second basin.
Back to the walk-in robe to dress into my gym clothes, that have their own drawer. Drawers in our robe are a winner and stay much tidier than shelves.
I wander to the pantry, switching the family room or meals area lights on the way. I usually dim these as I do not want it to be too bright this early, so the dimmers here were worthwhile. The pantry light is on a motion sensor and comes on automatically when it is dark. this one is adjustable and is a worthy addition.
I grab the milk from the kitchen fridge on the way to the pantry and catch up with my old mates Russell Hobbs and Robert Timms. Russell boils the water for me, and I place 2 teaspoons of Robert into my favourite new mug.
For ultimate convenience, a fridge in the pantry would be handy. We have a single sink, dishwasher, and microwave in there, so it is the only thing missing. I like the main fridge in the kitchen as we have water and ice in the door, and I think it would be too much traffic in and out of the pantry. A bar fridge with milk and butter would be good, but that is more power so probably overkill. A fridge in the kitchen but close to the pantry is the best scenario.
The dishwasher in the pantry was a late addition to our design but has been great. We intended this to be used for the dishes that live in pantry, however, we have just been alternating between the main one in the kitchen and filling one at a time. With a family of 6 it does not take long to fill one, so it is fantastic to run one once full, and then move on to filling the next one.
I head to my favourite spots to sit when it is dark: on the chaise of the Molmic in our family room. I sip my coffee and think about writing this blog. I sometimes put the heating on but have forgotten on this occasion and do not realise until the end of my coffee. It is 2 degrees outside so fair to say the temperature has remained stable overnight.
Usually, this time of year we will run the heating in the main area early in the morning for 1-2 hours, and that is often enough. The bedroom vents have barely been used; however, I assume they will be needed in summer. If the sun does not shine, we may need it again later, but the house performs well in winter. It gains heat from the sun during the day, stores it in the thermal mass of the slab for slow release, and retains the warmth with well-sealed and insulated walls and ceilings, and high-quality double-glazed windows.
Energy efficiency is about more than saving money, it is about comfort. And difference in comfort levels of this house and our old weatherboard house are chalk and cheese. Extreme diligence was required to maintain a comfortable temperature in our old living area, and the bedrooms were freezing. All internal doors would need to be closed, and you would need to be quick if venturing though exterior doors. And the split system ran all night. Here we will close blinds at night time to help, but don’t need to be precious about doors being open too long and valuable heat escaping.
Next stop is the home gym, located in the shed. The heater goes straight on here – it is so cold. The gym has been a godsend during covid. I got in just in time when covid hit, before all equipment in the country sold out, and put the extra weekend time to good use by lining the walls myself. This was a big achievement for me, as I am not renowned for being a handy man. I went on to build a work bench and shelving, maybe I could build a house if we get a good run of pandemics…
Back to the house afterwards, and into the ensuite again, this time to enjoy a wash in our spacious walk-in tiled shower. I despise the routine of getting ready for work, seems like a waste of time, however, try reminding myself to enjoy my time in a nice ensuite. I grab the bathmat from the towel rail at the end of the shower and place it directly below. Above are 2 hooks for our towels, so everything is made easy. Gone are the days of confined shower spaces and I would do well to remember them. We have 2 exhaust fans, one in the IXL and one above the shower. These still are not enough, and the mirror fogs up regardless. I should research the capacity of exhaust fans and recommend better ones to our clients if they are available.
Finish in the ensuite and drop my dirty clothes in a pretty little basket in our robe. These little baskets seem to be everywhere in the house, but beats storing dirty clothes on the floor.
Pantry to make a protein shake and then into the study to start work. The study is setup with a workstation with 2 screens and a connection back our main office. Normally I am just starting the day here, catching up on email and planning out the day, before going to our normal office. This is nice as I get to see the family on my way out. The latest lockdown however has coincided with my PC breakdown at work, so I have been working out of here most of the time. It is a nice little space, but I regret not putting a door on it. Some of our family have very loud voices…
Most mornings I will go into the office and then back home for lunch. I generally approach the house slowly and admire the structure and try to visualize the place fully landscaped. I am fond of our driveway, with the exposed of concrete edges and bluestone gravel, and enjoy driving on it. Opening our flush mount tilt door never gets old and the garage is a good size to fit both our cars. The door could be a bit wider, but we were restricted by the weight of it. The alcove with built in shelves was a good idea and we have been able to keep the garage for car parking.
Straight into the kitchen to prepare lunch. My go to is veges streamed in our steam oven and either chicken or eggs cooked on our induction cooktop. There was some scepticism about our steam oven, but we use it more than our conventional oven and are yet to use all the settings available to utilize its full potential.
Once I have lunch ready it is to my favourite spot when the sun is out – the day bed. This is also the spot if home for coffee and is positioned perfectly to appreciate the best features of the design. Quick clean up after lunch to stay on top of it, and then back to the grind for the afternoon.
On a normal day, the kids will arrive home after walking home from the bus stop. If I am home, I will poke my head out and say g’day and remind them to be a bit quieter. Several times. Loud kids, no door: work is a good place for work.
The kids are reasonably well trained, they unpack their bag and put it away in their drawer under the drop zone bench seat. and wash their containers from their lunchboxes. There is a desk/nook tucked away in the drop zone where they can leave their school books, laptops, and other junk. This works as it is hidden and helps keep the junk out of the kitchen.
They then eat some fruit, do their homework, and play outside until we call them for dinner…. Ha not really. They eat, not normally fruit, and eat, and sit inside on technology until we tell them to get outside. several times. But they do unpack their bags and wash their containers.
After work I usually go to the gym, however I am changing up my routine this week and are walking in the evening rather than the morning. The girls accompany me, and it makes more sense to walk with some light rather than alone in the dark. After the walk we are in the kitchen preparing tea. Jess usually sorts this without me, and I only come in late to assist, but today I am on hand to help. We have music on from our Sonos sound system, which has been excellent, and runs whenever we are home. We have speakers in our alfresco ceiling and then a sound bar under our TV, both linked to play simultaneously or on their own. This can be added to, and I would like to put a speaker in the study and another sound bar in the kids lounge. The TV in main area is generally only for night time viewing and we try have this space for interacting and music.
The kitchen is functional. We have the triangle going between our fridge, sink and cooktop/ovens. It is not huge but ample when considering the pantry. We have a double under mount sink in the island and this works for us. I do not mind the idea of keeping the island clear without a sink, but we do not have a bench on an external wall, so the island was the natural choice. We manage to keep it clear of dirty dishes and any washed dishes that do not go through the dishwashers can dry in the rack that sits in the second bowl, keeping the bench top clear. We have under bench ovens, which we are happy with. Some prefer wall ovens, but I prefer to free up bench space.
Tea is served on the bench and we then all eat together at the meals table. I adjust the dimmer for the pendants over the table to make it a bit brighter and have down lights available if we like. The 3 x bowl pendants are a hit after much deliberation. Our lighting is surplus to our needs; however, it is nice to play around with the options to set the right ambiance.
After tea, the clean-up runs smoothly from a design point of view, but never without an argument. This is done in the kitchen, with the pantry dishwasher and bin as back up. The bins are full depth, much better than the half depth one we had in our old house, and push to open which is great for dirty or full hands. As with most kitchens the bin, sink and dishwasher are positioned in that order for scraping, rinsing, and washing.
After clean-up it is back to the study for me for a bit more work, which is usually the creative, fun parts of my job. The kids head to their end of the house for their night-time routines. The kids lounge is high use, and was the main thing missing from our old house. They watch TV, play games, or our youngest might play with his toys which can live here without cluttering the main area.
The kids’ bedrooms are 3.3m x 3.6m, not including the robes, and we think these ample. We have 600mm deep built-in robes in the 2 boys’ rooms and walk in robes for the 2 girls, which is a luxury for them.
I just quizzed the kids about their bathroom, and they seem content. Their only suggestion is it needs another exhaust fan, but there is two in there as well! We have a tiled wall for the shower for privacy, rather than a glass screen, and a illume LED skylight to help with light. Hooks at the end of the shower is convenient and easier for the kids to hang their towel rather than a towel rail. Double basins work here, and they are often both in use. The free-standing bath looks good, and I am told is easy to clean.
The powder room area outside the toilet is a must for hand washing and is also used for brushing teeth if the bathroom is occupied.
Jess is happy with the laundry, plenty of storage, a hanging rail for ironing, a shoe basket under the bench at the outside door, and an open dirty clothes basket at the other end which makes it hard for kids not to use. An air con vent in the laundry would have been handy, so the room could be used for drying, instead of the kids lounge. The kids are doing well to remember that shoes go either in a basket at the garage door or laundry door, or away in their rooms, so there are not hundreds of shoes at every door. They might not always make it in the basket, but generally in the vicinity.
We had a run of entertaining before this covid lockdown, and the alfresco area and fire pit on the lower deck were good to us. We are yet to get proper outdoor furniture and would like an outdoor kitchen one day.
The lawn around the deck has been a life saver and we are glad that we got it down before we moved in. Mud is a nightmare when it rains, and we would be house bound without it. The pressure washer got a workout after each time we entertained, and I am happy to have a rest from it for a few weeks.
We still have a lot we want to do outside, however can only proceed slowly as funds become available. We planted 2 more gardens this weekend and it feels like the front is getting there. We have been saving for a sprinkler system and would like to get some side fences and gates in soon.
After the kids are sorted, I emerge from the study and head down to say my good nights. Then back to the kitchen to cut up some fruit for desert before retiring back to my favourite dark time spot. A catch-up social media and maybe a TV show with Jess before bed.
That is a practical account of how the house works for on a day-to-day basis. It was rehearsed in my mind a thousand times during the design phase and discussed endlessly with Jess. The planning process spanned several years, and I am pleased to report that we think we got it right. We also think it looks alright.